Goodison Park became familiar with the art of patience in 2016 but more of this kind of result both at home and away will surely make this year an altogether more enjoyable and profitable one for Everton than the 12 months just gone.
The sell-out crowd that packed the Old Lady could have been forgiven for thinking that they were still reading from the script of the previous 12 months and beyond as their team laboured through the first hour of their third match in the space of a week but the Blues saved the entertainment for the end.
Ronald Koeman had rung some changes from the side that had to fightback twice against Hull on Friday — a full debut for Dominic Calvert-Lewin and first start of the season for Tom Davies were more than welcome — but both sides looked jaded at times. Nevertheless, there was a sense that there was more frustration on offer amid the fear — a growing one the longer the contest wore on — that the Saints might just catch the Blues' defence out decisively on one of their threatening counter-attacks and settle it with a single goal. Or at least have Everton scrambling into the close desperately searching for another equaliser.
The substitution that ultimately changed the game came with an hour on the clock but the pivot arguably came in the 69th minute when Nathan Redmond was put in behind the home defence by Jay Rodriguez's clever touch but, with the angle against him, he was foiled by Joel Robles. Had that gone in, things could have been very different but, instead, the stage was set for Enner Valencia.
Bearing the mantle of ill-advised deadline day panic signing, the Ecuadorian seemed to be surplus to requirements at his second Premier League club coming into last month. Shorn of all other avenues, however, Koeman found a role for him as willing runner in a wide forward role and, an ineffective outing on Humberside three days ago aside, he appears to have found a new lease on life. What was missing was a first goal in Everton colours and he picked a very good time to grab it, opening the floodgates for a belated New Year's party at Goodison as the Blues equalled their biggest win under Koeman thanks to a penalty, won by Valencia, and a Romelu Lukaku rocket to put the icing on the cake.
This was a strange game between two teams coming off heavy schedules but a clear pattern was established early on. As the home team, the onus was on Everton to control the bulk of possession while Southampton looked to pick them off on the break with the speed of Nathan Redmond and the inventiveness of Dusan Tadic.
And the Blues seemed comfortable in that role for the first half an hour without really dominating the encounter, their rhythm not helped by the loss of Calvert-Lewin after just 10 minutes. The young striker had barely had a chance to leave an impression on the game on his full debut before he was forced to withdraw and be replaced by Kevin Mirallas.
The Belgian could count himself somewhat unfortunate to have been left out after putting a good performance at Hull and he picked up where he left off when he came on this afternoon. Like the rest of the team, though, he struggled to find a killer pass or moment of magic to break down Southampton's stubborn back line.
Rotating with Idrissa Gueye in providing the link between the defence and attack, Davies was raw but confident and exuberant in the centre of the park; Ross Barkley, required of maturity as a relatively elder statesman in the side and seemingly buoyed by having Davies' drive behind him, was purposeful, probing, tidy in possession and edged man of the match overall (watch the build-up to the penalty if you can); Lukaku, forced to work with his back to goal until Valencia's introduction, played the hold-up man well; and Seamus Coleman was a willing outlet down the right flank.
It resulted in sporadic pressure and five corners in the first half but not much in the way of a workout for Fraser Forster in the opposition goal after Barkley tested him with a bouncing half-volley in the fourth minute. Lukaku had the only other chance of note in a typically flat first half with a low shot from Barkley's pass, one the big keeper diverted away with his foot.
Southampton, meanwhile, were geared mostly for the counter-attack but Redmond twice found himself with heading opportunities in the first half, the first he despatched into the Gwladys Street End and the second he glanced wide unchallenged in first half stoppage time.
In between, Rodriguez had been the chief danger and he had the ball in the net but had his “goal” chalked off for offside (he had also converted with his hand). He also forced Robles to extend himself to parry the ball away after his cross had deflected towards goal off Ashley Williams and then produced the outstanding individual moment of the half when he rolled Davies, jinked past Williams but fired his shot over the crossbar.
