Everton Out-Gun Shellshocked Saints

What a difference a week makes. Few Evertonians would have expected what unfolded on the south coast today but the travelling Blues were treated to an excellent display a handsome 3-0 win over highly-fancied Southampton.

Lyndon Lloyd 15/08/2015 21comments  |  Jump to last
Southampton 0 - 3 Everton

What a difference a week makes. With all the concern over what Everton's immediate future holds given the alarming backwards steps taken last season, the paucity of the club's transfer dealings this summer, the appearance against Watford that nothing has been learned or changed from 2014-15 and the Blues's record at the St Mary's, few Evertonians would have expected what unfolded on the south coast today.

Many fans had been quite open about how content they would be to escape from Southampton with a creditable goalless draw and resume the nervous wait for the reinforcements that Roberto Martinez has repeatedly promised will arrive before the transfer deadline. A swashbuckling 3-0 victory later, evocative of the very best moments of the Catalan's first season in charge, and suddenly hope for an unexpectedly good season ahead has been awakened.

In view of that they achieved last term, Ronald Koeman's Saints deserved their status as one of the opponents forming a daunting run of fixtures for Everton between now and the end of October. Though they lost Morgan Schneiderlin, Nathaniel Clyne and Toby Alderweirald in the summer, they have again bought well and even with a side depleted by injury this weekend, they remained a tough proposition on paper.

What underlined how well Martinez's Toffees picked them off with almost military precision to match the olive green uniforms they debuted was that Southampton didn't play particularly badly. Koeman's men were subdued by a tenacious Blues display, stifled in attack by a majestic personal performance in particular from John Stones and destroyed by an Everton attacking unit which finally found some long-missing intensity and a killer final ball.

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Perhaps on a mission to atone for their dreadful last visit to this ground in another lunchtime kick-off last December, Everton appeared to have come with purpose this time around and it was evident in their early play even if the contest was largely even during its first quarter.

With 21 minutes on the clock, however, the visitors broke away from a Southampton corner with impressive speed with Arouna Kone using Tom Cleverley's run down the channel as a decoy before floating an inch-perfect cross to Romelu Lukaku who adjusted his neck superbly mid-flight to enable him to guide the ball past Maarten Stekelenburg near the far post.

Perhaps forced into deploying the bold twin-striker formation by a desire not to rush either Kevin Mirallas or Gerard Deulofeu back from injury, Martinez played the rejuvenated Kone off Lukaku like he did to such good effect in the last third of last weekend's 2-2 home draw and was richly rewarded.

So, too was the apaprent decision to drop Barkley back into a slightly more withdrawn role, one which allowed him to launch runs and probe from deeper than was the case for most of last season. Where the 21-year-old prodigy failed last week to slip Lukaku in on one of those rampaging bursts forward, today he slipped him in perfectly on the stroke of half time and the Belgian swept home his second to give Everton a commanding lead going into the break.

Koeman would have demanded a response during his half-time sermon and he got it as Southampton emerged from the interval determined to make amends by dominating possession and trying to find their way through an obstinate Blues rearguard bolstered by another assured outing from young Brendan Galloway at left back. They would be consistently frustrated, however; Victor Wanyama despatched a free header wide and Graziano Pelle put two more over the crossbar, while Sadio Mane, the only Saint who truly troubled Everton in any meaningful manner, forced a parried save from Tim Howard.

There was a feeling, meanwhile, that this was the kind of Everton effort that deserved an "icing on the cake" moment and there was no player more deserving of it that Barkley whose moment arrived six minutes from the end. Another incisive Toffees attack had ended with Seamus Coleman popping up in the opposition box with one defender between himself and the goalkeeper but he was alive to Barkley in space to his left. The England international took one touch from the Irishman's pass to wrong-foot his marker before curling emphatically past Stekelenburg to make it 3-0.

With Steven Naismith and Deulofeu replacing the visibly spent duo of Kone and Lukaku late on, the Scot had a terrific opportunity to make it 4-0 when he momentarily looked in one-on-one with the 'keeper but he was closed out by two defenders but Martinez's men had done a sterling job by that point and were the deserving recipients of the points.

