The FourFourTwo Preview: Burnley vs Everton
A team that can’t score versus a team that can’t defend.
- Burnley 1-3 West Ham (Prem)
- Leicester 2-2 Burnley (Prem)
- WBA 4-0 Burnley (Prem)
- Burnley 0-0 S’land (Prem)
- Palace 0-0 Burnley (Prem)
- Lille 0-0 Everton (EL)
- Everton 3-0 Villa (Prem)
- Man Utd 2-1 Everton (Prem)
- Krasnodar 1-1 Everton (EL)
- Liverpool 1-1 Everton (Prem)
“He does give us something extra,” admitted Phil Jagielka. “As humans you are not born to kick a ball, but he looks more natural with the ball than without it,” eulogized Roberto Martinez.
The two generals in Everton’s ranks – the manager and the captain – couldn’t hide their excitement and relief at the return of their main protagonist: Ross Barkley.
After five games without a win, the Toffees welcomed the England international back to the fold against Aston Villa, and he didn’t disappoint. In the words of Jagielka he gave Everton that “extra bit of ooomph – that power and pace”, inspiring the Merseysiders to 3-0 win at Goodison Park. When he was substituted midway through the second half the home support rose to their feet in appreciation.
Barkley’s return to fitness and form could be the catalyst for Everton’s season. No one expected to see him back in mid-October after he tore his knee ligaments on the eve of the new season. But the precocious Englishman has made a remarkable recovery and invigorated the team on Saturday, adding drive and energy.
Demanding the ball and carrying it forward with purpose, Barkley did more than just showcase his individual brilliance – he revitalised those around him. His guile in the final third took the plaudits, but Martinez would have been just as pleased with the clean sheet.
Scoring goals hasn’t been a problem for the Everton this season; keeping them out has. The Merseysiders have shipped 16 goals – only bottom-of-the-table QPR have conceded more (18).
Their stuttering start – two wins, three draws and three losses – has left them in 13th, a league position that falls way short of their pre-season ambitions.
Luckily they’re facing a side that would struggle to strike a cow’s backside with a banjo the size of a cruise ship. Sean Dyche’s team have managed just four goals – a level of incompetence matched only by Villa.
After Scott Arfield netted in their opening match against Chelsea, Burnley didn’t score again for another six games. Last season’s Championship Player of the Year, Danny Ings, netted 21 times en route to promotion; in the Premier League, his five appearances have yielded just one shot on target. Dyche spent £4.5 million on forwards Lukas Jutkiewicz and George Boyd; they've managed just a goal between them in claret and blue.
Burnley’s return to the top flight has been so unremarkable it’s almost easy to forget they’re here. They haven’t embarrassed themselves, but they haven’t won a game either. With Everton still recovering from Thursday’s Europa League clash against Lille, Sunday’s contest at Turf Moor is the perfect opportunity for Burnley to announce their belated arrival.
Dyche will be without Steven Reid (groin), Matt Taylor (Achilles) and Sam Vokes (ACL). Michael Keane and midfielder Dean Marney are hoping to recover from their hamstring problems in time for Sunday’s game. John Stones, Kevin Mirallas and Arouna Kone continue to take up residence in Everton’s treatment room.
Player to watch: Seamus Coleman (Everton)
Barkley’s stirring performance against Villa hogged the headlines, but it was the return of another player that helped transform the team’s dynamic. Full-back Coleman replaced the more conservative Tony Hibbert and his marauding runs down the right wing produced a goal and an assist. With the Blues looking to build from the back, Coleman’s technical ability helped bridge the gap between defence and attack.
Against Villa the Irishman took the ball from Spanish centre-back Antolin Alcaraz and linked up with advanced midfielder Steven Naismith. His willingness to join the attack created overloads in the channel, isolating Villa full-back Aly Cissokho. Burnley’s Ben Mee will be faced with a similar conundrum. He’s going to need some help from his midfielders if the home side harbour any hopes of diffusing this threat.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Everton 2-0 Burnley (PL, Dec 09)
- Burnley 1-0 Everton (PL, Aug 09)
- Everton 2-3 Burnley (Div 1, Jan 76)
- Burnley 1-1 Everton (Div 1, Aug 75)
- Everton 1-1 Burnley (Div 1, Apr 75)
Dyche has no interest in managing plucky losers. He’s happy to identify the positives as they acclimatise to life at this level, but that offers little solace when you’re losing games. He’s challenged his players to make sure their efforts earn points, not patronising slaps on the back. “We have to find a way of winning, whatever way that should be,” he said. “My job is to find the positives. We don’t want that to be a story ‘good old Burnley, played well but didn’t win’.”
Martinez doesn’t want his side to change a thing. The message to his players is simple: Continue scoring and build on your strong defensive performance against Villa. “Our defensive displays as a team haven't been as solid or intense, or we should have had a different urgency,” he said. “Defensively we looked solid (against Villa). We had little to do but when we did it was phenomenal. It's pleasing to keep a clean sheet. We all know we can score goals with ease – we have shown that all season.”
Facts and figures
- Only the top three have scored more goals than Everton (16) this season.
- Only Aston Villa have scored as few goals as Burnley so far this season (4).
- Everton have made more errors leading directly to a goal than any other Premier League side (5).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
With an eager Barkley keen to make up for lost time, Everton have a player who can make the difference. Blues to win 2-0 with the talented the 20-year-old at the heart of everything.