If there was a feeling of “here we go again”, it really set in in the first quarter of an hour after half time but Valencia's introduction had the desired effect almost immediately. Aaron Lennon had almost nothing going forward — a significant handicap given that Everton overwhelmingly favour the right flank as an attacking avenue — but his replacement's running and pace created space, notably for Barkley to operate in and for Lukaku who first tried to exploit it with a bursting run but he dragged his shot well across Forster's goal.
Coleman was also the beneficiary of more freedom of movement in the final third and when
Barkley Lukaku played him in on the overlap in the 74th minute, he found Lukaku with a cross but Forster blocked the Belgian's header on the line. Thankfully, the rebound eventually fell kindly for Valencia to swivel the ball home from close range.
Operating on a day's less rest and without their star defender, Virgil van Dijk, Southampton were on the ropes and after Lukaku had curled a shot narrowly over after Jose Fonte's careless giveaway, Valencia drew an equally sloppy foul from Yoshida in the box as he tried to link up with Mirallas.
Leighton Baines assumed responsibility for the penalty despite Lukaku's keenness and he duly despatched a crisp spot kick into the bottom corner after the ‘keeper had guessed the wrong way to make it 2-0 with nine minutes left.
While he would be off down the tunnel again in short order at the final whistle again, the striker took his sulk out on the ball though two minutes from time. Baines' slid in brilliantly to dispossess the unsuspecting Saints man in front of him, presenting Davies with the chance to slip the ball to Lukaku in space on the edge of the box and he took a couple of steps before belting an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
Though the margin of victory perhaps flattered the Blues on the basis of the entire 90 minutes, it can only have a positive effect on team morale, representing as it does a third win in five games since the ugly defeat at Watford. More than that, it served to heighten the sense that Koeman's Blues are finally developing an identity and a versatile way of playing that will serve as the foundation on which he can build out the side with new signings in the next two windows.
Creatively, they are still limited and frustrating to watch at times but as long as they remain difficult to beat, solving that problem is made all the easier for the Dutchman and Steve Walsh.
Everton kicked off 2017 with the first of three successive home games in league and cup as Southampton made the long trip to Merseyside.
Ronald Koeman named a youthful line-up to face Southampton, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin making his full debut and Tom Davies in midfield. Funes Mori returned to the defence with Jagielka and Barry sitting on the bench where Mirallas and Valencia were rested, with Lennon starting.
For the visitors, their impressive centre-back Virgil van Dijk iwas suspended; Maya Yoshida replaced him.
Leighton Baines led the team out to a bright but cold Goodison Park and Ross Barkley got things going prior to the required hoof upfield from Ashley Williams. Everton's forward play was stymied by Southampton pressing, Davies responding with some physical challenges. Cedric remained down after Baines had sent him sliding off the pitch onto the path, and was eventually replaced with a head wound.
At the other end, the ball came to Barkley and he tried a shot into the ground that Forster needed to save. Davies linked well with Lennon. Calvert-Lewin fell awkwardly after showing plenty of spirit trying to drive the Blues forward but he could no longer continue and Mirallas came on very early to replace him. A massive disappointment for the young lad.
The visitors came worryingly close when Redmond came in at the far post on a high header from Williams but headed well over. More stoppages made it a very scrappy start but Baines forced the pace and got in a low cross that was too close to Forster.
Funes Mori was easily pushed off a defensive header and Tadic got loose as a result, winning a corner and the Blues struggled to clear their lines but they did and Lukaku got the ball to his feet but was driven wide for his weak shot.
Gueye gave the ball away as an attack was building, and the Blues were pressed back again, and a horrible ball back from Barkley almost put Funes Mori in trouble but they held position only to build with numerous cross-field passes and little forward progression.
A more lively attack developed but the ball pinged around with some poor crosses until it went out for a corner and from the second, the visitors attacked with pace and got the ball in the net but illegally, Rodriguez offside as he handballed over the line.
