Burnley v Everton. The Everton Forum preview feat. ramblings on Sean Dyche, Aaron Lennon and yet more frustration aimed at Sam Allardyce

What a predictable load of rubbish Watford turned out to be last weekend.

We could all tell how it was ending with about twenty minutes to go. Everton clearly started going through the motions, dropping deeper, happy with a point, whilst Watford, with very little subtlety (let’s be honest, it doesn’t get less subtle than throwing Okaka on) went for the win.

They say fortune favours the brave and so it came to pass when, in a low quality game with virtually nothing in it, it was the hosts who strolled away with the 3 points, courtesy of a fine finish from Troy Deeney to punish some dismal defending by Everton (I’m looking at you, Martina and Williams).

So this Saturday, it’s on to another away trip for our blues, this time at a horrible ground to visit, Turf Moor, where we’ll be ‘entertained’ by Burnley (12.30pm kick off, live on Sky Sports).

The Clarets

If you take away the whole Marco Silva episode, Burnley’s season has actually been quite comparable to that of our last opponent.

Both teams started the season brilliantly in the classic ‘surprise package’ mould, however, whereas Watford’s form badly tailed off after a couple of months, Burnley managed to keep their mojo a while longer before that too died a sudden death.

5 points taken from the past 10 matches have seen Burnley slump to the bottom of the Premier League form table yet, in a damning indictment of the quality of the league below the top 6, the clarets somehow remain in 7th place.

What’s caused the sudden slide in Burnley’s form?

Well, I think you just need to look at the size of their squad to realise the impact absences were always going to have on Burnley over the course of a season. Key men such as; Tom Heaton, Stephen Ward, James Tarkowski, Matt Lowton, Steven Defour, Robbie Brady and Chris Wood have all missed recent periods of the season and collectively, what is a small group haven’t been able to maintain the same level of output.

However, let’s not do Burnley a disservice here. Whilst missing players is never going to help any manager, what Sean Dyche has done with Burnley isn’t defined by the quality of his individual players. Together they achieve more than the sum of their parts and you really have to credit their manager for that.

We can all say what we want about their style of play and the lack of quality teams in the league, but ultimately, 3 quarters of the way through a season, Burnley with their bottom 3 budget are 7th. It’s got to be admired.

Now, I don’t want to get too sidetracked on Dyche and Everton, but it’s sure to be discussed in the build up to this game so I feel I’ve got to mention it.

Personally, as great a job as he’s done with Burnley, I just don’t think he’s the manager for Everton in the Moshiri era. In the days prior to Moshiri, he’d be a strong candidate, but now, with all due respect (and I do like him) we’ve moved on and, as poor as this season has been, we still need to be aiming higher.

For all the ‘yer das’ out there, this isn’t a question of ‘if he was called Dychinho we’d all want him’, it’s a lot of things…

We need a manager capable of working under a Director of Football, working with big money players, players from all over the world, winning trophies, playing in Europe and working with real expectations. As a great a job as he’s done, Dyche doesn’t tick those boxes at Burnley and what’s more the football would need to be totally different at Everton, we can’t be scoring less than a goal a home game. It just wouldn’t wash with Evertonians.

He reminds me of David Moyes when he manged us in the fact he’s built a real legacy at Burnley, worked so hard to the point he practically runs the club from top to bottom – it’s just so different to what he’d get if he walked in the door at Everton. I’m sure he’ll get a bigger job, maybe at somewhere like Newcastle or West Ham, but not at Moshiri’s Everton.

Anyway, getting back to his work at Burnley, the so-called ‘ginger Mourinho’ really has them playing for one and other as a tight-knit unit.

They’re quite basic in what they do to get results, but they play to their strengths and backed by an enthusiastic home crowd, they’re a tough nut to crack on Saturday – as is reflected by the fact they’ve only lost 5 home games in 14 this season (with 2 of those defeats coming in injury time after 90 minutes).

