“The players know they didn't perform today. They are well aware of the lack of performance they gave today in an Everton shirt at Goodison. They didn't pass the ball today very well to anybody.”
That was Sam Allardyce’s assessment of Everton’s 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion on the 20th of January. You would think that a manager on a £6m contract and his coaching staff might find a way of addressing those deficiencies over the ensuing three and a half months. But fast forward to the aftermath of today’s 1-1 draw with Southampton — pause on some of his comments after the poorer results in the interim as well to sharpen the picture — and not much has changed; he is saying essentially the same thing now as then.
Taken together with his complaints about “this squad of players I have inherited” and the manner in which he threw some team members under the proverbial bus in his post-match interviews this afternoon and you get the impression of a man not easily able to take on much accountability for the poor standard of fare being produced up under his stewardship.
Hardly the way to win “capture hearts and minds” which is why, contrary to his assertion to the media on Friday, Allardyce hasn’t done so. In the end, there were no overwhelming protests from fans today nor was there a mass exodus in the 78th minute but the boos that rang out at the end of each half and the vast tracts of empty seats around Goodison for the lap of “appreciation” after another abject display — albeit one rescued by a deflected goal in the sixth minute of stoppage time — made a massive statement on their own.
They were an unmistakable rejection of Allardyce, his approach, his tactics and his culture of blame, of that there can be no doubt, but they were also a rebuke to Everton’s players. To his credit, Allardyce also argued afterwards for a measure of forgiveness for the team and an acknowledgement of the fact that they have dragged themselves to safety and eighth place in the table, but he can’t erase the fact that the majority of them have been complicit in a season that Blues fans can’t wait to consign to the history books. In short, there was nothing to celebrate from 2017-18 and you could count one hand the players worthy of any appreciation.
Just minutes earlier, there had been some jubilation in the stands of the Grand Old Lady. Finally getting on top of their desperate opponents after Maya Yashida had been dismissed for a second bookable offence, Everton had spent the period of time added on by referee Jon Moss laying siege to Southampton’s penalty area.
The Saints were clinging to the 1-0 advantage handed them by Nathan Redmond in the 56th minute and were baying for the whistle when Idrissa Gueye squared the ball to Tom Davies and he side-footed a speculative shot into the crowded area that benefited from a heavy deflection off the leg of Wesley Hoedt to bounce past Alex McCartby. It was a moment to savour for the 19-year-old who may have been among those fringe players criticised by his manager after the final whistle but it wasn’t enough to quell the now well-known, expletive-laden chant from sections of the home crowd.
While Southampton were fighting for three points, their energy and urgency wasn’t matched by their hosts until those closing stages. There may not have been much riding on the result in the context of the Premier League but Allardyce and a number of players may well have been playing for their Everton futures. Unfortunately, if the Blues were up for it, it didn’t translate to their play; apart from an early sight of goal by Davies that whistled a couple of feet wide in the third minute, they created next to nothing.
It was as dire and lifeless as anything served up during Allardyce’s time in charge — Everton were bereft of attacking inspiration or any coherent pattern of play. Allardyce tacitly blamed the likes of Davies, Nikola Vlasic, who started his second successive game but was withdrawn after the Southampton goal, and Yannick Bolasie, who was almost completely ineffective until he was hooked at half time, for failing to step up competently to replace the injured Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin but it was the kind of performance Evertonians have come to expect regardless of the personnel.
McCarthy was largely a spectator in the first period but Jordan Pickford was twice called upon at the Gwladys Street End, first to dive to his right and palm away Charlie Austin’s 20-yard half-volley and then to beat away a deflected Oriel Romeu effort from a similar distance.
Allardyce elected to change things at the interval, introducing Ramiro Funes Mori in place of Bolasie and switching to a five-man back line while Mark Hughes was forced to replace the injured Mario Lamina with Redmond.
The latter change provided Southampton the impetus to deservedly take the lead 11 minutes after the restart. Cedric powered down the right flank on the overlap to collect a Simon Højberg pass and cross to the back post where Redmond arrived unmarked to beat Pickford with a downward header.
That elicited a further change from the Everton management with Oumar Niasse replacing the willing but confidence-sapped Vlasic and a couple of flurries involving the Senegalese striker briefly threatened to liven things up from the Blues’ perspective. He won a corner from which Michael Keane headed just wide and almost found Cenk Tosun with a ball whipped across goal but a Saints head intervened to guide it it behind.
Southampton had just five minutes plus added time to hold out when Yashida was given his marching orders for a late tackle on Niasse and that invited the late push from Everton that eventually arrived in the dying minutes.
In between, however, Redmond went close to doubling his tally and killing the contest with a jinking run following a gifted pass from Keane but Pickford again provided the final and decisive barrier with another block.