A Mirallas shot was deflected behind for another corner but Southampton were defending stoutly, Davies's shot blocked. Barkley got in a good cross that Lukaku was ready for but Fonte intercepted. Davies showed determination but the opponents were perhaps too physical for him an effective in keeping the Blues outside their area.
Everton were winning corners but nothing of note was coming from them, as the Blues found it hard to chisel an opening, while the Saints always looked threatening coming forward, the Blues not helping with misplaced passes. Rodriguez turned Davies brilliantly and beat Williams but fired over.
A much better move, back to front in three passes, saw Mirallas scampering forward but he lashed his shot over the bar. But generally the Blues had laboured in possession, Davies's enthusiasm getting nipped in the bud by some resolute Saints blocking and tackling.
Redmond got a free header before the break that he could only glance well wide. As has been the norm, it was a horrible half of football to watch, with chances and quality football very sparse on the ground.
The abysmal football continued after the break, Lennon failing to keep an easy ball from Gueye in play. The ball proceeded to bobble around in the general direction of Robles in goal for him to whack it away. Everton did win a corner but the second ball from Gueye was shockingly lacking. Lumped balls gave Lukaku little to chase, free-kicks played backward to Robles receiving deserved derision from sections of the Goodison crowd.
A moment of inventiveness from Davies almost released Lennon but the Saints defence were quick to stifle the life out of him. The shows a bit more desire to chase down 50/50 bobble balls, of which there were legion.
Lennon on for Valencia... would that make any difference? Incredibly yes, a great cross his first contribution but behind Mirallas at the far post. Then a corner won off Coleman's cross and a corner from Barkley actually finding by a Blue shirt.
Lukaku won the ball in midfield and drove forward but his shot was simply horrible, scuffed wide. Coleman looked to get behind the Saints line but was well offside. Barkley and Coleman linked better to win another corner but this one headed away and the second ball stalled again by the seemingly impenetrable mass of red-and-white stripped shirts.
At the other end, Redmond got free and seemed set to score but hesitated and Robles was out to block well. And for a few minutes, it became end-to-end, with Lukaku getting a ball to chase only for him to overhit is first touch out of play. It was enough to make a grown man weep at times such was the abject paucity of what passes for Premier League football.
Queue a goal! And it was Valencia who powered the ball over the line from close range after Lukaku's nailed-on header was well saved by Forster, the big man himself having played in Coleman to make the cross off a brilliant first-time flick out to the right. A goal that had seemed almost impossible...
Mirallas got the ball forward to Lukaku who tried to curl one into the top corner but it was a foot too high. Barkley played the ball nicely and Mirallas played in by Gueye to Valencia who was fouled by Yoshida... Penalty! Up stepped Capn Baines, SCORE!
The game suddenly seemed a radically different affair, Barkley almost creating magic at one end and Rodriguez so close to beating Robles. Barkley went off to a great round of applause, Barry coming on to hold things down for the final 5 mins or so.
Williams pulled off an incredible clearance to a goalbound effort from a Southampton corner, and The Saints almost repeated the feat from the other side, Coleman this time preventing Rodriguez from scoring.
Barry once again showed his vision and skill with some exquisite passing and, when the ball came to Lukaku, he ripped the net with a rocket after a beautiful pass from Davies to make it 3-0 in the 89th minutes. What a fantastic game of Premier League football!!!
Everton: Robles, Coleman, Williams, Funes Mori, Baines, Gueye, Davies, Lennon (61' Valencia), Barkley (85' Barry), Calvert-Lewin (11' Mirallas), Lukaku.
Subs not Used: Hewelt, Jagielka, Cleverley, Holgate.
Southampton: Forster, Cedric (6' Stephens), Yoshida, Fonte, McQueen, Ward-Prowse [Y:40'], Romeu, Clasie (77' Long), Redmond, Rodriguez, Tadic (67' Boufal).
Subs: Davis, Reed, Bertrand, Lewis.
