It was a well-deserved victory for the home team, because they fended off the attack of the Blues better than any other team this season so far. Carlo Ancelotti’s team had just six shots, which was by far the fewest in the first six league games. Apart from the nine shots in Selhurst Park, Everton had at least eleven in the other four games.
Everton suffered its first defeat of 2020/21 when it lost 2-0 to Southampton at St. Mary’s Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side had a miserable day in front of goal, unable to break through the Saints defence at St. Mary’s.
It was clearly a bad day on the offensive front, although there were some relevant factors in fair play that did not help.
According to FBRef.com, the Blues’ chances on Sunday were worth a total of only 0.4 expected goals, while Everton had averaged 2.0 in the five opening games and had not scored less than 1.3 in a single game.
If you consider the quality of the chances, the picture is even uglier. Expected Goals is a model that assigns a value to all shots based on the historical probability that similar chances have been realized in the past.
And it’s not only the players that are missing, but also the way they connect. Everton’s fourth most frequent pass combination in the victory in Tottenham on the opening weekend was from Coleman on Rodriguez, with 17 passes. In the 4-2 win over West Bromwich Albion, they scored eight, in Crystal Palace nine, and in the 4-2 win over Brighton, 11 passes – the fifth most frequent for Everton that day.
First, Ancelotti was unable to field two of his five most creative players of the season so far, and another was unable to finish the game.
If you rank the regulars of the Blues starters by shooting every 90 minutes of play in 2020/21, James Rodriguez is comfortably in the lead. But next up is Richarlison, who is currently suspended, followed by Lucas Digne, who was sent off the field after 72 minutes in Southampton. One full-back follows the other, followed by the injured Seamus Coleman in the standings.
This is no insult to a young central defender who played from his position to help the team, but it shows that a key component of Everton’s usual build-up game was missing.
Although the Blues had similar ball possession in St. Mary’s as they did against Spurs, Brighton and in the Merseyside Derby, right back Ben Godfrey made only five passes to Rodriguez and only one in the last period.
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Everton equalized against West Brom 21 minutes after Grady Diangana took the lead, and in the derby they were only 25 minutes behind in total despite being trailing twice in the game.
The Blues were also faced with something they had never faced before this season as they were trailing for much of the match and also scored two goals for the first time.
It is always more difficult to score good chances when you are behind, because the opposing team is content with a Safety First Approach and hopes to score on the counterattack. If you are two goals behind, the task is of course even more difficult.
But from then on Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team managed to keep the Blues at a distance. Everton only had two shots left in the rest of the game – a header from Yerry Mina from a set point and a shot from Rodriguez blocked by Jannik Vestergaard.
And that was abundantly clear on Sunday. The two teams had each fired four shots before James Ward-Prowse opened the scoring with the Saints’ fifth shot. Per understatement, the hosts were only 0.02 expected goals better than Everton in the first 26 minutes of play. Up to this point, the score had been even.
Southampton are also good defensively. Only Brighton and Liverpool have a higher print success rate this season (via FBRef), and only Brighton and Liverpool have been more successful than the Saints against Everton this season.
They also managed to cancel the Blues crossing, which is a big part of their arsenal. Everton played six flank assists this season – most of them in the Premier League – but only completed two of the 21 crosses they tried in St. Mary’s. This was in part due to the home team blocking three of them, which in total only surpassed West Brom against the Blues in the 2020/21 season.