The home side’s second effort on target in the entire game arrived two minutes into stoppage time when Hoedt chopped Coleman down outside the box and McCarthy came to his team’s rescue with an impressive one-handed save to deny Baines a spectacular leveller.
Everton weren’t to be denied, however, and as the clock ticked on through further time added for an injury to Cedric, Davies broke Southampton’s hearts with virtually the last kick of the game.
Everton denied Southampton two priceless points with a goal deep into stoppage time after Nathan Redmond's header looked to have settled it.
The Saints were heading for a deserved victory having taken the lead earlier in the second half through Nathan Redmond but were pegged back in the 96th minute when Tom Davies's shot deflected past Alex McCarthy to earn the Blues a draw.
It was cruel on Mark Hughes's men who could have lifted themselves clear of Swansea near the bottom and confirmed West Bromwich Albion's relegation had they been able to hold onto a deserved lead.
Everton and Sam Allardyce, meanwhile, were not spared the ire of the Goodison Park crowd as they were booed off at the end of each half following a dreadful display and the team, minus the manager whose departure from the club was called for again by chants during the match, were left with a mostly empty stadium for the post-match lap of appreciation.
Theo Walcott (calf) and Wayne Rooney (knee) were the key absentees from the starting XI, with neither named in the match day squad because of injury.
Nikola Vlasic retained his place in the side and was joined by the returning Tom Davies and Yannick Bolasie.
Wearing the new 2018-19 home strip, Everton made a bright enough start and Davies raked a left-foot effort a couple of feet wide from around 20 yards in the third minute.
That was about as exciting as it got from the home side for the remainder of the half, however, and they were booed off at the break after the Saints began to assert control as they went in search for a crucial goal in their quest to avoid the drop.
Cenk Tosun dropped a header narrowly over from a right-wing cross but at the other end Jordan Pickford was forced into a terrific save by Charlie Austin who tested him with a well-struck half-volley from just outside the box.
A few minutes later, Phil Jagielka was prompted to make an important block in front of goal as the ball pinged around the box following another parried save by Jordan Pickford from Oriel Romeu.
Bolasie, who was anonymous in the first 45 minutes, was withdrawn at the break in favour of Ramiro Funes Mori with the Blues switching to a five-man back line.
Hughes, meanwhile, belatedly replaced the injured Mario Lamina with Redmond.
As Everton toiled in uninspired fashion, the visitors made the breakthrough they had been threatening. Cedric made a strong run on the overlap down the right flank and crossed impressively for Redmond to plant a downward header between Pickford's legs and make it 1-0 in the 56th minute.
Allardyce responded by taking off Vlasic and throwing Oumar Niasse up front and after he won a corner, Michael Keane headed narrowly wide of Alex McCarthy's right-hand post.
And Niasse was involved again in the 66th minute when he controlled Leighton Baines's deep cross and whipped the ball across goal where a Saints head got in front of Tosun to head it behind.
Back in front of the Park End, Ryan Bertrand got to the byline and Jagielka had to flick a header over his own crossbar.
Redmond saw a shot cannon off a defender and fall behind as Klaassen was prepared to come on for Jagielka with 11 minutes to go and the Saints' goalscorer went close to doubling his tally when he flashed an effort just over.
Ward-Prowse then tested Pickford with a free kick searching for a gap inside the 'keeper's left-hand post but Southampton's task of holding out for three priceless points was complicated five minutes from time.
Maya Yashida, already booked for an earlier challenge, caught Niasse late and was shown a second yellow by referee Jon Moss.
Still Southampton came forward and Redmond's jinking run ended with another save from Pickford.
Mark Hughes's men were seeing things out fairly comfortably until Wesley Hoedt caught Coleman with a late tackle setting up a direct free kick for Baines but McCarthy came to Southampton's rescue with a flying save.
That looked to have been that but as the clock ticked on for over a minute beyond the four signalled for stoppage time, Davies sent a side-foot shot goalwards that took a wicked deflection off Hoedt and past the wrong-footed McCarthy.
Kick-off: 5.30pm, Saturday 5 May, 2018
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Last Time: Everton 3 - 0 Southampton
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Jagielka, Keane, Baines, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Davies, Bolasie, Vlasic, Tosun
Subs: Robles, Martina, Funes Mori, Kenny, Baningime, Klaassen, Niasse
Are you (allowed to be) entertained?
The last home game of the season and with Gaz unable to make it, my other half “benefited” from his ticket and, after much kerfuffle, with the shop loading my Walrus card with the wrong date, we eventually arrived over the water at about 3pm and headed for the Ship & Mitre and enjoyed a few ales outside in the sun, Steve also joining us.