Referee: Kevin Friend
From My Seat: Southampton (H)
Third game in seven days, two away and one at home takes its toll on players and fans alike but the Room of Nonsense was heaving and full of good cheer. The main topic seemed to be player transfers and if you were to believe some of our dedicated ‘rumour’ watchers then it seems we are signing about eighteen and jettisoning fifteen. I keep well away from rumours as they are merely hope builders or doom mongers. The January window is always an awkward one as almost every team has something to play for and will not want to lose their best players and with the money sloshing around in the game now only silly money seems to get you anything and that might be second or third best.
Still it will be entertaining watching the countdown to Jan 31 as all those with supposed inside knowledge regale us with fanciful tales. This topic keeps us occupied until the teams come through and most are delighted to see Dom (19) and Tom (18) get a start otherwise it was as you would suspect after the Hull game. I was interested to see how the players selected would respond to each other because as at Hull we spent a fair part of the game playing like we had just met each other.
Time for the walk up and on a clear crisp winter’s day the sky seemed that much bluer and provided the perfect spotlight on the Old Lady as she hove into view. Goodison Road was awash with fans and with the queue for the Café stretched out right across the road the words ‘excuse me’ were the most used. Well you didn’t want to be seen as a queue jumper.
In for Z-Cars and prior to kick-off we paid tribute to remember those Blues who had passed on in 2015 and there were a lot of them and I wondered how many more there were that the Club had not been informed of.
Kick off and off we went on another journey of discovery. Saints seemed to start the quicker and were pressing forward and probing probably trying to replicate the start they had at their place. Well, we defended and although not pretty to watch, it was effective. If you could play out well OK but it was also evident that ‘Hoof’ is not a dirty word.
After about five minutes we started to press ourselves and the and the pace and strength of Dominic Calvert-Lewin was starting to excite but just a further five minutes and that spark was extinguished had he had to succumb to an ankle injury and leave the fray to be replaced with Mirallas. I hope he soon mends as in that fleeting time scale I said to my mate ‘Maybe — just maybe — he can complement Rom. There was just something that said I would like to see more of the lad.
Slowly we started to pick up the pace and Ross was definitely putting more into it and soon had a shot that the keeper saved. They went up the other end and won a corner that saw every Everton player back and although cleared came straight back at us but this time Williams found Mirallas wide. Then we had a corner and the same thing happened and that is how that first half went, a game sort of played between their back line and our back line in equal measure. Both teams had a man off injured early doors as Cedric had collided with an advertising hoarding in a tackle with Baines. Neither team could raise their own fans. No singing of ‘When the Saints’ and Everton’s contribution was the odd EV-ER-TON chant but for long spells you could hear other people’s conversations!
I contented myself by watching Tom Davies who I think could have a good career in the Premier League if he negotiates the teenage years unscathed. He was doing fine by keeping it simple but with a slick forward pass that put both Coleman and Rom in, plus he showed that edge that said you kick me I kick harder. He ruffled one or two feathers as the half came to a close. A poor half but not a boo to be heard. Although not the best of halves by us the players were looking like they were taking more on board from the manager and the faithful may be realising that patience may be not just a virtue but an essential.
The second half soon settled into the same pattern but we were looking the fitter and Ross was running the show from midfield. He wanted the ball and was always looking for the chance to play people in. He does need encouragement though and this was demonstrated when he saw no ball on forward so came out to the half way line and then probed the opposite wing and got Baines in. Most clapped him but some called him for going backwards the fact that he had kept possession for us and set up a forward move seemed lost on those that moaned.
