Such is the gravity of this game that some Evertonians are plotting a coach welcome, where the bus carrying the players will be greeted in a raucous cloud of blue smoke to help spur on the players; a tactic employed at the end of last season in a desperate bid to ensure safety.
Having lost to Wolverhampton Wanderers at home last month, who at the time were bottom of the league, Frank Lampard‘s team will want to exorcise those demons today as they welcome a Saints outfit who now prop up the division. However, with regard to immediate form, there is hardly a worse time to play Nathan Jones‘ side.
That’s because, despite their league defeat to Nottingham Forest, the past week has seen Southampton progress in both domestic cups, knocking Manchester City out of the Carabao Cup in convincing fashion on Wednesday.
With Lampard suggesting that the Nigerian might be fit for today’s clash, it is expected that the 26-year-old will not be risked, with Abdoulaye Doucoure – his replacement from their recent trip to Old Trafford – set to be preferred.
In just 39 minutes against United, the Mali international recorded one key pass alongside a 95% pass accuracy, whilst also biting into four tackles (via Sofascore).
This is a far cry from his other cameos from the season, as he boasts a miserable 6.56 average Sofascore rating. Admittedly, since his £25m move in 2020, he is yet to have the desired impact in the engine room which may have been expected of him for that fee.
His performance in Manchester showed flashes back to his debut season at Goodison Park, when he recorded a 6.90 rating under Carlo Ancelotti whilst scoring twice and setting up three goals (via Sofascore).
Over his career, the moments of quality which became synonymous with him have always been supplemented by a workmanlike attitude, which Jamie Redknapp once lauded in his column for the Daily Mail, stating: “Abdoulaye Doucoure is the most under-rated midfielder in the Premier League.
“He is the sort of player I would hate to play against. He is like a marathon runner the way he covers so much ground.”
Given how creatively reliant Everton have been on Iwobi, who boasts a club-best seven goal contributions in all competitions this season, Lampard will need Doucoure to step up and fix this key issue in what would mark just his fourth start of the campaign if selected today.
Shaking off the rustiness, the 30-year-old must recapture the levels of that performance against United last week to ensure that his side secure an all-important victory. To that effect, the manager must trust in the former Watford man to rediscover the creative form of 2020/21 and fill the void left by Iwobi’s absence.