After the dismal Elland Road showing, the visit of Southampton gives Everton the chance to return to winning ways. A home win would represent Everton’s best start since 2004 / 2005 and Everton went on to qualify for the Champions League that season. Saturday’s visitors are beginning to adjust to Premier League life and Southampton will arrive with bags of confidence and plenty of belief.
With back-to-back wins over Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa, Nigel Adkins’ side are finding goals with ease. Their problems lie at the other end with Southampton yet to keep a clean sheet and fifteen goals against gives them the league’s worst defence. In contrast, David Moyes will look to move on from Tuesday as a weakened Everton side were easily beaten and Evertonians will hope for a return to the football shown at Swansea last week.
The psychological advantage lies with Everton. Unbeaten in five against Southampton, Everton are also unbeaten on Southampton’s last seven trips to Goodison Park. In the Premier League era, Southampton have struggled at Goodison Park with one win in thirteen visits and 23 goals against. The Saint’s overall record at Goodison makes for equally grim reading for the south coast side with just five wins in 42 visits.
With Everton turning Goodison into a fortress of late and knowing Southampton’s record on this ground, their visitor’s task looks increasingly ominous. Since 18th December 2011, Everton have conceded just seven-league goals at Goodison Park and only Bolton and Arsenal have left Goodison Park with three points in 2012.
Nikica Jelavic made his return as a substitute at Leeds and should return to the starting line up. Tony Hibbert looks set for a return after missing the last two matches with a knock. Despite returning to training, Darron Gibson remains short of fitness and will not feature.
Coinciding with their recent upturn in form, Southampton are relatively injury free. One player definitely out is Jack Cork after he picked up a knee injury in midweek, Southampton fear the midfielder could miss six weeks.
Investing in attacking players has led to Everton fans being treated to a more pleasing style. While a passing emphasis existed last season, it is much more apparent now. The signing of Kevin Mirallas looks to have filled the void on the right of midfield and Leon Osman’s use as a central midfielder is beneficial to the passing approach.
Passing accuracy is up five percent from 77% to 82% and Everton are attempting an extra 14 passes per match. These increases may seem trivial but they are having a positive impact on Everton’s football. With better passing and possession, Everton are creating chances at an increased rate with the minutes to shot and minutes to goal ratios coming at a faster rate this season.
The Threat of Rickie Lambert
For the Southampton forward, this is a special occasion. An avid Liverpool supporter, the local lad would like nothing more than to score the winner against Everton. Working his way up through the lower leagues, this is Lambert’s first stint in the Premier League and, so far, it is a successful one.
With four goals from just eleven shots, Lambert is one of the league’s most prolific strikers at present. In comparison to his teammates, Lambert is easily leading the way. His shooting accuracy is up at 64% while the team’s accuracy is down at 40%. The most vital statistic is chance conversion and Lambert’s 36% is streets ahead of the team’s 17%. The gap between the two statistics shows the team’s reliance on Lambert and Everton will look to disrupt the service up to him.
Both sides are in fine form and playing some free-flowing football. The presence of each team’s dominant attacking player could decide the outcome of the match. As teams struggle to contain Marouane Fellaini, how Southampton deal with him should prove interesting. Likewise, if Lambert can get on top of the Everton defence, he could fire the away side to victory.
The two teams are more suited to attacking with both defences prone to lapses in concentration and careless errors. Given the way the two sides like to play football, this could be a high scoring encounter. With Southampton yet to keep a clean sheet and Everton conceding all their goals in the second half, the first goal could prove decisive.
0 – Everton are yet to concede a 1st half goal with 5 coming in the 2nd half
4 – Everton have scored 4 headers this season – a league high
6 – Southampton have dropped 6 points from winning positions – a league high
22 – Morgan Schneiderlin has the league’s highest number of interceptions
102 – Everton shots this season – a league high