Swansea City v Everton. The Everton Forum preview

My apologies for the lack of a TEF match preview last week and in advance for next week’s missing preview.

Unfortunately, a few things worked against me writing the derby preview in the week leading up and with it being an early kick off, the preview would’ve only been out for an hour or two before the match, had I written it on Saturday morning.

Next week, before Monday night’s Newcastle match, there won’t be one either unless somebody else fancies doing it (let us know if you do) as I’ll be away on my stag do (wish me luck!).

Anyway, truth be told, as much as I do enjoy writing about the blues, it’s hard to find loads of enthusiasm to write these given the season we’ve had. It really feels like we’re going through the motions now, both on and off the pitch so please, forgive me if this season’s remaining previews are going the same way!

As far as the derby went, I thought it was a bit of a strange one. The build-up was lacking and with both managers fielding weak teams (ours generally always being weak) it had the feeling of a bit of a non-event.

Then the match started and I instantly wanted us to win every inch of my being. I make no bones about it, I hate that club and with our record of no wins since 2010, I just wanted the monkey off of our back, even if they would’ve had a ready-made excuse.

Yet, in typical Everton style, we couldn’t get the win and even when late opportunities presented themselves, we couldn’t make them count so had to settle for a goalless draw. Which to me at least felt like a defeat.

The 0-0 bought to a close our campaign against the top 6 sides, with a pathetic total of 0 wins and 30 goals conceded in our 12 games against those teams.

Obviously, I’m not saying Everton have a God-given right to be beating the league’s better teams, but when we’ve spent more than half of them in recent times yet manage to perform worse against them, surely questions have to be asked?

Anyway, there’s 5 games left and at least 3 of them will be against relegation battlers such as our next opponents, Swansea City.

The Swans

Swansea arrive at the Liberty Stadium for this one (a 3pm kick off) with no win since 3rd March 2018, having suffered a drop-off in form since Carlos Carvalhal arrived at the club late last year.

I must admit, I greeted that move with raised eyebrows, having seen the Portuguese lead Sheffield Wednesday to a mediocre start to the season, but the man of many (let’s face it, annoying) analogies has actually exceeded expectations so deserves a fair bit of credit.

Having arrived in South Wales on 28th December 2017, with the Swans rock-bottom on 13 points from 19 games, Carvalhal has led them up to 15th place and 32 points during his 13 games at the helm (achieving 1.46 points per match).

What’s more, he’s also managed to defeat both Arsenal and Liverpool, as well as leading Swansea to the FA Cup quarter finals.

Compare that to what our famed and renowned ‘survival specialist’, Sam Allardyce has achieved with a far superior squad (plus £50m to spend in January) and you’ll see he’s done considerably worse, having managed 0 wins against the top 6, 3rd round FA Cup elimination and just 1.37 points per game.

In terms of the Swansea playing style under Carvalhal, the Swans tend to go with; 3 centre halves, 2 wing backs, 3 central midfield players then 1 attacking player off a lone striker.

The formation doesn’t do a lot to excite and relies on them battling to keep games tight in the hope that they can be the ones who score 1 or 2 to prevail in primarilly low-scoring contests. But, if it works and keeps them up, who will complain?

A boost for Swansea ahead of this match is certain to be the return of Jordan Ayew from suspension. While I’m not his biggest fan, the Ghanian had been in decent form under Carvalhal and the link-up play with his recently-returned brother Andre definitely gives the Swans more cutting edge in the final third.

If the Ayew brothers provide something of the unpredictable, the rest of the team are all fairly safe, as you’d expect from a defensive manager. The midfield 3 of Sam Clucas, Andy King and Tom Carroll will all put a good shift in and are all certainly capable of good games, but you wouldn’t say any of them gush with quality.

The wing backs, on which this system generally relies, will be athletic duo of Kyle Naughton and Martin Olsson. Both of them are solid enough and capable of getting up to supplement attacks, but they lack the ability to cross that I personally like to see from a wing back.

The back 3 is typically Federico Fernandez, Mike Van der hoorn and Alfie Mawson. Three strong defenders who, despite having mistakes in them in the past, are all now well-drilled, safety-first and capable of attacking set-plays to good affect.

In goal, a man who is (in my opinion), probably the league’s most under-rated goalkeeper, Lukasz Fabianski.

Away from those, we’re likely to see Tammy Abraham, Ki Sung-Yeung, Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer available from the substitutes bench.

It definitely isn’t a fantastic team and goals do seem thin on the ground looking at that predicted line-up, but it’s a turgid one that Carvalhal has got to function resolutely as they scramble for points.

Looking at the Swan’s remaining games, they do still have Manchester City and Chelsea to play, but already 4 points clear of the drop with Everton, Bournemouth, Southampton and Stoke making up their other fixtures, you’d think they’d be at least quietly confident of survival.

If they can win this game against a lacklustre Everton team with very little to play for, you’d think survival looks a formality – and with the blues reputation for dishing out favours, would you bet against them? I don’t think I would.

The Blues

As I said at the top, I was so disappointed Everton couldn’t seal the win against Liverpool last weekend.

Yet, despite that, I’m keen not to fall into the trap of reflecting solely upon the last 10 minutes of the game. The reality beyond that was, yet again, for the vast majority of a big match, Everton were very poor.