On we went to Moorfields Station to get the train to the match. We don’t do this much anymore but, when we do, it always brings back memories. Back in the day, Ste and I would travel to every game by train and it is a nice change from time to time.
Settling into my seat at Goodison Park, I hadn’t heard about t78th-minuteute protest until Gary mentioned it to me. Not much of a walk out occurred in the end, but the unrest amongst the supporters is palpable. It was a strange atmosphere. Very end-of-season and there was a lot of chatter amongst supporters throughout, even if there was a noisy away end occupied by the Southampton fans.
That said, and certainly as far as Everton were concerned, there was precious little to get excited about on the pitch with only a decent-distance Davies drive and a looping Tosun header, both off-target, the fruit of Everton’s labours. At the other end, Charlie Austin forced Jordan Pickford into a good save with a distant effort in a half which saw Everton constantly on the back foot… so much so that Sam Allardyce felt obliged to change it at the break by withdrawing Yannick Bolasie to bring on another centre-back. Everyone scoffed but it was an attempt to get more width from Allardyce and bring Nikola Vlasic into play from the centre.
It didn’t work. Cenk Tosun tried a neat flick inside for Vlasic who couldn’t control, and with Baines pushed upfeld Southampton broke down our left with Cedric’s ball in headed home nicely by substitute Nathan Redmond. With three centre backs on the pitch I don’t know how he found so much space. “Fuck off Sam Allardyce” was chanted pretty loudly. He must have heard that one.
Southampton continued to carve out more opportunities as Everton, amidst an ugly crowd reaction, struggled to pull anything together. The introduction of Oumar Niasse helped create a few chances and he very nearly teed up Cenko Tosun for an equaliser. Maya Yoshida was given his marching orders when, already on a yellow card, he made a very needless challenge on NIasse to reduce Southampton for 10 men.
The Saints were getting nervy. They’ve conceded a lot of late goals lately, and were finding it difficult. In injury time, Seamus Coleman was chopped down outside the box and Leighton Baines stepped up with the free kick which Alex McCarthy stretched to tip over in the penalty area. Is it true Leighton Baines has never scored a free kick at Goodison Park, by the way? Does anybody know?
You sensed the chance had probably gone and when Ramiro Funes Mori got himself into a right mess down by the far corner flag; he was bailed out by Jonathan Moss awarding a free kick, which Everton took quickly and broke upfield. I’ve just seen this again on Match of the Day and you can see where Southampton have issues with getting games over the line. They were sat so insanely deep as Everton broke. A ball into the box wasn’t really dealt with by McCarthy but Ryan Bertrand chased it to the byline and, given we were in the sixth minute of stoppage time, should have smashed it into Row Z.
I’m pretty sure Moss had put the whistle to his mouth to blow up but, upon seeing the clearance only went as far as Idrissa Gueye, he felt obliged to carry on. Gueye carried it forward and played it to Tom Davies who hit first time, the ball deflecting off Wesley Hoedt and into the goal past the helpless McCarthy. A goal so unbelievably harsh on Southampton, but also of their own making somewhat. I’ve no dislike towards Southampton but I did find it pretty funny.
We didn’t stick around to applaud the guys on their lap of appreciation. Katja, totally bored, had already left with five minutes to go and waited for us on the island.
With still one game to play, and no more to play at home, I hope that’s a line drawn under Sam Allardyce’s term at Goodison Park. He seems pretty well protected by the media but I don’t know why. I get that they say “He’s more than done his job”, “You’re 8th, what more do you want?”, “He’s kept you up” etc, but those who say this, can’t have seen performances. He hasn’t entertained.
Brendan Rodgers wasn’t doing an especially bad job at Liverpool, but they saw an opportunity to bring in someone better, and have since gotten to three finals, one a Champions League final, and have become top four regulars. Nobody seemed to be crying about Brendan when he got the sack.
Going back further, Mark Hughes was doing especially badly at ambitious Manchester City, but their owners saw an opportunity to bring in Roberto Mancini, someone better, and they went on to win the league.
Tottenham Hotspur brought in Mauricio Pochettino and have improved and nobody seemed to mind. Manchester United weren’t doing well enough and sacked David Moyes; nobody cared. They progressed slightly and then sacked Louis Van Gaal; nobody cared... and now they're better off. Why can other teams try these things and get their arse kissed for it, but when we do it, it’s outrage?
Do the media have a problem with “little old rubbish Everton” being ambitious and not settling for mediocrity? Are us as supporters of a club with a rich history not allowed to want better? Are we not allowed to dream big? Are we not allowed to be entertained? Isn’t Nil Satis Nisi Optimum our motto?
