Everton v Swansea City. The Everton Forum preview

We finally did it! After 11 months and 16 failed attempts, Everton won an away Premier League game on Wednesday!

The match at Newcastle wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t especially enjoyable and again, there’s definitely some concerns about our general play, but it’s 3 good points and a hoodoo put to bed.

If we include the West Ham game, that’s now 4 league games since Sam Allardyce took charge and it’s 3 wins and 1 draw – 10 points from 12.

I don’t quite go along with Allardyce calling it a ‘miraculous recovery’ because I look at the teams we’ve played in his tenure and expect the kind of results we’ve managed, but it’s certainly nice to achieve the expected results over a run of games for the first time in a while.

So talking of expected results, next up it’s bottom of the league Swansea City at Goodison Park on Monday night (live on Sky Sports, an 8pm kick off) and I think we all expect a win.

The Swans

Swansea City arrive at Goodison Park having been swept aside by the runaway league leaders Manchester City in their last match on Wednesday.

I’m sure any Swans fan would admit that their season won’t be defined by matches against the likes of Manchester City, so they’d be better off trying to forget that one and looking to their previous result for inspiration – a precious and much-needed victory against fellow strugglers, West Bromwich Albion.

That result, 1-0 against West Brom ended a sequence of 7 league games without a win, dating back to mid-October, with the Welsh club only achieving one draw in that period.

What I’ve noticed about Swansea this season is; whilst they’re generally poor, they are actually quite resolute in defence, conceding only 22 goals so far (the fewest in the bottom half), however, on the flip-side of the coin, they just don’t score enough, with only 9 goals in 17 games – meaning they have the worst attack in the league right now.

Looking specifically at the Swans away record, Swansea have played 8, scored 4 and conceded 8. So, whilst they clearly aren’t scoring enough with only a goal every game, that defence really won’t be easy to crack on Monday.

In fact, to put Swansea’s away defensive record into perspective, for goals conceded, it’s the same as 2 much more celebrated defences, Spurs and Manchester United had managed after 8 away games.

Moving onto Swansea’s system, Paul Clement usually deploys a back 4, 3 in midfield and then 3 attacking forward players.

In goal, we’ll see the Swansea mainstay Lukasz Fabianski. In front of him, will be the Swansea defensive duo of Van der Hoorn and Maswon (a danger from set-plays) then on the defensive flanks the athletic duo of Martin Olsson and Kyle Naughton.

Moving into midfield, I reckon the starting three is likely to feature Tom Carroll, Ki Sun-Yueng and Leroy Fer (a goal threat from midfield – remember when we nearly signed him? farce that was), however, we could see any of the so far unconvincing summer signings; Sam Clucas, Renato Sanches or Roque Mesa from the off.

Up front, Wilfried Bony has found a bit of form with a couple of goals in his last 3 matches so I think he’ll spearhead the attack with 2 from Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer, Jordan Ayew and Tammy Abraham playing either side of him.

I’d imagine the Swansea game plan will be to play to their strengths, so they’ll probably look to keep it tight and frustrate Everton in the hope of scoring late on or, grabbing one or two on the counter attack.

Swansea will look to break the game up, soak up any pressure and play off Bony, who despite his failed spells at Man City and Stoke, remains a man who can occupy defenders, hold up the football and score, given the chance.

I think the Swansea weakness, aside from their obvious lack of ability to score goals, is in a lack of midfield steel and quality. Clement has clearly pin-pointed the midfield area as somewhere he needs to improve, however his summer midfield signings are yet to prove themselves capable of running a game and consistently carving out chances, so struggle to hold down a starting berth.

Overall, they’re not a great side and surely the Swansea board (who don’t often shy away from sacking managers) can’t be far away from pulling the trigger on Paul Clement.

As an aside, I personally think the Swansea board have sold Paul Clement down the river by selling Gylfi Sigudsson and Fernando Llorente for significant sums without signing replacements of similar quality. It might sound obvious but if you’re a struggling team and you sell your best players without replacing them the Premier League, you will get relegated. Rather than taking the profit on those two key men, the Swansea board probably should’ve considered the long-term financial benefits of Premier League football.

Clement is clearly a good coach, as his improvement in the Swansea defence shows (they conceded goals for fun last season before he arrived) but I look at his team and almost see a side that’s over-coached. They are very rigid and basically devoid of attacking ideas or flair – reflected in how few shots at goal they have (they’ve managed 4 shots on target twice this season and that’s their maximum).

