On Saturday, Mark Hughes’ Southampton travels to the Merseyside to play Everton in their second match of the season. This game will be Southampton’s first return to Goodison Park since the Saints were denied three points by a gut-wrenching equalizer scored in stoppage time by Tom Davies in May. Southampton will certainly hope to avenge this result that nearly hindered their march to survival in the Premier League last season.
Southampton visits the Blues following an adequate display against Europa League hopefuls Burnley at St. Mary’s in which the two sides each settled for a point.
The match against Burnley offered Mark Hughes an opportunity to get a look at his newest squad additions in Premier League action for the first time. Summer signings Jannik Vestergaard and Stuart Armstrong both started the match for the Saints while Mohamed Elyounoussi and Danny Ings made their first Premier League appearances for the club in the second half.
The new signings impressed the Boss with the Welshman expressing pleasure in their performances against the Clarets.
“It was important for them to get real competitive action and Burnley will test you in ways that other teams won’t”, Hughes said in press conference Monday morning following the match.
Hughes was particularly impressed with Vestergaard’s defending ability against Burnley.
Despite Burnley missing some key attacking pieces, Vestergaard was critical in an impressive defensive display by the Saints, who were tested early on by the Clarets.
“I think it was a good outing for Jannik who stood up to the challenge, so I was pleased with him,” said Hughes.
The Danish defender, who led the Bundesliga in blocks last season, showed that he can cope with the physicality of England’s top flight. Vestergaard, who arrived at the club in July, won seven aerial duels and made 12 clearances in a clean sheet appearance against Burnley.
Southampton will want to continue their defensive prowess when they travel to Goodison Park and come up against the likes of Cenk Tosun, Theo Walcott, and the always dangerous Gylfi Sigurðsson. The Icelandic attacking midfielder has made a habit of scoring against Southampton, scoring against the Saints on multiple occasions going back to his days at Swansea and Tottenham.
Scoring is something that Southampton will clearly want to set their sights on themselves after being held goalless by Joe Hart and Burnley.
Despite several close chances by Mario Lemina and even defender Jack Stephens, the Southampton strike force of Charlie Austin, Manolo Gabbiadini and now Danny Ings, struggled to find the back of the net despite the stalemate between Southampton and Burnley having more combined shots than any other Premier League match of the weekend.
Southampton’s latest addition Ings was happy to get in his first minutes as a Southampton player and admitted he is looking forward to performing with the Saints style of play.
“We play good football here and there are some really, really good players’” said Ings, who arrived on Deadline Day on a season-long loan from Liverpool, “It’s a pleasure to work with them”.
Hopefully, the match against Everton, who are without club captain Phil Jagielka on central defence, will offer some opportunity for Ings to get on the scoresheet against his former Merseyside rival.
Southampton has not scored a Premier League goal since Manolo Gabbiadini bagged the winning goal in Saints’ pivotal six-point match against Swansea late last season.
Assessing the talented attack from Everton
Everton comes into this match on the heels of a hard-fought draw with Premier League newcomers Wolves. The Toffees, now under the leadership of Marco Silva, will have their sights set on all three points against the Saints when they host Mark Hughes side for their first match at Goodison Park. Everton Blue Army offers some insight in Southampton’s weekend opponent.
“I think the biggest key for Everton against Southampton will be individual quality,” said the administrator for Everton Blue Army Twitter page, “Players like Richarlison, Tosun, Walcott, Sigurðsson and possibly Bernard as well, who could make his debut, will hopefully be able to provide a bit of quality that perhaps could change the game”.
While Everton has many great attacking assets, Southampton should be on the lookout for the Toffees new versatile forward Richarlison, should the scorer of both Everton’s goals on the weekend start Saturday’s match. The Brazilian who followed his former Watford manager Silva to Everton showed what a threat he can be against Wolves, leveling the match for Everton despite being the Toffees being down to 10 men.
“Richarlison was obviously the star man with his individual quality in the final third. If he continues that and a few more also produce some of the same stuff, Everton could possibly have the advantage over Southampton”, said Everton Blue Army, who have covered Everton football on Twitter since September 2014.