It was the kind of result that seemed well beyond Everton in the Premier League last season and a performance evocative of that stunning victory by the same margin at Newcastle the campaign before last or the clinical counter attacking that lit up the Europa League campaign last seasonagainst teams similarly intent on an open passing game. As such, it was a thrilling reminder of what this squad so similar to the one that finished fifth just 16 months ago is capable of.

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Reader Comments (21)

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Darryl Ritchie
1 Posted 16/08/2015 at 07:51:27
Have to admit, I had this one a draw at best. A very solid game all round.

Kone, if he can stay healthy, is going to be a key player. He takes some of the defensive pressure off of Lukaku and opens space for Barklay to run into. We seem a lot more dangerous with him on the field. So far we’ve played 3 halves of decent football, and Arouna Kone is one of the main reasons... that and RM getting the tactics spot on... and Jags and John Stones not putting a foot wrong... and Rom be almost unmarkable, most of the time... and Barry and McCarthy controlling the midfield and knocking Pelle on his kiester every chance they got!

The whole squad showed a little bit of a mean streak! I kinda liked it!

Craig Mills
2 Posted 16/08/2015 at 08:30:05
It really was a pleasure to watch, a throw back of a few seasons ago when we regularly attacked teams with the pace and directness that was on show yesterday.

Lukaku looked the complete striker: power, aggression and 2 superb goals for his efforts. Oh how we all hope this is a turning point, a return of confidence, and the starting point of a great season.

James Hughes
3 Posted 16/08/2015 at 08:39:39
Great to watch and they have again shown what they are capable of doing when we play with pace and intent.

Now keep it up and don't do what has happened previously and go back to slow, sideways and laboured build up.

Please more of the same against Citeh and Ross and Romelu were immense COYB.

Martin Mason
4 Posted 16/08/2015 at 08:52:17
A very good performance. I can't add to anything that's been said about the quality but we need to do it consistently now.
Paul Jeronovich
6 Posted 16/08/2015 at 09:36:42
I knew John Stones was the real thing, but this performance underlined his importance. Everton would be mad to entertain any bids from anyone.

Great result, performance and proud of the team to a man. Just hope we can take this in to the next match.

Paul Kennedy
7 Posted 16/08/2015 at 09:45:48
A fantastic result. I did not expect it. I also would have settled for draw before the game.

Nice to read Chelsea are worrying about Man City and Man Utd going for Stones... funny, I thought he was our player!!!

Ian Jones
8 Posted 16/08/2015 at 10:09:24
As has been pointed out by many, we seem to get the best results against the top teams playing like we did yesterday. Counter-attacking, whether in home matches or away. Whilst I would prefer to be able to take the game to the opposition, we need to recognise our strengths and limitations and need to do what gets results and points.

It may be a blessing in disguise that we have so many top teams in the first 10 games. If we can pull off some similar performances and get points against them and be higher up the table earlier on than most of us (including me) expect, the team could be a little more confident going into the games against the lesser teams who we find so hard to break down.

Counter-attacking is not without its risks as teams can potentially create chances. But football is also about luck and perhaps we also got a bit lucky yesterday. Southampton did create some good chances but their heading was thankfully rubbish.

But overall a great performance from everyone involved at Everton, including the away support.

Steve Cotton
10 Posted 16/08/2015 at 11:15:42
Even though he spent most of the game looking for free kicks, I felt that a player like Mane would make a great addition to our forward line. He was fast, played all over the front line, went past players easily and has a record as a scorer.

He was annoying, falling over on contact but would bring something we don't have. They are probably 10 other Mane's floating around Europe for 3/5 million each.

Frank Crewe
11 Posted 16/08/2015 at 12:37:59
It was great to watch. Counter attacking football does have its upside but it also has a downside. It is reliant upon the opposition attacking so it tends to work better away from home when the home side is expected to attack more.
The problem is what to do when the opposition doesn't attack? Which is what happens when we play at home. They set themselves up for a draw or maybe sneak a one nil. How do we break down determined defense? How do we draw them out so that we can counter attack?
The big clubs will attack home or away because that is how they play. But the West Broms, Sunderland's, etc of this league will not attack. They'll simply set up two banks of four and barely cross the halfway line. Counter attacking will not work against these tactics.
We still have to work out how to break down determined defenses.
Dave Pritchard
12 Posted 16/08/2015 at 12:55:09
Superb performance yesterday. Just like the first half of the Watford game alone (hopefully) oesn't represent the season ahead then neither does yesterday.
It was however very uplifting to see players like Kone, Barkley and Lukaku showing what they can do. I would also pick out Galloway at left-back. Seemed very confident. Also good to see quite a few giving a bit of stick out to opposition players. Amazed to see Rom having a go at Fonte I think it was. More please.
David Cooper
13 Posted 16/08/2015 at 14:48:07
Regardless of what we may think of Bill Kenwright and the board, the fact that Bill was not at Southampton yesterday must mean that the rumours of his ill health have some substance. I don’t remember seeing any TV pics of him last week v Watford.

