Everton keep the ghosts of Ancelotti's tenure at bay with another impressive comeback

Lyndon Lloyd 13/09/2021 56comments  |  Jump to last

There are many things that Evertonians haven’t seen enough of from their team in recent years and among of them were powers of recovery. Everton’s record when falling behind to opposition teams has been pretty dreadful under a string of managers. It’s been a proverbial stick used to beat the players with in regard to their mentality for a while now but at no time did it feel more apparent than last season under Carlo Ancelotti at an empty Goodison Park.

If the question was how much the toxicity that can manifest itself among the Blue faithful might be at the root of the club’s malaise since the end of the David Moyes era, the experience of 2020-21, when the team lost nine times, might have proved the opposite was true. Everton perhaps need their demanding, impatient but, above all, passionate and raucous supporters a lot more than anyone realised and they’ve more than played their part in the first two home fixtures of 2021-22.

Kudos goes to the players, of course, for the come-from-behind wins over Southampton and now Burnley but it’s hard to escape the feeling that what was missing during those tortuously ineffective displays under Rafael Benitez’s predecessor was the symbiotic relationship between team and terraces.

That’s not to say that the memories of last season have been banished and Benitez’s curious decision to go with a three-man central defence against Burnley, combined with the way in which the Toffees fell behind in the second half after a pretty abysmal first 45 minutes, made it feel very much as though the ghosts of Ancelotti’s reign were still present this evening.

Credit Benitez, his players or the supporters — all three, probably — but there is a fire and a resilience about this version of Everton that has emerged in the face of adversity. It gradually revealed itself against the Saints last month with goals spread over the second half after they had gone in at half-time a goal down and tonight, after Ben Mee had kicked the hornet’s nest with a 52nd-minute header, it came in the form of an explosion of three goals in six minutes.

At the heart of the comeback, only the third time an Everton team has come back to win from being in arrears in 60 attempts, was a man whose arrival on a free transfer over the summer from Crystal Palace set few Evertonian hearts racing. At the least, Andros Townsend promised to bring depth and experience to the wide areas which have been neglected at Everton in recent years but few expected goals from the 30-year-old, especially of the calibre of the one he unleashed this evening that turned this match on its head with 65 minutes gone.

He has previous, of course, having scored a couple of crackers from distance for England back in the day but he can’t have hit any better in his career than the dipping thunderbolt he crashed into the top corner of Nick Pope’s net at the Park End.

Townsend was also the provider for Michael Keane’s vital equaliser against his former club on the hour mark and he helped start the move that led to Demarai Gray streaking down the middle through a huge hole in the Clarets’ back line to score his third goal for the Toffees and set the seal on another impressive victory.

Put bluntly, though, there were precious few signs of those fireworks in the first half when the Blues had toiled unproductively playing in that unfamiliar five-man defensive formation under Benitez for the first time.

Burnley enjoyed much the better of the opening half as they sought their first victory of the new season. Though they set their stall out early with an ugly challenge by Josh Brownhill on Richarlison and frequently delayed proceedings by dallying with throw-ins, the Clarets actually dominated possession for long periods and played some useful football.

Sean Dyche will feel as though his men should have been ahead by the halfway stage after Chris Wood passed up the chance to head them into a seventh-minute lead that was served on a platter for him by Dwight McNeil's wicked delivery from their left flank.

Wood had another opportunity when Harvey Barnes dummied a cross from the opposite side but the big striker's shot was deflected behind and Mee put a header wide from a corner as Jordan Pickford struggled to deal with the delivery into his six-yard box.

For their part, what early purpose there had been from Everton, who were without the injured Dominic Calvert-Lewin while James Rodriguez was also missing from the squad, quickly fell away and the lack of quality or ability to control midfield meant that they were unable to create may openings in the first period.

Their best chance fell to Doucouré off Townsend's pass which the Frenchman took in stride and then fired across goal towards the far corner, prompting an impressive one-handed stop from Pope in the Burnley goal.

Rather than introduce more ideas off the bench where the likes of Alex Iwobi were awaiting the call, Benitez opted only to switch the positions of Keane and Ben Godfrey in his three-man central defence at the start of the second half, one that began in similarly physical fashion as the first as James Tarkowski scythed through the ball and Richarlison, eliciting anger from the Blues' defence.

Three minutes earlier, Brownhill had dragged Townsend down and been booked, with Lucas Digne firing the resulting free-kick off Wood's head in the defensive wall, while Townsend was harshly booked himself by referee Martin Atkinson for felling Charlie Taylor.

Everton initially repelled the free-kick but the ball came back out to Johann Gudmundsson and with Godfrey haring out with Digne to close him down, the Icelander swung it back towards the six-yard box where there were three claret jerseys queuing up to nod it home, with Mee stealing in behind Yerry Mina to grab the goal in the 53rd minute.

