The Toffees’ visit to Southampton on Monday night has become something of a sideshow after our host’s manager, the poetry enthusiast and former Scunthorpe physio Nigel Adkins, was unceremoniously dumped onto the unemployment slag heap and replaced by the Argentine Mauricio Pochettino. As a player, ‘Mo-Po’ will be best known to us as being the victim of a St Michael Owen dive during Ing-er-lund’s exit from the 1998 World Cup. His previous and only managerial ‘assignment’ was at La Liga outfit Espanyol, finishing 11th, 8th and 14th in his 3 seasons at the helm but who left with the club at the bottom of the table. Hardly great stock then unless Guillem Balague is your assigned PR guru.
Moyes is a registered info-file and the idea of this unknown quantity in the opposition dugout will be a slight worry. By all accounts Pochettino’s appointment has been in the pipeline for several weeks so its likely he has been watching the side and will have some ideas, but given the time he has had on the training ground, coupled with his inability to speak any English its more likely there will be only tweaks to the Adkins side/ general approach. Hopefully he will try to initiate wholesale change immediately and it’ll blow up in his face.
The Saints are very easy on the eye and comfortably the most watchable of the sides who gained promotion last season. Their approach is similar to Arsenal given that they play a short passing game, will rarely put the ball ‘in the mixer’ and will look to make through passes rather than engineer crossing situations. They have some classy players who like to attack predominantly through the middle such as toffee fan and stand out performer Adam Lallana (who misses this game through injury) record buy Gaston Ramires and the under-rated Rickie Lambert. None of this attacking trio has much pace and as a consequence the Saints haven’t scored any counter attack goals at home with 10 of their goals coming from open play, 4 from set pieces and 1 from the penalty spot. They have great energy in midfield where endurance man Morgan Schneiderlin has made more tackles than anyone in the top flight. Southampton’s pressing game has seemed a tad more physical in this respect since the earlier game at Goodison with more tackles made per game although they still register amongst the fewest fouls in the division.
When we met up last time at Goodison the Saints were conceding on average 3 goals per game and resembled a real soft touch despite their capacity to score in every game. They have tightened up a tad in recent times with just 8 goals shipped in their last 8 at home but with just three clean sheets all season, the joint lowest with ourselves, its unlikely they will shut us out….just as its unlikely we will keep them at bay. Defensively they have made the third most major defensive errors (29) in the top flight with only Arsenal (30) and the RS (32) having committed more. Of these errors, ten have led directly to goals which is the third most behind Wigan (11) and Arsenal (12). The guiltiest parties for committing these errors are chuckle brother defensive duo Yoshida and Fonte who have accounted for 1/3 of these errors. This is perhaps why Everton ‘target’ Vergard Forren has been recruited. Unconfirmed reports about Forren’s scout report from Alan Stubbs documented Forren as being ‘slower than Tony Thomas with the acceleration of Mitch Ward’. The Saints situation isn’t helped by using three keepers; Boruc, Davis and Gazzaniga with the former Celtic ‘stopper’ the current incumbent of the number one shirt although he looked anything but a ‘safe pair of hands’ in their last home game against Arsenal.
Rodrigues played wide right against us with him and Lambert doubling up on Baines when in possession in a ‘box them in and make them play long’ type strategy as shown below.
The Saints contained us well early on and this pressure led to us forcing play too much with long balls which frequently went out of play. On the sidelines Moyes was agitated and pleading with his side to be patient and they duly responded with 3 goals in a whirlwind 25 minute spell prior to half time.
Coleman/Mirallas 2 v1 ‘s (above) on the right side was crucial that day, creating 8 chances to Baines/Pienaar’s 6 with Southampton’s full backs repeatedly exposed.
The Saints lined up 4-3-3 against us last time but have been deploying 4-2-3-1 lately. Boruc will most likely start in goal with a back four of Clynne and highly rated Shaw (full backs) with Yoshida and Hooiveld in the centre backs slots with Fonte an injury doubt. Cork and Schneiderlin will anchor midfield with Puncheon – a direct player who will shoot and dribble frequently – on the right with Rodrigues on the left but predominantly cutting inside. Lambert has been lazily pigeon holed as ‘the new Grant Holt’ by media biffs, ridiculous given his superior talents; the forward has created 44 chances for team mates and can score all kinds of goals as he has demonstrated this season. Lambert can play as a 10 or 9 and for this one I’d see him playing as 9 with Ramires at 10. In terms of the Blues, It’s unlikely Mirallas will be fit for this one so Victor Anichebe – who seems to be more effective away from Goodison – will continue as a makeshift right sided midfielder with no changes expected from the side which drew 0-0 with Swansea last weekend.
Everton to win 2-1 – 9/1 BetVictor
Everton to come from behind to draw – 8/1 William Hill
Fellaini score / Everton win double – 10/3 PaddyPower
Both teams to score – 4/6 BetVictor
Everton to win by one goal – 31/10 Ladbrokes