Sam Tighe previews Southampton’s Premier League meeting with Everton at St Mary's on Saturday, shining a light on where the Toffees can be exploited. It's the latest edition of Tactical Watch, in association with Sportsbet.io.
The break perhaps came at a bad time for Everton, who had finally won their first league game of the season against West Ham at the seventh time of asking, and actually stand unbeaten in five. Suddenly that feels like good momentum—the sort managers are often loath to break up.
Frank Lampard then watched Nathan Patterson get stretchered off in Scotland’s win over Ukraine on Tuesday, meaning his first-choice right-back is lost to him for several weeks at least.
In better news, Jordan Pickford has been declared fit so he could return between the sticks, while Dominic Calvert-Lewin may even make the squad and come in line for his first minutes of the season.
Lampard often speaks of his preference for a high-possession, high-pressing game – perhaps modelled on the Chelsea teams he played in – but bar a fleeting early dose of it, we’re yet to see that installed at Goodison Park.
That’s largely because the squad Lampard inherited at the beginning of this year wasn’t built for it; meanwhile, the summer’s transfer work appears to have doubled down on a compromised approach.
They rank 17th in the league in three telling categories: possession per game (42%), PPDA (passes per defensive action, 18.7) and pass accuracy (76.4%). Simply put, that means they’re a side that plays relatively direct from the back and doesn’t press too high.
The direct balls from the back are often aimed at the wingers, Anthony Gordon and Demarai Gray, who have benefited from Pickford’s arrow-like distribution and can use their ball-carrying skills to push Everton forward.
Also, while they don’t necessarily press high up that much, they do make it a fight in the middle third – something Lampard prides himself on, and something summer arrivals Amadou Onana and Idrissa Gueye seriously enhance.
For the second game in a row, Saints are facing a team who have no choice but to turn to a backup right-back. A generally sub-par performance against Aston Villa saw a missed opportunity to stress Ashley Young; this time Séamus Coleman is likely to step in without having played any Premier League minutes this season.
Any chances to send balls in over the top must be taken too, as Everton’s central defensive pairing are significantly more comfortable defending their box than high up. Ché Adams working on the shoulder could be successful.
That said, if Everton sit off rather than push up – allowing Saints to have the ball at the back in the same way Villa did – better solutions working the ball forward must be found. The midfield will be tough sledding, but Kyle Walker-Peters’s dribbling or Joe Aribo’s hold-up-and-link play could become hugely important.
Pickford; Coleman, Coady, Tarkowski, Mykolenko; Onana, Gueye, Iwobi; Gray, Maupay, Gordon.
- Patterson is a fresh injury Lampard must find a way around. Pickford looks set to be fit, though, and his excellent distribution will boost the side
- Gueye-Iwobi-Onana made its debut as a trio against West Ham and won, so expect to see the same setup here
- Iwobi’s transformation into a box-to-box No. 8 has been a fascinating development and helped Everton’s balance
- Gordon and Gray’s ability to receive longer passes, turn and carry is key to the Toffees’ buildup