The equaliser would arrive within seven minutes and just as Benitez was preparing his first change in order to try and alter the course of the contest. A short-corner between Digne and Gray ended with the latter firing disappointingly into a defender but the ball was retained by the Blues, worked to Townsend on the opposite flank and he whipped a perfect cross onto the head of Keane who just had to guide it past the stranded Pope to make it 1-1 on the hour mark.

Five minutes later, the game had been turned on its head in the same Everton had flipped it on Southampton a month ago on the opening day. A mis-placed ball by James Lowton was seized on by Allan and worked quickly to Doucouré who picked Townsend out midway inside the Burnley half.

The winger shaped to go down the outside, cut back inside with a couple of touches and then unloaded a magnificent left-foot shot from 30 yards out that flew into the top corner leaving Pope with no chance.

Just over a minute later it was 3-1 as Burnley's attack following the restart was broken up in Everton's area, Townsend knocked the loose ball to Doucouré who spotted Gray's run through space in the centre-circle and released him with a perfect pass that allowed him to bear down on keeper and bury it past him in front of the ecstatic Park End.

Less than two minutes later, the ball was in Pope's net again, this time converted by Doucouré from close range but the midfielder was correctly adjudged to have been marginally offside.

Townsend went for a repeat of his earlier brilliance with another belter from distance that was searching out the opposite corner of the goal before Pope parried it away and substitute Andre Gomes fired just wide as the hosts threatened to turn it into a rout.

There was a late cameo for another new signing, Salomon Rondon, but Everton were content otherwise by that stage to see out their second 3-1 home win of the campaign and move joint-top on points in the Premier League table.

It’s still early days, of course, and there were signs today of how Everton could struggle against better midfields but Benitez is already demonstrating an ability to change things up at the right time — the introduction of Gomes today unshackled Doucouré and had a marked impact on the team’s ability to retain the ball in midfield where they had visibly lacked composure in the first half — and with the pace of Gray, the industry of Richarlison and quality of Townsend, the Toffees will always be able to hurt teams themselves.

The trip to Aston Villa will, on paper, pose Benitez and his men their sternest test of the campaign so far but the Spaniard and his charges will rightly reflect on a hugely positive return of 10 points from 12 from the first four games. Contrary to last season, Everton are winning the games they should; the next challenge will be to win the ones they’re not expected to.


Reader Comments (56)

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Bob Parrington
1 Posted 14/09/2021 at 03:00:37
One of those games we would have lost in the past few seasons. Bottom 3 opposition with no wins so far.

Didn't look too good early on but 3 brilliant goals. Must have been great to be an Everton supporter at Goodison Park last night.

Paul Kernot
2 Posted 14/09/2021 at 03:44:11
The first half was terrible so certainly room for improvement. There would have been plenty more like me at half time thinking "Here we go again, good old Everton reverting to type". But whether he was your choice or not, we now have a pragmatic manager who knows how to make subtle changes really work. Frankly I'm stunned and delighted at the impact Townsend & Gray are having for the money we spent.

At 3 -1 with more than 15 minutes still to play, if we'd put another two in, we'd be top of the league tonight. It was on too. We had two great chances in the 5 minutes after Gray's goal.

Andy McNabb
3 Posted 14/09/2021 at 04:19:28
Completely agree with the above comments. Thanks for the report, Lyndon.

It is indeed early days but amazing what can be achieved by spending the equivalent of peanuts in the modern game. Don't you just love a bargain!

Really find it difficult to warm to Richarlison. After his latest tantrum, to be honest, if I was Tarkowski, I'd have put him in the stands as well.

Paul Kernot
4 Posted 14/09/2021 at 05:29:27
My Burnley born mate told me recently that, in just one of our recent seasons, Everton spent as much in the transfer market as Burnley have in their entire history.

Puts the whole Premier League financial inequity into perspective.

Alan J Thompson
5 Posted 14/09/2021 at 05:41:14
Have just finished watching the game for the first time and the first half seemed a repeat of the last game with Everton not coming into the game until the last 10 minutes of the half. The midfield seemed nonexistent and had we gone in 3-0 down then they couldn't have complained.

It all appeared to change when Gomes was brought on but you couldn't have put the goals down to him. The first looked like old fashioned wing play, Townsend teasing the full back before the perfect cross for a perfect header and against his former club.

Then Townsend got one himself. As I watched I thought that's slightly wide but coming back, high but at the pace it will come down and perfectly into the top corner. I looked to see the reaction from the "Silent Six" but I was on my own.

It then seemed as though the heart had been knocked out of Burnley and it could have been five or six but, despite the pleasure of the win, that first half-hour needs looking at and more shown early in midfield.

