|Everton 1 v 0 Southampton|
Barclays Premier League
Monday, 1st March 2021 Kick-off 20:00
Southampton At Everton The Preview
Monday, 1st Mar 2021 13:24
Saints travel to one of their bogey ground's in Goodison Park to take on an Everton side who although a little up and down this season are still looking to try and secure their first top four finish for 16 years.
After Everton's first win at Anfield in almost a quarter of a century it led to a feeling of euphoria in the blue half of Merseyside that this would be the year they recapture some old glories.
But the truth is that in the 6 Premier League fixtures prior to the win against Liverpool they had been in a poor run of form, they had won only once, drawn two more and lost three of that six match run.
Without that victory they would have been sat in 10th spot although they do of course have games in hand, they like most sides, Manchester City aside have not been able to put together consistent winning runs in anything like the numbers needed to truly pull above the rest of the pack.
That means that Everton remain one of 9 teams who are either in the top 4 or within 6 points of it.
But they will be seeking to change that against Saints tonight and although a win won't move them anywhere up the table, it will bring them level with Liverpool with a game in hand and only 2 points off West Ham in 4th.
Why aren't Saints in that position, there are many theories for that, but the only real truth is we have gone on this awful run because of our horrific injury list, one which hasn't improved with the loss of perhaps the most consistent player this season Oriol Romeu for the rest of the season.
1 solitary point in our last 8 games is awful, but not surprising given our lack of fit bodies, indeed if we had just averaged a point a game in this run, then we would be on 37 points and although a way off 4th, still in with a shout of the top 6.
So we travel to a ground we haven't won in the League at since November 1997 , over 23 years when Kevin Davies scored a wonder goal.
So if Everton can win at Anfield, definitely their bogey ground of the last quarter of a century, then we can do the same at ours.
We should have done so last summer, but came short when a defensive lapse of concentration allowed the Toffee's back into the game on the stroke of half time, but again left disappointed.
Could this be our year to win at Goodison in the league and break that hoodoo, God knows we could do with it, but the odds aren't good, but they aren't totally against us yet.
For instance the starting XI tonight is likely to include 8 of the starting line up 8 months ago, possibly 9 if Jack Stephens is recalled, the other two missing players being Kyle Walker Peters and Oriol Romeu.
The difference between this year and last year is that we are down to the bare bones !
Or is it ? a look at the bench saw Hojbjerg and Shane Long as the only experienced outfield players on the bench alongside the barely used Kevin Danso with the rest kids like Will Smallbone, Will Ferry Jake Vokins, even Michael Obafemi and finally a player who few Saints fans had heard of until recently Alex Jamkewitz.
So the squad for the visit to Goodison tonight isn't going to be much weaker than the one back last summer, indeed some might say that it is stronger defensively in that Jannik Vestergaard and Mohammed Salisu have emerged as quality players in the squad.
So we can go to Everton with the confidence that our starting XI can do as well as it did last year, but the problem is that the Everton squad on paper at least is stronger than the summer and that with our injury crisis we will lack of options off the bench as well as in the key positions vacated by KW and Oriol Romeu through injury.
But in injury has played a big part in our recent run of form, then another major contributing factor has been bad luck, the defeat at Leeds was harsh in that when oriol Romeu went off with 20 minutes to go we lost our best player on the night, it might not have affected the result, but we were still in with a chance and the loss of our holding midfielder saw us collapse in the final 10 minutes or so.
So Ralph Hasenhuttl has to pick his team and pick it well, if he goes with a back four I would perhaps suggest an option of Jack Stephens as a holding midfielder in place of Romeu, Stephens has been suggested for this role before and it is worth a try.
Another option in the centre would be Stuart Armstrong or perhaps controversially for some Saints fans Alex jankewitz.
If Ralph goes for the villain of Old Trafford then that would give him the option to use Stuart Armstrong to cover the right midfield spot and provide support for presumably Jan Bednarek at right back.
I would also consider using a back three with Armstrong and Bertrand as wing backs.
But truth is that we will only have 12 fit experienced players tonight, assuming that Minamino doesn't recover from his injury to be able to play a part.
