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Southampton v Everton Match Preview - Toffees need to create some positive headlines after difficult week

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The Andre Gomes injury has cast a long shadow but a win at St Mary’s would help the healing process

Southampton FC v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

It has been a bruising week for Evertonians, in more ways than one.

The gutwrenching sight of Andre Gomes screaming in agony, being consoled by distraught teammates, will linger over the club for a long time.

On a basic human level it was a traumatic event for Gomes to endure and for the players to witness. That’s why I don’t begrudge Seamus Coleman consoling Son Hueng-Min after the game. It is basic human decency.

But what that has done, intentionally or not, has helped fuel a narrative that Son is also a victim in this.

Everton FC v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Emma Simpson - Everton FC/Everton FC via Getty Images

Much has been said about Son’s distress and how he needs help and support in the coming weeks. It is a curious reaction to say the least give he is not the one with his ankle pointing in the wrong direction.

Son’s hysterical reaction and subsequent rush of sympathy in his direction, especially in certain parts of the media, has understandably riled Evertonians, who feel it distracts from the consequences of his actions.

We are an angry enough fanbase as it is without one of our best players having his ankle snapped and everyone offering sympathy to the guy who did it.

Then, on Tuesday, an independent panel overturned the red card decision, meaning Son escaped any punishment for the challenge.

Hours later, Tottenham posted a tweet (later deleted) showing a smiling Son, supposedly still traumatised, in training ahead of their Champions League tie against Red Star Belgrade, during which he scored twice.

Whataboutery is a weak argument I admit, but Everton have found themselves on the wrong end of disciplinary decisions in the recent past (Niasse, Jagielka) so this only increases our sense of frenzied paranoia.

Then there is VAR.

Everton should have had two penalties on Sunday. The first one, for handball, was turned down because it was not ‘a clear and obvious error’. Eight days earlier, Michael Keane accidentally treading on Aaron Connolly’s foot was deemed a ‘clear and obvious error’ and Brighton were awarded a spot kick.

Everton FC v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

But after all that, the main takeaway for one national journalist was that Richarlison is a diver and he is becoming a liability, later backed up by Marco Silva himself.

The foil-hatted among you would call this a London-centric media conspiracy and believe me I am often close to joining you. But it seems Everton have often been poor at looking to control the media narrative and allowing opponents to twist things in their favour.

I’m not saying Son should be vilified, nor am I saying Richarlison doesn’t go down too easily – he does. But those should not have been the main talking points to emerge from this game. It’s just basic PR.

None of this takes away from the fact that Everton were poor and have been for some time. But we need to get out of this cycle of being too nice while lamenting our own misfortune.

You make your own luck in this game. And that starts by getting things right off the pitch as well as on it.

The opposition

Southampton FC v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images

If Everton have had it tough, spare a thought for Southampton. The Saints were well and truly hammered 9-0 at home to Leicester a fortnight ago, a record Premier League defeat, before facing two trips back-to-back trips to Manchester City.

They lost both games at Etihad Stadium but restored a modicum of pride and return to St Mary’s for the first time since that Foxes mauling needing to show a response in front of their own fans.

They were in the relegation zone when Ralph Hasenhuttl succeeded Mark Hughes in December 2018, but he guided them to a 16th-place finish.

However, nearly 12 months on and the Saints find themselves back in the drop zone, with supporters growing increasingly concerned.

The board are reluctant to make yet another managerial change having had four permanent managers in three years, but they know results need to improve and quickly.

They can take some consolation from their impressive record against Everton at St Mary’s, with the Toffees winning just one of their last 10 visits to the south coast.

St Mary’s was also the venue for one of the lowest points of the 2017-18 season, when David Unsworth’s caretaker tenure came to a shuddering end with a 4-1 defeat, prompting a panicking Farhad Moshiri to call Sam Allardyce.

Previous meeting

Southampton 1-2 Everton - 19 January 2019 (match report)

FBL-ENG-PR-SOUTHAMPTON-EVERTON Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images

As dismal results go, this was down there. James Ward-Prowse’s long-range effort and Lucas Digne’s comical own goal condemned the Toffees to defeat.

Recent form

Everton

Tottenham (H) Drew 1-1

Watford (H - Carabao Cup) Won 2-0

Brighton (A) Lost 3-2

West Ham (H) Won 2-0

Burnley (A) Lost 1-0

Southampton

Man City (A) Lost 2-1

Man City (A – Carabao Cup) Lost 3-1

Leicester (H) Lost 9-0

Wolves (A) Drew 1-1

Chelsea (A) Lost 4-1

Team news

Everton will, of course, be without Andre Gomes, who will likely miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury.

Jean-Philippe Gbamin is another long-term absentee while Bernard is expected to be sidelined until the end of the month with a knee injury.

Fabian Delph missed training this week due to a hamstring strain and will be assessed.

What they said

Everton manager Marco Silva: “Last few seasons they have changed a bit. Everything is really tight, with two wins you can go up to sixth position.

“They haven’t started how they want, the last home defeat was the toughest moment for them.

“They showed a good reaction against Man City and for sure they want to do the same against us and we have to be ready for that.

“They are a physical team, try to press the opponents really well. It’s up to us to manage the ball and win the match.”

Manchester City v Southampton FC - Premier League Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl: “I think they know about the importance of the game. They have quality in front, with Richarlison and a few other guys, who can really get going in good one-against-ones.

”It’s the Premier League, it’s always a tough game. We have spoken about the options we have with the ball and we have been also working against the ball, and then we try to bring everything together on the pitch and hopefully you will see this.”

Final word

Southampton have not won at home all season, so I forgive any Evertonian who carries a sense of dread going into this one. The Gomes/Son maelstrom has distracted from what was yet another poor performance against Spurs last weekend. With a horrid December against four of the current top five lying in wait, Everton have to pick up points here and against Norwich next week. I dread to think where we will end up otherwise.