That's the "easy" start out of the way and it should get more difficult from here but, if we can play at that highest level, we will be more than competitive.

Ray Mia
6 Posted 14/09/2021 at 06:32:08
Great write up as usual Lyndon. Love reading your work.

Sort of agree with some of the comments above, only caught the 2min highlights on EFC.com - will try to catch the full 90 later today. Listened the game on BBC 5 Live.

@Bob 1 - agreed, especially most of this squad at home last year... But got to give some major credit to the new manager, how many times have we all said (in hindsight) why don't we make a change earlier? How come we don't have a Plan B (C or D?)... Going to Villa on Saturday, can't wait.

@Paul 2 - on the wireless it didn't sound like we were at the races 1st half, but more to do with Burnley being Burnley as well as playing 3 centre backs and 2 wing backs at home... The tweaks made all the difference, the players didn't sound comfortable playing with 5 at the back (at home) and Coleman/Digne pushing up into Townsend and Gray playing more inside supporting Richarlson sounds great on paper... Was it me, or the radio commentary - did Digne play badly? Sounded invisible, and we're not getting his usual quality service... Would like to see him develop a better understanding with Gray, or whoever is playing left flank, more overlaps and more crosses. With DLC missing, great to see the team can find goals from different sources and I predict Rondon is going to be a great signing and push DLC as well as score a few...

@Andy 3 - Love a bargain too... Especially these days and after we've spent £500m on a squad that's seriously underperformed,

Crazy stat @Paul 4... whether it's FFP rules, or Benitez or Moshiri needing to learn how to spend... or Marcel realising he's got to do better, or all 4 combined (more realistic as life is complicated and never as reductionist black/white as forums - me included - comment).

@Alan 5... Agree the games will get harder, but as everyone knows, never really any easy games for Everton, we always (always... FFS always) banana skin it with teams we should be beating at home. Moyes did consistently well by beating the team's around us and below us, hard to beat... Tough to play against... But we are 4th on goal difference, same points as the 3 teams in 1,2,3... That's an exceptional return for a new manager...

Just like to also say, I'm not a gambling man. But won £100 on an Everton home win by 2 goals night... Chuffed to bits at my own prescience, even more pleased for Benitez... Right guy at the right time. Love listening to his post match commentary... He's the real deal.

James Rodriguez anyone?


Danny O’Neill
7 Posted 14/09/2021 at 06:40:09
Just watched the highlights on the train. I didn't think it possible, but that Townsend goal looks even better than it did from the Upper Bullens last night.

I wouldn't want to rely on turning it on for the last half-hour every time, but when we did last night, we could have had 5.

If you look closely at Townsend, I think he tricks the defenders into thinking he's about to play it wide. Watch the eyes. If I'm right, he's made his mind up but is giving them a feint with the eyes before unleashing the cruise missile.

Danny O’Neill
8 Posted 14/09/2021 at 06:53:21
Ray, I could see the logic with 3 at the back against Burnley - 3 centre backs to overload their attacking threat that was inevitably going to come through the middle and use wing backs to keep the supply chain pegged back.

Seemed a bit imbalanced though and with Coleman and Digne, they instinctively ended up making it look like a back 5 so it didn't quite work and the manager changed it.

With regards to Digne, personally, I don't think he played too badly and in terms of being invisible (or sounding it), from what I've seen so far this season, we don't have as much reliance on him now as previous. That's a positive as we have other options.

I forgot to mention the run by Gray and perfect through ball from Doucoure on the other thread. A joy to watch and football at it's simplest best.

Asbjørn Opstad
9 Posted 14/09/2021 at 07:10:39
One Burnley-player pushed Mina for their goal. Is that okay, ref??
Mike Allison
10 Posted 14/09/2021 at 07:20:19
Good result, but very worried that something in Benitez’s head told him to play 5 defenders at home against Burnley. Let’s just hope he’s learnt the lesson quickly. We play 4 at the back, just keep it simple.
Danny O’Neill
11 Posted 14/09/2021 at 07:20:32
Noticed that on the highlights this morning, Asbjørn.

Didn't see it last night, but then I was at the other end above the rather annoying Burnley fans who spent more than enough time talking about our currently suspended player with some pretty distasteful comments. Didn't hear any of that from the Southampton or Brighton fans.

Atkinson. I'll leave it there.

As above Mike, I don't think he meant to. I just think with 2 natural right backs, they instinctively made it look like a 5.

And then with Townsend and Gray, natural wide players, it all looked a bit imbalanced with Richarlison isolated as there was no number 10.

He sorted it out though, but I could see what he was trying to do.

Eddie Dunn
12 Posted 14/09/2021 at 07:59:30
I thought Atkinson had a terrible game. Barnes, Tarkowski and Co were roughing-up Richarlison from the word go. Brownhill should have been yellowed from the start and some of it might have been nipped in the bud.

