Match Reaction: Lukaku & Barkley at the double as Blues cruise to Villa win

  • Everton’s new ruthless streak has them dreaming of top four with free-scoring win over Villa

  • Front four in a class of their own as Lukaku joins elite goalscoring company

  • Martinez’s unchanged side shows continuity is key

Everton stepped up their pursuit of a Champions League spot with a 4-0 demolition of relegation bound Aston Villa.

Ross Barkley set Everton on their way with a simple tap in, rounding off a flowing move that began with defender John Stones.

Romelu Lukaku doubled the lead on 28 minutes with a well placed header, while the Belgian also had a hand in Barkley’s second goal. The Wavertree wizard fired home after a calamitous Villa goalmouth scramble, a goal that ultimately ended the game as a contest minutes before half time.

Barkley then teed up Lukaku for his second with a wonderful first-time through ball, showing perfect technique and foresight to put the ball on a plate for Everton’s number 10.

The win moves the Toffees up to 7th in the Premier League, just 6 points shy of 4th placed Arsenal who slipped up at West Brom on Saturday.

Can this Everton side finish in the top 4?

Champions League football was on the lips of Roberto Martinez in the summer of 2013 and flowed freely on the tips of tongues all over L4 come the spring of 2014.

It’s not something we’ve heard in these parts since the 5th placed finish of Martinez’s first season in charge. But with Chelsea’s disastrous start to the season leaving a hole the size of a Champions League spot to fill, Europe’s elite competition is being whispered in some sections of Goodison Park once more.

The Blues will come up against much sterner tests than a relegation threatened Villa who set up to get a draw at best, but after a tricky start to the season, Everton have the opportunity to build up a head of steam as they approach a busy festive fixture list.

Home romps over Sunderland and Villa, either side of a hard earned draw away to high-flying West Ham, have given Blues cause for optimism. And they’ve done it style too, ruthless in the way they’ve gone about their back to back home wins, playing with slickness and attacking prowess.

And a quick glance to Everton’s remaining six league fixtures in 2015 will have Evertonians rubbing their hands in anticipation. Home games against Crystal Palace, Leicester and Stoke City are not exactly easy contests, but if the Blues have serious ambitions about claiming a top 4 spot then these are realistically winnable games.

And with the form of league topping Leicester and surprise package Palace, it will be a test of Everton’s defensive resolve rather than their attacking prowess during those home games which will determine how well placed they are come 2016.

Lukaku spearheading an attacking quartet finely in tune with each other

Lukaku netted his 50th and 51st Premier League goals against a sorry Villa side, joining an exclusive club of players in the process. The Belgian has now hit a half century of goals before his 23rd birthday, adding his name to a list featuring Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.

His goals have also moved him up to 2nd in this season’s Premier League scoring charts with 9 goals, beaten to top spot by a messiah-like run of scoring by Jamie Vardy. For his club, he now has 34 league goals in 74 starts and shows no sign of slowing down.

While Lukaku is demonstrably Everton’s finest goalscorer of recent times, the Belgian owes many of his goals (not least this season’s) to his supporting act. The relationships he has struck up with Ross Barkley, Gerard Deulofeu and Arouna Kone have been key to his success and his gratitude is regularly returned in kind.

Not only has Lukaku hit the goalscoring trail (only Sergio Aguero with 54 has scored more Premier League goals than Lukaku’s 44 since January 2013), but his ability to bring others into play with vision and technique is reflected in his assists tally. This wasn’t added to against Villa, but his four assists match those of partner in crime Barkley, who himself isn’t far behind in the scoring charts (5).

And with Deulofeu (5) and Kone (4) also competing for assists, the foursome are showing an understanding in front of goal that other teams can only dream of; a quartet currently hitting all the right notes.

Continuity is key for Martinez with unchanged XI

Martinez fielded an unchanged side for the visit of Villa on Saturday, something the Spaniard has seemed loathe to do during his time with the Toffees. And with Brandan Galloway’s introduction coming in the first half of the 6-2 hammering of Sunderland, the players doing the business are being named well and truly on merit.

And if Everton’s promising form is to continue through the festive period and into 2016, then keeping the same players playing together frequently will be vital.

Of course injuries will play their part and the knock on the door from senior players such as Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka will be difficult to resist, but every member of the Blues starting XI deserves to keep his place with recent performances.

Without the distraction of regular European football, the demand on the squad is not as high as it was compared with last year’s European League campaign. It could well be the difference in sneaking into that coveted top 4 spot or clinching one of those elusive domestic cups.

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