Everton vs. Swansea: 6 Things We Learned
Everton failed to convert considerable dominance into three points, as a gritty defensive effort from Swansea secured a 0-0 draw for Michael Laudrup's side.
Michel Vorm's goal was well protected by the impressive central defensive duo of Ashley Williams and Jose Manuel Flores, who continually repelled Everton pressure.
Leon Osman and Phil Jagielka were perhaps guilty of missing the most clear-cut chances for the hosts, although Michu went closest of all when his effort was deflected onto the crossbar by Tim Howard.
Here's a look at six Everton-related talking points to emerge from this fixture.
Left Side Nullified
Going into this match, Swansea recognised Everton's primary threat stems from the left, in Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines.
Both have been in exceptional form all season, linking up to devastating effect, but this was possibly their least effective outing as a tandem.
Laudrup clearly did his homework and managed to disrupt their fluency by deploying two right-backs in their path.
Dwight Tiendalli played as an orthodox full-back, picking up Pienaar, while Angel Rangel roamed around just ahead and generally man-marked Baines the moment he crossed the halfway line.
This constant attention worked well for the visitors. As much as Everton spread the play, they rarely found space when the ball returned to a congested left side.
Baines (seven) and Pienaar (four) still created most of the Toffees' 16 chances, but three were from set-plays and several opportunities were merely half-chances and easily defended.
The pair certainly never carved open the visitors, which is a credit to Laudrup's approach.
A Clean Sheet
A positive from this result is the fact Everton's defence finally managed a clean sheet for the first time since their last meeting with Swansea, all the way back in September.
The Toffees had almost gone half a season (16 games) without one, dropping several points via sloppy, lethargic defending. Therefore the ease with which Swansea were suppressed will hugely encourage David Moyes.
Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin limited the visitors to just four chances and five shots, and the pair looked comfortable throughout the contest.
Unfortunately, just as the defence found its rhythm for the first time in 16 games, at the other end of the field the Toffees failed to score first for the first time in 18 Premier League games.
Aerial Supremacy Wasted
A major feature of this game was Everton's superiority in the air and significant advantage at set-pieces—something that should have decided the contest.
The Toffees sent in as many crosses as they could (34) and beat their opponents in 41 of 58 aerial duels, yet the fact that none of these led to a goal, or even a decent save, will be hugely frustrating for Moyes.
Sylvain Distin, Leon Osman and Phil Jagielka were all guilty of missing headers from close range, while Nikica Jelavic also had an effort cleared off the line.
Winning so many headers in such close proximity of the Swansea goal while failing to test Vorm showed a criminal lack of composure from the Toffees.
Lack of Options from the Bench
An issue that may begin to haunt Everton in their quest for the Champions League is a continual lack of experience on offer from the bench.
The seven options in this game had under 75 appearances and just six goals between them in Everton colours.
Steven Naismith and Apostolos Vellios were the two to emerge during this game, as they have for much of the season, but neither made a telling impact.
While their best 11 is on par with their Champions League rivals, man-for-man the Toffees are miles behind in terms of depth.
Arsenal and Tottenham have several options that can bring a different dynamic or inject impetus from the bench, something Moyes is rarely able to introduce.
Anichebe out of Position
In recent weeks, Victor Anichebe has been playing some of the best football of his Everton career.
He's been one of his side's better players and rightly kept his place in the lineup, despite the recent return of the previously suspended Marouane Fellaini.
However, with the Belgian once again lining up behind Nikica Jelavic, Anichebe was ushered out wide in this game, a position where he's been far less effective.
It has to be said his energy and commitment were impressive throughout, but he did little to influence the game and often left the excellent Seamus Coleman isolated.
By the time he was moved central late on, he had used up most of his energy reserves tracking his man and offered little.
Given Anichebe's current form there must be a case for starting Fellaini in a deeper role and keeping the Nigerian just off Jelavic. If he stays out right, he will have far less of an impact.
One to Throw Away
As frustrating as it is to drop points at home, Everton's overall performance was still impressive and would have been enough to secure victory most other days.
The passing could have been faster and some decisions slightly better, but the Toffees still made numerous chances—16 in all, a total they have only surpassed four times all season.
They also made their second highest amount of final-third passes (210) and hit 18 shots to Swansea's four. Apart from Leighton Baines, every single player managed a shot at goal.
It would be far more of a concern were Everton unable to mount an attack and found themselves outplayed by the visitors, but they were dominant throughout and unlucky not to win.
If Moyes' side can replicate that level of domination next week at Southampton, they will almost certainly take home the points.