Today, in-form Southampton are set to host Everton in their Premier League return fixture.
A lot has changed since the two sides met in their opening fixture of the 2021-22 Premier League campaign.
Everton, then managed by Rafa Benitez of Liverpool fame, ran out 3-1 winners at Goodison Park. Since then, the Toffees’ form dipped - so much so, Benitez after just 22 games in charge as the blue side of Merseyside flirted with a relegation battle.
Meanwhile, Southampton got over their poor start to put together a good run of form that sees them lie 10th in the league standings.
Frank Lampard is now the man at the helm at Everton, so there is a lot to talk about.
To see how Everton fans are thinking ahead of their visit to Southampton, we spoke to Trent Nelson of Everton SB Nation blog Royal Blue Mersey.
In return, you can read my thoughts on their blog here.
SMM: Hello Trent! It’s been a while. If you can remember, how was your assessment of that season opener in August?
I was both surprised because I know how Ralph Hasenhuttl trains and coaches a squad, as well as happy because it appeared at that time that Everton was going to regain the form that it had enjoyed at points during the previous tenure of Carlo Ancelotti.
While I knew that Southampton would not play to that standard all year long, I did not expect for Everton to regress as quickly and horrifyingly as they would under Rafa.
Ralph has you guys back on track - and scoring goals once more - Rafa is out, and now it is up to Frank Lampard and company to rebound for the ugly months that this Toffee team endured earlier this campaign.
SMM: On the subject of Rafa Benitez, what went wrong and how do you assess your season so far?
Ah well. Rafa was too rigid and inflexible in his shapes and lineups. He was sucking the fun out this team of young and experienced players and once things began going down hill thanks to injuries, poor luck and poor form, he was genuinely unable to reach the players or fix the problems that blighted this outfit.
Selling Lucas Digne to Aston Villa soured supporters as well of course, and by the time Rafa couldn’t beat Norwich City, everyone knew that the end was near for him.
But, with that all said, as well as the departure of Marcel Brands accounted for, this team had a really useful winter transfer window (for the first time in quite some time) and has supplemented the squad that served both Carlo and Rafa with really talented, relatively young players.
Dele Alli, Donny van de Beek (albeit only on loan for now), Nathan Patterson and Vitaliy Mykolenko are all really talented and useful players, and, given more time under Frank Lampard and his coaching staff, can really impact this team going forward.
While this team still sits on the lower half of the Premier League table, there is much more hope around writers and supporters alike now than there was just two months ago.
SMM: How are you feeling about Frank Lampard and what is the general Everton fan sentiment about his appointment?
While supporters were livid and enraged at times before and during the Rafa Benitez era, Frank Lampard has seemingly gotten much more positive feedback and support than his predecessor.
Perhaps it is because he never coached or played for Liverpool, or maybe Toffees recognize how terrible it must be to coach for Chelsea with all of the expectations that follow that club and it’s owner; in any event, he has gotten the support that a coach deserves from the fan base of a club, and that is good.
Lampard wants Everton to “enjoy the ball” as he said during his first practice with the club, and in the first matches under his watch - regardless of the result - that notion seems to be melding with the team more and more.
SMM: Everton can’t be relegated, surely? What are your expectations for the rest of the season?
No, I also do not believe it will happen; too many talented pieces and pride for that to happen in my opinion.
I think Frank Lampard will get better from this team than the last boss did for the rest of the season. I cannot say whether he will have the team playing as well as Carlo had us at points - despite that we have a very similar roster - but the club will win the matches it is expected to at the very least, and that will bring the Toffees up towards the top half of the table.
I say this team finishes around 12th place and takes that energy into the summer and next season with greater ambition and preparation than ever.
We’d like to thank Trent and Royal Blue Mersey for their time.