Everton v Burnley. The Everton Forum Preview
After a disappointing couple of results away from home the blues returned to Goodison Park last Sunday to pick up where they left off at the old lady. It was a rocky ride in the first half but ultimately our ability to find the net with regularity at home saw us to victory against an in-form Leicester team.
The 4 goals scored in that match took our tally to 26 scored in our 7 home league games in 2017. That’s a run that’s seen us win every match which equals our longest spell of Premier league home wins on the trot.
Standing between this Everton team and our record for most home Premier league home matches won in a row is a team who haven’t won away from home all season, Burnley.
Sean Dyche’s 12th-placed Burnley team will be our guests for a 3pm kick off on Easter Saturday.
The Clarets come into the match off the back of a 0-0 away draw against goal-shy Middlesborough. The point won last week in the North East was just Burnley’s 4th point won away from Turf Moor all season and unsurprisingly puts them bottom of the Premier League’s ‘away table’ after 16 matches (0xW, 4xD, 12xL).
Yet, despite this, we’re playing a team who’ve won an impressive 10 home matches this season. So what goes wrong when they play away from Turf Moor?
To be completely honest, I don’t know. I don’t watch Burnley every week so I can’t really give too much of an educated opinion. What I can do however, is look at the statistics and scoring 9 goals away from home and letting in 30 just isn’t going to win many matches in this league.
Yet, despite this dreadful run, it should be said that Burnley have tightened things up away from home in the last few months.
Most recently they’ve had back-to-back 0-0 draws which have doubled their points tally away from home (baby steps, granted) and prior to that they’ve actually been in a hell of a lot of games, often losing by just a 1 goal margin.
In fact, the last time Burnley lost by more than 1 goal away from home was actually last year on 3rd December, a 2-0 defeat at Stoke. When you consider that between then and now they’ve been to White Hart Lane (2-1 defeat), The Etihad (2-1 defeat), The Emirates (2-1 defeat) and Anfield (2-1 defeat) Burnley aren’t the total pushovers their away record might suggest, and let’s have it right, if ever there were to be a team to break a habit, it’s Everton.
Looking at the way Burnley play, it’s very much a physical english style of 442 or 4411.
The attack teams by getting balls up front to a big man (Vokes or Barnes) or into the channels for the quicker forward (Gray). In the midfield they have scrappers who like to get stuck in (Barton, Hendrick, Westwood) and in wider areas they have hard workers who’ll put a shift in up and down the flank (Arfield, Boyd, Brady).
At the back Burnley have a settled partnership of one no-nonsense defender (Mee) and a classier centre half (Keane) with old fashioned full backs either side (Lowton, Ward). In goal will be one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League this season (Heaton).
Sitting in 12th place on 36 points with 6 games to play (8 points clear of relegation) Burnley will probably feel they need another win to be completely safe so it won’t quite be deckchairs at the ready for the Clarets on Saturday.
Instead, I fully expect Burnley to come and compete; they’ll get stuck in, make fouls to break up the play, look for set plays, put crosses into the box and keep things tight. You’d argue that they may lack the goal threat and the confidence to win matches away from home right now but if they get their noses in front, it could be a really testing afternoon for Everton.
The blues come into this match safely nestled in 7th place, 10 points clear of West Bromwich Albion in 8th.
Of course we’d all love to be higher in the league but right now we’re just in a mode in which we need to try and win every match and see what happens.
Encouragingly for us both of the teams above us in the league have been faltering lately; Arsenal aren’t clicking and were soundly beaten by Crystal Palace last week, whilst Manchester United are struggling to win matches at Old Trafford and also have the Europa league to think about. So what was a considerable gap of 7 or 8 points a few weeks ago has now vanished (even though both of those teams do have 2 games in hand – not easy games by the way, but games in hand nonetheless).
Last weekend’s win was really important for us, we’d played 2 big rivals; suffered a bad defeat and let in a gutting late equaliser, so it was really important for the lads to show their mettle and bounce back.
There were a few things to like about the Leicester win. Of course it’s always great scoring 4 but I especially liked the resilience we showed (especially from the inexperienced lads). After the week we’d had you could’ve just seen heads dropping when we went 2-1 down but thankfully they rallied and got the game won nicely.
I expect Saturday’s game to be very different from the Leicester match.
As above, I think Burnley will come with every intention of staying in the game first and foremost. They’ll keep things tight, stick to a shape, play quite deep and give us the ball (similar to Swansea, Hull and West Brom at Goodison this season)
In the past we’ve really struggled against these sort of teams at Goodison so we’ll need to play at a nice quick tempo and come armed with a few ideas to break down what will be well-drilled opposition.
The emphasis will be on the likes of Barkley, Mirallas and Davies to be incisive with their passing. They probably won’t get as much space on Saturday, but I thought all 3 were great last time out against Leicester. Whether it was their slick passing or confidence to run with the ball (not so much from Davies) they all opened doors for us.
Behind that trio we’re blessed to have Morgan Schneiderlin back. Not only do we look more solid in defence when he plays but Schneiderlin being there allows the likes of Gana and Davies to go and press the ball up the pitch together, safe in the knowledge Morgan is there on patrol. Furthermore, with Schneiderlin playing we sometimes see either Morgan himself or Gana making late runs into the opposition penalty area (think Sunderland and West Brom goals) to good effect.
It’s been so noticeable the impact Schneiderlin has had on this team. He’s only been with us 4 months but already essential to the balance of our side. The only regret is that we didn’t get him last summer. (what might have been?)
Something else that would also help is if we fly out of the traps again on Saturday. Whilst no team should expect to score in the first minute of every match, we’ve done it twice in a couple of months at Goodison so it’s clearly something Koeman has talked about, considering how poorly we often started matches in the first half of the season.
As ever the onus will be on our star-man and Premier League top goalscorer Romelu Lukaku to find the net. Sadly, I’m resigned to the big-man leaving the club in the summer, myself but what a striker this guy is. He’s scored in 8 straight home matches (all comps.) and even when he doesn’t look that bothered, he seems to score.
Moving into the back 4, Ashley Williams will be available again having served his 1-match ban by missing the Leicester game. Although the youngster didn’t disgrace himself by any means, I fully expect Williams to take the place of Matty Pennington, meaning he’ll partner the resurgent goal-machine, Phil Jagielka.
Mason Holgate and Leighton Baines are more or less certain to start as full backs after solid performances against Leicester and in goal Joel Robles is likely to continue, although his two most recent displays on Merseyside haven’t been up there with his best by any means.
Finally, the referee for this one is every Evertonians favourite, Mark Clattenberg. It could well be Clattenberg’s last ever visit to Goodison Park so who knows what nonsense he’s capable of.
Overall this is a match Everton undoubtedly should win, we’re flying at home and Burnley are very poor away. Yet, this is Everton, Clattenberg’s the ref and sometimes, as we all know, the stats, the form and the trends give way when it’s Everton…
Hopefully not on Saturday and it’ll be 3 more points!