Failure tomorrow night at Burnley is not an option for Everton

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 13: Josh Brownhill of Burnley and Allan of Everton in action during the Premier League match between Everton and Burnley at Goodison Park on September 11, 2021 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 13: Josh Brownhill of Burnley and Allan of Everton in action during the Premier League match between Everton and Burnley at Goodison Park on September 11, 2021 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images) /

Everton travel up the road tomorrow night to face another Lancashire club Burnley in what might well turn out to be one of the biggest games in the club’s history.

Burnley like Everton, are one of the original twelve clubs who founded the World’s first professional Football League in 1888.

Both clubs have a long tradition in the game, although the Blues’ have had a much more successful time over the years winning nine championships, the first of which was secured in the 1890-91 season, the third campaign after the league’s founding.

The reason I mention all this past history is to underline just what’s at stake this season. The Toffees’ are again facing the prospect of relegation for only the third time since the Football League’s founding way back in the nineteenth century.

Both those past relegations only lasted in total three seasons meaning Everton have spent more time in the English top flight than any other club.

And, as I’ve previously said, unlike the two seasons in the nineties when going down seemd likely (1993-94 and 97-98) this current side lack even the basic qualities and physicality to battle and scrap for points.

So, that long and proud record is now under very serious threat and if they were to be relegated this season I can’t see any quick return or even a return at all.

In fact, I think if the Blues’ do go down to the Championship in May, to be honest I can’t see the club ever coming back from that disaster.

The financial consequences of relegation from the Premier League these days are so huge and Everton are in such a mess on that front as well as on the pitch with eye-watering debts, that it does seem possible the club might even end up facing administration.

What a depressing and unimaginable situation for our football club to be in.

Like many Evertonians I hold the owner and the board responsible for this catastrophy, but of course it won’t be them who pay the price.

Instead it will be the fans who have loyally supported this club and spent their hard earned cash to go and watch a collection of overpaid and underperforming players produce the sort of dross we have seen over and over again during the past few seasons.

After a staggeringly inept period under Farhad Moshiri’s ownership with nearly half a billion pounds squandered on players and seven managers hired, Everton FC are seventeenth in the Premier League and facing a situation that is at times impossible to believe is real.

But it is real and so we turn to tomorrow evening’s match at Turf Moor.

This Blues’ team go into the game in the worst away form that I can ever remember from any Premier League club. Quite simply the Toffees’ are abysmal on their travels and so given that there seems little reason to expect anything to change tomorrow.

As usual there are also the endless injury problems to contend with making Frank Lampard’s job picking a team to face the Clarets in such a huge game, even harder.

His best defender Yerry Mina is still out and the Colombian’s absence will be felt even more so because Micheal Keane helpfully got himself sent off in Sunday’s defeat at West Ham and is now suspended leaving even fewer options at the back.

That means Lampard has some really difficult decisions to make as to who starts in central defence tomorrow.

The obvious combination on paper would be Mason Holgate and Ben Godfrey. But, Holgate might well be needed in midfield with Allan still absent after his red card against Newcastle and Donny van de Beek going down hurt just before the West Ham game.

And, anyway neither is the best in the air with Godfrey in particular very erratic in his defending against high balls. That is something Burnley will surely look to exploit with the height of their players such as centre-forward Chris Wood.

The only other possibility is to bring in Jarrad Branthwaite. He is a talented young defender, reasonable in the air and has at times looked very composed, particularly when he played at Chelsea earlier in the season.

That was a backs-to-the-wall effort with Everton down to the bare bones as far as fit players were concerned. They defended resolutely that night (for a change) and got an unlikely point with Branthwaite scoring the equaliser himself.

On the downside he is still very inexperienced and since then hasn’t always played as well as he did at Stamford Bridge.

Lampard is also without young Scottish right-back Nathan Patterson who has caught the Everton injury jinx and now faces a spell on the sidelines too. On top of that the other full-back Seamus Coleman is also a doubt too – you couldn’t make it up!

In addition to all this, there is the issue of his mis-firing attack with both main forwards Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin looking well off their best in a royal blue shirt and having failed to find the net for a long time now.

We will get a clearer idea of his situation regarding injuries and team selection after today’s press conference but I have no real idea what team Lampard will pick. He’ has regularly switched formations and made some odd and unexpected team selections so who knows.

One of those was when he unexpectedly he left out Anthony Gordon against the Hammers despite the 20-year-old being in my opinion Everton’s best player over the past few months.

Whether that was some sort of tactical thing I’m not sure, but I would expect him to play against the Clarets as his commitment and workrate will certainly be needed.

Alex Iwobi played as a sort of number ten and did ok in that role on Sunday. Will he get the nod again tomorrow night to start, and if so in what position?

Might it also be a game for Salomon Rondon to play, at least his physical strength could help at both ends of the pitch?

One thing that I think will be important is for Everton to try and get hold of the ball and keep it as much as they can and score the first goal.

Burnley are not a very good team and if the Blues’ can dominate the ball that will be the best strategy to protect their hugely vulnerable defence and minimise the pressure Burnley with their physical approach can put it under. In addition, it will be important to defend set-pieces well, as they largely did at West Ham.

And, scoring first would be huge as I can’t see Burnley being god enough to get two or three goals, although with Everton’s defence it seems everyone has a chance.

I wrote in the match review of Sunday’s latest away defeat that this game at Turf Moor was a real so-called six or even nine pointer.

Defeat tomorrow evening would be terribly damaging psychologically and in terms of momentum. It might also be terminal for Everton’s hopes of survival as I don’t see any signs this set of players has the stomach for a real relegation dogfight.

A point at the very least, or miracle of miracles, a win, however it’s acheived, even if it’s a deflected goal off someones knee in the last minute, would give the Blues’ a six point breathing gap on those three sides below them. That could prove priceless.

While technically it’s not neccesarily the deciding match of this season, we could well look back at the end of the campaign on Wednesday’s game as the crucial turning point, either for the better or the worst.