At some point for Everton, the lessons learned from their losses to the Big Six need to be applied rather than simply talked about.
Coming off another such chastening defeat, Marco Silva brings his Toffees to Turf Moor on Boxing Day to complete the first half of their league fixture list against Burnley.
POTENTIAL STARTING XIs
Everton (6-6-6) took one point from their first go-round against the Premier League perennials, with three of the losses coming during their current five-match winless run (0-2-3). But Sunday’s 6-2 thrashing by Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday was an eye-opener for the blue supporters on Merseyside, and for all the wrong reasons.
After grabbing a lead on 21 minutes through Theo Walcott, Everton had a second chalked off when Dominic Calvert-Lewin was called for a foul on Davinson Sanchez getting free to head Walcott’s cross. Everton then gifted Spurs an equaliser six minutes later as defender Kurt Zouma and keeper Jordan Pickford had a miscommunication. That opened the floodgates as the Toffees conceded three more times around the interval and were 4-1 down three minutes after the restart.
Gylfi Sigurdsson pulled one back for Everton, but Tottenham were too classy and too good in this match as Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane completed their respective braces. For all the talk of changing the culture of Everton with his much-heralded arrival in the summer, Silva and the Toffees are actually one point worse than where they were at this point last term while on their third gaffer.
“After (our first goal) we made a big mistake and at this level we cannot concede goals like that. It is my job to realise why (it happened),” Silva told evertontv after gaining the dubious distinction of becoming the first manager in the Premier League era to give up six goals at home while in charge of three different sides. “We spoke at half-time and I said we would score goals in the second half and it was important not to concede again. But in the first few minutes we conceded and it was very difficult for us.
“It is a big lesson for us as a team.”
Everton looked out of sorts in the back of their customary 4-2-3-1 formation as both defensive midfielder Idrissa Gueye and centre back Yerry Mina were out nursing injuries. It was the second straight absence for Gueye, who is rumoured to be attracting interest from French side Paris-Saint Germain in the transfer window.
Up front, Silva had Calvert-Lewin leading the line for the second straight match with Richarlison dropped back to the left wing where he started the season. Calvert-Lewin has recorded a goal and an assist in his two starts, which means Bernard may be the odd man out once more after Walcott also took his goal well.
The good news for the Toffees is the holiday fixture list allows little time for wallowing and quick opportunities to regroup.
“We have to get ourselves back on track, the confidence is still there,” right back Seamus Coleman said. “We have some winnable games, but we know they are all tough. I think the manner of the goals we conceded is most disappointing.
“But we have a big game in a few days (against Burnley), so we have to pick ourselves up for it.”
Burnley (3-3-12) have been trying to pick themselves up all season, but to little avail as they continue to flirt with the drop. The Clarets were unable to win back-to-back league matches for the first time this season after a 3-1 loss at the Emirates to Arsenal on Saturday and remained at the top of the drop, two points behind Cardiff City.
Sean Dyche’s team were done in by a brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on either side of halftime. Ashley Barnes gave Burnley a fighting chance for a point by pulling one back just after the hour, and after the final whistle, Dyche tore into the officiating for what he felt was yet another missed penalty for his team and other assorted grievances throughout the 90 minutes.
“Shall we start with the 61 games without a penalty? Shall we start there,” he fumed. “And a clear double-handed push in the back on Kevin Long? Ashley Barnes getting booked when their player clearly threw an elbow out at him?
“No one wants to do anything about it, so I will leave it there, no one wants to affect the diving. … You wouldn’t ruffle your child’s hair when they come back from school if they’d cheated at a maths test but in a game of football it’s OK. I’m talking about the morality of the game and I’m absolutely amazed where it’s at.”
Dyche’s spleen-venting aside, the Clarets have simply been not good enough defensively all term. Their 36 goals shipped are better than only the Bluebirds and last-place Fulham, and they have conceded at least twice in seven of their last 10 league matches. For his part, Barnes is confident Burnley can right themselves and escape the drop.
“We knew we had two tough games on the bounce and now we’ve just got to try and pick up as many points as possible. We’ve still got a long way to go and we’ll do that,” Barnes told Burnley’s official website after scoring his first goal since bagging a brace versus Bournemouth on Sept. 22. “These games are important and for everyone to get behind us and us to put in the performances we have done in the last few games.
“I am confident with that group of players in the changing room and the work we do for each other. We’ve still got half of the season left. I have no qualms we will get out of it.”
Burnley did the double over Everton last term, recording a pair of one-goal victories. Barnes and Chris Wood scored second-half goals to rally the Clarets to a 2-1 win at Turf Moore, negating Cenk Tosun’s 20th-minute marker. The teams have split eight all-time Premier League meetings without a draw.
Per Bet365, Everton are solid 19/20 favourites to end their winless run and claim a needed three points, while Burnley are 10/3 underdogs. The odds of the sides splitting the points are 5/2. Despite being sliced and diced for six last time out, oddsmakers are thinking this will be a low-scoring affair, 4/5 odds it will end with less than 2.5 goals compared to even money for over that threshold.
There are 4/5 odds both teams will find at least one goal compared to 19/20 odds there will be a clean sheet in either direction.
Calvert-Lewin’s form sees him joint-third on the list of options for first goal-scorers at 6/1 with Oumar Niasse, behind teammates Richarlison (9/2) and Tosun (5/1). Walcott is a step back at 13/2 before Barnes emerges as Burnley’s top choice to make it 1-0 at 7/1 along with Chris Wood and Matej Vydra. Sam Vokes is another step back at 15/2.
For any-time goal-scoring honours, Richarlison leads the line at 6/4, with Tosun second at 13/8. Calvert-Lewin and Niasse are both 2/1 picks and Walcott is 11/5 before the aforementioned Burnley trio are 12/5. Vokes is 13/5, and Sigurdsson lurks further back at 3/1.
Although no one really knows how close he is to 100 percent and being available for selection, one has to think Nick Pope’s time to return between the sticks is coming soon for Burnley. Current No. 1 Joe Hart has been adequate at best, and even the switch to a five-man backline for the last two matches has failed to work as well as Dyche hoped.
Dyche’s remonstrations, somewhat justified that the law of averages should make it impossible to go 61 matches without earning a penalty, was a nice way to absorb some of the growing pressure on the Clarets to find results. The good news for Burnley is that with Huddersfield stunningly awful on offence and Fulham likewise on defence, there is still plenty of opportunities to claw their way out of the drop. But the sooner the better, as their margin of error dwindles with each passing contest.
Everton, on the other hand, continue to be perplexing and maddening, as star-crossed a franchise as ever there has been outside the Big Six. Last weekend was an opportunity to get themselves right and make a case for themselves, only to watch it come undone in spectacular fashion in front of the home supporters.
If anything, the loss showed the one glaring weakness of the Toffees — an inability to influence the match in their half of the pitch to transition from defence to offence. Sigurdsson is creative, yes, but this team does not do enough to hold possession. And against Spurs’ diamond midfield, that proved fatal — more so without Mina and Gueye.
This match will likely be scruffy and scrappy as Burnley will try to crowd Everton out of the final third. If the Clarets stay with five on the back, it will be on Calvert-Lewin to unlock the defence through the middle with his pace, which means Sigurdsson will be trying to find a killer ball.
Everton’s defence will be improved simply because Burnley lack the offensive firepower of Spurs, but Mina (should he be available), Zouma, and Michael Keane will have to shut down Barnes and target forward Wood. This may be a match where the weekend hangover carries onto both sides and results in a sharing of the points.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Burnley 1, Everton 1.