They doubled-up in front and back of Pickford and one of our defenders should have intervened and pushed them away. We had a free kick and Richarlison paced out only 8 steps to the wall. Atkinson must have been making "pin-points" to set that up. Digne hit the wall.

Tarkowski could quite easily have seen red for his two-footed, out-of-control slide on Richarlison, which was clearly retribution for Richarlison's own body check on Ben Mee. Not even a foul!

Atkinson also missed the push on Mina for their goal. A pretty poor show from the ref. He always seems to be bad for us.

On the game... it was clearly the wrong call to go for 5 at the back. Digne and Coleman struggled to get into the game and the 2 midfielders were marked, preventing easy balls from the defenders. I was surprised that Rafa didn't change it at half time.

The lads showed what they are capable of with that last 30 mins. Scary stuff. Also very nice that Keane should get that all-important equaliser against his old club.

Those two cheapo wingers have proved to us all that expensive labels don't always mean quality. It's great to see us score goals from distance – something we have missed since Ross Barkley left.

I love the team spirit. Rafa is a breath of fresh air.

Martin Mason
13 Posted 14/09/2021 at 08:38:30
Wonderful performance once 3 centre-backs was taken of the menu. Excellent performance from Gomes when he came on.
Bob Parrington
14 Posted 14/09/2021 at 08:38:40
Eddie, I agree with you about their tactics vs Richarlison. At least 2 close to sending off possibly. And then Atkinson gives Townsend a yellow card for very little!
Danny O’Neill
15 Posted 14/09/2021 at 08:39:26
I meant to say 2 full backs, not 2 right backs.

Agree Eddie, it could have been changed earlier but like in any walk of life, he's judged on outcomes and Benitez got the outcome.

You say Barkley. I'm now at Marylebone about to make the last leg of the journey home of a 24-hour epic. So excuse any irrational emotion, but that Townsend goal was out of the Kevin Sheedy school of left-foot finishes.

The more I watch it, the more I see him deceive the defenders of his intention with the eyes. So it's not just the spectacular finish. It's very intelligent play because no-one was expecting it. Defenders thinking they've done their job to force him wide, keeper just not thinking it's coming until too late and beaten by the sheer quality of the strike.

The dogs called it right again. Don't know if the wife is looking forward to me getting back or not. Villa next week. Always an awkward encounter in the O'Neill household. Especially after I called them "bastard Villa" and cursed relegation on them after they beat us 3-2 at the death following what looked like a late point clincher from Lescott. She's never let me live that particular outburst down.

Jerome Shields
16 Posted 14/09/2021 at 08:50:21
The weakness of the three-man defence is the inability of Mina and Keane to defend on the turn. Even if they are a foot out of position, they are not able to recover. The Burnley threats were all where Everton had to defend on the turn.

Godfrey needs more game time and Digne needs to wake up. The latter was poor passing, often giving possession away, and his set-piece play was hopeless. Fortunately in the first half, he was the only one who seemed to suffer from the International Break Blues. It showed how frustratingly damaging even one such perform can be. A disaster if there is more than one such performance.

Benitez's two signings made the difference, both in work and effort and much needed pace. Doucouré was the same. Allan seemed to be playing deep and Richarlison seemed isolated. Keane's header from a Townsend cross was spot on and the only good thing from Digne's short corner. Rondon at least got a run out as the game was being closed down.

The main benefit of this game was that Everton won after the normally unproductive International break, and were able to move up the table when presented with the opportunity to challenge. Both of these are good signs for the season ahead. Everton are at last a threat through the middle.

Danny O’Neill
17 Posted 14/09/2021 at 08:58:00
Interesting point Jerome. If you play 3, you don't necessarily need 3 traditional centre backs. I say that from personal experience and I'll use an example: Javier Mascherano.

You have 2 markers or attackers of the ball, but you have someone who can cover the space in behind or in front. The sweeper.

Tony Abrahams
18 Posted 14/09/2021 at 09:12:42
It was obvious that, even with three centre-backs, we were defending too deep. Sorting out this area of the pitch has got to be objective number one, because we simply look a much better team when we play on the front foot.

It's great to come from behind, especially with a goal of such tremendous quality. Dyche was talking about 6 minutes of madness but I'm more interested in the way Everton started to get after Burnley. I know once you start to really engage the crowd at Goodison, then Everton rarely lose.

Paul Corbett
19 Posted 14/09/2021 at 09:22:16
Regarding the three centre-backs, think I heard Benitez say he used that formation with good effect when Newcastle played Burnley so don't blame him for trying that.

The key was realising it wasn't working for us and switching it up. Felt we had much more control in midfield once we had three there instead.