We had a shot at a Liverpool team who, let’s be frank, couldn’t have cared much less about a Merseyside derby. Bragging rights might mean loads to us, but they’re beyond old to them, they have thumped us in years gone by and knocked us out of the cup in years gone by so one little defeat in a nothing derby would’ve been shrugged off easily.

The 6 or 7 first team players they had playing had one job and one job only – to not get injured for their big game last Tuesday and they did it with relative ease as we barely even threw a tackle in (0 yellow cards in 180 minutes against Manchester City and Liverpool at Goodison Park just isn’t the Everton I know and love).

After the game, the overwhelming feeling I had was, if we can’t beat them when they aren’t even bothered, when will we beat them? I honestly don’t know.

But that’s one for another day. Let’s get back to Swansea…

There have been lots of ‘give the squad players a chance until the end of the season’ shouts this week and I for one, can’t disagree with them at all.

Everton have nothing but prize money to play for, Burnley’s revival (kindly kickstarted by Everton) has put paid to ‘dreams’ of 7th place and relegation isn’t happening, so why not add a tiny bit of intrigue for us fans by letting us lay eyes on seldom-seen footballers wearing the royal blue?

Ramiro Funes Mori – Okay, he isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but why not see if he can play with Michael Keane?

I think it’s virtually pointless playing Jageilka from here on as we need to be looking to next season now and as much as I like and respect Jags, he just can’t be starting games for us in 2018/19. Funes Mori, might turn out to be rubbish, but on the flip-side, he might show us he deserves a place in next season’s squad.

Davy Klaassen – Aside from a ten minute cameo against Brighton, we’ve barely seen the fella in 2018. Why not see if he’s worth another chance next season?

Like it or not, the club forked out £24m on him. Not playing him is doing nothing but decreasing his value and losing the club money. The comments made by the manager that he’s too much of a risk (but supposedly Beni Baningime isn’t) are just laughable and make me think there may be a personal issue between Allardyce and Davy (that or just plain stubbornness).

Nikola Vlasic. What’s happened to that promising Croatian kid we saw in 3 or 4 games towards the end of Koeman’s reign?

Is he really going to frustrate us any less than Yannick Bolasie or Tom Davies do? Surely that’s just not possible. Let’s see what he’s got.

I want to see all 3 of them given a chance, even if they are rubbish. Let them prove their points. We’ve seen the same 13 or 14 players for months now and how many have actually played like they deserve such loyalty from a manager, maybe 3 or 4? It’s not on for the likes of the three I’ve mentioned.

Further, I want to see a different system. One that involves Everton basically saying ‘right, we’ve got 5 poor teams left to play, let’s aim to put at least 3 past all of them and remind the fans that we aren’t as bad as we’ve performed this season.’

But no, none of that will happen.

We’ve got Sam Allardyce, so it’ll be the same old tried and (miraculously) trusted.

I expect we’re more likely to see Ashley Williams return to the side than we are Ramiro Funes Mori and Morgan Schneiderlin to keep his place ahead of Davy Klaassen –  who, let’s be real, will be lucky to make the matchday squad, as will Nikola Vlasic.

Sam Allardyce doesn’t care whether these players are getting tetchy about their futures at Everton. He doesn’t care whether we lose a talent like Vlasic or Lookman, he couldn’t care less about the future of this club. It’s his bank balance first and his reputation second. Everton’s long term isn’t even on his radar.

So on Saturday, I believe we’ll see Jordan Pickford in goal with a back four of Seamus Coleman, Phil Jagielka, Michael Keane and Leighton Baines.

After all, why change it after they kept out a ‘free-scoring’ Liverpool team? Nevermind if it was a strike force including Dominic Solanke (0 PL goals) and Danny Ings (injured for about 2 years). 

In midfield, Gana will start if fit, as will Wayne Rooney so the only selection issue is a straight choice between Tom Davies or the slightly-improved Morgan Schneiderlin.

Up top, the trio of Cenk Tosun, Theo Walcott and Yannick Bolasie virtually select themselves, despite the patchy form of both wingers.

So, I’ll go with this as a predicted line up…

Despite my wish for change, I still look at the team and expect a win at Swansea, but just can’t see it, unfortunately.

We’ve been here in the last 2 seasons at a similar time of year and failed to win on both occasions. Last season a totally inept showing resulted in Fernando Llorente heading in the only goal, whereas the season before an Aaron Lennon opener was cancelled out by a Jonjo Shelvey penalty (if memory serves).

This time around, with spirits as low as they have been in years and continued speculation overt the manager’s future (why is he still here, anyway?) I struggle to see our gang of shithouses really putting in a proper performance.

One positive to end on is that Cenk Tosun has scored in 3 goals in our last 2 away matches so hopefully our ‘Beast from the East’ can add to it on Saturday and give us something to look forward to next season.

The referee for this one is Lee Mason.

We haven’t had him yet his season, but looking back at his refereeing career I learned that Everton are actually the team he’s referred the most – 25 times he’s had us and fairly surprisingly, we don’t do too bad with him, as we average 1.89 points per match when he has the whistle.

So on that oh-so-gripping bombshell, I’ll end this by saying – remember, win/lose or draw, at least we’ll be 1 game closer to the end of the season by 5pm on Saturday!

I’ll drink to that, if nothing else. COYB!!!

Hey, why not join the Everton Forum? Just click this link to sign up and discuss whatever you want with us. Don’t suffer in silence!

You can find me on TEF as bluerinse or on twitter at @gigHaWatt – feel free to chat the blues with me, always happy to.

And of course, thanks for reading!

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