Monday, 17 August 2015

Toffees make most of Schneiderlin absence

Ross Barkley: Scored Everton's third at Southampton
Romelu Lukaku, Arouna Kone and Ross Barkley shone for Everton at St Mary's on Saturday as Southampton felt the absence of Morgan Schneiderlin.
After both of these sides were held to 2-2 draws on the opening day of the Premier League season last weekend, Southampton were most people's tips to record their first win on Saturday lunchtime against an Everton side that have been among the least active sides in the transfer window.
However, despite creating the first real chances of the game for Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane, Saints were disappointing from an attacking perspective on the south coast and, more worryingly for Ronald Koeman, opened up far too easily by the visitors as they coasted to a 3-0 win.
Southampton have overcome the absence of several supposedly crucial players in recent years but have lost three since the end of last season - Nathaniel Clyne, Toby Alderweireld and Morgan Schneiderlin - that have clearly affected their defensive solidity in the early stages of the new campaign.
Cedric Soares, Steven Caulker, who missed this game with a sinus infection, and Oriol Romeu have been signed as replacements for the trio, but the former needs time to settle following his move from Sporting Lisbon, while Romeu failed to impress on his debut as a second-half substitute, picking up a booking within four minutes of his introduction and failing to win a single tackle.
While Manchester United have kept consecutive clean sheets following the signing of Schneiderlin, Saints have conceded five goals in two games without him. They also failed to keep a clean sheet in the final four games of last season the Frenchman missed with a knee injury.
None of this should detract from the performance of Everton, however, who produced the sort of quick, attacking football rarely seen from them last season.

Roberto Martinez went with Arouna Kone, Ross Barkley and Tom Cleverley as the three players behind Romelu Lukaku, with Kone rewarded for an impressive substitute appearance against Watford in which he scored one and set up the other.
From as early as the sixth minute, when Lukaku outpaced Soares to win a free-kick on the edge of the Saints' box, it was clear that Everton had the pace on the counter attack to hurt the hosts.
It certainly did not come as a surprise when such a situation led to the Toffees taking the lead, Barkley leading the visitors' break following a Southampton corner to free Kone to send over an inch-perfect cross for Lukaku to head back across goal into the far corner.
The same three players were involved in the second just before half-time, too, as Kone won a header before Lukaku exchanged passes with Barkley before bending calmly beyond the reach of Maarten Stekelenburg.
Pelle had opportunities to get Saints back into things in the second half, but Barkley got the goal his performance deserved six minutes from the end, bending a shot around Soares and past Stekelenburg after an excellent first touch to set himself.

Barkley has lacked an end product at times during his career but at St Mary's he retained possession well and had already come within inches of claiming a likely assist before setting up Lukaku when he played a brilliant disguised bending pass to almost set up Kone.
Along with Lukaku, who provided everything you would want from a lone centre-forward, and Kone, who has played himself into the team with back-to-back excellent performances, Barkley formed part of a frontline that looks in the mood to turn possession into goals this season.

Opta facts

Matt Targett had his first ever Premier League shot on target (in the 16th minute).
Romelu Lukaku is now the top-scoring Belgian in Premier League history (44), two ahead of Christian Benteke (42).
Lukaku scored more than once in a Premier League game for the first time since November 2013 (v Liverpool).
The Belgian frontman has scored four goals and assisted another in his last five league games against Southampton.
Arouna Kone has scored one and assisted three more in his last four Premier league appearances.
Indeed, Kone (3) has had a hand in more PL goals in his last two appearances for Everton than he did in his previous 17 (2).
Saints have now gone eight Premier League matches without a clean sheet, conceding more than once in seven of them.
Saints have won just one of their last eight Premier League games (W1 D2 L5).
Ross Barkley scored and assisted in the same Premier League game for the first time in his career.
After two games, the England prospect has already equalled his top-flight goal haul from last season (2).
The Toffees won at St Mary's in the league for the first time since their first ever trip there in April 2002 (D3 L3).
Mark Holmes
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