Yet, whilst Burnley don’t lose too many at home, they don’t score many either. 10 scored in 14 games leaves them with the worst home attack in the Premier League. And what’s more, if you thought you were braving the sub-zero conditions for entertainment this Saturday, forget it – 21 goals scored in 14 games at Turf Moor confirms it’s the most boring ground in the league when it comes to witnessing goals.

Throw in the fact Everton have still scored just 9 away goals in 14 matches and it does make you wonder why this match was chosen for TV broadcast on Sky.

Still, there are 3 points up for grabs all the same and Dyche will surely be targeting a win here against an Everton team that are frankly awful on their travels.

Looking at the Burnley boss’s last few team selections, it seems he tends to favour 4-5-1 more often than not, but also doesn’t mind going with a 4-4-2.

If I was him, I’d line up against this Everton team in 4-4-2 having seen how we struggled to deal with Watford’s 2 big men up top last week, but given that he seems to prefer a 4-5-1 overall, I guess he’ll lean that way.

That would mean 1 of his 3 big strikers (Sam Vokes, Ashley Barnes or Chris Wood) leading the line and prime support coming from Jeff Hendrick, the goalscorer in Burnley’s 0-1 win at Goodison Park earlier this season.

In the central midfield area, the tenacious pair of Ashley Westwood and Jack Cork provide Burnley with hard work and discipline which continues out wide in the form of the Icelander Johann Gundmundson and the man we recently called our own, Aaron Lennon.

They’re all decent players who can show flashes of quality, but none of them really strike an opponent with fear. I wouldn’t expect too intricate passing moves (even if the move for their goal at Goodison was nice) as plenty of balls will be played over the top, intended to miss out the midfield.

Not only will their midfielders put in great effort, tackle hard, fight for knockdowns or second balls but they’ll also shield the defensive line out of possession, making Burnley the tough nut to crack that they are.

In that defence we’re likely to see a Sam Allardyce wet-dream-inducing no-frills back 4 of Stephen Ward, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee and Matt Lowton, with possibly Tom Heaton in goal (although Nick Pope still looks more likely).

With the possible exception of the blossoming Tarkowski, none of those defenders stand out as being exceptional, but they’re drilled within an inch of their lives, know each other’s games really well and as I said, will be well covered by a dogged and disciplined midfield 4.

In terms of style of play, I mentioned we shouldn’t expect much in the way of intricate, which is reflected in the fact Burnley currently head the league for average long balls per game (80) and average fewest completed passes per game (276).

They’ll look to go long to the target man, whether that be from front-to-back or from crossing positions when midfield runners will attack the penalty area. They’ll be tenacious and determined, lots of fouls if we should be so bold as to build up ahead of steam and plenty of hard work and endeavour. Like I said, not especially pretty, but it works and it basically what I imagine Sam Allardyce dreams about.

One man I briefly mentioned above is Aaron Lennon.

Much like last week with Deulofeu, I expect the former-toffee to get a fantastic reception from the blues brave enough to turn up on Saturday.

He’s the type of player who might not be remembered as fondly as somebody like Deulofeu, as he never really got fans excited like the Spaniard did, but he gave us good service, always tried his best and when the chips were down, could be relied upon.

He wasn’t a prolific player, but scored a few goals, he wasn’t an skillful player but kept defenders honest and while many felt he didn’t quite give enough attacking output, I think we can all agree we’ve had much worse wingers over the years.

Away from the pitch, we all know he had a tough time and I think it’s a real testament to him that he fought his way back. Got himself into the team again this season and ultimately earned himself a good move to another Premier League club. He came across like a top fella, so I hope he gets some love from the travelling toffees.

Overall, not a side stocked full of amazing or confident players, but one who will definitely want to win this match. If it boils down to a boring slog in dreadful conditions, which I think it will, I reckon that’ll suit them down to the ground.

The Blues

They say it’s always darkest just before the dawn and this week, in the wake of the Watford episode, I think the penny might be starting to drop with a lot of people…

Sam Allardyce is simply too small-time for Everton Football Club.

