Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Adopt a Team: Everton vs Burnley review

This was an enjoyable game to watch for the neutral spectator, with two teams that were fairly evenly matched on the day and a couple of quality moments which defined the game. If we're being honest, the game was generally close because of Everton's inability to really push on and dominate against the supposed "lesser" team, but credit must be given for Burnley's industry and the way Dyche had his team setup which countered much of what Everton wanted to do.

The game stats show Everton dominating in overall possession (64%) though less so in the amount of time spent in the opponents' half (56%) which highlights the fact that Everton were cautious for long stretches of this game; something that was always likely to be true with Barry, McCarthy and Osman all used in the middle of the field. Though perhaps harsh to criticise a team who scored three away from home, without Mirallas, Barkley and Pienaar I believe this team lacks a bit of creativity and at times they lacked direction in their attacking play. The one exception all day was really the full backs who drove the team forward and provided the extra man in useful positions which led to much of the best attacking play Everton managed. Burnley's full backs showed some potential too, but it was Coleman and particularly Baines who looked truly dynamic and a clear difference in class between these sides.

Everton focus
Defensively the team looked okay and Howard wasn't tested too many times despite Burnley's 8 SiB. Once again it was an error which led to a goal, with Lukaku this time being the culprit with a sloppy pass being intercepted and nicely finished by Ings. That was the league leading sixth error punished with a goal and that area of their game will need to be cleaned up if Baines and company are truly going to be elite defensive options. Some regression will help (they're unlikely to have 50% of all their mistakes converted into goals all season) but there were a number of times where midfielders were also caught in possession in dangerous positions as they looked build the play from the back. Whether or not that tactic helps Everton win games, there's no doubt that at the moment it isn't helping their defensive cause. On my viewing I felt that Alcaraz was a bit patchy and didn't look quite as solid as Jagielka's other partners, yet the stats show he led the team in both interceptions and clearances so perhaps I'm doing him a disservice. Baines actually had one of his worst statistical games with just a single created chance and no shots on goal. Of course, he still wound up with an assist and had almost as many touches in the final third (19) as Naismith and Lukaku (20). As noted in the preview, if you have any faith this team can start registering clean sheets, Baines becomes a player who can now justify that price tag based on his otherworldly attacking numbers.

It's fair to say that the Everton (starting) midfield was somewhat underwhelming but not in a way where they played poorly so much as just not offering anything at all to get excited about. In fairness, a large portion of that is likely due to the instructions from Martinez but it was still extremely noticeable how much more dynamic the team were with Barkley and Pienaar on during the last 20 or so minutes of the game. If it's as simple as a healthy Barkley replacing McCarthy or Osman then you can probably pencil in an uptick in attacking numbers going forward, but the concern is that this will consistently be the "away" lineup, with perhaps Barkley splitting time with Eto'o; a move that would put everyone's job security and ultimate production in question.

There's a chance that everyone's production is in question in large part due to the somewhat disappointing display from Lukaku here which built upon some questions that have been raised by Everton fans for his play to date this season. Again, the Belgian front man wasn't bad, it's just he was a touch sloppy with some of his layoffs and didn't really do enough to apply constant pressure to Burnley's backline which has been shown to be, shall we say, susceptible to such pressure. He did of course end the game with a goal (well finished after his initial effort was blocked) and one could easily play the "best players score when they don't play well" card. Yet, that makes you feel better if you've spent 28 million on a player and can't move on but in fantasy circles we have plenty of other options so I'd personally take the player with the great stats than relying on players to score when they don't "play well". This was just one game though and for the most part Lukaku's stats are just fine and thus he remains an interesting differentiator, though should not be confused for an elite option to compete with the likes of Diego Costa or Aguero.

One of the stand out players in the game was Naismith who provided plenty of energy - as expected - and also some genuine quality which is perhaps lost in his "scrappy" narrative. Unfortunately, with Eto'o playing well and Barkley regaining fitness, you have to think that the chances for the Scot will start to decline in the coming weeks. As for Eto'o, his age is going to be a factor at some point with Martinez highlighting that he was a surprised that the Cameroon star managed another 90 minutes here after playing a full game in midweek. Questions of playing time for Lukaku from a fantasy perspective are moot, as if he plays as he did last year then he's essentially undroppable while if his form suffers then the likes of Eto'o and Naismith will start to steal minutes, but in that scenario he wouldn't be ownable at 9.0m anyway. In short then, he remains an option for now but should be on a short leash should be see any further decline from last season's lofty heights.

Burnley focus
Based on the numbers to date this season, we highlighted Trippier and Arfield as a couple of players to look at and both looked good in this one. It's not a reasonable benchmark to compare Trippier to Baines but the Burnley man is solidly in the next category down with the likes of Cresswell and Roberston. Unlike that pair though, Trippier has a teammate (Duff) who is a full 0.7m less and so while the couple of created chances a week are nice, they aren't enough to justify that premium on paper and nothing I saw in this game really suggests otherwise.

As for Arfield, he took up some promising positions in the space off the front pair and managed to orchestrate what limited attacking possession Burnley had. As a general point, relying on "creative" players from the lower scoring teams can be a risk as you are of course reliant on their other players more than you might be with someone who takes their penalties or accounts for a large share of their shots. The goods news for Arfield is that he is supplementing his useful 10 created chances with an excellent 10 SiB and therefore continues to offer a nice dual threat for his 5.0m tag. In this contest he wasn't able to really get close enough to Howard's goal to create a real threat but he still managed to add another three shots to his total and led his team in passes in the final third (9) so I wouldn't be overly concerned with rolling with Arfield as a very promising 5th midfielder.

One player I didn't get a chance to talk about in the game preview was George Boyd, whose 2% ownership is second to only Duff among the Burnley outfield players. I must say I didn't see a great deal here to really excite me, which echoes what the stat sheet shows with Boyd offering up 7 created chances and 6 SiB. It should be noted that those numbers have come in just six games, but still, they don't particularly leap off the page. However, at 4.4m he comes at a significant saving over Arfield and assuming he offers the same job security (which looks like a fair assumption right now) he certainly justifies consideration as a 5th midfielder who you might only start once a month. This probably wasn't a great game to judge him on either, as he seems to have been pushed particularly deep, perhaps to help deal with the threat of Baines, and so never really got into the kind of positions we'd expect fantasy points to flow from. That doesn't mean he can't be useful, of course, but if your budget stretches, the data still suggests that Arfield is a tick ahead of Boyd as an overall fantasy contributor. It's also worth noting that Dean Marney was playing well by all accounts before his injury and is set to return to the side soon, offering another 4.4m option.

Both of these teams have the potential to offer solid fantasy options for your team, though few, if any, really jump out as being the "must have" players so many managers talk about. That, of course, is a good thing and represents an opportunity to solidify your team with productive mid-level options who might save you 0.5m here and there and ultimately free up cash to use on the likes of Aguero or Diego Costa in other positions in your team. Baines is the main exception to that trend and he continues to walk a fine line as to whether his price tag can justify the cost. The upcoming fixture list for both these sides look promising and with wildcard season likely approaching, there are worse ideas that taking a chance with a couple of these options - such as Lukaku or Baines - with the knowledge that you can easily bail out in a couple of weeks if they fails to really push on to that next level we all expect.

Next up on the adopt a team schedule we look at two interesting teams not enjoying the best start to the new campaign: Liverpool and Newcastle.


Anonymous said...

I feel the same way regarding Arfield which is why I took him over Boyd. I find myself contemplating swapping him though as the 0.6 is a huge difference to make up elsewhere.

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