After a solid if unspectacular start to the campaign was interrupted by the first international break of the season, a hugely encouraging 3-1 defeat of champions Chelsea at Goodison Park last weekend has the reinforced the hope that last seasons torrid Premier League showing was a mere blip and the Blues can once again challenge for a place in the upper echelons of the Premier League table this season. With Swansea City next up for Everton on the fixture list Roberto Martinez will be looking for more of the same against the club he once both sucsessfully captained and managed prior to taking the reigns at the old Lady. But can the Catalan mastermind another win on Everton’s travels or will it be a case of after the Lord Mayors parade at the Liberty Stadium this Saturday afternoon?
Not for the first time this season, some of Everton’s counter attacking football was outstanding on Saturday lunch time and regardless of what Jose Mourhino had to say after the game Everton thoroughly deserved their victory against Chelsea. In truth the Everton defense never looked in any trouble throughout the contest, barring a nervy five minute spell just before half time, but even then the West Londoners were restricted to mostly long range efforts on the Everton goal and Chelsea’s two shots on target tells its own story. It has been suggested that Roberto Martinez got lucky with the injury to Muhammed Besic early on forcing the Catalan in to both a tactical and personnel change that would turn out to have huge influence on the result and the performance when Steven Naismith was called upon to replace the Bosnian international. But never the less in a return to the bold decisions he was making in his first season at the club it was a positive substitution from Martinez who was often criticised last season for what was interpreted by many as negative tactics.
On Saturday Everton were superior in every department but particularly in defense with both Phil Jagielka and man of the moment John Stones, whose Cruyff turn in his own box was a joy to behold, outstanding. Neither Diego Costa nor latterly Radamel Falcao were able to get the better of the England duo with Stones in particular proving if proof were needed exactly why Chelsea were so prepared to shell out a British transfer record fee to acquire his services. Everton’s build up play from the back suddenly looks solid and assured in comparison to some of the nervy passing across the back line that was on show all too often last season. And in the ful back positions both Brendan Galloway and Seamus Coleman, before he was forced to leave the field of play with a worrying recurrence of the hamstring injury that forced him out of the Republic of Ireland’s European Championship Qualifier against Gibraltar, enjoyed fruitful afternoons.
Brendan Galloway carried on where he had left off prior to the injury that had forced him out of Everton’s last two fixtures and the teenagers early season displays are hugely encouraging particularly when considering he is actually playing out of his natural position at the present time. Galloway looks a real find by Roberto Martinez and the feeling is growing that a young talented group is beginning to emerge at Goodison Park and the hard work that has been put in during the past couple of years is about to be rewarded. If that is to be the case then it is vital the experienced players in the squad help the younger talent fulfil their undoubted potential. On Saturday three of those players did exactly that. As already touched upon Phil Jagielka was again excellent and it is clear to see the growing influence he is having on John Stones’ all round game, whose defending and last gasp tackling are becoming more impressive by the week.
Garerth Barry has been heavily criticised at times in the last twelve months and in part rightly so. All too often last season the former England international looked slow and would be caught in possession but on Saturday he enjoyed his best performance for some time and in the long term his influence could be huge on the development of his midfield partner James McCarthy’s game. Further up the pitch Steven Naismith was outstanding on Saturday. The Scotland international’s commitment could never be questioned and his never say die attitude is well documented. Less acknowledged perhaps is how natural a finisher he is. In truth he is probably the most natural finisher Everton posses. If Roberto Martinez’s young lions are to become the players the Catalan hopes for then these three in particular will have played a pivotal role in their development.
If Roberto Martinez has been cast as the the pantomime villain by the Swansea City faithful the Gary Monk is fast becoming the protagonist of the piece. Martinez was largely vilified and labelled ‘El Judas’ for walking out on the club he once captained to join Premier League outfit Wigan Athletic in 2009 after once stating the only way he would leave the club was if he was forced out. But when he did go he left behind a template for playing football the club has continued to follow ever since. Six years have now passed since the Catalan left for pastures new yet the clubs philosophy on football remains the same. Like Paulo Sousa, Brendan Rogers and Michael Laudrup before him. Gary Monk has stuck to the football principles Martinez laid down during his time at the helm for the Swans. Swansea City continue to play a slick stylish brand of football under Roberto Martinez’s former club captain and Monk has built on the foundations laid by his predecessors by adding real quality to his ranks.