Looking ahead to Saturday, I feel as though we'll start a 4-5-3.

Danny O’Neill
20 Posted 14/09/2021 at 09:24:56
Surely that would be unfair, Paul!!!
Danny O’Neill
21 Posted 14/09/2021 at 09:36:15
A reflection of the players we have, Tony, regardless of manager.

It's a bit like the 3 turning into a 5 last night. Players default to their instinctive comfort zone, even when given instruction. We had 2 natural full backs playing with 3 natural centre-backs.

It's why, despite the understandable counter argument of many to me, I viewed central defence as a priority to get us higher up the pitch. Or at least give the midfield the freedom to do so by being more comfortable coming out with the ball.

Phillip Warrington
22 Posted 14/09/2021 at 09:36:45
An Everton team who seem to be playing with spirit and determination – what more could you ask for?

Thanks, Rafa and team!

Brent Stephens
23 Posted 14/09/2021 at 09:43:09
Danny #17,

"You have 2 markers or attackers of the ball, but you have someone who can cover the space in behind or in front. The sweeper."

Danny, that's exactly the position I finally moved to – sweeper. And I'm 5 feet 4 inches small. I could actually jump quite high as well and win quite a few aerial balls but the main role was as you describe it. And it's about reading the game.

Robert Tressell
24 Posted 14/09/2021 at 09:45:26
A back 3 of Holgate, Mina and Godfrey would work - with Iwobi (or even Kenny) and Digne as wingbacks.

This is because, to work, wingback has to be treated as a midfield position.

But as you say, Danny, with the starting personnel last night, the 3-man defence just becomes a 5-man defence. This in turn makes it less clear what space Townsend and Gray are supposed to occupy.

Hopefully it was an experiment just for the Burnley game (because of their height and our loss of a good set-piece defender in Calvert-Lewin).

Tony Abrahams
25 Posted 14/09/2021 at 09:48:07
I thought Mina began to play on the front foot when we played with a two, Danny, but every time I begin to think he could become a very good player, he gets injured.

I've heard Michael Keane has impressed Benitez with his willingness to play through injury but, if we don't begin to defend higher up the pitch, it's just going to stop Godfrey progressing and therefore also the team imo.

Brian Harrison
26 Posted 14/09/2021 at 09:48:43
When I got in the ground and saw the team and formation Benitez had selected, I couldn't believe it.

What started as a back 3 quickly morphed into a back 5, and we spent the first 60 minutes being dominated by Burnley – a team low on confidence with only 1 point before the game. I am sure Dyche couldn't believe his luck away at Everton and they are playing 5 at the back!

I don't think anyone was surprised when Burnley finally took one of their chances and went in front. I said yesterday that they will adopt a physical approach and that's exactly what they did; nothing wrong with that but I think Atkinson could have stepped in on a couple of occasions where the physicality definitely over-stepped the mark.

But, at long last, Benitez finally realized his folly and went back to a back 4 and the transformation was almost immediate with Michael Keane heading home from a pin-point cross from Townsend. Then, 6 minutes later, we were 3-1 up and had the ball in the net again but Doucouré was offside.

I hope that's the last time we see us start with a back 3; there are very few teams who have the ability to play 3 at the back and we aren't one of them.

I think Richarlison deserves great credit as, for 60 minutes, there wasn't another Everton player within 20 yards of him, but his work rate was first class. I also thought Allan was our best player over the 90 minutes; he broke up most of Burnley's attacks and displayed a calmness in tight situations.

The goal from Townsend was sensational and we know from his goal against Man City a couple of seasons back that he has that in his locker. And the ball from Doucouré to Gray was sublime, as was the finish.

Doucouré for me is a completely different player in the opponent's half, running forward, than he is when we play defensively, as we did for the first 60 minutes. Last season, there was a lot of criticism of Ancelotti by him employing a defensive set-up. let's hope Benitez learned that Evertonians like to see their players going at sides and getting stuck in.

Just like last season, the fixtures were kind and we have amassed the points I would have expected but there are harder tests ahead... but fair play, Benitez has made a good start. However, if he sets us up like he did for the first 60 minutes, he will quickly lose the goodwill he is getting from the fans.

Tony Everan
27 Posted 14/09/2021 at 10:13:51
Fantastic display in the second half, Burnley shell shocked after our ten minute goal fest. There is resilience and character on show this season.

Gray and Townsend are showing that the mentality of the player signed has to be right, it’s not just about the player’s hype or fee. Rondon may come into this category too. They are players who feel privileged to be at the club and are invested and committed to giving their all. It is totally refreshing to see.

Richarlison was disappointed he got taken off but he shouldn’t be. His efforts last night are well appreciated. I think he just wants his goal or he gets frustrated, but he did a great job for the team.

