Focus: Familiar systems at play for Swansea vs Everton – but one battle could decide it
This should be a fascinating encounter. Both Everton and Swansea have made excellent starts to the season thanks to some elegant passing football and the successfulness of their collective pressing. Thus, it will be a match of the highest quality decided, perhaps, in central midfield.
The similarities between Garry Monk and Roberto Martinez are plentiful, quite probably because Monk learned his skills from the Spaniard while under his management at Swansea. Both teams utilise a high line, prioritise high-tempo passing football, and work tirelessly on tactical strategies in training to ensure that their attacking movement and defensive patterns are seamlessly interwoven.
Swansea excel at snuffing out attacks; Everton restricted Chelsea impressively
Unsurprisingly, their synchronised pressing systems are also similar – although the difference in style between Ross Barkley and Jonjo Shelvey should prevent their tactical strategies from cancelling out.
Put a Cork in it
Against Manchester United, Swansea doubled up aggressively on chief playmaker Bastian Schweinsteiger and eased off the press when United’s possession became sustained; it requires individual intelligence and collective trust to pull off a stop-start system so successfully, and Martinez’s Everton are one of only a handful of English clubs performing with similar structural cohesion currently.
Ross Barkley, driving through the heart of midfield confidently this season (3 assists, 2.6 dribbles per match) may struggle to dribble through the organised duo of Shelvey and Jack Cork (3.8 interceptions per match) – the latter a hugely underrated footballer of Carrick-esque defensive composure.
Barkley's dribbling is always a threat; Cork's all-round defensive game is strong
Shelvey, meanwhile, is a more subtle playmaker capable of hiding from the harassing pressure of opposing midfields (the superb James McCarthy and Gareth Barry in this case).
Operating in a deeper role than Barkley, Shelvey sneaks into pockets of space to make a more surreptitious contribution. His defence-splitting through-balls have caught out Chelsea, Man United and Newcastle this season; all teams who, like Everton, have played with a high line.
The pitch will feel congested at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday afternoon, but the football should nevertheless be a swarming frenzy of pass-and-move intelligence. It may ultimately be decided by who of Barkley and Shelvey can respond most successfully to the pincer press of the other.