Sam will be gone in a week or two. Let’s draw a line under it and go again next season with a new, better, manager. A big breath of fresh air is needed. There’s a lot of cobwebs to blow out of the club.
Pickford: Performed well in front of the watching England boss. I’m looking forward to him representing England at the World Cup. 7
Baines: By far one of the better ones out there. 7
Jagielka: Did okay if not brilliant. 6
Keane: A bit sloppy really. 5
Coleman: Did pretty well and kept on going. Wears his heart on his sleave and cares at least. 7
Gueye: Did okay. 6
Schneiderlin: Did OK. 6
Bolasie: Jesus. 5
Vlasic: Maybe a bit unlucky to have been hooked but something had to change. Bright in spells but not consistent enough. Hardly surprising though given he’s hardly featured all season. 5
Davies: Gave the ball away quite a lot and was getting stick from the crowd. He never hides though and that’s why I’m so impressed with the boy. People are screaming at you and you’re 19 years old, but you always have the courage to show for the ball, and he got his reward for carrying on going. Well done, Tom. Don’t give in to them. 6
Tosun: Largely anonymous really. 5
Funes Mori (for Bolasie): Gets himself in impossibly bad situations time and time again. A defender who can’t defend. He would certainly be in the “get rid” camp for me this summer. 5
Niasse (for Vlasic): Made a huge impact. Was lively and showed good quality on the ball and helped get Southampton on the back foot somewhat. My Man of the Match. 7
Klaassen (for Jagielka): A section of the Gwladys Street were singing his name for some time prior to his arrival on the pitch and we were all pleased to see him get on the pitch. He did pretty well in his short cameo. His first touch to flick it on to Davies was sublime and he chased hard. He gave the ball away near the end trying to get it forward but he’s so short of match practice it’s hard to blame him. I hope to see more of him next season as currently we’ve no idea if he’s good enough or not. I can’t believe he hasn’t been given more opportunities. 6
Everton wrap up their home fixtures for the season by hosting relegation-threatened Southampton in the late afternoon game.
The Saints will begin the day in 18th place and one point from safety but could, depending on results elsewhere in the earlier kick-offs, be deeper in the mire and in more desperate need of three points.
Everton, meanwhile, can consolidate their hold on eighth place with a result or guarantee a finish in that slot with a victory and a defeat for Leicester at home to West Ham… which would have important ramifications for Southampton given that they are three points behind the Hammers coming into the weekend.
Sam Allardyce looks set to have the same squad from which to select as he has for the last few games, with only Mason Holgate back in training from those facing medium-term lay-offs. Gylfi Sigurdsson's recovery continues but he is unlikely to play again before the World Cup.
Once again, the manager could throw in a fringe player like he did last week with Nikola Vlasic but with the need to get a good result to further his own prospects of remaining in the Goodison hot seat next season in mind, he is unlikely to change things around too much.
That should mean an unchanged back five despite Ashley Williams's availability and Ramiro Funes Mori's keenness for game time and the continued presence of Morgan Schneiderlin and Idrissa Gueye in the holding roles.
And with Cenk Tosun and Theo Walcott nailed on to also start, it leaves just the wide left role and Wayne Rooney's place as the only areas where Allardyce could mix things up, with two of Rooney, Vlasic, Yannick Bolasie and Tom Davies the likely options.
Southampton's position is parlous but they will have been buoyed significantly by their 2-1 win in the south coast derby against Bournemouth last weekend. It was their first win in nine games under Mark Hughes who will not only be trying to save the Saints' skins but to avoid having a hand in the relegation of two Premier League clubs in the same season, an unwanted feat he he will achieve if Stoke go down as well.
The former Everton striker is still deprived of the services of Steven Davis because of an Achilles injury and will be without Sofiane Boufal out of choice following a recent bust-up.
Ultimately, Southampton's desperation could prove to be the decisive factor. They have been poor since these two teams last met in November, a match that, in tandem with the game against Atalanta, precipitated the move for Sam Allardyce but with the chips down and enough talent in the ranks in the likes of Charlie Austin and Dusan Tadic, they could pose the Toffees some problems.
Whatever the result, of course, Everton's manager and players are expected to remain on the pitch after the whistle for a lap of if not honour then hopefully appreciation from them at the support they have received despite a dreadful season.
Whether there will be many Blues left in the stands remains to be seen. There has been a swell of opinion on social media that fans should leave after the final whistle and further suggestions that a walkout be staged in the 78th minute to make a point. Evertonians aren't usually given to such collective acts of protest or defiance so it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Kick-off: 5.30pm, Saturday 5 May, 2018
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Last Time: Everton 3 - 0 Southampton
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Jagielka, Keane, Baines, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Rooney, Bolasie, Walcott, Tosun