However, the Brazilian’s ability to start the match is in question as Richarlison was forced to exit the Wolves match early with an undisclosed injury. The injury according to Mirror, is not believed to be too serious and the forward is expected to available for Saturday’s match against the Saints.
“I’d say that (Richarlison) has been our man of the match in every game he’s played for us in both pre-season and against Wolves”, said Everton Blue Army, “ He is quick, creative and has an eye for goal. He’s the one I’d look out for”.
Everton will be motivated to get all three points as Everton fans believed the team’s performance deserved more than a single point at Molyneux at the weekend.
“I personally thought that Everton was the better team throughout the game”, said Everton Blue Army, who believed his side outclassed its newly promoted opponents, “Wolves didn’t seem to be as good as everyone made out before the season”.
As previously stated, Everton will be without club captain Phil Jagielka, who was shown a red card over the weekend for a heavy slide tackle on Wolves forward, Diogo Jota. As a result of his infraction, the Toffees will be without the England international for three games.
The absence of Jagielka from the Everton backline will offer Marco Silva an opportunity to see some of his new defensive signings in action with Yerry Mina and Kurt Zouma available for selection. The duo who arrived at Goodison Park from Barcelona and Chelsea respectively could better the squad with their presence according to Everton Blue Army, in contrast to their current defenders.
“Let’s say it was Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka and Michael Keane starting, then it would be almost guaranteed that they will make a mistake at one point” said Everton Blue Army, “However, with Jagielka’s ban, we will have to change it up, meaning that we could be a bit more secure in defence with Mina, Zouma and Mason Holgate all able to step in and take his place, with Lucas Digne possibly coming in for Baines”.
With that being said, Everton’s strongest asset coming up against Southampton will be its attack, according to Everton Blue Army.
“It will probably be a front (three) of Richarlison (if available), Tosun and Walcott starting the game, with Sigurðsson just behind them in the number 10 role”, said Everton Blue Army, “There is also Bernard, and Ademola Lookman, who can also be a dangerous player on his day, if he plays. We certainly have quite a few players in our attack that could cause trouble for Southampton”.
Everton has had mixed results in terms of success over the last couple seasons and looks to steady the ship under Silva this campaign. To this point, Everton Blue Army is impressed with the performance of the new boss.
“Despite the majority of our pre-season results not being great, it’s clear to see that Marco Silva is having a big influence on Everton’s style of play already.
While Everton may not be at their best defensively, the Toffees might be going in the right direction under Silva.
“Silva and our director of football, Marcel Brands, have been quite active in the transfer market, getting rid of some deadwood and signing players in positions that we lacked in, said Everton Blue Army in regards to Everton’s active transfer window in which four of Everton’s six new signings arrived on Deadline Day, “I feel that Marco Silva has made a decent start, despite the results, and we will only improve under his management”.
When asked about the Toffees prospects this season, Everton Blue Army is optimistic.
“I think Everton will have a decent season. Our style of football will be more easy on the eye and we’ll end up challenging the top 6”, says Everton Blue Army, “I think we’ll finish 7th – not quite up to the top 6 level, but certainly the best of the rest”.
Southampton will have their work cut out from them coming into this match after drawing with a tired Burnley side.
Everton has shown that they are eager to play an attacking style of football under Marco Silva so the Southampton defence should expect a test. The Toffees will also be motivated to get three points in front of their home fans.
If Southampton wants anything from this match they will have to prevent the Everton attack from garnering any kind of momentum and try to maintain possession. If the Saints can get in a strong display defensively in breaking up plays and guarding successfully against counter-attacks, the midfield and forwards can put more focus into applying pressure on an Everton side that is weaker defensively.
Ultimately the key for Southampton in getting three points from this match will be the strikers hitting their mark. If Southampton cannot produce goals, they could struggle in even getting a draw out of this match. Therefore, a win is possible given all goes well defensively but a draw is more likely with the form the forwards have been in recently.