Something needed to change and around the hour mark Valencia was sent on in place of Lennon who hadn’t shirked the work but his creativity was missing. Valencia started fast and showed strength and had been on the field for just ten minutes when Ross took centre stage again. It all started with a superb, expertly timed sliding tackle by Baines — you don’t see many of those these days. He slid the ball to Barkley who looked up and played the fast arriving Coleman down the right. His cross was superb and the high climbing Lukaku got a good head on it and the keeper saved with his feet, from my seat there seemed a scramble but the upshot was Valencia was Johnny-on-the-spot to shoot home. Now we came alive; a goal can do wonders for all those that it benefits. We looked sharper, Saints more fatigued and we had a stride in our step. Tom was taking more responsibility and I had the hope that maybe he can cover for Gana for a month. Rom was now bullying people and showing his pace to the extent he got himself in and stung the keeper.
About ten minutes after the goal Ross was at it again and fed in Baines who paled it into the feet of Valencia just inside the area, as the ball reached him for some unknown reason Yoshida floored him. Definite penalty, Rom got the ball and then Baines asked for it off him. He seemed reluctant. Oh, hell, here we go again, I thought, but with the weight of the players’ and crowd’s persuasion he let Baines have it. A wise move as even if the giant keeper had gone the right way he would not have stopped that. Game over – yes but could we get the icing on the cake?
Well on 89 mins – I will enjoy typing this – the ball came loose near their penalty area and Baines slid in again when he was second best but won it and slid it to Tom who controlled in an instant and slid a perfectly timed and accurate ball into the path of Rom. He sped forward and, right footed, shot; the keeper didn’t see that missile which almost took the net into Gwladys Street. Big roar was heard as Rom celebrated and my mind went back to our penalty when Baines netted and all the lads piled on except Rom who walked hunched back to the centre circle like a little lad who has just had his dinky nicked.
To me it summed up Rom. He just loves scoring goals and likes all the chances to break records but if the least thing goes against him he sulks and goes missing yet when in the right frame of mind is unplayable. Perhaps Mr Moshiri can arrange for a ‘Right frame of mind specialist’ to attend on matchday.
Three minutes added which we played out with ball retention and the Saints let us.
MotM – Barkley
Coming off the ground there was an atmosphere of wellbeing with many opining that you can’t knock a three nil win and I wonder who we will get in? Back to the Room of Nonsense and thoughts turned to our cup game next week but no three members could come up with the same team. I think Holgate looks a cert and Maybe Tom of the young brigade only one way to find out so we all have tickets and then once the ball rolls who knows. It was a good day out and as we went to the ground in bright sunlight and clear Blue skies as we walked back the wonderful sight of GOODISON bathed in blue and white light. Some sight, some ground, some team!
My New Year footy resolution is to have patience and give this manager and players old and new the time to allow for a reasonable assessment. My New Year wish is for the new ground issue to have a completion date.
All the very best to you all for 2017.
When the Blues cheer you up, they really cheer you up!
I woke up in a right sulk. Having ate a lot or rubbish and drunk plenty of ale over the festive period, I shouldn't have been surprised to get the lurgy these last couple of days. Though not surprised to feel under the weather, it didn't stop me from being in a man-sulk for most of the morning, my mood exacerbated by the fact that the milk had gone off and I couldn't even get my morning coffee. Talk about first world problems! I even considered wallowing in my own pity and not going the game, though on my way back from my milk run to the shop I soon snapped out of my mood. I thought about the army of Toffeewebbers worldwide who are unable to get the game who would have loved to be in my position on a matchday at Goodison Park. Knowing I would soon be at the place I probably loved the most, Lemsip-aided, I soon perked up.
Ste was gracious enough to do the taxiing and we were all a bit surprised to find The Brick wasn't too busy and we were able to slip into a nice little spot. Carl, who only ever makes a few games a season these days, also joined us with his Dad, and we were all soon in good spirits as a few beers flowed. I wondered to myself why I had began the day in such a foul mood.
Everybody was rather encouraged by the starting line up with the youth of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Tom Davies entrusted with opportunities. It was therefore unfortunate that Dominic limped out of the game after only 12 minutes having sustained an injury. He was replaced by Kevin Mirallas in what was a flat first half, particularly from Everton's point of view. Southampton looked the more likely to score and came closest to doing so when Rodriguez stormed through but put his shot narrowly over the crossbar. Nathan Redmond also headed narrowly over the crossbar with a fairly difficult opportunity.
