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.
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 season against 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.
Matchday UpdatesRoberto Martinez decided to dispense with recognized wingers in his team selection for the lunchtime televised match at St Mary's where Everton wore their green and black third strip. A plane had circled the stadium, carrying a banner calling time on Chairlamn Bill Kenwright and his fellow custodians.
Everton kicked off and immediately pumped up a ball for Lukaku but his header on was too strong and Southampton attacked, putting in a good cross for Pelle. The home side then put in some good possession play and it almost caught Everton out but Jagielka defended with confidence and the ball was again put forward to Lukaku whose header fell to a red & white shirt.
Lukaku scampered away down the left and a sliding tackle right on the edge of the box by Targett took him out, but not a penalty. Barkley curled the free-kick off the top of the wall and out for a corner taken by Barkley that eventually fell to Kone who took too long but won another corner that Barkley wasted, firing over everyone and out for a goal kick.
McCarthy then Barry fouled Mane but Everton held strong for the free-kick but it was increasingly adventurous attacking by Southampton that continued to push Everton back and threaten them with some enthusiastic play, a brilliant cross from Tadic picking out the lone star Pelle who did not jump for what could easily have been the opener. Targett was next to fire one in at Howard.
A spell of tippy-tappy saw Barkley get the ball forward to Kone who was coming deep and trying to get Coleman to overlap but the Irishman was thwarted again by Targett. Everton then moved the ball forward more quickly down the left but lost possession.
A clever ball from Pelle found Mane surging forward and his brilliant shot was fantastically saved bu Howard. From the corner, an excellent Everton break started by Barkley down the right and Kone hesitated before picking out the big man at the far post and a difficult header with Lukaku having to crane his neck backwards, found the net off the underside of the bar to give Everton a brilliant lead.
The goal was executed brilliantly and it totally deflated a very buoyant Saints side, giving Everton in their military style kit a fantastic platform to build on. After tremendous work by Kone, a superb chance fell to Barkley whose poor sidefooted strike picked out Stekelenburg with either side of the goal to score in: a terrible miss, and Cleverly totally fluffed the follow-up.
Everton showed much more confidence iin some great possession play, with forward intent but Coleman's cross after great work down the right was defended away. Jagielka fouled and Barry had to give away the corner which cause d havoc but Wanyama headed over when he could have scored.
Stones fell awkwardly on his lower back and left arm, the ref stopping a very good-looking attack in its tracks. But he was soon up and running again, showing some tremendous class in defence. Pelle was booked for a cynical pull on Coleman.
Cleverley scooped a great ball forward for Barkley who almost beat the Southampton man but then had to foul him and Southampton were attacking but excellent strength by Stones denied Mane. Another Deliberate Everton attacked ended with Barkley's forward ball that was too adventurous for Kone. Galloway was trying to get forward but ran the ball out of play.
Another direct surge through the middle after great work by Lukaku brought an excellent result, Barkley given space to run forward over the half-way line and feed an excellent ball to feet for Lukaku to drive low and wide of Stekelenburg into the net for a superb second goal.
Barkley committed a stupid tackle, foul, yellow card and free-kick that allowed Tadic to swing in a good cross Howard came out and punched away!!! The whistle blew signaling the end of a fine and very competitive half in which Everton's and indeed Lukaku's great finishing was the difference.
Southampton came out strongly, with Romeu replacing Tadic, and they won a corner off Cleverly but it was headed wide. But it was nervy stuff at the back for Everton as they were put under a lot of pressure, Coleman blocking Pelle's strike. Romeu caught McCarthy badly and saw yellow.
Great work down the right by Coleman was wasted when neither Kone nor Lukaku had bothered to get forward into the area for the cross from Cleverley(?) and the home side attacked to win two more corners, Kone heading away the second. A clever cross by Mane was well cleared by Jagielka. Then a ball spun off Coleman and fell perfectly for Pelle but Howard was well positioned to save his snapshot, as Southampton pressed hard to get back in the game.
Everton were trying to play the ball out from defence but when they did,it was't quite clicking, with Barkley getting half-chances that just wouldn't work. Another corner from the home side was headed over as the game entered its final quarter.
Everton won a series of corners that Barkley delivered well but nothing came of them, with Barry & Cleverley getting them offside on one! Everton appeared to have weathered the South Coast storm as they gave Southampton something of a testing time, but were always under pressure for the crosses the home side swung in. However, most were headed away by Everton players.
A superb effort by Mane was well saved by Howard as Ward-Prowse replaced Davis, and Naismith replaced Kone with 10 minutes left. Some good play saw Lukaku win a corner that then saw some tremendous dribbling by Lukauku and some excellent ball work around the Southampton area that saw Barkley finally get the ball, jink the defender, and curl in an absolutely brilliant third strike to seal all three points for the men in green and black.