I don’t consider myself to be one of those unrealistic supporters who think we’re going to win every game or lift a trophy every season, but that utter tripe on Saturday and how we arrived at it, said a lot to me.

The manager was more than happy with a 0-0 against Watford. Just like against West Brom on boxing day, Sam Allardyce, manager of Everton Football Club, was happy with a goalless draw against a poor to mediocre side who were right there for the taking.

– West Brom, hadn’t won in 20 league matches. He’s happy with a 0-0.
– Watford, conceded more home goals than any other team, average of 2 goals conceded per game at home. He’s happy with a 0-0.

If you wanted more proof of him being delighted with the 0-0, I offer you…

Exhibit A, Morgan Schneiderlin being lined up to come on at 0-0 to shore things up. A sub that is promptly changed when we concede.

Exhibit B, this from Allardyce’s Friday morning press conference…

‘In fairness, it took until 76 minutes for Watford to have a shot on target, so we nearly got it right. We had 2 away games, so we start with a point against Watford, then we look to Burnley, but we weren’t clinical enough in their penalty area’.

The manager of Everton FC there, ladies and gents.

Well he needs to know, Everton, no matter how much he wants us to be, are not one of these tin-pot yoyo clubs who should be willing to kiss his feet for delivering Premier League safety. How many clubs of a similar size and stature would honestly entertain it?

Some say the players are the problem and he didn’t buy them, but it’s very simple. Allardyce knew the value of the squad, he knows when money is spent as it has been (including on his lavish salary), expectations come with that. Those expectations are not ‘let’s scrap for 0-0’s away and win the odd home game’.

When questioned about speculation on his future on Friday, Allardyce said he was ‘quite surprised’ as (quote) Everton are ‘in a very good position’. Need I say more about this guy?

Will growing discontent with him change following this game at Burnley? You can bet he hopes so as fans are turning and so are the press. But given our away record, I just don’t see a win that will keep the wolves from his door.

I hope do the blues get the win on Saturday and still show Sam the door that night. Let him think he’s saved the club from relegation and part ways like that before things turn really ugly.

Then, if it were upto me, I’d look to give a new man the few remaining games to access what he’s got in the hope we can hit the ground running next season, because let’s face it, with a World Cup, this summer isn’t going to be an easy one to settle a new manager in.

In terms of team selections, I have no idea what Sam’s going to do. You’d think there might be a couple of changes following a dismal display last time out, but if I’m honest, I hope it’s nothing too drastic. I don’t think big changes have worked for us this season, so I think keeping a largely settled team together is the way to go.

I’d hazard a guess that it’ll be the usual 4-3-3 (4-5-1) that has been played in nearly every game since Allardyce arrived, despite growing calls from fans for 4-4-2 to be given a go.

The back 4 he picks looks likely to depend on the fitness of Seamus Coleman, Ramiro Funes-Mori and Leighton Baines.

Listening to Friday’s press conference, it seems that despite Argentina (one of the favourites for the World Cup) calling up Funes-Mori for forthcoming internationals, he’s not going to be included. Supposedly Allardyce wants him to have more under 23 football, however I wouldn’t be shocked if a south american central defender doesn’t fit his profile for a centre half, meaning he could find himself keeping Davy Klaassen company in obscurity.

If Funes Mori is given another week away from the squad, I’d like to see either Phil Jagielka or Mason Holgate reintroduced. Williams giving Troy Deeney, who turns like the QE2, time to control, spin and shoot in the box last week was the final straw for me.

As far as Coleman and Baines are concerned, both seem to be fit and included for the trip, so it’s plausible both could start, obviously ahead of Kenny and Martina (although the way he said it, stressing Baines is in the squad, leads me to think Baines might start from the bench).

One man who has started to look a little better is the former-claret, Michael Keane. I think he’s had as rough a season as anybody (with the exception of Klaassen) but seems to be belatedly finding something like a decent level.

