Struggling Aston Villa were the visitors to Goodison Park on Saturday. Buoyed by a point and a clean sheet against title chasing Manchester City in new manager Remi Garde’s first game in charge in their previous league outing, Villa were set up to frustrate Everton from the off.


Jordan Ayew (number 19) was their only striker, and ploughed a lone furrow as the most advanced man for Villa. Challenging Everton with a bank of four and five in the opening stages, Ayew was often the only player Villa had ahead of the ball as they sought to frustrate the toffees. Everton had Gerard Deulofeu (number 19) advanced in support of Romelu Lukaku (number 10), joined by the intelligent movement of Arouna Kone (number 9) and Ross Barkley (number 20).

There was an air of expectation amongst the Goodison crowd, and some slight (but audible) frustration early on as Villa sat deep and prevented Everton from advancing the ball. It didn’t take too long, however, for the first half chance of the game to come Everton’s way. Good movement from the toffees, with Seamus Coleman (circled) making the run from deep and Gareth Barry had the ability to find him…



A sign of things to come: Everton’s quality and movement would prove too much for unambitious Villa. From a Villa perspective, Kieran Richardson (who only turned 31 last month, turned his hips with about as much agility as someone 20 years his senior) was caught un-athletically underneath the ball as Coleman moved onto it- a sign of the afternoon he was going to go on to have. It would also have been a disappointment to Garde, to see Jack Grealish- in a fine position with Coleman ahead of him in the first picture, switching off and allowing the Irishman to steal a march on him, never getting back close enough to challenge Coleman who got a shot off as the referee blew for a foul from the challenge on Richardson as the ball bounced inside the area…


Grealish didn’t have the stomach for the fight all afternoon, and even looked disinterested at times. He wasn’t the only one, in his semi-defence.

It took just sixteen minutes for the first goal of the game, and it came Everton’s way.


Jordan Veretout is undisciplined in this picture, straying from his midfield bank to press, frustrated at Everton’s early grip on possession. Because Villa only have Ayew advanced, and everybody else determined to sit in, Mori has an easy ball to Stones. As the ball goes forward to Barkley, Veretout (circled) has been unable to get back and the chance is on…


Ashley Westwood (to barkley’s left) tries to get tight to Barkley, but the pace on the ball from Stones is perfect. Barkley’s quality is too good as he instantly flicks it onto Lukaku behind him…


Idrissa Gueye (who has actually played at Goodison before for Lille) – to the right of McCarthy, has switched off completely. A nine million pound signing in the summer, talked of as someone who “primarily his job is to protect the backline by breaking up the play, tracking runners and providing a reassuring presence in his role as the enforcer” by Gregg Evans of the Birmingham Mail when he was linked with Villa- made a mockery of that description here. He finds himself in no man’s land, the wrong side of the perpetual James McCarthy, and never gets back. Villa, looking every inch the outfit who had one point from their previous eight games coming into the match. Lukaku touches the ball into the path of McCarthy and Ciaran Clark (circled) has tried to get tight to the Belgian from left centre half…


But the speed of thought from Lukaku to touch it instantly into the path of McCarthy leaves Clark badly out of position. McCarthy now has space to work with. Kieran Richardson has to narrow, leaving Deulofeu out wide, and McCarthy draws the challenge and releases the young Catalan. Deulofeu enters the box with menace, and his cross-cum-shot is parried by Brad Guzan into the path of Ross Barkley who has continued his run unchecked from the Villa midfield…


Five midfielders on the pitch, ten men banked behind the ball in the opening stages, and nobody has thought to look over their shoulder and track a simple run. Brendan Galloway could just have easily put the ball in, such was the defensive disarray of the Villans, with Alan Hutton having been dragged inside by the movement of Arouna Kone.

Deulofeu was beginning to purr. Almost playing in Lukaku and Kone with excellent invention from out wide, his superb dribbling meant Kieran Richardson didn’t dare go near him. When a loose ball squirted toward Richardson out on the flank with Deulofeu close by, Richardson actually ran beyond the ball to try and put a big shoulder into Deulofeu who had already skipped by the ex-England international a couple of times to this point: only for Deulofeu to ride the challenge well and have Richardson slide off him…


Faced with Deulofeu, Clark began to backpedal- Deulofeu stood him up with ease and beat him to the byline, getting his head up and picking out Kone just yards out…


The Ivorian made a good contact with his shot and brought about a superb reflex save from Guzan in the Villa net.

We didn’t have to wait long for the second, coming just ten minutes after the first, and it was the result of more good play from Deulofeu…


Coleman (circled) clears out space inside of Deulofeu by running ahead of him, Deulofeu cuts inside of the hapless Richardson- chasing shadows to this point- and dinks a delicate ball between four Villa players into the path of Lukaku…


A good covering challenge from Micah Richards blocks the Lukaku shot, and the now advanced Seamus Coleman dinks a cross in which Lukaku glances across the ‘keeper


to become only the fifth player under the age of twenty three to score fifty premier league goals (joining Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, Wayne Rooney and Christiano Ronaldo in the exclusive club. Not bad company). Lukaku’s firing on all cylinders at the moment and it’s clear to see how much he relishes playing alongside Kone and Deulofeu.