DCL is out for another three weeks which is a blow. If there is a positive here his body probably needed an extended rest, I think he will come back very strong in October.

Thoughts turn to Villa, which is going to be a great test. It will be interesting to see our formation and team selection. The wing back experiment didn’t work, maybe it can be tweaked and Rafa can coach them in to it ? I’m sceptical about it, I’m not sure if the right players are used wide or whether it suits Gray and Townsend in front of them. I’ll be happier to see us start with a back four.

Terry Downes
28 Posted 14/09/2021 at 10:19:39
If that ball from Doucoure to gray for the third goal had been by De Bruyne we would have never heard the end of it.

Doucoure is beginning to look one of the best midfielders in the country since Rafa took over well done to him.
Paul Corbett
29 Posted 14/09/2021 at 10:50:44
Danny @20 haha - yeah, that’s our secret weapon. Just hope the ref can’t count like me
John Hammond
30 Posted 14/09/2021 at 11:00:48
Trying to remember a game where we looked so awful for so long but completely turned the match on it's head in such devastating fashion. Six minutes of heaven. Could have been 4 or 5 in the end. Benitez recognised his mistake and made the necessary changes.

The ref had an absolute shocker. I'm all for letting the game flow but some of his decisions were bizarre. UTFT

David Pearl
31 Posted 14/09/2021 at 11:01:26
Its all about the state of mind playing 3 at the back. You have to rememver that last season those same players had to hear their own manager telling the world that he was not a magician. That we can't play a higher line.

Coleman and Digne both tried to get forward. Trouble is that the 3 were sat so deep it left bigger holes than the Everton womens team. McNeil got his cross in from the left as Coleman waited for Doucoure to get over to cover for him.

As Bob, #1 said we would have lost that game over the last few seasons. This is an expensively assembled squad and with a couple of needed tweaks that have come in with points to prove. They are confident to show what they can do.

Gomes came on just after the equaliser and as RB said its more to do with mind-set than any formation. Chelsea have got the 343 formation down to perfection and have been working on it for years. The same system over 3 or 4 different managers. At Everton its more likely to bring in a manager with a different style.

Anyway, here we are. A manager that knows what the fans buzz off. He has to work still on a few things but excellent so far. When Gomes come on, after our 1st goal, it was a pleasure to see the midfield 3 in a triangle ready and waiting for the ball to all get forward together. It was helped by Burnley pushing forward leaving space but l will take it.

Danny O’Neill
32 Posted 14/09/2021 at 11:01:58
I'd love to play with a sweeper Brent. Always maintained that 3-5-2 is the best attacking formation even though 4-2-3-1 is the most complete in my opinion.

But as Robert says, you need to view and pick your wing backs as midfielders, not defenders. And then, they have to be quick and the fittest players on the pitch in my opinion. They need an engine, that's for sure.

I agree Tony, Mina is a player that looks like he wants to play and bring the ball out. But just as he goes on a run, there's an injury as you say.

Great to see Richarlison disappointed at coming off. Desire. He wants to play football. Just as a player should and would be disappointed at not starting.

Brian Harrison
33 Posted 14/09/2021 at 11:13:36
Danny 32

I was once lucky enough to talk to Bill Shankly about different formations and his answer was good players can adapt to any system, and he reminded me that whatever system you use its still 11 v 11.

Danny Broderick
34 Posted 14/09/2021 at 11:26:47
I’m not a fan of 3 at the back. Unless you are the best - like Chelsea currently or a few years ago under Conte - in which case you trust your 3 to cover the work of the back 4 and you gain an extra midfielder. You will then beat most teams, but you still can’t play that way everywhere, as at some point you will meet a team equally as good as you and you may be exposed in the wide areas.

Every time I have seen 3 at the back deployed at Everton, it always ends up as a 5, as we blatantly don’t have the best team or players. I’d rather flood the midfield than the defence if we are trying to keep it tight.

Mal van Schaick
35 Posted 14/09/2021 at 11:34:08
I think that everyone's heart sank when their goal went in, because we weren't playing particularly well and with Calvert-Lewin missing and playing three at the back mystifying most supporters, we looked shaky.

If anything after the break we upped the tempo, Gray, Doucouré and Townsend inspired us and gave us more belief and our second half play got us a deserved win.

It's hard to criticise the lone striker, but I don't think that it suits Richarlison. He tried his best and ran his heart out, but when played joined up further up the pitch, he didn't get much service, looked lost, and unusually didn't have many chances. Perhaps giving Rondon a start and playing Richarlison off him will resume normal service to us.

Bob Parrington
36 Posted 14/09/2021 at 14:26:31
Danny@17. Aah! The Sweeper. So glad you brought this up. Different names for different positions but there are only a few real combinations and titles one can use.

