Premier League resumes after the two-week international break with Frank Lampard’s Everton looking to build from their first league win last time out as they visit Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Toffees ran out 1-0 winners over a struggling West Ham United side before the international break whilst the Saints will be looking to get back to winning ways after a drab 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa at Villa Park on September 16.
Much of Southampton’s problems under Ralph Hasenhuttl despite their exciting squad, has been a lack of consistency, struggling to muster any meaningful winning runs, especially this calendar year. In 2022, the Saints have only registered six wins and are entering this weekend’s contest off the back of two straight defeats to both Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa.
Hasenhuttl’s men were poor in their last outing at Villa Park, failing to create any real chances whilst not connecting as a unit for much of the game before the international break. In the end, Steven Gerrard’s men ran out deserved winners thanks to a Jacob Ramsey striker before half-time, but it was a dreadful match in all truth.
Southampton are three points better off compared to this stage last season but a run of three defeats from their last four outings has seen them slip towards the relegation zone, only just three points and three places in front of West Ham United who are in 17th.
Despite Everton’s upturn in performances, they are also in a similar fettle to Saturday’s opponents, struggling to pose a consistent threat in front of goal with Maupay’s strike against the Hammers, just their fifth strike of the campaign, in seven games. Only two clubs (Wolves & West Ham) have registered fewer.
Though, they can certainly draw some inspiration and encouragement from their defensive displays, keeping a clean sheet in their last two and on course to register a third in succession for the first time since March 2021.
However, the Toffees have a poor record away from home, picking up maximum points in just one of their last 20 away league matches, a stat which makes damning reading for Lampard and his team. They’ve also won just one of their last six matches at St Mary’s, which means this contest will be far from a foregone conclusion.
WHERE & WHEN?
Venue: St Mary’s Stadium.
Date: Saturday, 1st October 2022.
Time: 15:00PM (BST).
Referee: Andre Marriner.
Assistant referee: Simon Long, Richard West
Fourth official: Sam Allison
VAR: Lee Mason.
Assistant VAR: Marc Perry.
The hosts will certainly be without long-term absentees Tino Livramento and Romeo Lavia. Lavia has a hamstring injury but is expected to be back in mid-October, while Livarmento is still recovering from an ACL and is unlikely to be back before the season pauses for the World Cup in November.
Striker Che Adams missed Scotland’s UEFA Nations League game with the Republic of Ireland through illness, but he did start the previous encounter against Ukraine.
New summer signing Duje Caleta-Car is yet to make his Premier League bow for the Saints because of the impressive performances of fellow summer capture and new German international Armel Bella-Kotchap and Mohammed Salisu at the back, however, Caleta-Car may well be given a chance if Hasenhuttl decides to freshen things up against Everton.
Everton will be without full-back Nathan Patterson for five to six weeks after suffering a nasty ankle injury in Scotland’s encounter with Ukraine. So Seamus Coleman will likely come in to replace Patterson right back. Frank Lampard has confirmed in his press conference that goalkeeper Jordan Pickford will be fit to start against Southampton, a major boost for him and the whole club moving into a crucial month.
Andros Townsend, Mason Holgate, Ben Godfrey and Yerry Mina remain sidelined, meaning Tarkowski and Coady will deservedly continue at the heart of the defence.
Against Aston Villa last time out, Southampton proved toothless for much of the game at Villa Park, lacking any creativity from midfield, positional cohesion looking disjointed and the strikers not having much to feed off in the attack. This is a game Hasenhuttl must win, and that may mean a stark change in formation or personnel.
Hasenhuttl has watched his team concede the opening goal in each of the club’s last six Premier League matches, and they have finished games without a goal in three of their last four.
It’s clear they need a creative and decisive edge to go with their dynamism in attack, and that may mean Joe Aribo coming back into the fold along with Stuart Armstrong, who despite his catalogue of missed chances against Ukraine for Scotland, still showcased why he is an underrated and valued member of the team for both club and country. How about giving Samuel Edozie a run-out against Everton? The Manchester City academy star impressed in his short cameo in the defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers, and with Adam Armstrong and Mohamed Elyonoussi struggling for form and confidence, Edozie should be given an opportunity to express his youthful exuberance.
