Behind Enemy Lines: Southampton (A)

It was an exciting first Merseyside Derby of the season, to say the least. Now, after escaping Goodison Park with a point against the Champions, Carlo Ancelotti’s Toffees make the long drive to the south coast to take on Southampton.

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side are also coming into the fixture on the back of a hard-fought draw; having come from behind in a 3-3 affair at Stamford Bridge. Everton’s recent struggles in this fixture were a large storyline before this matchup just over a year ago at St Mary’s, but Richarlison’s winner gave the blues a much needed 3 points and broke a streak of very poor performances against the Saints.

It will be very interesting to see if Everton can grab back to back wins on the road against Southampton for the first time since 1992, the season before the founding of the Premier League. Coming into Sunday’s match, Everton still sit top with 13 points, while Southampton’s rebound after suffering back to back losses at the start of the season has them up to 12th on 7 points. 

This week on Behind Enemy Lines, I had the pleasure of speaking to one of The Athletic’s Saints reporters, Mr. Dan Sheldon, and got to hear his thoughts about Sunday’s clash, the transfer window, and the 2020/21 season so far.

Q: Southampton have endured an up and down start to the 2020/21 Premier League campaign but managed to come from behind to secure a point away at Stamford Bridge. What was your reaction to that result and how can Ralph Hasenhuttl build upon it?

A: When Chelsea went 2-0 up in the first half, it looked as though it was going to be a long afternoon for Southampton but whatever Ralph Hasenhuttl said at half time clearly worked. His side were dominant after the break and had enough chances to win the game. However, a 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge when you’ve been behind twice in the match isn’t a bad result. The defending left a lot to be desired, so I’d be surprised if that wasn’t something Hasenhuttl worked on ahead of the Everton match.

Q: One of the big stories of last season was the incredible goal-scoring form of Danny Ings. Just how important is he to this Saints team and what would it look like if he succumbed to injury at some point this season?

A: Danny Ings is crucial to this Southampton team. Put simply, he is a cut above his team-mates. The hope is that he can have another injury-free season, so I wouldn’t want to tempt fate on that. But, yes, if he were to miss a run of matches then it would have an adverse impact on the team’s performances. You would be relying on Che Adams, Shane Long, and Michael Obafemi to step up and contribute what Ings does. From the evidence we’ve seen, the trio being able to do that is unlikely.

Q: Everton and Southampton were recently connected through the deadline day loan deal for Theo Walcott. What are your thoughts on that deal from both team’s perspectives and what does Theo Walcott bring to this Southampton team that they didn’t already possess? Also, what is your overall opinion of Southampton’s transfer window?

A: Theo Walcott fills a void created by Sofiane Boufal’s departure but, more importantly, adds experience to a relatively young team. I think both clubs should view the deal as a win-win. Everton have managed to offload a portion of his wages, while Southampton get someone who has been there and done it in the Premier League over a number of years. 

As for the rest of the transfer window, with incomings in mind, it’s too early to say whether their business has been prudent. Kyle Walker-Peters has obviously come in and done a good job but he spent six months on loan at St Mary’s before making the move permanent. Mohammed Salisu and Ibrahima Diallo are both young, although are said to have bags of ability and potential.

Q: What are your thoughts on the rest of Everton’s transfer business this summer and where do you see the Toffees finishing as a result?

A: It’s about time Everton got their recruitment right. They have wasted so much money in recent windows but this time their investments have been spot on. James Rodriguez is an absolute steal. I think adding Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure to the midfield are also excellent additions. Although it’s hard not to be impressed by how they’ve started, I can’t see them maintaining this form. Carlo Ancelotti is a fantastic manager, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Toffees finish in the top six.

Q: Who will win the match at St Mary’s on Sunday and why?

A: Based on recent form, I’m going to sit on the fence and say it will end in a score draw. I’d also back Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ings to continue their respective streaks in front of goal.

So there we have it! My thanks again to Dan Sheldon for taking the time to answer my questions; you can check out his work over on The Athletic and on Twitter @dansheldonsport. I personally think Everton will be able to get all three points on the road, despite Richarlison’s suspension and the likely absence of club skipper Seamus Coleman. The exploits of James Rodriguez, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and likely right back fill-in Ben Godfrey should be enough for, in my eyes, a 3-1 victory against Southampton.

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