I doubt Toffees fans have yet to fully come down from last weekend’s result (I know I haven’t), with spirits further boosted by news of the new stadium being granted planning permission by the council and Lucas Digne’s new long-term contract.
What a week.
The win revived hopes of a top four finish, hopes I thought were permanently extinguished about that woeful defeat to Fulham. But if they are to sustain that challenge into the final weeks of the season they need to work out how to win at home.
The Toffees’ form at Goodison since the turn of the year has been woeful and threatens to undermine the progress they have made on the road.
The unusual circumstances of this season, most notably the empty stadiums, has led to improved away results for almost all the teams in the league, but Everton’s struggles at home are particularly bad and threatening to become a serious problem. They have lost four out of their last five in the league at Goodison, including defeats against strugglers Newcastle and Fulham, with their last Premier League win coming against Arsenal shortly before Christmas.
Carlo Ancelotti showed all his experience with a tactical masterclass against Liverpool. He now needs to come up with a similar ingenious solution back on home turf.
Southampton were worthy winners when the two sides last met in October. The Toffees arrived at St Mary’s still unbeaten but were tactically outplayed by Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men.
Things would get even better for the Saints two weeks later when victory over Newcastle briefly put them top of the league. Hasenhuttl finally looked to have finally exorcised the ghosts of THAT defeat to you-know-who the previous year.
Sadly for the South Coast side, the turn of the year has coincided with a dramatic slump in form.
Since beating Liverpool at the start of January, Southampton have lost seven out of eight league matches, with their only wins coming in the FA Cup.
Their cause has not been helped by injuries to key players, with Oriol Romeu the latest name to join their lengthy injury list after picking up a season-ending ankle injury against Leeds in midweek.
A further dent to Southampton’s confidence will be Everton fine recent record in this fixture, with the Toffees winning 10 and drawing five of the last 15 meetings.
That said, I remember talking up Fulham’s dreadful record at Goodison a few weeks ago and we all know what happened there.
Southampton 2-0 Everton, October 25 2020
Everton were well beaten by Southampton in their last meeting in October, with first half goals from James Ward-Prowse and Che Adams enough to secure the win. The Toffees’ afternoon was made worse by Lucas Digne’s late red card with 19 minutes remaining.
Liverpool (A) Won 2-0
Man City (H) Lost 3-1
Fulham (H) Lost 2-0
Tottenham (H - FA Cup) Won 5-4 AET
Man Utd (A) Drew 3-3
Leeds (A) Lost 3-0
Chelsea (H) Drew 1-1
Wolves (H) Lost 2-1
Wolves (A - FA Cup) Won 2-0
Newcastle (A) Lost 3-2
Everton have no fresh injury concerns, meaning Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Allan are fit to start after their recent hamstring injuries.
Yerry Mina is still out for a few more weeks with a calf problem while Jean-Philippe Gbamin has yet to return to full training.
What they said
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti: “In my opinion, we don’t have to look at the table, we have to play game by game and see where we are at the end of the season.
“It is really important for us to play in Europe next season, it is a step forwards for the players and the club.
“We have to work hard because it will not be easy, a lot of teams are involved, but I think we can compete until the end.
“If we want to fight for a European position, we have to improve at Goodison.
“The players are really focused. They know... what they have to do to be in the position to play in Europe next season.”
Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl: “This was one of our best away games last season, after the lockdown [A 1-1 draw at Goodison in July].
“The first 35 minutes were the best we played last season, and this season the home game against them was also one of our better ones – very dominating.
“I don’t expect that we are again playing like this. They have stepped up and developed their game, but they were unbeaten when they were coming to us and they are again in a good run.
“We are not in the best shape – that is the difference. We are not with the best team on the pitch, but we still believe in what we are doing and we must find the right tactic and the right behaviour to get something there.”
A huge weight has been lifted following that result at Anfield, but it will mean little in the European shake up if Everton fail to follow it up.
Southampton arrive out of form, without several key players and without a league win at Goodison since 1997. If the Toffees don’t win here, then they don’t deserve to be competing in the upper echelons of the league.