I’ll start off with the end of the last preview. “This should (SHOULD) be 3 points for Everton and a comfortable Boxing day game. As everyone knows though, the Premier League doesn’t work like that and with Sunderland desperate for any points possible, this should not be take for granted in any way.” Unfortunately, the latter happened. Everton‘s 10 game unbeaten run came to an end at the expense of a 1-0 loss to Sunderland. One fortunate thing for the Blues is the Southampton game comes quickly and there is chance to get back on track. Southampton managed to come out of their tricky run of games with a comfortable 3-0 win against Cardiff on Boxing day.
Despite the loss against the Black Cats, Everton played very well and were applauded for their efforts at the end of the game. Martinez said that if performances like that were to continue, a lot of points will be picked up over the course of the season. He wasn’t wrong. The performance against Southampton however cannot be aided by either Tim Howard or Gareth Barry, who both picked up suspensions.
With Howard and Barry out, it would be very surprising to see anything other than Joel and Osman stepping in. Baines didn’t make the squad against Sunderland, although Martinez said that he’d definitely be back for the challenge of Southampton.
As aforementioned, Southampton have just come out of a very tough run of fixtures with a win against Cardiff. Earlier in the season they made the most out of the ‘easier’ games, losing only 1 game in 11. The last 7 has seen 4 losses and 2 draws. In the win over the ‘blue birds’ (or should that be ‘red birds’), Morgan Schneiderlin picked up his 5th yellow card of the season and will miss the trip to Goodison through suspension.
In other team news, Pochettino could be boosted by the possible return of 3 players in Lovren, Clyne and Osvaldo. The Saints will continue without main goalkeeper Boruc and central midfielder Wanyama.
Away from home, Southampton put in the most tackles per game out of any Premier League team (24.2). This also leads to them committing the most fouls (15.3). This is down to players like Schneiderlin (3.9 per game), Wanyama (3.1), Clyne (2.8) and Lovren (2.2). Half, if not all, of these players are out Sunday’s game. As a game plan, this works. Southampton have conceded the least away from home (9), only matched by Everton. They make it hard for teams to put fluid moves together and defend the resulting set pieces well. 3 of the 9 goals conceded have been set pieces, a generally good record.
Adapting their style?
Pochettino changes the style of the team depending on home and away games. At home, Southampton have one of the best possession figures in the league, standing at 61%. The pass success is around 82%, which again stands high in comparison to most teams. Away from home, their possession dominance is still good but drops to 54%, with the pass success dropping to 77%. Southampton look to make it a tight game. At home they have scored 12 goals from open play. In away games, this drops to 4.
With the suspensions to Barry and Schneiderlin, this game should be determined by which attacking midfielders can make their mark. Can Rodriguez and Lallana, both of who shape up as wide midfielders but actually play very central behind Lambert, get behind Osman and McCarthy? Or canMirallas, Pienaar and Barkley, who again set up wide but play central behind Lukaku, get behind a young Jack Cork and Ward Prowse?
Southampton average position V Cardiff
Everton average position V Sunderland
This could be a huge game for the Blues and for any hopes of success at the end of the season. A win and all is back on track. A draw doesn’t do much good but isn’t the end of the world whereas a loss would really start to put questions over the squad into the new year. Southampton will make for a very tough game, never mind the return of Mark Clattenburg. COYB.