A slow start followed by a big finish
As we have seen, a slow start has become the norm for this Everton team. The match began promisingly enough, with Everton looking fresh out of the gate and seemingly prepared to press Southampton. Dominic Calvert-Lewin, playing off of Romelu Lukaku looked energized early on and created a solid chance on goal before going down with a knock. After Calvert-Lewin left the pitch, both teams settled in for what ended up being a largely uneventful first half.
The Saints came out prepared to take the lead early in the second half and had a number of solid chances. Everton’s defense looked primed to give up the lead, but some nervy defending and solid saves from Joel Robles kept the match scoreless.
Ronald Koeman decided to remove the largely ineffective Aaron Lennon in favor of Enner Valencia and the outlook of the match quickly changed. Valencia proved to be the spark Everton needed as he pumped crosses into the box, linked up well with Seamus Coleman and was an overall nuisance to the Southampton defense. He then directly contributed to the following two goals, first tapping in a loose ball that Fraser Forester was unable to collect and finally drawing a penalty that Leighton Baines calmly slotted home.
Everton may look lifeless early on in games this season, but if they can continue to finish games at this pace, then perhaps the new year will be a little more sunny than previously thought.
Davies eases fears of Gueye’s departure.
With Idrissa Gueye set to join Senegal for the African Cup of Nations following the match against Southampton, supporters were understandably worried about the massive hole that his absence would leave in midfield. Tom Davies put in yet another solid performance that will somewhat quell those concerns.
Having come on for Gareth Barry early in the second half against Hull, Davies had an immediate impact on the side and provided a much needed injection of pace and creativity from central midfield. Picking up where he left off on Friday, Davies was again calm and collected in midfield looking far more experienced than his age would suggest.
Neither Davies nor Barry is an out and out replacement for Gueye, the youngster looks prepped to take advantage of the opportunity that Gueye’s absence and James McCarthy’s injury has provided.
Ashley Williams shows his importance to Everton
Idrissa Gueye has made an excellent case as the best transfer of the summer, but after today I’m left wondering where this team would be without Ashley Williams. With Phil Jagielka’s frightening dip in form shaking up Everton’s defensive plans this season, Williams has proven to be a calming influence for a shaky Everton back four. Ramiro Funes Mori and Mason Holgate have been solid, but Williams has been there time and time again to clean up most messes made by his defensive partner.
Williams represents a fantastic bit of business by Steve Walsh and Ronald Koeman. Costing the team only £12 million Williams is the perfect player to see through what is proving to be a transitional period in Everton’s defense. Everton’s defensive talisman John Stones is in Manchester, Jagielka has regressed, Holgate is perhaps another year or two away from consistently starting and Funes Mori may not be the permanent answer in the back.
Obviously Williams cannot be expected to lead the back line when his contract expires in three-years, but he can certainly hold down the fort until Koeman and Walsh are able to either promote from within or seek out the players they want in the transfer market.