It wasn't so much on chances created that was disappointing in the first half it was more our sluggishness around the pitch. We struggled to get going and it was Southampton who were the more impressive. "It's like we're the away team" I said to Ste whilst Southampton again poured forward and just like an away team on the counter-attack, we quickly went down the other end of the field and were thwarted when Lukaku's drive from a Barkley pass was saved by Forster. That was as close as we came all half and we needed to improve after the break.
For the first 15 minutes of the second half at least the game continued in similar fashion. Redmond was thwarted by Robles as Southampton continued to look the more likely. Ronald Koeman had to change something and it was Aaron Lennon that was hooked to be replaced by Enner Valencia. It is fair to say this was a game changing substitution with Everton getting at Southampton more, particularly down our right hand side, the goal coming when Coleman's cross was headed at goal by Lukaku but saved by Forster. The ball broke loose for Valencia to slot home for his first Everton goal to the delight of the crowd.
I think it was still 1-0 when Joel Robles made another good save to keep us ahead. On 81 minutes we had doubled our lead and all but sealed the win when I think Valencia was sent tumbling in the penalty area. After a bit of deliberation between Romelu Lukaku and Leighton Baines, it was Leighton who stepped up to score, sending Fraser Forster the opposite direction. Strangely Romelu Lukaku didn't celebrate with the team, he instead trudged off alone.
Our Belgian striker wasn't left off the scoresheet however and it was brilliant that he was set up by the lively Tom Davies to put some flattering gloss on the scoresheet. Baines' tackle fell invitingly to Davies who poked a lovely first time pass through to Romelu Lukaku, who smashed the ball first time into the top corner of the net.
So a flattering 3-0 victory finalises a good Christmas period. Though our draw at Hull City was disappointing, the seven points haul out of the available nine is not to be sniffed at. Just as an aside, it was nice to see Fraser Forster present his goalkeeper gloves to a young fan in the Lower Gwladys after the game.
Now time to progress in the FA Cup next weekend.
Robles: A few poor moments with distribution and a punch instead of a catch aside, he did pretty well and made some important saves. 7
Baines: Did well both in attack and defence. Nice to see he seems to be our regular penalty taker again. 7
Funes Mori: Did pretty well. 7
Williams: Some games he's very good, others he's all over the place. Today was a good day. Let's hope he can find that consistency in his play as he could become a big player for us. 7
Coleman: Bombed forward very well. 7
Gueye: Did very well and was combative as always. Shall be missed now at the African Nations Cup. 7
Davies: Very lively and confident throughout, it was a joy to see him set one up at the end. Not everything worked for him but it doesn't get him down and he just keeps on going. If managed right, he could become a big player for us for a long time. 7
Lennon: Started OK before fading and was then substituted. 6
Calvert-Lewin: Was busy in the short time he was on the field. 6
Barkley: My man of the match. A very good display. There's certainly been some encouraging signs from Ross these last few days. 8
Lukaku: A bit in and out of the game but proved, as usual, that he can turn it on when he has to. A great finish at the end to seal the game. 7
Mirallas (for Calvert-Lewin): Often Kevin Mirallas begins games and fades, though this time, although he began from the substitutes bench, Mirallas seemed to excel as the game went on. A good performance. 7
Valencia (for Lennon): Did very well and grabbed a goal pretty quickly. Is doing a good job of making it difficult for Ronald Koeman to leave him out. 7
Barry (for Barkley): Did well in helping us see the game out. 6
If Everton are on an upward curve under Ronald Koeman then 2017 promises to be a year of significant progress for the Blues.
Off the pitch, big things are hoped for in terms of moving the long-standing stadium issue forward but on it, the search for an avenue back into Europe is uppermost in the minds of everyone connected to the club.