Your suggestion is good IMO. The sweeper cleans up at the back of the defence, allowing the main 3 defenders to play a little higher up the pitch and compressing the playing space for the attack of the opposition. Classic Don Revie maybe. Also, helps against the high press if applied properly, which would work maybe against the RS, Citeh, Chelski and the likes.

Time for a change in the tactics to work against the so-called top however many, eh?

John McFarlane Snr
37 Posted 14/09/2021 at 14:31:12
Hi Danny [various posts] if your cv is as strong as it appears, you will know that anything can happen in a game of football, it's an old cliche I know, but it was illustrated by the Everton performances in each half.

The three goals that Everton scored were of the highest class, but can you imagine the reaction if Burnley had scored them? the accusing fingers would have been pointed all over the place. I'm looking forward to discussing the 'Beautiful Game?' with you on the 25th.

Phil Wood
38 Posted 14/09/2021 at 14:53:59
Brian 26.

Yes you are correct that Rafa tried something that didn't work but he isn't afraid to make changes when that happens.

I would rather see a Manager brave enough to try things than stand around showing no interest but raising an eyebrow and accepting inevitable failure.

Rafa is receiving goodwill from many fans because he is the best Manager we have seen since the "best" of Moyes and before. I don't care who he has Managed before. I am seeing more football passion, knowledge, enthusiasm and leadership than I have seen since Howard. Long may it last.

I for one will not start slagging him off when the inevitable defeats occur. He has built an excellent start with nothing. As someone else stated this man is a breath of fresh air and I am loving it.

Danny O’Neill
39 Posted 14/09/2021 at 15:01:04
You flatter me John Senior in terms of having a CV!

More a case of being opinionated and a blind-sided Evertonian.

I met up with a couple yesterday and look forward to meeting you and others on the 25th. The Guinness is on me!!

Nicholas Ryan
40 Posted 14/09/2021 at 15:17:26
There's a fair bit of criticism of the squad on these pages; but let's not lose sight of the fact that this bunch of misfiring misfits are joint top of the Premier League and currently occupying a Champions League spot!
Tom Bowers
41 Posted 14/09/2021 at 15:29:55
It is somewhat mystifying that Everton, depite a good rest by most of the players, came out as if they were thinking of a Summer break already.

That first half-an-hour was so poor and needs to be sorted soon, especially when better teams than Burnley and Southampton come around.

Everton have proved that intensity is better than caution and they have the squad to apply that...

We are in the top echelon again, like last season's start, but the competition is so good that staying there is a lot tougher.

Great goals to watch and it's so good to know that Townsend and Gray can finish in style the way they did, which helps when Richarlison is getting clipped all the time one way or another.

Shame about Calvert-Lewin but Rondon, when fully match fit, will be a good go-to guy when needed.

John McFarlane Snr
42 Posted 14/09/2021 at 16:29:05
Hi again Danny, you didn't address the question I posed regarding the Everton goals "Can you imagine the reaction if Burnley had scored them"?

Goals of this quality are to be admired no matter who may score them, and I know there are some who will disagree with me, but if they can only appreciate the good side of their own team they are, in my opinion, missing the true purpose of watching football.

My doctor has ruled in your favour by banning the consumption of alcohol, thereby reducing your matchday expenditure, and to be truthful it won't affect the rubbish I'm capable of expressing. Looking forward to meeting you on the 25th.

Danny O’Neill
43 Posted 14/09/2021 at 16:56:12
I'll go 2 ways on that, John. I'd always be frustrated that we concede, but you can't deny a good goal if you follow football, in my opinion. Once you calm down (talking about me) and reflect, you will appreciate the football.

So, to answer your question, had Burnley scored those goals last night, I would have acknowledged them as good goals.

I also think theirs was. Slight claim for a foul on Mina, but great delivery and a very good centre-forward finish.

Raymond Fox
44 Posted 14/09/2021 at 17:12:00
Last season, if we went a goal down, the game was as good as lost; not now.

Credit Rafa for the change in players' attitudes and tactics, plus shrewd buys.

Feet on the ground though I'm not expecting miracles, but definitely more confident about the performances now.

Bobby Mallon
45 Posted 14/09/2021 at 20:04:34
Danny @11,

We were very lucky not to give a penalty away last night. Doucouré wrestled one of their players to the ground, very lucky.

John Raftery
46 Posted 14/09/2021 at 22:06:46
What has changed more than anything compared with last season is the addition of two players with pace and goals; Townsend and Gray.
Bill Gienapp
47 Posted 14/09/2021 at 22:13:40
On a side note, the new images of Townsend and Gray (Townsend pointing; Gray flashing three fingers) that were just added to the rotation on the website header are outstanding.
Dale Self
48 Posted 14/09/2021 at 22:19:08
Townsend and Gray definitely showing some quiet leadership and they look like they're both just getting started. Townsend gets the applause for statesmanship but Gray just has the look of someone who wants to be here and makes it fucking happen.