I’m aware he had a nasty gash on his foot which struggled to close up, but what has concerned me with him has been a lack of heart. I thought he wouldn’t be shy to take one for the team, but too often, he seems reluctant. Maybe that’s the injury bugging him, but for the fee paid, I expect a rock hard central defensive leader and not a soft touch.

Still, the last couple of games have been better, so hopefully he can continue in that vain and by the end of the season, will consider himself something like established, ready for a big season next time around.

The midfield trio of Tom Davies, Gana Gueye and Wayne Rooney will probably carry on in Sam’s team.

I know many have had it with Rooney and his regular giving the ball away, but I just look at the central midfield alternatives and don’t see better. Plus, for all his sloppy play, Rooney has still been directly involved in (scored or assisted) over 30% of all Everton’s Premier League goals scored this term.

If Allardyce did want to drop Rooney, which I don’t think he will, the best way is probably going with a flat midfield 4, meaning Davies and Gana would play in a central midfield duo and 2 from Theo Walcott, Yannick Bolasie, Nikola Vlasic and Gylfi Sigurdsson occupy the wide positions – obviously allowing 2 strikers to try and link up to solve the isolation problem they’ve all suffered.

Heck, we could even play Luke Garbutt left midfield, seeing as you know, he’s left footed and can cross a ball – but let’s not get carried away, now!

Still, I think Sam will persist with an attacking trio, but this week I reckon he’ll change the central striker, opting for either Dominic Calvert-Lewin or Cenk Tosun ahead of Oumar Niasse (love him, but that was poor from him last week).

I don’t think it particularly matters who he chooses to lead the line. Of course, I’d like to see Cenk Tosun afforded a run of games, but over the course of the season so far, I think Calvert-Lewin has actually led the line as well as anybody and if it is Niasse still, at least you know he’ll be a nuisance and can grab a goal.

In the wing positions, Sigurdsson and Walcott practically pick themselves, so will likely resume. Unfortunately, both were poor against Watford and when they don’t play well, we don’t really have a lot else in the way of creativity away from home when the central midfielders and wing backs don’t seem allowed to help attacks.

So here’s the 11 I think will start –

As I wrote above, I wouldn’t mind seeing something a bit different like a 4-4-2 or Garbutt at left midfield (how random to see him on the bench last week, by the way?!), even if just to show that the manager is actively trying to arrest the slump away from home.

Off the bench, we should have the likes of Bolasie, Vlasic, 2 strikers, Schneiderlin and a defender. (Notice A defender – not 2 centre halves, Sam, why waste a bleedin’ space you buffoon?!)

In conclusion, it’s not a game I’m expecting anything from. The fact they’re in exceptionally poor form and it’s us coming to town just makes me think we’ll provide the usual Dr. Everton antidote.

9 goals scored in 14 away matches against a team that’s only shipped only 11 at home in 14, contrasted with our whopping league-high 29 away goals conceded, leads me to think they’ll nick it, probably 1-0. Maybe even a comical own goal.

I hope you’ll forgive the negativity, but even the most optimistic of blues must shudder when they see we’re away from home at the moment! I won’t bleat on and on about it this week, but hopefully, just when I think it can’t get worse, they’ll pull out a win. Our fantastic away following deserve one.

The man in the middle for this one is Chris Kavanagh. A whistle-smith who’s only refereed us twice, giving a penalty against us once, but still, we’re yet to drop points when he’s got the whistle. Both of those games were at Goodison but sod it, I’m taking that as a positive omen!

Just give us something to keep us warm, eh, Everton?! COYB!!

Fancy discussing the match online with a load of like-minded blues from all walks of life, how about Everton in general? Sport in general? What you fancy for dinner? Things that wind you up? Somebody good looking? Get yourself to ours. Here’s the link . Joining is free, quick and easy. See you there!

As ever, thanks for reading.

You can find me on TEF, posting as bluerinse and on twitter as @gigHaWatt.


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