One of the most intriguing stories of the weekend unfolded at Goodison Park. Going into the match with his job appearing to be under pressure, Ronald Koeman saw his Everton side fold again to leave them a lowly 16th in the Premier League.
Panic sets in for the hosts as pressure weighs them down from the first whistle
Koeman had clearly ignited the side during the pre-match team talk and Everton came flying out the blocks. With Oumar Niasse clearly enjoying a new lease of life after his crucial double against Bournemouth, Everton set about trying to settle the nerves with an early goal.
Yet their offensive attitude often appeared rushed and inaccurate as their threat gradually began to filter away. Niasse drifted left and Dominic Calvert-Lewin was attracted to the right as Everton faced a familiar problem of having no target striker despite starting with what appeared to be a 4-4-2 system.
In contrast, Burnley were much more disciplined and composed in their approach on the ball. They formulated no less than 24 passes between nine players before Jeff Hendrick opened the scoring. The Clarets had barely put a foot out of place when defending in numbers against the early Everton onslaught but the hosts were guilty of two mistakes when they conceded and were duly punished.
Nikola Vlasic showed his defensive frailties by letting Stephen Ward drift in behind before Morgan Schneiderlin made a mockery of himself by diving in needlessly to allow Hendrick to create room for himself.
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No Plan B as familiar problems surface again for Everton
The goal not only put Everton behind but also showed a limited foundation of alternative options. Home players were regularly seen ushering their teammates into new positions as a lack of movement off the ball limited short passing options. The hosts were thus forced to go long which was meat and drink for the Burnley defence.
Everton went 4-4-1-1 after the break to try and get Calvert-Lewin between the lines. Yet even when Wayne Rooney and Tom Davies were introduced to the contest, the hosts were bereft of creativity and struggled to create any chances of note. Quite ironic considering how many attacking midfielders Koeman has at his disposal.
However, nothing can be taken away by the fantastic organisation that is common-place these days in Sean Dyche’s Burnley outfits. Sitting with a back four closely monitored by Jack Cork and another bank of four just in front, the visitors made it difficult for their opponents to break them down. On the odd occasion where Cork was bypassed, James Tarkowski was in great form to deliver another impressive display.
Further irony was presented by the fact Michael Keane, who Tarkowski has replaced at the heart of the Burnley defence, could not cope with Chris Wood despite having strength in numbers alongside Ashley Williams. Wood was able to hold the ball up and force mistakes on regular occasions, particular from Williams who looks a shadow of his former self this season.