Southampton ended Everton’s unbeaten start to the Premier League season on Sunday. Fine goals by James Ward-Prowse and Che Adams in the opening 35 minutes of the match were enough to overcome a dull Carlo Ancelotti side. Southampton lost 9-0 to Leicester City a year ago. This was an almost complete performance from Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side and an evidence of Southampton’s impressive transformation since then. The Southampton talisman, Danny Ings, was involved in both goals as he provided both assists in the space of 8 minutes. The Toffees struggled to even test Southampton’s keeper Alex McCarthy and finished the game with 10 men as Lucas Digne was shown a straight red card for a nasty challenge on Kyle Walker-peters. This was a second successive game in which Everton ended the match with 10 men. Southampton was the dominant side throughout the match as they played with intensity and purpose.
This tactical analysis will examine the tactics used by Hassenhutl that helped Southampton beat Everton at home. The analysis will also highlight the key factors that led to the victory of the Saints, which ended Everton’s unbeaten start to this campaign.
Hassenhutl opted for his usual 4-4-2 formation for this fixture. McCarthy started in goal, making his 100th appearance in the Premier League. The back four remained unchanged as Walker-Peters started as a right full-back, Jan Bednarek and Jannik Vestergaard started as the central defenders and the former Chelsea full-back Ryan Bertrand started on the left. Oriol Romeu partnered Ward-Prowse in the central midfield. The only change made to the starting line-up was made on the right. Stuart Armstrong returned in place of the ineligible on-loan Everton winger Theo Walcott. Ings partnered Adams up front.
Ancelotti went for his preferred 4-3-3 formation and made three changes to his side. Jordan Pickford kept his place in the starting line-up. In absence of the influential Seamus Coleman, Ben Godfrey made his first league start for the club as a makeshift right-back. Gylfi Sigurdsson replaced of Andre Gomes in the midfield and captained the team. Former Arsenal winger Alex Iwobi started on the left flank in place of the suspended Richarlison.
The Saints – without the ball
Without possession of the ball, the Saints defended in a compact 4-4-2 structure. They defended patiently as the defenders would hold their position to slow down Everton and give their attackers and midfielders the chance to track back. They frequently made any tactical foul to break up opposition attacks and stop breakaways.
Like always, the Saints pressed in a 4-2-2-2 structure in which Adams and Ings pressed Yerry Mina and Michael Keane, respectively. As you can see here, Mina has the ball and Adams presses him. While Ings moves closer to Allan rather than staying close to Keane. It is because Mina’s body shape shows that he will pass to his full-back. So, in this case Redmond is ready to press Godfrey and meanwhile Ward-Prowse would follow Doucoure.
The above image shows an instance of when Everton could bypass Southampton’s first line of defence because Sigurdsson dropped in between the lines to help in the build-up play. As Allan receives the ball, Ward-Prowse would start the press on Allan. Meanwhile, Redmond would track back to cover the passing lane to Doucoure. This will force Allan to play it to Godfrey, who’s passing lane was opened because of Redmond moving towards Doucoure. Thus, Everton had to start their build-up once again.
If the ball would go to one fullback like in the above image, Digne receives the ball. Walker-Peters presses him from behind while Ward-Prowse stays close to Bernard and covers for the right fullback. Meanwhile, Armstrong would use his shadow to cover the passing lane to Allan in the centre. Thus, Digne had only two options, to go long or to pass it back.
Southampton enjoyed their time on the left flank, taking on Godfrey and Rodriguez as the latter rarely comes back to help in defence and the former is making his first league start that too at right-back. Hassenhuttl knows about the quality Rodriguez possesses with the ball. Rodriguez can open up any defence and create chances. The Southampton manager asked his players to mark him tightly, especially in the central areas and not allow him time and space with the ball. They always tried to force him towards the touchline. A bunch of Southampton players would counter-press on Rodriguez to put pressure and not let him get comfortable with the ball.
Romeu and Ward-Prowse
Southampton lined up in a standard 4-4-2 formation in which Romeu and Ward-Prowse operated as a double-pivot in the space between the four defenders behind and four attackers in front of them. They helped their defenders in moving the ball in an intelligent way to initiate attacks. Both of them got plenty of touches on the ball. They played 151 passes in total and out of which 19 were amongst each other. They sprayed the ball from one side to another to keep possession and dominate in the midfield.
During build-up, the Saints changed their shape to a 3-3-2-2 in which Romeu would drop in between Bednarek and Vestergaard as a central defender to outnumber the Everton’s front five, and Ward- Prowse would remain in the centre as a single pivot. This shape allowed the Saints to expand the field and stretch the narrow defensive structure of Everton.
Romeu and Ward-Prowse constantly rotated their positions to keep the opponents guessing. As you can see in the above image, the fullbacks Bertrand and Walker-Peters have come infield. Now, Ward-Prowse, after receiving the ball from Romeu, had plenty of options. Their build-up shape allowed them to dominate the central areas against Everton’s midfielders.
They offered huge defensive stability when the fullbacks left their position by covering for them. Both covered for each other well and helped others as well in maintaining solid positioning. Romeu masked Ward-Prowse’s defensive abilities, who is a more defensive minded player. Thus, Ward-Prowse dictated the play and had the license to roam in the final-third.
There was an instance when Everton had beat the Saints’ first line of defence which is shown in the above image. Romeu and Ward-Prowse notice Fabian Delph receiving the ball and turning into acres of space. But both of them pressed Delph rather than one maintaining position and the other one pressing and won the ball from Delph. This could have resulted in a horrible situation defensively. There would have been an enormous gap left in between the lines if the press from both was bypassed as they would have been instantly wiped out.