No one can question his passion for EFC, maybe his decisions but "get well soon Bill" or you are going to miss some fabulous Toffee footy.

Murdo Laing
14 Posted 16/08/2015 at 14:49:58
Indeed Lyndon, "a thrilling reminder" ...... the real conundrum is why we only pull out these sorts of pulsating displays so rarely when, clearly, the players have both the ability and the temperament to deliver big results.

On another thread before the game, I commented that I had no real hope (of a win) at St Mary’s, but wanted to see attacking intent from the start. We ended up with both, and it lifts our expectations of a similar approach against Man City next week. City will attack us but, if our defence holds firm, we have every chance of a result on the counter attack.

I do hope Roberto keeps the faith with Kone up there with Rom; there seems to be something gelling there, and credit to Kone for regaining his fitness after that long lay off; we might just start to see the best of him if he gets a run in the team?

Milos Milenkovic
16 Posted 16/08/2015 at 15:02:49
Great game by EFC. One of the best in long, long time. From the first minute we looked superb. We played 4-4-2 most of the first half and Lukaku benefited from that. I would still like to see just one defensive midfielder but yesterday every single player had excellent game.

Stones was impressive and so was Jagielka who is so consistent in playing well and we should give him much much more credit. Win was even greater having in mind that it was done against very well organized club.

This win is bringing question about buying more players, where would they play and instead of whom?? We had Mirallas and Deulofeu on the bench plus there are covers for other positions on bench and also coming from injuries. This team is stronger than two seasons ago, most important thing is our approach and tactics.

Oh and to me our 3rd kit was the same quality as was our show. Great!

Raymond Fox
17 Posted 16/08/2015 at 15:17:12
I totally agree with Ian 8 and Frank 11.

A lot depends how our opposition set up, you wont get performances like the Southampton game every week because the lesser teams when they come to Goodison shut up shop and say break us down if you can!
You have to appreciate that opposing managers are not mugs, they have at least a week to work their strategy out when they play us.
Its too simplistic to say we are playing a lesser team and we should win easily!

Ok, you could say well change the tactics against the teams that defend in numbers and hassle the man in possession, the problem is you need players that can overcome very tight marking and maybe were lacking in that department.

Stephen Brown
18 Posted 16/08/2015 at 16:21:21
Excellent performance yesterday especially by Ross Barkley. Other midfielders also played well which is why I'm finding the strong links to Alex Song slightly baffling! How many defensive midfielders do we need?
David Hallwood
19 Posted 16/08/2015 at 16:35:03
Good report Lyndon, and like other posters while basking in a great result and performance, next Sunday will be a different kettle of fish altogether.

I'm watching Citteh right now and they look strong and sharp, with Kolarov getting some great crosses in (IMO we let far too many crosses in) to Aquero & Silva, and the movement is first class.

So will RM stick with a winning side or bring in Besic(if fit) to give defensive solidarity. Personally I hope he sticks with the side that started yesterday.

Chris Wilson
20 Posted 16/08/2015 at 17:27:12
As great as we played, there are still a lot of defensive areas to shore up. I'm still nervous on set pieces. Southampton had some good looks, despite the fact that they're players should have been called for fouls on some of those opportunities. But, if they had connected; the game could have been different, and we would be screaming about shitty refereeing. Which it would have been.

If Galloway starts, he needs to be very patient as City they will target him relentlessly with crosses from Navas, plus Aguero, Sterling, and Silva could roam over to his side and try pull him out of position. And Seamus needs to get the blunders out of his system too. His poor pass out of the back led to the Mane attempt that Howard did well to save (and yes, we did score on that ensuing counter-attack), and don't forget that chest pass he inadvertently made to Pelle in our penalty area led to his shot on target, which Howard was also alert to stop.

