Class is permanent
Samuel Eto’o oozed class today. It wasn’t just his two goals which caught the eye either.
His all-round play was superb, a reminder that this is a man who could once lay a justifiable claim to being the best centre-forward in world football.
At 33, the Cameroon legend is no longer at the peak of his powers and, until today, he had offered only a few tantalising glimpses of his old magic in royal blue – that wonderful headed goal on his debut against Chelsea, a fine cameo in the Wolfsburg rout, a crucial goal in Krasnodar…
At Turf Moor today, Eto’o delivered his most complete performance for Everton so far, a display which underlined what a valuable asset he can be for Roberto Martinez if he produces this kind of form on a regular basis.
He looks, as the ECHO’s Greg O’Keeffe suspects, like being an inspired signing.
He was involved in the build-up to his fourth-minute opener, as the Blues caressed the ball upfield and over to the left flank. Leighton Baines’ cross was as perfect as Eto’o’s header was emphatic.
The former Barcelona striker’s second, five minutes from time, was another fine effort, a long-range curler which eluded the despairing dive of Tom Heaton and eradicated any late jitters.
Eto’o almost capped his afternoon by scoring a third, only to be denied by the woodwork after rounding Heaton and rolling the ball goalwards from the tightest of angles. A lesser player would not have come so close.
Eto’o’s age means he will not be a regular starter. But used in the right way and at the right times by Martinez, it looks as though he can be a potent attacking weapon for the Blues.
Evertonians are beginning to take him to their hearts.
Rotation is starting to work out
Results of late show Roberto Martinez is juggling his resources well as Everton battle for wins at home and abroad.
Only five players who started in Lille (Howard, Jagielka, Baines, Barry and Eto’o) were in the line-up to face Burnley, as the Everton boss gave his starting XI an overhaul.
Everton’s first two matches after a European game ended in defeat (to Crystal Palace and, somewhat unfortunately, against Manchester United), but it was a case of third time lucky against Burnley.
Not that there was much fortune about the win.
Danny Ings’ 20th-minute leveller came out of the blue – and it was self-inflicted too as Romelu Lukaku surrendered possession – and it led to a shaky spell where it looked as if Everton might concede again. But Lukaku was quick to make amends for his earlier error and he put the Blues ahead nine minutes later with an important strike, albeit one which won’t make any goal-of-the-season showreels.
At 2-1, you can never relax – but the Blues were always in control and worked the ball neatly for sustained spells, meaning Burnley’s attacks were only sporadic.
Gareth Barry and James McCarthy were key to this, completing a combined 93% of their passes on an afternoon when the Blues had a decisive 58% of the possession.
Had it not been for Eto’o’s two wonderful goals, McCarthy would have walked off with the man of the match champagne.
The rest he had on Thursday (coming on in the 93rd minute) did him good.
Gareth Barry and James McCarthy have completed a combined 93% of their passes today. Midfield partnership. #EFC pic.twitter.com/jGoSWVEojZ
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 26, 2014
Leighton Baines is in flying form
The left-back’s assist today put him just one away from equalling a Premier League record.
In the history of the competition, only former Chelsea and Blackburn man Graeme Le Saux has more assists than Baines.
It’s 44-43 to the man from Jersey – but Kirkby’s finest is closing in on Le Saux’s record and will surely overtake him soon if he maintains his early-season form.
His cross to Eto’o was perfect. Burnley made the fatal mistake of not putting any pressure on the left-back as he lined up his cross, and it was no surprise to see him float the ball right on to the grateful forehead of the onrushing Eto’o.
It was Baines’ sixth assist in nine Premier League games this season. He’s helped himself to two in Europe as well, not to mention two goals.
In the pre-match build-up, we questioned whether Burnley would be able to handle Everton’s marauding full-backs. Baines took just four minutes to provide an answer.
Leighton Baines has 43 #BPL assists. The only defender with more in the competition’s history is Le Saux (44) #BUREVE pic.twitter.com/NQ9Zzx0j3M
— Premier League (@premierleague) October 26, 2014