Much of Everton’s stark transformation under Lampard this new campaign has been down to their resurgent and impressively built defence. Patterson, Coady, Tarkowski and Mykolenko have all performed expertly, especially the middle two who are showing wonderful leadership, excellent technical quality in possession and an aura that Everton have missed in defence for a long while. Only Brighton have conceded fewer goals than Everton’s six in the Premier League this season, a huge improvement from the latter months of last season.
In front of them, they are in good hands too, and that means there won’t be much change from Lampard on that front with Gana Gueye, Onana and Iwobi all expressing completeness and well-roundedness in Everton’s midfield that they have also lacked for a number of years. Both Gueye and Onana have provided great security, defensive screening, and assuredness in possession whilst Iwobi is finally strutting his stuff with great class and confidence.
The front three of Anthony Gordon, Neal Maupay and Demarai Gray is currently the envy of many English top-flight clubs, especially their opponents on Saturday, and Lampard will be hoping and praying for more goals from them after Maupay opened his account for his new club in their 1-0 win over West Ham United before the international break. There is certainly more to come from this Everton side. Whoever pitted them for relegation come May may well be regretting their predictions right now.
Much of Southampton’s problems this past year lie in their lack of goals. The Saints haven’t possessed a true goalscorer since Danny Ings, who moved to Aston Villa at the beginning of last campaign, now much of the fans’ trust and faith lies on the shoulders of former Birmingham City man Che Adams.
The 26-year-old has hit four goals in seven appearances in all competitions so far this campaign, meaning he is in decent fettle heading into this weekend’s encounter with Everton.
However, Adams possesses a consistency problem of his own, and if he harbours any ambitions to be a top Premier League goalscorer in future, then he’d need to be finding the back of the net with great regularity, something he desperately needs to work on.
There is no doubt about it, Adams has and always will remain a key player for the Saints, and his abilities and experiences aside from his goalscoring is something Southampton desperately need, especially within such a youthful squad. The Scotsman showed his true qualities during the international break against Ukraine, exerting tremendous work rate, strength, useful hold-up play, great technical acumen and a willingness to run the channels creating space for his teammates.
It’s safe to say, he performs such roles reasonably well for Hasenhuttl, now the next test is finding the back of the net every week.
Everton’s progressive transformation under Frank Lampard in recent months has been down to several factors; a fantastic summer of recruitment, an improvement in Lampard’s tactics, a better defence with new signings Tarkowski and Coady at the heart of it, squad confidence but one factor has been truly unexpected, especially amongst the Toffees and that is the tremendous performances of Alex Iwobi.
The Nigerian international has been Lampard’s standout performer so far this campaign, and it is down to the freedom of expression that the former Chelsea and Derby County boss has offered him in his new midfield role at Goodison Park.
Rather than being loosely shifted across the attack with no plan at all, as has been the case throughout his time on Merseyside, Iwobi has now been provided with a clear tactical plan; becoming Everton’s main source of creativity in an round the middle and final third in a flexible and free no.8 position (and a no.10 at times when in possession) but also provided with the added security and energy of Idrissa Gana Gueye and Amadou Onana behind him.
So far this campaign, he’s averaging an impressive 4.86 progressive passes per 90 minutes, 1.86 key passes per 90, 5.29 completed passes into the final third per 90, and 248.4 yards of progressive passing distance per 90, all these metrics representing a career-high for the midfielder.
Iwobi is now able to progress the ball expertly from deep, find pockets in the final third to exploit, and press with intent, but is also able to win the ball back within seconds of losing it, and that’s down to the coaching of Frank Lampard.
Everton’s clear need for a midfield renovation in the summer has now been completed, but no one has contributed more to the club’s stark progression than Iwobi himself.
Southampton predicted XI vs Everton: Bazunu; Walker-Peters, Bella-Kotchap, Salisu, Perraud; Diallo, Ward-Prowse; Elyounoussi, Aribo, A Armstrong; Adams.
Everton predicted XI vs Southampton: Pickford; Coleman, Coady, Tarkowski, Mykolenko; Onana, Gueye, Iwobi; Gray, Maupay, Gordon.