Eyebrows were raised when Swansea City chairman Hew Jenkins appointed Monk as interim player manager following Michael Laudrup’s departure in February 2014. The centre half was a club stalwart with 260 appearances under his belt and was part of Laudrup’s historic 2013 League cup winning team. Jenkins believed that Monk, who had played in all four divisions over a ten year period for the Swans, had the potential to be a top flight manager and felt he deserved the opportunity. After beating fierce rivals Cardiff City 3-0 in his first game in charge Monk then steered Swansea to safety with one game to spare and was duly awarded a full time position in May 2014. In his first game as permanent Manager he guided the club to their first ever win at Old Trafford with a 2-1 win over Manchester United. Swansea’s upward trajectory continued and the club went on to become only the third club in Premier league history to do the double over both Manchester United and Arsenal in the same season, Swansea eventually went on to register a record points haul in the premier league and finished the season in a lofty eighth position for which Monk was once again rewarded. This time with a new three year contract at the Liberty Stadium.
This summer the evolution has continued. When Wilifried Bony left the club to join Manchester City last season it was feared the Swans would plummet down the league table and in to obscurity, but the Bedford born Swans boss had other ideas. While other clubs, including Everton watched and admired Andre Ayew from afar Monk made his move and the Ghanaian forward was snapped up on a free transfer from French club Marseille. Together with French international Bafetimbi Gomis he offers a real threat in the final third and the pairs early seasons goals have heavily contributed to a good start to the campaign for the men from South Wales. Swansea are now widely regarded as an established Premier League side and although his predecessors have all contributed to the fairytale story it is Monk who must take the majority of the credit for that.
Both Leon Osman and Darron Gibson played in the under twenty ones draw with Sunderland at Goodison Park on Monday evening and both came through the game with no ill affects. Roberto Martinez has said that Gibson and Bryan Oviedo should be involved in the League cup game with Reading next week but neither are likely to feature against Swansea. Seamus Coleman and Muhammed Besic will both be given every opportunity to prove their fitness before the game as their respective hamstring injuries aren’t as bad as first feared. If Coleman doesn’t make the starting eleven Tyas Browning could start at right back, although another option would be to move John Stones to right back allowing Martinez the chance to hand Ramires Funes Mori his full debut after the Argentine international impressed during a fifteen minute cameo against Chelsea last week. Steven Naismith is also pushing for a start after his superb hat trick at the weekend. Phil Jagielka will make his 300th appearance for the club at the Liberty Stadium. Gary Monk has no new injury worries ahead of the game but could reintroduce Jefferson Montero back in to the team after Wayne Routledge has failed to impress this season.
Team prediction 1. Howard 2. Coleman 3. galloway 4. Jagielka 5. Stones 6. Barry 7. Mccarthy 8. Barkley 9. Lukaku 10. Naismith 11. Kone.
In twenty three meetings between the two clubs Everton have lost only once to the Swans and never in a league match. That one defeat came at the Liberty Stadium last season in a game that famously signalled the begining of the end for two Everton centre halves. Roberto Martinez singled out Sylvan Dystan for a calamitous defensive display alongside Antolin Alcaraz and after a rumoured row between the two was sent in to exile for the remainder of the campaign. Both Dystan and Alcaraz would go on to leave the club at the end of the season. That defeat aside. Everton’s record of 15 wins and seven draws against the Swans is formidable. Last seasons 1-1 draw put an end to six consecutive Everton victories over Swansea in South Wales stretching back to the 4th of October 1952 when the pair played out a 2-2 draw in the old 2nd division. The last two meetings overall have ended in draws but Everton have won three of the last six between the two.
Both clubs go in to the game on a good run of form with almost identical records this season. Like Everton, Swansea have lost just once this campaign. That defeat coming last weekend at Vicarage Road against Watford. The game was significant for the fact that it was the first time this season Bafetimbi Gomis failed to score. Barring the 1-1 draw with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light where Gomis scored Swansea’s only goal, both he and Andre Ayew have scored in every game this season. Including victories over Manchester United and Newcastle united in South Wales where they have a one hundred percent record so far this campaign.
Everton have yet to lose away from home this season and were particularly impressive at Southampton running out 3-0 winners. With Steven Naismith pushing for a start and Romelu Lukaku in fine goalscoring form, both have four goals this season, Everton now pose a serious threat in the final third particularly on the counter attack. Tactically this could prove to be a fascinating encounter between the sorcerer and his apprentice and a share of the spoils seems a more than likely outcome.
Key man for the Swans Andre Ayew.
Everton(7) Last five D W L D W
Swansea City(8) Last five D W D W L
Last three meetings April 2015 Swansea City 1 v Everton 1 November 2014 Everton 0 v Swansea City 0 March 2014 Everton 3 v Swansea City 2
Score prediction Swansea City 1 v Everton 1.