As Southampton tried to make it respectable, Everton broke forward again and Naismith should perhaps have done better at the end of it. Tyias Browning came on for the last few minutes replacing Brendan Galloway, who had done well in place of Leighton Baines. Gerard Deulofeu also came on to start his second Everton spell, this time as a permanent player, replacing Lukaku.
Everton played out the final minutes to a cacophony of chants and cheers form a very happy Blues contingent who had witnessed a top-class performance all round for Roberto Martinez's charges.
Scorers: Lukaku (22′,45′) Barkley (84′)
Southampton: Stekelenburg, Cedric, Yoshida, Fonte (c), Targett [Y:8'], S Davis [Y:77'] (80' Ward-Prowse), Wanyama, Tadic (46' Romeu [Y:48']), Mane, Long (72' Rodriguez), Pelle [Y:40'].
Substitutes: Gazzaniga, Martina, Reed, Juanmi.
Everton: Howard; Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Galloway (88' Browning); Barry, McCarthy [Y:75'], Cleverley, Barkley [Y:44']; Kone (80' Naismith), Lukaku (89' Deulofeu).
Subs not Used: Robles, Mirallas, Bešić, Osman.
Referee: Michael Oliver
From my seat: Southampton (A)
Southampton 0 - 3 EvertonIt’s a long way from St Domingo to St Mary's, and with protest in the air... but, after a very good display and a comprehensive victory, it does not seem as far homeward bound.
The team selection reached us via electronic means and it was noticeable that we were wingless wonders. Well, if Alf Ramsey could win the World Cup with that approach, then I was sure we could beat Southampton away for the first time since Carsley and the Gravedigger starred and Watson got the winner.
Everton kicked off in our new green strip on a lovely sunny day but quickly gave the ball away and Soton attacked; Howard had to be sharp in the save. They attacked again and this time Jags made a great interception and strode forward and found Lukaku on the left touchline. The big Belgian set off at an alarming pace and firstly completely out-ran and out-muscled his first opponent and headed directly toward the box only to be brought down from behind. ‘Penalty!!!’ yelled the faithful; 'No' said the ref, it was on the edge of the box, so a free kick it was.
Barkley took it but clipped the top of the wall and it was deflected for a corner which caused a spate of attacking but, after two corners, it sort of petered out. However, no moaning and groaning as I think most of us were delighted with the strength, pace and power shown by Lukaku which, although there was no end product, set the tone for our excellent display and changed the mood of those assembled markedly.
We started to grow in confidence and Jags built on that with a tremendous block tackle that stopped a dangerous move in its tracks. We next had a move of joined-up stuff that saw us keep the ball for quite a spell and move it forward a lot whilst we looked for that chink in their armour to deliver the killer pass; alas it did get cleared eventually but I must say a passage of play worth witnessing.
Around 20 mins in, I noted that we had not done so much keep ball at the back today... when Coleman was caught messing about at the back, resulting in Mane taking the ball right into the heart of our box for a free shot that Howard did really well to get a foot to and send out for a corner. They had tall players to send into the box so many a Blue heart was in mouth but, as the corner was delivered, out strode Barkley with the ball and found Kone further forward; he set off to the right of goal and looped one in to find his partner who rose like a swan and headed the ball beyond the keeper to nestle into the top corner -- cue wild celebrations... and to think we scored from their corner, happy days!
"Shall we sing a song for you?" the Blue fans belted out, which was great to hear as it is usually the away fans singing that to us at Goodison Park.
The half-hour mark arrives and Kone and Lukaku combine well down the right-hand side and Lukaku picked out Barkley all on his own less than 12 yards out, "So go on, son, fill yer boots," we thought... but he got it wrong and merely passed the ball back to the keeper, most unlike Ross, as he was to demonstrate later in the game.
The first half wore on with us keeping a good shape for defending and looking to break with quick counters that certainly gave the Saints food for thought. The clock showed half-time and 3 added minutes and I was grateful to go in one up when, from more good defensive work, Barkley strode forward with the ball and made one of his surging runs with Lukaku running off him; as he neared their box, he measured a pass of exquisite weight to the feet of Lukaku who, from about 18 yards, slotted home. A peach of a goal that was royally celebrated by all of a Blue persuasion.
Added time almost up and to go in two-up was utopia on a ground where we get very little, especially not goals, so we just needed to see it out, lads. But it wouldn’t be Everton without giving us a scare and we got it when Barkley fouled and gave away a free kick and got booked. Breath was held but the kick was met by Howard’s fists and cleared and the half-time whistle duly went.
The half-time chat was in complete contrast to last Saturday, with most upbeat and remarking how well we had handled a tough away fixture so far.
Second half and the Greens made no changes while, as we suspected, words had been said in the Saints dressing room; they started at a fair pace with intent as their sub Romeu went right through McCarthy and got yellow. I have seen red flashed for less.