Watching them against Chelsea, you forget how quick the City attackers are, and how well they find and exploit defensive gaps. So we need to be on our toes - be patient, composed, and keep our shape. More like Southampton, less like Watford.

So great counter-attacking, and tactical adjustments made by RM; we showed great intent, fight, aggressiveness and listening to some of the players afterwards, you could tell they wanted to give Southampton a little payback. But we have to ratchet up our defensive stance in these next few fixtures if we want to stay near the top half.

Frankly, I like the idea of us playing with a chip on our shoulder, and I think it's time we took Man City down.

James Stewart
21 Posted 16/08/2015 at 21:20:35
Outstanding performance and probably the best Lukaku has played for us. He was a monster and for the first time I thought this lad does have a bit of Drogba in his prime about him. Pace, power and clinical finishing. Keeping him 100% fit is the key to our season.

Perhaps Martinez took on board some of the Carragher analysis as we didn't split the centre backs and we moved the ball much quicker out of our own half.

Charles Brewer
22 Posted 16/08/2015 at 17:30:11
It seems to me that Everton tend to prosper from combinations of players; we had the Baines / Pienaar axis which worked wonderfully for a few years but, sadly, is probably over. Observing the three most recent games (Villarreal, Watford, Southampton), I saw Kone alone being rubbish vs Villarreal, Lukaku alone being rubbish against Watford; but I saw Kone and Lukaku together being splendid against Watford and then again against Southampton.

I think it likely that these two both have strong points and serious weaknesses in their play, but that together (when they are both reasonably fit), they make a considerably more effective attack force than either alone.

Whether this is the key to the Goodison ’parked bus’ scenario, I don’t know, but perhaps with a reinvigorated Barkley and a more adventurous Coleman, we have something nearer the team of two seasons ago.

Jay Wood
23 Posted 17/08/2015 at 18:03:18
Charles #22

"It seems to me that Everton tend to prosper from combinations of players."

It was ever thus Charles, for all teams. Managers strive to have combinations all over the park, which in turn interlink with other combinations.

What is very clear in the first 2 games of the season so far, since Kone entered the fray against Watford, our forward play has been transformed.

Whether that is by chance or design, who can definitively say? I would say by design, given the absence of any out and out wide men in the starting XI v S'ton. This is possibly why Roberto signed the unfortunate Kone for in the first place - to offer that link between midfield and his main striker.

Kone is not playing as an out and out striker, nor as an additional midfielder. Certainly not as a number 10. He operates in that space between the lines of the opposition defence and midfield. This is messing with the opposition's default defensive shape which allows us to exploit their uncertainty of who to pick up where.

Look at our five goals to date. All have involved combinations of Kone, Ross and Rom.

Kone set up Ross for the 1st against Watford.
It was Kone-Rom-Kone for the 2nd against Watford.
Ross-Kone-Rom the 1st v S'ton.
Rom-Ross-Rom for the 2nd v S'ton.
Rom-Seamus-Ross for the 3rd v S'ton.

What 4 of the 5 goals had in common was 2 or more players in close proximity to each other, playing quick wall passes between them or sweet 'round the corner' type passes.

This sucks in defending players and creates space for our own players.

When you can create so much devastation right down the middle of the opposition, the need for width, wide players and hopeful hoiks into the penalty area diminishes.

No doubt teams will get wise to this and try to counter it, but depending on the opposition and game situation, with the likes of Gerry, Mirallas, McGeady and to a lesser extent Ossie and Pienaar (and who knows besides before the transfer window closes), we can mix it up and put players on the pitch who can keep it narrow or give the play width, pace, trickery and movement.

And with a variety of formations and strategies available, the less predictable and more difficult it will be for teams to set up against us.

Most definitely encouraging signs.

Barry Jones
25 Posted 19/08/2015 at 03:27:49
Best performance that I have seen in a year, including the Man Utd game last season. Kone had an excellent game. I hold my hands up as I have slagged him off here a few times thinking that he was not good enough.

It may be just a confidence thing, but he looked like a different player against Saints. I wish him well and hope that he can continue in this vein. If he does, he can make a big difference this year.

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