Southampton v Everton: Blues must put derby behind them

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09: Moussa Djenepo of Southampton battles for possession Yerry Mina of Everton during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Everton FC at St Mary's Stadium on November 09, 2019 in Southampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)
SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09: Moussa Djenepo of Southampton battles for possession Yerry Mina of Everton during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Everton FC at St Mary's Stadium on November 09, 2019 in Southampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images) /

After all the fallout from last weekend’s Merseyside derby, Everton travel to Southampton for what has now become a testing Premier League game.

A week ago this fixture looked a very winnable one and in their current form, Everton would have been quietly confident of a positive result, while obviously not taking the Saints for granted.

But after last weekend, things have become much more difficult and this trip down to the south coast is shaping into a real test of the team’s character.

The Toffees have lost two crucial attacking players with Richarlison suspended for three games for his reckless red card at the end of Saturday’s match and James Rodriguez also out with a delayed injury following a tackle from Virgil Van Dijk at the start of the derby.

He played on for the whole game despite the challenge and so it was a little surprising that he is now out of this weekend’s game, but it was obviously a delayed reaction to the knock he took.

Losing Richarlison was bad enough, now to have Rodriguez also out is a hammer blow to the Blues. I fear that the fallout from last Saturday’s game could damage this fantastic start to the Premier League campaign.

The Colombian has been outstanding this season and again on Saturday he was the Toffees best player in my view. He showed his immense quality and class, including the way he dealt with what was an obviously deliberate attempt to intimidate him by Van Dijk. I really hope he’s only out for a week or two.

We’ve looked at how Everton might try and deal with losing both these South American stars, although of course it’s impossible for them to completely do so.

The club also have to replace rejuvenated right-back and captain Seamus Coleman who looks like he is out for at least a few weeks as well. Presumably, after his fine performance coming on for the Irishman, Ben Godrey will continue in his place against Southampton.

As for who might replace the two South American stars, I suspect Alex Iwobi will come in for Richarlison on the left, although I would be tempted to give young Niels Nkounkou a chance.

The teenage Frenchman has been a real revelation with his pace, power and skill and he delivers an excellent ball from out wide, something Dominic Calvert-Lewin would relish.

While he has only played against lower league opposition so far, I think he has a really bright future in the first-team. Sunday’s game is probably too early though.

As for Rodriguez it’s difficult to for anyone to take over from him. Obviously no one can, but I guess Carlo Ancelotti will probably pick Gylfi Sigurdsson or perhaps Bernard in his place.

Sigurdsson is probably the best pure passer of the ball after the Colombian and offers the potential of replacing his set-piece delivery threat. He has also come on for him several times so Ancelotti might well see this as a natural, short-term replacement.

The Icelander won’t give you what Rodriguez gives, no one will, but and I never thought I’d say this, he has stepped up this season and played much better than last term when he was often dismal.

Can he rise to the occasion and fill in to some extent for the Colombian’s creativity and influence?That’s a big ask.

The other big question is should Jordan Pickford start? He has been under horrific pressure this week with death threats on social media, which is utterly disgusting but sadly so predictable especially when the so-called media deliberately stokes it up all week.

If Everton are to speak about the Van Dijk situation, it should be to make clear they will consider taking legal action against those who threaten the life of one of their players.

Although there are good football reasons to be concerned about Pickford, I think it would send the wrong message to drop him on Sunday, as long as he feels ready to play.

I hope this latest derby madness won’t further undermine his already fragile confidence, but I think it may well do. After all you can more or less trace his gradual decline in an Everton shirt to that derby game at Anfield two years ago when he inexplicably fluffed a last minute chance that Liverpool scored the winner from.

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As for Everton’s opponents, they will be confident going into this game.

The Saints got a good point against Chelsea last weekend and have started to stabilize after a shaky start. They have some good players and in Danny Ings a top-drawer finisher who always scores against the Blues. Plus who would bet against Theo Walcott scoring, if he plays.

In addition, they will look at the problems the Toffees have with injuries and suspensions and consider this a good opportunity to end the Blues unbeaten start.

I think their manager Ralf Hassenhutl is a very good coach and no disrespect to Southampton, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he does move onto another club in a year or so.

He makes the Saints difficult to play and they are efficiently opportunistic in attack too. So they will represent a proper test for an injury-hit Everton side this weekend.

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Given what has happened on and off the field this week, the Saints game will be a test of the strength and self-belief of this new-look Toffees team. I still believe the Blues can win and it would be the prefect response to all the controversy and bile produced by that derby match.