Supposedly, if Delph was not pressed and allowed to turn into space, the double pivot could have been bypassed as Everton had overloaded the central midfield. Delph could have passed the ball to either Bernard or Allan.
It was the 84th minute, and the Saints were dominating possession and finding space all over the pitch as Everton was a man down. As you can see here, Ward-Prowse makes a run in behind. He almost got on the end of a chipped through ball from Romeu. It looked like James Rodriguez didn’t even bother to run, so he allowed Ward-Prowse to go through. The Saints could have had a third one, but their captain couldn’t quite catch up with the lovely loft over the Everton defence.
The Toffees had two of their very influential players, Coleman and Richarlison, missing. Ancelotti simply replaced them rather than overhauling the shape of his team. We will now have a look at how Southampton carved Everton open.
58% of Southampton’s attack came from the left-hand side. Bertrand and Nathan Redmond were quite impressive and effective down the left channel. Southampton created multiple chances through that side as they were pinning Godfrey, who was deputizing at right-back for Everton.
As you can see in the above picture, it is an instance where Godfrey was up against Redmond and Adams. It was a 1 v 2 situation as the Everton attackers and midfielders were caught out in attack.
Godfrey never looked comfortable there as he hardly received any protection from Doucoure and Rodriguez. Throughout the match, he struggled to contain the attacks from his flank as he hardly received any support from Doucoure or Rodriguez. Similarly, in the image below, Doucoure and Rodriguez didn’t follow Redmond and let him go. So, it left Bertrand with acres of space in front of him to play Redmond through, and later Redmond could have combined with Ings like in the above situation.
The situation shown below in the image, arised when the Saints made a breakthrough on the counter as Ings dropped deep to receive the ball from Vestergaard. This meant that Bertrand was unmarked on the left channel and Godfrey had to deal with both. Bertrand gets the ball till the opposition box and cuts it back for Redmond and takes a shot but doesn’t connect properly and the ball just goes wide of the far post.
Doucoure could have done better here by intercepting the pass, but he jogged back and allowed Redmond to take a shot.
As you can see here, Digne is making an overlap from behind Iwobi. Instead of passing the ball to Digne in the open space, he takes on the opposing player and takes a shot at goal.
Normally if there was Richarlison, he would have played it to Digne rather than shooting through the compact defensive structure and failing.
Everton really struggled to make an impact from their left-hand side where the likes of Digne, Iwobi and Sigurdsson were playing. After conceding the first goal, Iwobi and Sigurdsson started playing more centrally.
As you can see here, Iwobi is exactly where Sigurdsson needs to be. Instead of overloading the central areas, he should be on the touchline in the left channel to provide width and stretch the compact structure of Southampton. You can also see Sigurdsson lurking in between the lines in the centre. Due to his movement in the centre, Rodriguez was reduced to fewer touches in the centre as he had to move wide to provide width and receive the ball where his threat was easily nullified by Southampton.
In the 71st minute, Digne loses the ball to Walker-Peters and starts chasing him. Digne lunges in from behind and administers a stamp to the achilles of Walker-Peters. The Everton left fullback is sent off by showing a straight red card by the referee. Everton already looked very dull from the moment they fell behind in the game, and this sending off made it even worse as they were reduced to 10 men.
Danny Ings – “The Complete Forward”
Ings has always been known for his goal-scoring and finishing prowess in the Premier League since the last year. He had a fantastic game as he made 2 key passes and assisted both Adams and Ward-Prowse in the first half to secure a comfortable lead. The English International striker played the role of a complete modern forward as he was present all over the pitch, helping out in defence as well. We will now have a look at how Hassenhutl could use Ings’ creative side in this match.
As you can see here, Ings has dropped in between the opposition midfield and defence, Vestergaard plays a threaded pass to Ings’ feet by bisecting the opponents’ first two lines of defence. Like in the above situation, Ings often dropped deeper to help in the build-up play. Thus, he was present in those pockets of space, like in the above image, to create more effective attacks for the Saints.
This time Ward-Prowse makes a forward run from midfield, from a Walker-Peters throw in he finds Ings in a pocket of space. Ings weighted his return pass from a one-two perfectly to Ward-Prowse. Michael Keane who was standing in front of Ings could do nothing about the pass. The Southampton captain took a deft first touch to put himself in prime position to smash the ball beyond Pickford into the far bottom corner.
The above picture is of Ings’ second assist of the game. The move started off with Adams finding Ings unmarked on the left flank. Ings drives forward with the ball bustling away from the poor Godfrey. He then chips in a low cross that falls nicely for Adams at the far post. Adams had the time to take a touch and then cracks a low one past Pickford with the help of a slight deflection from Sigurdsson.
Ings tracked back from time to time to help his team. Like in the above picture, Ings tracks back and stops Allan from progressing the play. As Ings was a part of Southampton’s first line of defence, it was his responsibility along with Adams to stop the supply to Allan. Ings was solid defensively too as he made 4 interceptions and 1 clearance.
Everton might have made an impressive start to the season, but they were very much second best against the Saints. It was a lethargic team performance from the Toffees and they failed to force McCarthy into even one serious save. Calvert-Lewin managed just 2 touches in the opposition box as he was not provided enough service. Southampton was relentless and strode forward with a very high tempo. Everton sorely missed the suspended Richarlison, as they have failed to win a single game without him since he has joined. The Toffees have never won a match when they have trailed by two or more goals at half-time. It’s very clear that Ancelotti has a lot of work to do. The Saints lost their first two games in this campaign but have made a strong comeback. They are now unbeaten in their past four matches in which they have kept three clean sheets.