Everton Focus - Fellaini and co. left frustrated in Swansea draw
The first goalless draw involving Everton since the end of the last Premier League season was the outcome of the visit of Swansea City, as the Welsh side came to Goodison Park with the intention to sit back, and David Moyes’ team proved unable to break down the wall built by Michael Laudrup.
Not since a 0-0 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers in the penultimate game of last season has an Everton match gone without a goal, while the last time Everton failed to score was on September 1, a 2-0 defeat by West Bromwich Albion. The last time Everton kept a clean sheet, meanwhile, was against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium in late September, a 3-0 win.
The style that brought three goals in south Wales was distinctly missing at Goodison Park. Everton never truly found their rhythm, and resorted to long, diagonal balls from Phil Jagielka far too early. Marouane Fellaini was well marshalled by Chico Flores in the centre of the Swansea defence and could never establish aerial superiority, which rendered Jagielka’s long balls even more useless.
Even the left flank pair of Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar failed to click into gear, but they were faced by two right-backs - Laudrup picking Angel Rangel in midfield with Dwight Tiendalli in defence - and usually a covering midfielder too. But Swansea should not be criticised for taking this approach - indeed, Everton have done likewise to Gareth Bale in the past, picking Phil Neville at right-back and Seamus Coleman in midfield to counter the winger’s threat.
Instead, the onus is on Everton, and Baines and Pienaar in particular, to break free from the shackles. It is a conundrum faced regularly by teams at the top of the table and if Everton’s Champions League aspirations are realistic, not only do they have to expect that kind of overly defensive opposition but they have to be able to overcome it, especially at home.
Perhaps the match would have followed a different trajectory had Kevin Mirallas been fit. With Pienaar and Baines out of sorts, the midfield packed to make central passing more difficult and Fellaini’s usual physical advantage negated by the impressive Chico, Everton desperately needed a spark. Mirallas, when not hamstrung, has usually offered it.
As the season draws on and Everton face teams at Goodison who are battling for their Premier League safety - Aston Villa, Reading and Queens Park Rangers have all still to visit - five-man midfields and deep defensive lines will become the norm. Mirallas’ ability to beat a man, flash a cross into the penalty area or cut inside and shoot would offer a dangerous alternative to what was on show against Swansea.
If the Belgian’s recurrent injury problems continue, though, one of his teammates has to step up. Victor Anichebe has been in decent form but there persists the feeling that more is to come from the Nigerian, Steven Naismith has struggled to show his worth since moving from Rangers, while Bryan Oviedo and Apostolos Vellios have yet to have a run in the side. Moyes’ options are limited by Mirallas’ injury, but there exists the opportunity for somebody to make a name for themselves.
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