Well, that was weird, weren’t it? After getting stuffed by Tottenham just before Christmas, we were expecting a turkey of a game against Burnley. Instead we were rewarded with the delicious leftovers in a French Dip sandwich. That was a godawful analogy, but not much worse than the game against Spurs, which I was unable to review due to automatically falling into an intense drinking session as my body’s defense mechanism to severe pain. To their credit, Spurs were cut-throat in punishing Silva’s roll of the dice, and I’m doing a whip around to send an R2-D2 unit to Wembley with the message ‘Help Us, Heung-Min Son, you’re our only hope’.
How well we’d fare on an away trip to Burnley depended on how empty or full your pint glass was. Normally, a trip to a team struggling in the bottom three is a good chance to score a few goals, as well as build up some confidence and momentum for the season. But this is Everton we’re talking about, we don’t do Normal. We still remember what happened last season when we had a tough stretch of games and then played Burnley. Shudder. Marco decided to play 5 at the back, which raised some eyebrows since it didn’t really work against Man City, though the lack of options in midfield probably had a say in his decision – and anyone who mentions Tom Davies is doomed to a lifetime of terror. Gueye was fit again, but was only starting on the bench alongside Richarlison, who was about as useless as the Queen’s speech of tolerance and helping others while sat in a solid gold room funded by colonialism.
In terms of starts to a game, it was hard to beat this one. Both Bernard and Mina had points to prove, so the great cross in from the former and the towering (albeit unchallenged) header from the latter was great to see. Burnley’s 7ft defenders don’t normally concede like that so the human cement mixer filled with marbles and rocks Sean Dyche wasn’t made up to see it happen in the 2nd minute of the game. I’m a big fan of Yerry’s moves, pretty sure I’ve thrown shapes like that while plastered in Heebie Jeebies at 3am. Adding to the shock value, that was the 7,000th goal in the top flight for Everton, the first of any team in the top 5 European leagues to reach that.
10 minutes later, it was 2-0. It’s mental to think that Lucas Digne has only been at Everton since the summer, if you put a wig on him we’d think that Leighton Baines reversed time but spoke French as a side effect. Joe Hart could have saved it, sure, but the pace he puts on the ball is brilliant, you’d need the wrists of a 14 year old with unlimited internet privileges to stop that one. We were 3-0 up by 22 minutes, Michael Oliver actually having a decent game despite showering out more cards than the neighbours you never speak to, and awarding a penalty for either the handball or Michael Keane having his shirt Hulk Hoganed (ripped off, not given a racial slur). Sigurdsson took the chance to exercise his penalty demon and put it away into the corner for the third. This was strange territory.
Eventually, Everton realised that they’re actually Everton and decided to make things difficult for themselves. The Three Stooges style of defending reared its head again and Burnley bundled in a goal following a goal line clearance and every defender stopping to look around to the refs. Not sure what’s happened to Pickford and the central defenders to concede such shitty goals recently, I can only think the derby incident has left them with PTSD and they need to get a couple of clean sheets to get the self belief back. Coleman normally gets a bit of blame as well, but I think the concussion he got not long before that is a decent excuse. After that, the game went quite scrappy with Everton struggling to keep it to 3-1 before the break, and half the players struggling not to slip on the floor. Only Everton can make you worry that a 3 goal lead might not be enough.
To their credit, they shored things up in the second half and started managing the game a bit better. In between getting clattered by Burnley players (or as Dyche put it, “jumping”), Bernard was causing havoc and had his best game since our last away win against Leicester. Walcott and DCL also put themselves around quite well and threatened a couple of times, but the fourth came from Digne and his absolute traction engine of a left foot. He’s an absolute shoe-in for Player of the Year if he keeps this up. No hugging sessions required. Richarlison came on just before that and got his own goal just before the end thanks to a brill assist from Sigurdsson and a tidy reaction finish – I seen some criticism of the celebration, scoring the fifth in a game doesn’t warrant taking your top off, but I think we should be taking our tops off for more things. Like good business meetings, or finding a parking spot.
We wanted a reaction from Everton, even if we weren’t sure we’d get one given how December’s gone for us so far. This was perfect. Silva utilised the 5 at the back by playing counter attacking football instead of trying to play through the team which worked wonders. We managed to negate the hit to our goal difference, too. That’s not to say everything’s sorted with the team now. If Tarkowski put his chance away early in the 2nd half, it would have been a different story, but I guess you could say that about Calvert-Lewin’s goal that wasn’t given against Tottenham. Silva doesn’t look too sure yet what his defence should look like, either. But things look a lot brighter than they did before Christmas. Until the next game, at least.
Didn’t get the chance to say this before the holiday, so I hope you all had a decent Xmas despite the Bloos and I’m glad you can take your Everton-themed goodies out into the public now.