It was a miserable return to the south coast for Ronald Koeman as his Everton side were beaten 1-0 by Southampton.
The Dutchman’s former side took the lead inside the first minute when Charlie Austin nodded in from a yard out.
Everton had chances to level but their response fell way short of that expected by the travelling Evertonians, and the Blues would ultimately rue the early lapse in concentration.
St Mary’s is a ground at which the Toffees have usually come unstuck in recent times, losing three of their last four visits, while they’re poor league form continues; just one win in their last eight games.
Life as an Evertonian is often spent repeating yourself. How many times this season have the Blues failed to get out of the starting blocks, and found themselves chasing the game?
Koeman’s side had the best part of 90 minute to make amends but even with time on their hands, Everton failed to exert any dominance. And when they did start asking questions and chances eventually came their way, Eveton’s players seemed surprised at the opportunities. The fact it took till the second half to have their first shot on target, says a lot about Everton’s potency right now.
Idrissa Gueye ballooned over from inside the area after a neat cut back from Seamus Coleman, while Ross Barkley’s header looked more likely to be heading out for a throw in rather than a corner when he made contact with Bolasie’s cross.
In the second half, Coleman was unfortunate not to cap off what was Everton’s best move of the day, which started with the Irishman just inside the Southampton half. But it’s another instance of not making the best of their chances.
Even when you’re not playing well, its vital to take your chances. You either won’t get them against better sides or you won’t get many, so when you do it’s vital to take them.
Why do Everton look tired?
At half time Thierry Henry said it looked like it was Everton who had been playing in the Czech Republic in midweek. Southampton were beaten one nil by Sparta Prague on Thursday, yet they buzzed with energy. Players worked in numbers to press Everton and win the ball back, while their movement on the ball ensured their was always an option.
Koeman must be comparing the two and wondering exactly what he’s traded his former team in for. Why do Everton look so tired? We hear that Komean likes his players to be fit and that his is a pressing game. But no one but Gana looks physically fit enough to do this. Is it a problem on the training ground? Are players ignoring instructions?
Last week it was attacking crosses that failed the Blues. This week those deficiencies translated to defending them.
Jagielka seemed distracted by Josh Sims’ presence in front of him, enough so to miss his cue and allow the debutant to set up Austin to score. But the goal was only the beginning.
In the second half, Romelu Lukaku thought it would be fine to not even attempt a clearance, while Bolasie was far from convincing in his efforts.
Shortly after, Jagielka again was nowhere near Austin who’s header forced a top drawer save from Stekelenburg. And Coleman too was caught underneath Cedric’s cross, which needed a Stekelenburg save from James Ward-Prowse before Jagielka hacked off the line.
Everton’s back four is awash with international caps, more than a hundred between them, yet their was a distinct lack of organisation. Jagielka, Ashley Williams and Coleamn have all captained their country, yet is anyone taking responsibility? Hopefully Koeman can knock that one on the head before it becomes a common feature of Everton’s game.
Why isn’t Baines on free-kicks?
Another question Evertonians have asked themselves too often over the last two years.
Baines could do worse than to carry his highlights reel round Finch Farm, maybe leaving a few copies on Koeman’s table at lunch, or on top of his car before he leaves training. Maybe he should Tweet this YouTube video and tag the boss in it. And while he’s tagging Twitter handles, throw @RomeluLukaku9 and @RBarkley20 in there as well.
Barkley still experiencing a crisis of confidence
Balls getting away from him; struggling to trap the ball; poor first touch allowing defenders to swarm; no creativity. Unfortunately these criticisms are becoming too regular a feature of Barkley’s game.
While things aren’t going well on the ball (Barkley managed just one successful take on against Saints before being hooked after 70 minutes) at the very least you can work your socks off, but in recent games the midfielder seems too happy to just drift through matches.
I hate to single him out -he’s not the only one struggling- but it’s only because we know what he’s capable of. Lukaku was also guilty of giving away the ball cheaply in a dangerous area, from which Southampton should have scored. So too Gareth Barry on more than one occasion. In fact this apparent lack of confidence appears to be running throughout the entire Everton team: anxious to start, slow to respond, ineffective in possession and sloppy with the ball.