But some of the youngsters are showing promise, Nathan Tella had a good game at Leeds and will feature at some point tonight, I'm still unconvinced about Dan N'Lundulu but he puts in a shift and the likes of Chauke, Watts and Ramsey can do a job.
Truthfully I'm not expecting too much in the way of points tonight, but what i want to see is fight, spirit and battle, if we can hold out against Chelsea then we can do the same against Everton.
But the season won't be defined by this result, what will matter is when we play the likes of Sheffield United, Fulham, Palace & West Brom, they are the games that we need to be back to our best and by then hopefully the wounded will be ready to return.
Two months ago the future looked bright, the reason we have dropped is merely injuries and bad luck, the squad was good enough to hit top earlier in the season, Ok it is not as big as we would like, but every side has suffered in that respect as well.
We could win with a bit of luck tonight, but when we have key players back we will start to win again and banish looking over our shoulders and be able to look forward again.
Form is temporary, this is a bad bad run, no one can deny that, but there are mitigating circumstances and when they have gone, the winning streak will return.
Photo: Action Images
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Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
Tonight, Colchester United face Southend United in what may not necessarily be the most important game of our respective histories (though it’s certainly very close), but is almost certainly the most important Essex derby ever. However this season pans out, by the end of it there’ll either be only one team in Essex, or worst case scenario, none at all. If the U’s win, then Southend will be 9pts behind with just three games to go, and a minimum of a -12 goal difference to overturn if they want to overtake us. Certainly mathematically possible, but that would rely on a remarkable turnaround in their form, form that they’ve shown precious little sign of achieving so far this season. The stalking horse is Grimsby, with their game in hand, who have rather belatedly shown an improvement in form, so their match against automatic promotion chasing Morecambe tonight is equally important, particularly if we want to avoid the unthinkable, with both Essex clubs dropping out of the league.
Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.
Letters from Wiltshire #43 by wessex_exile
Well, that has been a lively week for Colchester United in the press, and not least for Robbie Cowling, with not one, or two, but kind of three club announcements in rapid succession to try and put the record straight. First, we had Tribunalgate, which certainly looked very poor according to the initial press reports, but which on closer inspection when some of the ‘fact gaps’ were filled in wasn’t anywhere near the story that some would have us believe. Then of course we had the ‘leak’ that the U’s were about to go into administration, despite all the reassurances we’d been given in previous statements from Robbie. Not so said Robbie again, and particularly angry at what he believed to be the source of the story. Hence statement #3, repeating his assurances, but this time after passing through the lawyer filter to remove his thoughts on the source. To paraphrase Robbie’s conclusion to that statement, let’s hope we can all have a day off from this sort of media shenanigans and enjoy our game at Oldham tonight!
Letters from Wiltshire #42 by wessex_exile
Well, these sure are strange times at Colchester United, particularly for a club (nor a Chairman) not usually associated with the ‘managerial revolving door’ approach. With results not matching expectations or even minimum requirements, and a brief spell after being appointed Interim Head Coach, Wayne Brown has been released to return to the Jammers, for whenever their pandemic-interrupted football restarts. In comes not one, or two, but three new ‘appointments’. Hayden Mullins steps up as Head Coach to the end of the season, Joe Dunne apparently comes back to the U’s in a sort of unofficial coaching/ team-spirit sort of role, and exceptionally experienced lower-league former Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale arrives to provide Hayden with advice and support – crikey!
Letters from Wiltshire #41 by wessex_exile
This afternoon the U’s take on Bradford City in a bid to gather sufficient points to stay clear of the bottom two. It’ll be a tough gig though, even if (as I suspect) Bradford City have left it a bit too late to challenge the play-off spots. They were on a decent run of form, that is until defeats at Newport, Carlisle, Scunthorpe and a goalless draw at home to Oldham put paid to any lingering promotion hopes. For us, it’s simple, to stay out of the bottom two, for all intents and purposes we only need to gain half (or more) of the points that Grimsby or Southend do. Sounds easy, just wish I felt more confident we will…
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