The opening of the January transfer window provides a big opportunity to strengthen the squad to achieve that aim and a home game against Koeman's old club offers the prospect of kicking off the new year with a victory.
Friday night's 2-2 draw at Hull represented more evidence of Everton's powers of recovery after going behind but the two dropped points proved costly as the top six continue to pull away from the chasing pack. Of particular concern, Manchester United came from behind to beat Middlesbrough and Tottenham walloped Watford to increase the gap between themselves and the Blues.
Given that those clubs appear to have quickly restored the order almost guaranteed by their superior financial resources after Leicester upset the apple cart last season, it is becoming increasingly important for Everton to start turning draws into wins. Any side that can string a sequence of wins together can make progress in the top flight and capitalise on any slip-ups by the teams above them so while long-term progress is the key aim, retaining an interest in the battle to finish in the top six must remain the immediate aim.
The visit of the Saints affords Koeman's men the chance to make amends for arguably their worst display under his tenure when they lost on the south coast five weeks ago. Infamously, after conceding in only the first minute, Everton managed just one shot on target in 94 minutes of football and went down to a meek 1-0 defeat.
The Dutchman has assured his former team that the Blues are a different proposition now that they have found some resolve and attacking purpose in recent weeks, qualities that have seen them win two and draw two since their disappointment at the St Mary's, offsetting defeats against Watford and Liverpool. Koeman sees the progress being made and is hopeful that results will start to reflect that in the coming weeks.
“[A]way against Southampton was one of the worst performances of the team of this season,” the manager said in the Liverpool. “The team is different now.
“I think we showed, after a real disappointment against Watford, in how we played against Arsenal, how we played against Liverpool and in two away games since, that we can take a lot of positives from recent performances.”
Koeman also indicated that he will be making further changes to his starting XI in view of the fact that this will be the third game in the space of seven days, with the cup tie against Leicester looming on Saturday.
“It's a really tough period of games for everybody,” he explained. [Y]ou need to do some changes in the team. It's all about the freshness of the players.
“The boys showed really good spirit against Hull and we will see now what is the best team to start against Southampton.”
Where those changes are made in the team remains to be seen but the main contenders must surely be the elder statesmen in the side who came in for criticism after the Hull game. Gareth Barry was a surprise starter of his second match in four days and Phil Jagielka returned to the team in central defence alongside Ashley Williams but the pitfalls of having three over-30s in the spine of the lineup were exposed, first by the Tigers' strong start to the game and then the change in impetus after 18-year-old Tom Davies entered the fray for the last half hour.
On that basis, a recall for Ramiro Funes Mori and, perhaps, Mason Holgate if the manager opts for three centre-halves, and a long-awaited first start for Davies under Koeman would not be surprising. Nor, too, would be a return to the flank for Aaron Lennon in place of Enner Valencia who was busy but limited at the KCOM Stadium until he, too, was withdrawn in favour of Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Recent injury casualties Maarten Stekelenburg and James McCarthy are unlikely to be involved but of the two, the Dutch ‘keeper is the more likely to be passed fit.
Southampton have been something of a mixed bag since the last time the two clubs met, losing heavily at Crystal Palace, at home to Tottenham last Wednesday and falling to West Brom on New Year's Eve but beating Bournemouth away and Middlesbrough at home.
They have been weakened by the loss to injury of Charlie Austin — he scored that winner against the Blues in November — and are now lamenting their lack of firepower. Meanwhile, Virgil van Dijk's sending off against the Baggies means that Claude Puel will be without his best defender for his team's trip to Goodison Park.
Both absentees should be big boons for Everton and enhance the sense that the Blues really should win this game if they are to show evidence of the improvement Koeman says he is seeing.
Kick-off: 3pm, Monday, 2nd January, 2017
Referee: Kevin Friend
Last Time: Everton 1-1 Southampton
Predicted Line-up: Robles, Coleman, Williams, Funes Mori, Baines, Gueye, Davies, Lennon, Barkley, Mirallas, Lukaku