Dreadful first half for Everton
After putting in an anemic performance against Tottenham on Monday, there was hope for Everton to turn things around against Southampton. But instead we were treated to much of the same listless and uninspired football. The Everton back four did their best to make Saints striker Danny Ings look like Lionel Messi as he tore his way through the defense time after time. When the first half whistle blew Everton should have considered themselves lucky to be tied with a side that was clearly their superior throughout the match.
Almost immediately things were going wrong for Everton. Southampton’s high press was keeping the ball pinned in the defensive end and the Toffees seemed to have no answer for how to break their way out. Then 40 minutes of shambolic defending followed that realistically could have ended in a 3-0 Southampton lead. Luckily for them Stuart Armstrong’s goal was called offside, James Ward-Prowse missed a penalty and finally Jordan Pickford was saved by the goal posts. Ings deservedly put his side up by one shortly after the missed penalty, but it seemed as if Everton were uninterested in making the match competitive.
The lone bright spot in the first half was Richarlison’s goal that seemed to come out of nowhere. Playing out of the back was doing nothing for Everton’s chances, so more direct football was called for. Lucas Digne played a touch perfect pass into Richarlison who notched Everton’s lone goal of the match.
Second half changes improve things somewhat
In previous matches we’ve seen the issues that lack of depth, especially in central midfield, have caused. Andre Gomes looked gassed on Monday and was unsurprisingly gassed in this match. This did nothing to help Everton’s first half woes, but fortunately he was subbed off shortly before half time for Gylfi Sigurdsson. Sigurdsson would have been no one’s choice to come in a help save the match, but with the choices being him and Beni Baningime, the pickings were slim.
To Carlo Ancelotti’s credit, the changes he made did get Everton back in the match somewhat. Djibril Sidibe replaced Alex Iwobi on the right side and Everton switched to a 3-5-2. At no point did Everton gain the upper hand for more than a few moments, but they were at least more competitive in their new shape. Sidibe was more assertive on the right side and Sigurdsson looked like the most energetic man alive compared to the play of Gomes lately. Alas, these small positives were short lived as Southampton re-asserted themselves and largely took control for the remainder of the match.
Everton were lucky to come out of this match with a point. Against a team that could finish their chances better, this could have easily been an embarrassing blowout. Instead the match finished as a slightly less embarrassing draw.
Nothing new to draw from this match
It’s easy to look at the last two matches and want to panic. In a vacuum, these two matches have been terrible, but when viewed as a whole this is a bump in the road. There is some important context to consider when looking at Everton’s recent performance.
Firstly, this restart has been weird for all parties involved. The players played most of a season, stopped for three months and then had a few weeks of training before jumping right back into the remaining matches. Unsurprisingly their results have been up and down which has been a pattern among many other teams.
Second, despite a good run after Ancelotti took over, this side is still full of issues. The depth is poor and many players don’t fit Ancelotti’s play style. This is of course a symptom of the coaching carousel we’ve seen in recent years and have laregly been unable to steady the ship. At this point, the best course of action is to try and get some positive performances in these last few games and move on to the off-season. Europe is off the table at this point, so the remaining fixtures should be used to figure out what players should stick around next season and evaluate the positions that need to be reinforced or replaced.