Everton made it eight straight home Premier League wins in 2017 with a 3-1 win over Burnley.
The game had to wait till the second half for its breakthrough, Phil Jagielka scoring in his third successive game from a Kevin Mirallas corner.
A rush of blood to the head from Joel Robles handed Burnley a lifeline, the Toffees keeper bringing down Sam Vokes who dispatched the resulting penalty.
But Everton exerted their dominance, and their quality eventually came to the fore. Ross Barkley’s deflected effort signalled the end of a turbulent week for the Wavertree-born playmaker and Romelu Lukaku put the result beyond doubt with an excellent finish.
The win moves The Toffees up to fifth in the Premier League, albeit on goal difference and having played three games more than Manchester United and Arsenal. The win signals the first time Everton have won eight successive home league games since 1990.
Barkley’s perfect reply
When Barkley headed into town to celebrate a convincing 4-2 win over Leicester City last Sunday, he could not have imagined the forthcoming week that lay in store for him.
On the receiving end of an unprovoked attack in the late hours of Sunday evening, Barkley would awake to another unprovoked attack in the column of a has-been tabloid editor and well-known impenitent shit, on Saturday morning.
But Barkley put a difficult week behind him with a typical display of attacking excellence, scoring Everton’s second goal and helping his boyhood club to three points.
Not only did he continue a fine run of form which has seen him notch eight assists this season (the most of any English player in the Premier League), Barkley showed his value to the team with two ‘right-place-at-the-right-time’ moments, clearing two goal-bound efforts off the line.
According to Squawka, Everton’s number 8 had four take-ons, successfully completing them all, and won 100% of tackles attempted. 62 passes, seven shots, four chances created and five clearances show a young-man fully focused on winning football matches. We should be applauding Barkley’s mentality and strength of character for the way in which he has let his football do the talking, the perfect reply to a week of unfair attacks.
Corners paying dividends
Everton under Roberto Martinez struggled with set-pieces, especially corners. They were vulnerable from opposition corners and sterile from their own attempts.
But not only was Jagielka’s opener his third in as many games, it was Everton’s fifth goal from corners in four consecutive games and it seems the training ground routines are paying dividends.
Ronald Koeman spoke after the match about the work the team does in training, both attacking and defending corners and the numbers tell us Everton are reaping what they sow.
They’ve scored 12 goals from set-pieces compared to eight last season, and with five games still to play they’ve already surpassed the 11 notched in 2014/15.
It took Everton 30 minutes to realise they were in a game on Saturday afternoon. Burnley might have the unwanted tag as the only team in the Premier League without an away win, but they didn’t come to Goodison to lie down.
They were competitive, broke in numbers and but for Barkley’s goal line clearance and some better finishing Sean Dyche’s side could have been ahead in the first half.
Rather surprisingly, Koeman’s response at half time was to replace the industrious central midfielder Idrissa Gueye with the ‘we’re-not-entirely-sure-what-he-is’ Enner Valencia. But the change proved a masterstroke and the willing running and purposeful charges of the Ecuadorian gave The Toffees the attacking impetus lacking in the first half.
With three goals in his 14 sub appearances for Everton, Valencia has never looked like a like-for-like replacement for Lukaku, but his form in 2017 has been impressive and from a wide position he has made direct, game-changing contributions against Southampton, Tottenham, Hull and now Burnley. A convenient squad player that has given Koeman food for thought with regards a permanent bid in the summer.
Lukaku in good company
Two goals in two minutes from Everton were enough to put a spirited Burnley to the sword. In 2017, Everton have been imperious at home, winning their eight league games, and when Everton win at Goodison, there’s usually one man who scores.
Lukaku notched his 24th league goal of the season with a show of superb centre forward play to turn and shrug off his opponent, before his pinpoint effort found its way past Tom Heaton. He’s now scored in nine successive home games (eight in home league games), joining a fine company of Everton heroes in doing so. Dixie Dean netted in 9 consecutive home games in 1934 while Tommy Johnson did it in eight in 1931 (@stevejohnson95), and no Everton player has matched them till Lukaku today.
Should Everton have genuine ambitions to compete for a Champions League spot in the years to come, a player of Lukaku’s record-breaking quality is vital.
Holgate keeps his cool
In a dreary first half performance, there was a faint glimmer of positivity in the form of Mason Holgate.
Jagielka has made 346 appearances in the Premier League but it was he who looked like the nervous teenager making just his 33rd. Two short backpasses from the Everton caprain put Robles’ goal under unnecessary pressure; even Gueye made a couple of sloppy passes that brought grumbles from the terraces.
But Holgate’s maturity and composure was a comfort in a game in which Everton laboured to get a foothold in. Not only was he able to deal with defensive situations, but his forward play in the absence of Seamus Coleman seems to improve with each game, demonstrating excellent crossing ability and a calmness in possession.
Tom Davies struggled to make his mark in an advanced midfield position in the first half but the 18 year-old improved once moved alongside Morgan Schneiderlin. An energetic and combative player, despite his lack of muscle Davies never shirked a tackle against a competitive Burnley side who made it tough for Everton to wrestle control in midfield.
A sixth talking point is necessary for this post, as there’s one topic from the weekend that can’t be ignored: Everton’s decision to follow Liverpool’s lead and ban The S*n from Goodison Park and Finch Farm.
Kelvin Mackenzie’s column was an outrageous piece of baiting; a cruel slur on the city of Liverpool (the day before the Hillsborough anniversary) and a racially abusive comment on a footballer who had merely been the victim in an unprovoked bar attack.
But I thought the decision to ban the publication was the wrong one. A more powerful response to the column would have been to keep up and emphasise the boycott which has been so successful across Liverpool and Merseyside, and which has even had the support of other football clubs up and down the country.
A ban gives the vermin working for and running that paper the opportunity to play the victim card. It suggests a relevance they do not deserve and brings into the equation the issue of free speech. A ban is a limit on free speech, and any limit (however small and regardless of the people it affects) should make us extremely uncomfortable. Surely a more powerful reaction against their hate would be to allow their journalists into Goodison Park, but to simply ignore their questions. A refusal to acknowledge, to shun and to make irrelevant would be a much more honourable reaction that would assume the moral high-ground.
For an excellent read on boycott-over-ban, see Tony Evans’ Twitter thread from Saturday night, which includes eloquent reflections on the 28th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.
Bans never work. They cannot compete with the moral power of a contemptuous boycott
— Tony Evans (@TonyEvans92a) April 14, 2017