UTFT!!!!! Let us all rejoice in the Rafa renaissance.

Stan Schofield
49 Posted 15/09/2021 at 00:38:42
In the early games of last season, we were playing with pace, style, and very high-quality goals. We're now doing it again, in the early games of this season. It's excellent, but it was excellent at the start of last season.

Many on ToffeeWeb said, in the early days of Ancelotti, “Don Carlo is a master, he keeps football simple, he has made our players more confident and effective, and it really does feel different this time.” All of that is a fact, not my opinion, so although things are good at present, beware, and take care to avoid setting yourselves up for a letdown.

I don't want to piss on our chips but, when injuries start to affect us, which is very likely, things may change for the worse, and then Benitez will get loads of stick, as will the players, including the current golden boys.

I hope it is different this time, but let's be realistic and not pretend that the ‘things are different this time' hasn't happened before.

Danny O’Neill
50 Posted 15/09/2021 at 07:44:30
Fair and valid call, Bobby @45.

The issue I have and have had, is the consistency of decision making or should I say the consistency in poor decision making. Genuinely, and taking the Evertonian out of it, I just want to see the correct decisions given.

I thought that's what VAR was supposed to help with, as with Rugby Union. I know nothing will ever get it 100% and ultimately it comes down to the Referee's interpretation, but use the technology and use it properly. That's my view.

Stan; now I've calmed and recovered, a good post to get our expectations back on track. We do have additional width and pace but we still pretty much have the same core of players as last season. I said last season my fear was the thinness of the squad. It's the same worry I have now.

Any views on Davies? Out of favour / not fancied by the manager?

Rick Tarleton
51 Posted 15/09/2021 at 08:32:45
Delighted to be able to watch Everton when they come from behind and win against a team set up to frustrate and break up the flow. Two or three things strike me in particular.

Firstly the deploying of Doucouré in a role that suits his energy and mindset. Last season whenever I watched him I thought of that immortal quote about Carlton Palmer: "He traps a ball further than I can kick it."

But nowadays Doucouré looks comfortable with the ball, the pass to set up Gray was excellent, Rodriguez at his best would have been pleased with it. He also looks as though he could nick a goal from midfield, something that looked like a fantasy last season.

This setup also leaves Allan to do the defensive midfield job without having to get too far forward. He is there to break up the play and to protect our central defenders and they need that.

Gray and Townsend have proved excellent signings, both have a goal threat and can put in crosses for Calvert-Lewin.

The squad is rather thin, but the best eleven is competitive and I do hope that Benitez can use and improve Tom Davies.

I was one who was dead against the appointment of Benitez, but so far I've had to eat my words. The man can organise and motivate and that is what we have so badly needed.

Francis van Lierop
52 Posted 15/09/2021 at 11:41:59
Although we have 2 points less than we did at the same time last season, somehow things seem more sustainable than then. There is a better balance to the team, with our two new assets.Both scored again!

It also seems that Seamus has a new mate in Andros. He now has somene in front of him who will do the dirty work, besides scoring a worldy.

Brian Williams
53 Posted 15/09/2021 at 12:41:28
Please look for and find, and read Derek Knox's cancer appeal thread.
Danny O’Neill
54 Posted 15/09/2021 at 12:46:44
Just watched the "from all angles" clip posted on the official club site. No point going on about the strike as it looks amazing whichever way you look at it.

What I found interesting watching back, is the part Gray and Doucoure play in the build up.

Gray initially shows good strength to hold off the Burnley full back as the ball is clipped into him from Digne. Okay, he doesn't quite hold the ball, but importantly, he reacts quickly to protect the loose ball, allowing Doucoure to take control and then make a great pass into Townsend's feet. The rest is Monday night history.

Paul Birmingham
55 Posted 15/09/2021 at 20:15:43
Adapted from Leicester’s Theilmanns song:

“ He’s a star man, he plays in Blue and White,( or on the right,?)
His name is Andros Townsend, and he’s fekkn Dynamite.

It’s not Saturday so I’m not swearing tonight, lol.

Good news the RS just missed a penalty!

Darren Hind
56 Posted 17/09/2021 at 17:15:46
Haha Paul.

Nobody swore or cussed in our house without getting a back hander from me mam - even when we were in our forties and came around with out own kids.

I remember my first game when it seemed like 60,000 people were swearing their heads off. I looked at me arl fella who just knew what I was thinking and he said "look lad, all bets are off when you come here, but don't blame me if you forget yourself when you get home and you end up with a sore head"

When I got Home. I couldnt wait to tell my older kopite brother how "fucken boss" it was.... Wack


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