Premier League | Liberty Stadium | Sun 22 Dec | 4pm
A purist's wet dream.
Who says you can’t take a bunch of hastily assembled players and get them to gel almost immediately? In a week that started with Tottenham parting company with Andre Villas-Boas for that very sin, Roberto Martinez takes Everton to the Liberty Stadium finalised in the death throes of the summer transfer window, expecting to continue their unlikely charge towards Champions League qualification. It's a truly commendable feat and a testament to what can be achieved despite a new manager, new players and new front-foot approach.
- Norwich 1-1 Swansea (Prem)
- St Gallen 1-0 Swansea (EL)
- Swansea 1-1 Hull (Prem)
- Swansea 3-0 Newcastle (Prem)
- Man City 3-0 Swansea (Prem)
- Everton 4-1 Fulham (Prem)
- Arsenal 1-1 Everton (Prem)
- Man Utd 0-1 Everton (Prem)
- Everton 4-0 Stoke (Prem)
- Everton 3-3 Liverpool (Prem)
Want to play 4-2-3-1? Then you need: a big striker who can hold the ball up and score. Check. A hard-working No.10 with an eye for a pass who can shoot with both feet. Check. A combative midfield duo. Check. Attacking full-backs. Check. Tricky wide forwards. Check. It’s all there. Which is why all credit goes to Martinez for finding a style and system that maximizes the potential of players old and new. Whaddaguy.
It’s this style that Swansea will be looking to contain this weekend. Not an easy task. But it wasn’t that long ago that they stopped the league’s form side dead in their tracks, beating Newcastle 3-0 at the start of the month - the Magpies’ only defeat in their last seven games.
As in that victory, the Swans are going to have to rediscover their swagger in possession, a game in which they moved up the pitch with collective attacking intent, rather than merely retaining passive possession like they did in the following draws with Hull and Norwich.
Now would be good time for Michu to rediscover his form and goalscoring touch. The Spaniard who, ironically, has struggled since making his debut for the national side, had scored 12 league goals at this point last year. He has three in the league this time around.
Michael Laudrup will be hoping a break from the Europa League until February will give his side, and star striker, breathing room to regain last year’s prowess in front of goal - especially as the game against the Toffees signals the start of a daunting run of fixtures that includes games against Chelsea, Man City, Man United and Spurs.
All the more reason to kick off this potentially bruising period with a win against the Toffees.
Swansea will be without keeper Michel Vorm, the Dutchman opting for earlier-than-planned surgery on a troublesome knee injury before anything disastrous occurs. Another long-term absentee is Nathan Dyer, the midfielder sidelined after damaging his ankle against Norwich. On the plus side, Leon Britton is back in training and may be in contention for Sunday.
Everton have their own long-term injury concern, with Gerard Deulofeu set to be "out for some time" with a hamstring injury. Tony Hibbert might return from a knee injury, but this game comes too soon for Leighton Baines, who’s still over a week away from regaining full fitness.
Player to watch: Jonathan de Guzman (Swansea)
In a game that will no doubt be won or lost in midfield, the Dutchman will be key if Swansea are to get anything. With Everton excelling in attack in recent weeks, the most prudent tactic for the Swans will be to get forward and push the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley, Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas into their own half, as they did against Newcastle.
In that game against the Magpies, it was De Guzman who proved to be the most influential player on the pitch, providing an assist and creating 3 chances, but more crucially ensuring Swansea retained the ball up the pitch. Against Norwich, he did a similar job, stitching play together in the middle of the park. If he can keep the ball it’ll mean Everton’s marauding attackers don’t have it, which is Swansea’s best (and possibly only) hope.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Everton 0-0 Swans (Prem, Jan 13)
- Swans 0-3 Everton (Prem, Sept 12)
- Swans 0-2 Everton (Prem, Mar 12)
- Everton 1-0 Swans (Prem, Dec 11)
- Everton 2-2 Swans (Div 1, Feb 83)
Two teams, one playing style. Thank you Martinez. In the blue corner you have the Spaniard's current side, a team that, as we’ve already discussed, has been reshaped and remoulded to fit his romantic view of how the game should be played. In the, err, black and white corner, is where it all began for Martinez, and where he instigated the tiki-taka-lite style continued and refined by Paulo Sousa, Brendan Rodgers and now Laudrup.
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- There have been at least 3 goals in 7 of Swansea’s last 10 home matches.
- But they have failed to score in their four Premier League meetings with Everton, picking up a solitary draw.
- Draw-specialists Everton have gone in at the break level in 8 of their last 10 away matches.
- Swansea should become the first side to reach 10,000 passes this season (average 597 per match and have made 9549 in total).
Swansea have taken only 38 points from 34 Premier League games in 2013.
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A surprisingly scrappy 2-1 win for Everton.