Villa were offering nothing. Their obvious plan to sit in and frustrate Everton was undone by an early goal, and they were incapable of adapting and responding. Their only half threat of the half coming off the back of a sloppy piece of play by Funes Mori as he lost the ball on the half way line, and Villa broke. A shot from distance skewed badly wide was the result, but Everton were never in any danger from the Midlanders. You couldn’t help but think of how impotent Everton have been made to look at times by teams sitting in deep,playing a stubborn game and proving difficult to break down over the last eighteen months. Lesser sides have stood toe to toe with Everton and refused to blink, and Everton have been incapable of breaking them down. That wasn’t the case on Saturday. Tempo, movement, fluidity, invention, and of course: Deulofeu. Everton were brilliant. Villa were poor, but they were made to look poor, too. If we can find the consistency to our play that has been missing through the first third of the season, and play with this intent going forward, we have an excellent team. Gareth Barry was brilliant: breaking up play, assured in possession, he was the metronome in the middle of the park. Arouna Kone had a very good game, too, but they were the only two ‘older’ players in the Everton outfield. An exciting, young nucleus of Barkley, Stones, Deulofeu, Lukaku, and Galloway: each threatening a very bright future, should we be able to keep hold of them all.

A third was added minutes before the half time whistle- a second for Ross Barkley. Persistent play from Kone who refused to give up on a loose ball in a scramble with Brad Guzan led to the ball finding Ross Barkley who drove into the Villa net…


It was a scrappy goal, not in keeping with the rest of the days goals- but not in keeping with the type of goals you might associate with Barkley, either: neither of his goals were. It’s encouraging to see Barkley being in the right place at the right time and score the two he did. It’s testament to his continuing development… He could’ve hung back after his flick for the first, but he saw the space on the Villa back post and took a chance that paid off. He put himself in the right place at the right time for his second, and these two goals will please Roberto Martinez every bit as much as Barkley lashing one in from distance- even though they weren’t as easy on the eye. Barkley would end the game with two assists and two goals, meaning through 13 league games, Barkley has scored 5, assisted 4 and created 24 chances for his teammates- he scored 2, assisted 2 and made 33 chances for others in the whole of last season. Our diamond is beginning to really gleam.

Villa actually started the second half fairly well. Pressing us higher up: they had nothing to lose, and it was reflected in their play. That being said, aside from the tricky (but isolated) Jordan Ayew, they didn’t really have the creativity needed to cause Everton any real problems. Last season Villa had Christian Benteke, Tom Cleverley, Fabian Delph and Jack Grealish to turn to in times of need. Only Grealish remains, but he offered nothing. An under hit  Funes Mori back-pass gave a sniff of an opportunity to Jordan Veretout, only for Tim Howard to have taken up a good starting position and rush decisively to slide in and knock the ball away from the feet of the Villa midfielder, through all alone…


The closest Villa came to scoring all game came soon after, Kieran Richardson managed to stop his head spinning for long enough to push forward, and he hit a swerving right footed shot from the edge of the box that Howard got a good, strong hand to…


The result of the game had been certain for a while by the time Everton managed to put the prettiest of cherries atop the cake. A brilliant fourth that shows what a devastating team we can be on the counter attack. Kone did well getting back and nicking the ball away from Alan Hutton down the Everton left, and by the time the ball ended up at the feet of John Stones, Gerard Deulofeu was in bags of space in the middle of the park, demanding the ball from his teammate…


Ruthless Everton smell blood, and the tempo of the attack is set from the moment the ball leaves the feet of twenty one year old John Stones (for the second time in the game)- fizzing the ball into twenty one year old Deulofeu. Deulofeu turned and accelerated into the space ahead of him, options either side…


The Villa defence retreats: terrified of Deulofeu and the speed of the Everton counter. Deulofeu picks out twenty one year old Ross Barkley (in the right place at the right time) and the pass is slightly behind him, in truth…


But Barkley opens his body up, and plays the most perfectly weighted pass into the run of twenty two year old Romelu Lukaku. Lukaku, for the 51st time in his premier league career, finds the back of the net….


It’s a goal of the highest quality. Devastating stuff from the toffees.

There was still time for nineteen year old Brendan Galloway to almost score the fifth of the game. Up inside the opposition six yard box with minutes to go at four nil up, just as he had been for the first of the game in the opening fifteen minutes, his half volley struck substitute Kevin Mirallas before it had a chance to test Brad Guzan in the Villa net.

Bournemouth up next for Everton who have every chance of capitalising on a favourable run of fixtures over the next month, should we continue to play this well…

Everton Musings
Everton Musings

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