Teams and Tactics
Everton made a raft of changes from the side that gallantly grounded out a stalemate in Lille on Thursday night. In defence Distin and Hibbert made way for Alcaraz and Coleman whilst in defensive midfield McCarthy came in for Besic. In the attacking midfield slots Naismith and Osman both returned with Lukaku deployed upfront and Samuel Eto’o in behind. Burnley played a 4-4-2 of sorts, with ex toffeeman Jutkiewicz playing the target man role with Ings looking more to go in behind.
The opening 15 minutes was excellent from us from back to front. In terms of controlling the game we hogged the ball with 72% of the possession in this period, and deservedly took the lead in the third minute through the game’s star man Samuel Eto’o. The move started from Alcaraz in our defensive third and involved a couple of decent touches by both Eto’o and Lukaku as the ball was swiftly moved across to the left flank. With the inept Boyd leaving his fullback exposed, Osman was able to roll in Baines for another pin point delivery that Eto’o ruthlessly executed. Both the Cameroon star’s jump and connection with his header were ace, as is Eto’o.
After the 15 minute mark Burnley got their act together and started to impose their game plan more on us. Dyche’s mob look to play a territory based game in the opponents half, will hit long balls into the channels and then positionally press as a team to keep their opposite number locked in. With the game increasingly being played in our final third and Burnley’s possession swelling to 70%, Ings levelled matters on 19 minutes. Lukaku was culpable for the error in the build up to the goal by making a terrible connection with the ball which, combined with our defence being out of shape, enabled Jutkiewicz to nicely slip in Ings to capitalise.
Luckily the Belgian made amends shortly after following a spell of possession which had Burnley’s previously robust shape pulled all over the place. Eto’o and Naismith were again heavily involved in the build up which consisted of no fewer than 24 passes, and which concluded with Lukaku’s scrappy finish. The big-man now has 4 league goals from 9 starts this season which isn’t too shabby considering the heat he has been feeling of late.
After the break the game continued in a similar manner with Burnley again playing a territory based game and looking to whip crosses into our box at every opportunity. Kieran Trippier epitomised this approach, making no fewer than 12 crosses albeit only one was delivered successfully.
We defended the ball into our box pretty well, however, with Alcarez commanding in the air and repelling most of the long balls that were pumped into his zones of the pitch. Passing wise we didn’t really get into the same rhythm after the break, with our % of forward passes not as high as usual mostly due to Burnley’s positional shape rather than real pressure on the ball by our hosts. This dynamic resulted in Alcarez/Jagielka and Baines/Jagielka comfortably being the game’s most frequent passing combinations, and often this forced the defenders to go backwards for Howard to kick long.
Burnley’s penetration in the second period was reduced compared to the opening half and with our hosts committing more bodies late on gaps in their half became more easy to come by. Barkley and Pienaar had by now replaced Lukaku and Osman and the two subs combined well to play in Eto’ o to expertly dispatch the game’s clinching goal on 83 minutes. The wily old kayotee deservedly took the post match plaudits, not just for his goals but in his role in shaping the game throughout from deep.
Initially deployed as a number ten, his ability to stretch teams by dribbling and creating chances for teammates from deep positions were both impressive. Eto’o played in midfield during his time in Russia and also in his early days at Real Madrid and his skillset means he can pretty much play anywhere on the field. He finished the game back in his usual no 9 slot and only missed out on a hatrick by a matter of inches after his shot came back off the post.
All things considered this was a great week for us with back to back wins enabling us to leap into the top half of the table. Martinez seems to be getting the balance right between being gung-ho and shutting out opponents and the growing momentum in the squad can hopefully see us continue our upward curve of both performance and results in the coming weeks.