Everton FC: 5 Talking Points to Emerge from the Win over Swansea
Everton did their best to provide some festive cheer for their loyal followers with a professional 1-0 win over Swansea City. Leon Osman’s well-directed header separated the sides in a contest that the home side dominated for long periods.
Marouane Fellaini, Leon Osman and Royston Drenthe stood out for the Toffees, who took the lead in a game for only the second time at home this season. For Swansea, despite their neat, attractive style of football, they failed to concoct sufficient openings to warrant sharing the spoils.
David Moyes made two changes to the starting lineup that drew 1-1 against Norwich on Saturday. Drenthe and Seamus Coleman returned to the action in place of Magaye Gueye and an alarmingly out-of-form and goal-shy Tim Cahill.
Here are five talking points to emerge from the victory at Goodison Park tonight.
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For the minority of supporters sceptical at Fellaini’s recent contract upgrade, the Belgian midfielder put in a majestic display and was the Toffees' integral link throughout the night. He continually pestered his opponents, elegantly spread the ball about the pitch and launched several attacks with some imaginative passes.
His deceptively nimble footwork allows him that extra second to pick a pass, and Swansea struggled to get the better of him all night.
He won more tackles than anyone else on the pitch (five), won more ground duels (11) and was unbeaten in aerial clashes. He also passed 71 times, more than anyone else on the pitch and with the highest completion rate of 86 percent.
In short, he was pivotal to Everton's display, and it was undoubtedly his contribution that allowed several other departments in the Toffees' arsenal to fully function. If Fellaini can maintain this elite standard of performance, it will not be long before the very top sides monitor his progress a little more closely.
Thankfully for Everton, his bumper new contract means any potential deal will not come cheap for those potential suitors. David Moyes can afford to bide his time until the most overly inflated offer comes in.
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After illuminating one player’s imperious efforts, time now to contrast the praise and adoration by reflecting on another player's shortcomings.
Louis Saha gave an abject, uninspiring performance at Goodison Park. He continued his dismal spell in front of goal, seemed predictable to track and was rarely able to trouble any Swansea defenders.
Saha has enjoyed a run of few injuries as of late, something not experienced since the primitive stages of his career. Yet with just one goal in 12 Premier League games so far this season, he has hardly cashed in and prospered on this favourable bout of fitness.
Tonight he seemed unwilling to ever break into a sprint and was chastised several times by supporters for not entering the box as a wide player was poised to cross.
Playing in a 4-5-1/4-2-3-1 formation, Everton are reliant on their front man being willing to put a shift in; yet in recent weeks, Saha’s energy levels have been short of what is required. Tonight he only touched the ball 35 times, a team low, and managed to lose possession 12 times.
With such feeble offerings up front, David Moyes would have hoped that the likes of Saha could have stood up and been counted on during this testing period, but the Frenchman has too often cut a disconsolate figure on the field. With Saha admitting there is still tension between him and the manager after his feisty reaction to being dropped earlier on in the season, he has hardly made that decision look at all harsh.
With the January transfer window looming, if Everton do recruit the striker they so desperately crave, Saha’s current performances could well leave him on the fringes of the team sheet, not just the actual games.
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The Toffees’ current struggles in the attacking third of the field have masked over the increasingly resilient endeavours taking place at the other end of the pitch.
Despite tonight’s win being only the third clean sheet of the season, just four sides have currently conceded less goals in the Premier League than the 19 Everton have shipped.
With Marouane Fellaini generally accompanied by a similarly defensive partner in midfield—Jack Rodwell, Johnny Heitinga or, as tonight, Phil Neville—the Toffees generally present a formidable unit to attack centrally.
Sure, this may have had an impact on the goals at the other end of the pitch, but David Moyes has generally still managed to ensure that his team create the majority of chances in games this season. It has simply been his side's inability to convert these openings that has hampered the Toffees so often.
Both Swansea and Norwich were restricted to just one shot on target in recent games, and if away sides continue to be locked out as ably as that, the clean-sheets tally should quickly rack up.
Gradually, it seems the defensive foundations are solidifying at Everton, and the entire unit is showing the necessary chemistry and cohesion to excel.
Sign Up Drenthe
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A repetitive theme in this column, but with January just under two weeks away it is an increasingly relevant topic. As the transfer window opens, Everton must make appropriate moves to obtain Royston Drenthe's signature permanently.
Currently on loan from Real Madrid and out of contract at the end of the season, if he continues to entertain as much as he did tonight, David Moyes will soon be battling many other admirers for his services.
With such restricted finances to entice the Dutchman, the quicker Everton act, the better.
It has becoming increasingly troublesome to attribute new superlatives to the Dutchman’s showings, as once again he carried most of Everton’s attacking threat on his own tonight.
What sets him apart is the way he offers something alien to the rest of his teammates. His unerring desire to dribble directly at his markers and his cavalier approach at taking them on is such a refreshing stance, particularly in a league where similar motives can so often be suppressed by overly cautious tactics.
There were times tonight where Drenthe's skill attracted the attention of three or even four Swansea defenders, and it was no surprise that it was his final ball that eventually broke the deadlock.
Off and Away
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Having enjoyed two home encounters in four days, Everton are now set to travel away from Goodison Park for four of their next five Premier League fixtures. A daunting ordeal on the face of it, but only the trip to Tottenham stands out as a real gruelling test.
Journeys to Sunderland, West Brom, Spurs and Aston Villa, punctuated by a home test against Bolton, should provide the Toffees with a chance to build on this win and launch themselves further up the Premier League table in the New Year.
Nobody connected with Goodison Park will feel that seventh place is unattainable, and with a bit of luck, that should be good enough to secure European football next season. If Newcastle’s recent slump continues, David Moyes will be confident that his side can continue closing the gap as January progresses.
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