Saints pressed and won a corner, then another... thus ensuring good defending with concentration was definitely called for as a goal for them early on could well have changed the game. I found myself thinking "We need a good 25 mins here to take a bit of sting out of them." We achieved this with some excellent defending and breaking with pace when we could.
Although Lukaku was hardly seeing the ball, his channel runs were occupying two defenders and when Kone and Barkley surged we looked good and Saints fearful. In Stones and Jags, we had rocks protected well by all our outfield players to such an extent that, although Saints seemed forever in our box, Howard was rarely being called upon.
Barkley surged twice and twice he went down on the edge and twice the Ref merely told him to get up when a Blue army behind the goal was adamant he was wrong.
Time moved on and we were performing well enough for prayer beads to be put away as Lukaku tangled with Fonte and had a handbag exchange right in front of our fans. I did hope the Saints man did not understand ‘scouse’ as he may have needed a toilet break. The Ref had a word with both and both seemed pals again.
We passed the 70-minute mark and were looking more relaxed as a good portion of the sting had been pulled from the hosts. We had some more joined-up stuff and forced a corner which brought another corner but we let ourselves down with that one as we tried to work it from the flag and got caught offside. More work at Finch farm on that one, lads.
In our next attack, we got a tad over-confident and gave the ball away and the Saints set off at pace goalwards, forcing McCarthy to halt their effort by taking a yellow for the team. McCarthy then took one himself and the Saint Davis was booked. Saints fans leaving now but some were stopped in their tracks as Mane hit a rocket that Howard dived and pushed for a corner. It was a good height for him, as the pundits say... but they all need saving. The corner was cleared with ease.
On 80 minutes, Kone was replaced by Naismith and given a great send off; by hell, that was different to the noise he got when he came on last week! About 4 minutes later, we gain a corner and "Everton, Everton" tumbles down the terraces. The ball is regained by Lukaku who appears to go on a powerful mazy dribble that takes on the whole defence. The ball is worked across the box to find the lurking Barkley and, with a sublime one touch and shot, the net was troubled and the whole place exploded: Game Over!
Browning came on for Galloway, who had a good game but is still learning; I am sure this lad can come through. Also Deulofeu got his second Everton debut when replacing Lukaku, who got a hell of a Thank You from the hoards. 4 minutes added which soon passed and, at the final whistle, we are singing in the sunshine as the players came over and a love-in took place. Ahh... what a difference a week in football makes!
MotM – The Entire Team
Four points from two games; so we are two better off than this stage last season. It was heartening the way we played today but of course to get where we would like to be we will need today’s attitude and level on a consistent basis. If we do get the two players and of the class that the manager is talking about, then our outlook for the season will surely seem brighter.
I hope today’s display can get the home crowd back onside and who knows... a result from City is certainly possible and the Sunday roast will be complete. After watching today's Southampton display, I believe there is one important thing Everton FC can learn from them: Don’t sell your best players!
A good day all round and I wonder, could a goal-fest beat a pro-test?
UP THE BLUES
A Change in “Philosophy”I don't know about you but I'll be shocked if Everton arrive at St. Mary's on Saturday with any other system than our current, laboured, midfield and possession tactics. Wouldn't it be awesome if we had a go at teams for a change? I, for one, long for an "all or nothing" approach. You could perhaps argue this philosophy has worked wonders for this weekend's opponents. It's certainly worked wonders elsewhere...
In 2008 I took something of a career break and spent six months or so in New Zealand. Shorty after arriving, England toured New Zealand in a cricket test series. We sat on the grassy hill in Hamilton and took in quite a performance by New Zealand – or the Black Caps as they prefer to be called – as they defeated England. The Black Caps lost the series though kept with them a little piece of my heart.
Ever the penchant for the underdog (it comes with the territory for us, doesn't it?), I continued to follow the Black Caps' progress as they remained at the tail-end of the ICC rankings and became whipping boys amongst the better teams. Come December 2012 they made a bold change, replacing the much-loved Ross Taylor as captain with big-hitting batsman Brendon McCullum.
In January 2013 New Zealand were skittled for 45 in South Africa, instigating a change in philosophy in New Zealand cricket. Rather than continue playing with no soul, they changed style to play with a smile and go all out to try and win games. A go-for-a-win-or-die-trying approach. The results have been impressive enough. They've risen as high as third in the ICC test rankings and reached the ODI World Cup final earlier this year...winning global plaudits in doing so. Doesn't that show you (and this from a country with a population of only 4 million) what a difference a change in philosophy can make?
The introduction of Arouna Kone on Saturday was met with boos from the crowd but it at least resulted in us playing with two strikers on the pitch. Can we not begin games like this every time? I'm confident that a team playing with freedom and confidence with two strikers can do enough damage in attack, whilst our defence and whoever holds in midfield should be experienced enough or streetwise enough to defend.
