Southampton vs. Everton: 6 Things We Learned

Matt Cheetham@@Matt_CheethamCorrespondent IApril 26, 2014

Southampton vs. Everton: 6 Things We Learned

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    Everton suffered a crushing blow in their chase for Champions League football, slipping to a 2-0 defeat away at Southampton.

    The Toffees began in calamitous fashion, gifting their hosts a goal with barely a minute on the clock.

    Rickie Lambert's teasing cross seemed to flummox Antolin Alcaraz, who diverted the ball past a hapless Tim Howard.

    Half an hour later and the same scenario repeated itself, this time with Seamus Coleman nudging a Nathaniel Clyne cross into his own net.

    Two goals conceded and both without a Southampton player even shooting—the Toffees never recovered and slumped to just their seventh league defeat of the season.

    Here's a look at some Everton-related talking points to emerge from this loss.

Everton Resembling a Tired, Jaded Unit

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    Behind for 89 minutes of this match, it's hardly the boldest statement to describe Everton as second best throughout this entire contest.

    As unfortunate as own goals may be—and putting aside some questionable refereeing calls—the Toffees simply had far too many players performing well below their best.

    Defenders seemed uncertain, the Toffees' midfield appeared shattered and there was little cohesion in the attacking third of the field.

    The line-up on show gave the impression of a jaded group, emphasised by their dwindling production as the match progressed.

    Surprisingly, Everton saw most of the ball in the first half, recording 54 percent possession while firing in six of their nine shots at goal. Unfortunately, that was as good as it got.

    As the second period transpired and energy (and perhaps belief) seemed to fade, the Toffees had just 39 percent of the ball while recording three attempts on goal.  

    The closing stages were especially feeble. Everton managed a dismal 24 percent possession over the final 15 minutes as their threat completely fizzled out.

    There were no attempts on goal during the final 20 minutes and just eight (of 89) successful final third passes.

Gerard Deulofeu Especially Poor

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    While many players were below their best, Everton's most disappointing performer was Gerard Deulofeu.

    The Barcelona loanee was handed a key role in this line-up. Not asked to track his full-back, Deulofeu was deployed as the Toffees' primary outlet—available in space at any turnover, tasked with launching attacks.

    Southampton's early strike blunted his role's relevance, but this was one of the winger's most infuriating outings in an Everton shirt. 

    Playing on the left, he persistently conceded possession, beating his opposite man just once from four attempts.

    He lost the ball three times—the most among his team-mates—and found a man with just 14 of his 19 passes.

    In essence, he would end an attack before it began, greatly reducing the Toffees' fluency.

    The Catalan has shown he can win matches on his own this season, but this was very much a day to forget.

Growing Injury List Hurting the Toffees

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    Aside from Everton's dismal showing, it's hard to ignore Roberto Martinez's large list of injuries.

    With Kevin Mirallas and Sylvain Distin joining Phil Jagielka, Steven Pienaar, Bryan Oviedo, Lacina Traore, Arouna Kone and Darron Gibson on the sidelines, the Toffees are as depleted as they have been since January.

    This was emphasised by the bench, with just four Premier League starts (this season) between six of Everton's seven substitutes.

    Aiden McGeady and Leon Osman were the sole attacking options, with the Toffees missing any form of firepower from reserve.

    Both Leighton Baines and Steven Naismith collected knocks during this match, stretching Martinez's squad even further.

Growing Opportunities for Youth

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    At the same time, a depleted bench paves the way for Everton's future.

    Luke Garbutt emerged during the closing stages to make his Premier League debut, having only previously appeared for Everton in last season's Capital One Cup.

    The left-back enjoyed a promising loan spell at Colchester and is capitalising on Oviedo's injury by deputising for Baines.

    Elsewhere, there was much hype over the inclusion of 16-year-old Ryan Ledson on the bench.

    The central midfielder is one of the most exciting prospects at his age group, captain of England under-17s and already a regular member of Everton's under-21s.

    While he may be held back for a while, matchday exposure will drastically boost the youngster's development.

    Expect to see his feisty tackles and impressive range of passing introduced properly next season.

Southampton a Tough Match for Martinez's Style

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    Regardless of a poor performance, Southampton provide a tough challenge for Everton to overcome.

    Their high-pressing, possession-based style clashes with the Toffees, making it harder to enforce Martinez's system.

    While the Toffees won their first meeting with Southampton, they were perhaps fortunate, creating just eight chances and conceding 12 shots on goal. They also recorded their third-lowest share of possession all season (44 percent), struggling to gain control.

    Similarly, Everton have also won both matches with Swansea this season but have again found it tough, creating very few (five and nine) chances and receiving little of the ball.

    Both Southampton and Swansea average the most possession in the Premier League anddespite three wins from three before this gamethese have been some of the Toffees' least convincing showings.

    They have appeared disjointed, lacked creativity and struggled to play the way Martinez desires, relying on clinical finishing and individual brilliance to earn all three points.

    Without the same killer instinct in this game, the Toffees suffered, and must improve against similar possession-based styles. 

Europa League, Not Champions League

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    After seven successive wins, two defeats in three games—to Crystal Palace and Sunderland—have all but quashed hopes of the Toffees making the Champions League.

    Martinez's side are now relying on major favours from Arsenal, who need two wins from three games to guarantee qualification.

    It will almost certainly be the Europa League for Everton next season; however, missing out on fourth must not cloud what's become a hugely successful season.

    Few could have expected such instant progress under Martinez, and a return to Europe will see many more exciting nights next season.

    It will also provide a platform for Everton's younger stars while adding another chance to end the long wait for silverware.


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