Everton have begun the new Premier League campaign with great vigor and creative ambition so far. Top of the table is marvelous of course, but this success must only be the beginning for the Toffees this season; EFL Cup ambitions are alive as well, with eyes set on a shot at the FA Cup later in the year as well. As for the Premiership however, a trip to Saint Mary’s to see Southampton is the next challenge for Don Carlo and the Royal Blues before they travel to Saint James Park for a date with Newcastle United; this Sunday in particular however, is a significant challenge that the team cannot afford to overlook, no matter their upcoming schedule or early season success.
With the injury to James Rodriguez and red card suspension for Richarlison - which will cost him all the matches until the Fulham game on the 21st of November - the club in truth are more vulnerable to the Saints than they might’ve expected. Will the Toffees step up to vanquish a lesser opponent together, or will the players lost for the match tip the scales towards Southampton?
Paging Alex Iwobi and Anthony Gordon, Time to Shine
One could argue that Bernard Duarte could play opposite of Alex Iwobi, on whichever wing Iwobi wasn’t going to play on. I, for one, believe that choosing Anthony Gordon is the wiser and more effective play. The young academy product has shown class when the manager has called on him so far this season and that deserves greater responsibility. Taking the place of James Rodriguez, should he prove unfit, is certainly quite the responsibility and ambition to have. Oftentimes however, players and people alike grow when offered greater challenges than previously encountered and this is no different.
Gordon is capable to be sure; the nineteen-year-old is fluid with the ball, capable of scoring and passing. His creativity with the ball is a thing to be hold, and he will be able to do positive things with an ever surging Dominic Calvert-Lewin as his number nine. On the other side however, Alex Iwobi will have his own sizable shoes to fill as well, but he has shown this season that he is not afraid to fill them with his own volition and expression.
After having struggled in his maiden campaign in the north of England, a stable environment under the second legendary manager of his career is only accentuating what Arsène Wenger grew and nurtured in north London. His play this season, still in the early stages mind you, has already dwarfed the impact of his first year and with his professional innovations, he has truly offered another remarkably talented option to spell players on either wing and in the middle of the pitch. He will be crucial during this match, as well as the upcoming games with de Andrade’s suspension.
The team will likely have the steadying hand of Allan to help orchestrate the theatrics without two his most talented teammates; between he and Abdoulaye Doucoure however, the club will look to continue to move as if by clockwork mechanisms. They will have to against an unlucky Saints team that is not without dangermen themselves, despite the poor record so far. Will Everton fail to consider the possibility of losing until the loss is already upon them?
Against Liverpool, all things considered, Everton played quite well and kept their focus no matter the adversity in front of them. Indeed, as Liverpool has continued to go on about the calls they perceived went uncalled, the Toffees have been back to business as best as they can and have Southampton to focus upon, not Georgino Wijnaldum or Jurgen Klopp. Being without Richarlison, as well as perhaps James too, it will be all hands on deck in a match that is crucial for purposes of consistency, confidence and continuity.
The club must not let up on the proverbial gas, and must focus on taking advantage of the softer points of their schedule in preparation for the stretch’s in later November through all of December. With enough confidence, comfortability and squad wide experience, even those thicker parts of the season should trouble Don Carlo’s side as they would’ve in past campaigns. The club is tougher and more resilient, more confident and more consistent; for this, both the staff and players deserve amble credit, while Marcel Brands should get a pat on the back as well.
But to prove these markings as true and real, the Toffees will have to show it with less than their full force. It wont be easy, as few matches in England ever are, but it is important for the ambition of the team in games at Saint James Park or against Manchester United back at Goodison Park the week afterwards. Victory over this stretch will show the mettle of the club and sustainability of the project across the marathon that is the footballing schedule. It will solidify the notion that Everton are not a flash in the pan, but a significant force to be reckoned with as in decades long passed.
Creating the culture and mentality necessary to make this sustainable over years, and not only months, requires doing the hard work week in and out. Teams that play up and down to their opponents are as fair as the breeze and cannot be trusted for just this reason; Everton however, have the ingredients to form a brilliant present and future; they will have to rely on their youth as much as their experience and guile, and players like Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Alex Iwobi and (maybe) Anthony Gordon will be responsible for continuing the progression this Sunday.