With the attacking options we have (when everyone is fit at least) throughout the squad I see no reason why we can't get at teams from the jugular. Maybe begin games in this fashion and perhaps try and strangle games later on when our opponents are perhaps chasing the game.
I want to enjoy games again. I can't imagine any neutrals enjoy watching Everton anymore and it certainly wasn't always this way.
Just go for it, Everton. Make it fun again.
There may have been stark contrasts between Roberto Martinez's first and second seasons in the Goodison hot-seat but if there were some common themes as well, one of them was surely Everton's performance at Southampton. Two of his team's worst displays under the Catalan have come at the St Mary's Stadium – the first, in May last year, finally banished any faint hopes of pipping Arsenal to fourth place as two own goals handed the Saints a 2-0 victory; the second last December saw the Blues humbled in a horrible
If that adds some extra motivation to an Everton side already facing criticism from some quarters for a disappointing opening-day draw against Watford last Saturday, then so much the better for this televised lunchtime kick-off. Because Martinez's men are embarking on a sequence of five successive Premier League fixtures against teams that finished in the top eight with a squad that remains disconcertingly light in key positions.
There's no doubt that any improvement on the last two trips down there would be warmly received. You can get some nice odds on a high-scoring draw for this one in the weekend's football tips.
The loss to injury of Leighton Baines practically on the eve of the new season hasn't helped and his latest surgery on a troublesome ankle problem has further weakened a back line that came into the campaign short of two centre-halves following the departures of Antolin Alcaraz and Sylvain Distin and, in view of Tony Hibbert's own fitness troubles, lacks experienced cover at the opposite full-back slot.
Bryan Oviedo would be the natural deputy for Baines at left back but his lack of match sharpness meant that Brendan Galloway was preferred against the Hornets and it remains to be seen whether the Costa Rican will be deemed strong enough to start so soon after recovering from a foot fracture.
Though they conceded two fairly soft goals last weekend and will obviously miss Baines' presence, it is further forward whether the greater concerns lie, particularly when it comes to scoring the goals that can win matches. The Blues were familiarly pedestrian for the first half last weekend and really only came to life when Arouna Kone was introduced to supplement Romelu Lukaku and allow the Belgian some more freedom and support up front.
Together with the break-up of the defensive midfield partnership of Gareth Barry and James McCarthy when the former dropped back to left back, it gave Everton a more dynamic look but few expect the manager to be quite as bold away from home, particularly against a team like Southampton. The smart money will be on another lone-striker formation, from the start at least, with Martinez putting his hopes on his side being able to fashion goals in the same system in which they couldn't against Watford.
Much will depend on whether Kevin Mirallas or Gerard Deulofeu will be fit enough to start on the right flank. The former's ankle has settled down over the week following Valon Behrami's awful challenge and Martinez appeared quite positive on his chances of being involved this weekend, while Deulofeu resuming full training following a hamstring injury means he is in the frame. Hopefully one – preferably both but that would be unlikely even if they were 100% – will make the starting XI to line up in a forward three with Lukaku and Ross Barkley. If not, one of Steven Naismith or Leon Osman would be the likely beneficiaries and, assuming the manager plays it conservatively, Tom Cleverley would fill the remaining midfield slot.
If there is scope for coming to the St Mary's with a more attacking outlook than Martinez otherwise might it lies in the fact that Ronald Koeman's outfit are weaker defensively than they were last season thanks to the loss of the loss over the summer of holding midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin and defender Nathaniel Clyne. In addition to that, Koeman will be without two of his new signings in the form of Jordie Clasie, an Ł8.4m acquisition from Feyenoord who has an ankle injury, and defender Steven Caulker, in on loan from Queens Partk Rangers, who has a sinus infection. Add in Fraser Forster, Florin Gardos, and Ryan Bertrand and the Dutchman, who will likely be in the home dugout sporting a cast following surgery on his Achilles, will be hobbled to a degree both figuratively and literally.
Nevertheless, the Saints looked impressive at Newcastle last weekend, with both Graziano Pelle and Shane Long bagging headed goals in a 2-2 draw, and with the likes of the tricky Dusan Tadic and the dangerous Sadio Mane in their side, they pose plenty of dangers to that uncertain Everton defence.
It's fair to say that while the travelling Blue army will make the trip to the south coast in good heart and full of hope, they probably won't realistically be expecting much more than a draw from this one but there is always the "x" factor about Everton that when everything clicks, they can be very potent side themselves. Given that it's still early days and we will be facing a team that will need to be patched up at the back, the unexpected – not to mention the banishment of our BT Sport hoodoo – is not beyond the realms of possibility.
Referee: Michael Oliver
Predicted line-up: Howard; Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Galloway; Barry, McCarthy, Cleverley, Mirallas, Barkley; Lukaku