Really, they should be a nice opposition for an Everton team in a nice run of form, but as we know only too well, with Everton anything is possible.

The Blues

Moving onto Everton then, it’s nice to think about an Everton game with a bit of confidence.

We’ve just seen a weekend when results have gone our way with Watford, Burnley and Leicester all failing to win, so a win here would really move us away from trouble and into the battle for respectability.

I’ve seen a few tweets saying it, but for those who don’t pay attention to the league table, a win tomorrow puts us 6 points behind Tottenham.

Obviously, 6 points is still a fair margin, but given the catastrophic season we’ve had, how highly people rate the current Spurs side and how easily they swept us aside earlier this season – you wouldn’t put us so close to them basically half way through the league campaign.

Anyway, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, I’m under no illusions that this game will probably be quite frustrating and presents a completely different test to Sam Allardyce – a test we’ve yet to see him pass since he’s managed us.

I’m convinced that Swansea will be the first team we see ‘park the bus’ against us in the Allardyce reign. As I mentioned, we’ll see a well-drilled defensive unit rock up at Goodison and they will be a tough nut for us to crack.

So, it’s with this defensive opposition (and the busy Christmas period) in mind that I’d like to see Allardyce employ a change of personnel on Monday, however given the good form we’ve been in, I really wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t change anything.

I fully expect the defence to stay the same for this. I’ve seen some people suggest this is a good game to reintegrate Michael Keane, which could be a decent shout, however I don’t think either of our current two centre halves deserved to be dropped after real upturns in their individual form, reflected by just 1 goal conceded in 4 matches together.

Moving into midfield however, this is a game in which I think changes definitely should be made. As tight as we’ve been in recent weeks, we’ve struggled to dominate games and considering I think we’ll be probably given the task of attacking for the majority of this game, I think we’ll need a more adventurous line-up from the outset.

So, if it were up to me, I’d go with 3 in the middle of the park who would be Gana, Rooney and Sigurdsson as well as 2 attacking wingers; Vlasic and Lookman. Alternatively, another option is for Alladryce to sacrifice a midfield player for another striker, allowing Oumar Niasse to start alongside Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

If I were to guess the team however, I’d suggest Allardyce will stick with the starting 11 that served him well in Newcastle, meaning it’d be as below –

I do worry that side will struggle to break Swansea down, but given the results they’ve managed recently, it’s hard to be that annoyed at the same eleven being selected.

I’d like to see Sandro Ramirez and Davy Klaassen available from the bench for this. Both were signed to provide goals, so seeing as we could easily need to find one on Monday, I’d like to see them there on the bench – certainly ahead of a 2nd centre half.

One great bit of news is Yannick Bolasie, sidelined for a year with a horror injury sustained out of absolutely nothing, is likely to be back in the match day squad for this and could get onto the pitch.

I certainly wouldn’t expect too much too soon from the winger and I do think we need to prepare ourselves for the possibility Yannick won’t be the same player he was before the injury (Everton, that), but it’s great to see a good guy back around the squad.

Given the severity of his injury, it’s important that he isn’t rushed back, so I’d have him come on a few times over Christmas and, if no setbacks, pencilled in to start the FA Cup match at Anfield – where he’s done damage in the past for Crystal Palace.

As well as Bolasie, James McCarthy is also back in contention for the coming games after he also featured for the under 23’s on Friday. I know he’s got a lot of critics, but I think he’s been missed so if we could get him back, he’d certainly be a welcome addition to the squad – even if just to give Schneiderlin a kick up the backside.

My main worry for this match is around complacency, obviously we all expect victory at home against the bottom of the league but this won’t be handed to us. I recall Swansea came to us in a similar plight last season and we were nearly beaten, so we shouldn’t take them lightly.

If we have our heads screwed on and take the game seriously, we should win. If we don’t, a team desperate for points could spring a surprise to knock us back down to earth with a bump (which, let’s face it, wouldn’t be unlike Everton).

We’ll need to be patient and when our chances come along we’ll have to score. If we can do that and score first, you’d like to think Swansea heads might drop and we can add to the lead.

Anyway, I think we’ll win this, it won’t be a hammering, but we’ll win, possibly 2-0 and I think Gylfi Sigurdsson will score against his old club (I couldn’t care less if he celebrates).

The referee for this is Jon Moss. It seems there are no good ones but this guy has to be up there with the worst, he barely keeps up with play and makes some extremely questionable decisions.

That’ll do for this preview, let’s keep this run going and pick up the 3 points, COYB!!

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