Everton have had a good week; A solid effort brought a first Premier League victory away from home at Brentford, followed up by a dominating display against an in form Aston Villa putting Everton through to the next round of the Carabao Cup. They had only one loss in their past five matches so there has been a growing belief around the team.
Today, the new Premier League boys from Luton made the 180 mile journey to take on the mighty Blues of Goodison,
In the programme notes for the match, Dyche had this to say:
I was pleased with the mentality the players showed again as we went to Aston Villa - who had won 10 games on the bounce at Villa Park - and we managed to layer up that good feeling we had after the Brentford game with our Carabao Cup win on Wednesday.
It was encouraging to see the flexibility the squad showed, both in terms of the five changes we made to the starting line-up and with the different shape we decided to go with against Aston Villa. As I said to the players beforehand, tactics don’t win games - performances do. The staff deserve credit for the change of shape and analysis, too, as ‘the team behind the team’ is vital.”
A little disappointing that Everton made four changes to the side that beat Villa. Abdoulaye Doucoure, Dwight McNeil, Idrissa Gueye and Ashley Young come back into the side with Arnaut Danjuma, Jack Harrison, Michael Keane and Nathan Patterson dropping to the bench. It looked like a 4-2-3-1 with the inclusion of both Onana and Gueye protecting the back line. Calvert-Lewin led the line. The bench had lots of options.
Winless Luton made nine changes to the side that suffered the shock defeat by Exeter in midweek. Alfie Doughty and Pelly Mpanzu are the only survivors from that game, with top scorer Carlton Morris back in the side.
The rain was lashing down as Anthony Taylor blew his whistle to get the match underway. A nice run by Ashley Young dropped to McNeil who volleyed just wide of the post. That was followed by a nice cross which DCL met but there wasn’t much on his header. Luton’s first foray ended with Nkamba shooting widely over the net. It had been a lively start as the rain started to let up.
Everton were on the front foot and a great counterattack starting with McNeil ended up with Garner curling the ball just wide. Moments later it was Gueye who should have done better with a sitter at the edge of the box which went well wide. The pressure continued and Everton were finding room but the final shot was not pressuring the Luton goal.
It took until the 20th minute for Luton to get a big chance but Tom Lokyer headed just over Pickford’s bar. It only took three minutes when a Luton corner led to Lokyer lashing blocking a clearance from Ashley Young to put the ball into the Everton net. The early Everton pressure was undone by the hard work of the visitors.
The goal brought nervousness into Everton’s play and this then caused the fans to start to get restless. Those same fans were stunned when Carlton Morris was left completely unmarked and slid the ball past a helpless Jordan Pickford. Goodison Park was in turmoil and a response was needed in the last 12 minutes of the half but Luton kept coming forward.
Everton nearly had the ball in the back of the net when James Garner ghosted from the wing and headed a ball off the bar. Onana then shot wildly over the bar. Everton did have the ball into the back of the net after Garner put the ball into the box, Onana put it into the six yard box and then Calvert Lewin bundled it over the line. The VAR took forever to sort things out and after the check was done, Everton were back in the match.
Six minutes of extra time saw Everton pile forward with a renewed confidence. A big shout for a hand ball was ignored as Luton were scrambling to get to the half time whistle. The half ended with Everton down by a goal although they had 70% of possession.
The second half saw Dyche withdraw Gueye and bring in Jack Harrison. A positive move. It was clear that the message was to get he ball moving faster and press the ball higher up the pitch. Luton must have had the same team talk as they also started brightly. The match went back and forth with neither team finding a clear chance on goal. After 10 minutes, Lokyer was withdrawn as a result of injury which would deny the visitors his leadership and tireless work.
At the sixty minute mark, Everton hopes rose with the arrival of Beto at the expense of Doucoure. Finally, two up front. Would it have the desired effect. The long diagonal ball from Tarkowski was met by DCL who volleyed wide. Moments later Carlton Morris headed the ball into the net but it was offside.
Everton were struggling to get forward but Harrison launched a ball into the box and Beto was on the end of it only to put the ball wide. The pressure from Everton continued to build as the last 15 minutes arrived. It was a poor finish from Beto who headed the ball over the bar from six yards out. The ball out wide was having a positive efffect.
Carlton Morris was withdrawn Adebayo replacing him. Nathan Patterson was then brought on to replace Ashley Young as Dyche was playing all of his cards. Luton were defending deeply and the pressure was building on the Gwladys Street goal. Dyche then brought on Danjuma to replace the tired legs of McNeil. He was immediately into the action as he volleyed the ball into the box but DCL couldn’t get on the end of it.
The final few minutes arrived with the Goodison crowd willing the team forward but there was less fluidity to the attack. Seven minutes of extra time was announced as Sean Dyche was trying to figure out a way to get the tying goal. Calvert-Lewin blasted the ball wide,
Luton played out the match and Everton were just not up to it as Anthony Taylor blew the final whistle and the Goodison crowd showed their dissatisfaction in a cacophony of boos. With an xG of almost three, the Everton attack was useless. Luton had an xG of less than one. Enough said.....
Everton Man of the Match: James Garner - The young midfielder was pushed out wide in the first half and then moved into the middle alongside Onana for the second half. He worked tirelessly and was in and around all of the good attacking work that was done.
The inclusion of Dwight McNeil was not a big surprise after another poor display from Arnaut Danjuma in midweek. Danjuma failed to get involved in the game and with only 21 touches in the match, no shots on net and he won only 2 of his five ground duels. McNeil on the other hand in only one match had 33 touches, two shots and he created one big chance. From the very start, McNeil was an outlet down the right and he was happy to attack the back line.
The return of Idrissa Gueye pushed James Garner out onto the wing and the first half performance was woeful from the Senegal international from an attacking perspective. He does the job defensively but his inability to contribute going forward has to be a concern. The second half saw a shift with the arrival of Jack Harrison on the wing which moved Garner back into the middle next to Onana. The second half was more disjointed but the wider play did provide some opportunities which were not converted. Harrison from the start next week.
For weeks we have heard about the potential use of both Calvert Lewin and Beto in a 4-4-2. We finally saw it today and it struggled to be effective in the early going because both of the players were going for the the first ball which then left no one available for the second chance. You wonder how much time has been spent on the training pitch working on this formation. Certainly not as much as we have spent talking about it!
Defending set pieces was a problem today that must be addressed. The first goal from a corner saw frantic defending and the second goal from a free kick had Carlton Morris wide open at the back. Luton should not have been in this match but a lack of concentration cost Everton two goals.
It would be interesting to know what went through the minds of the 777 Partners who were in attendance at Goodison Park.