Everton Club Focus – Toffees host Swansea amid speculation over Pienaar, Bilyaletdinov and Rodwell

The January transfer window may not open for a few weeks yet but Goodison Park has been rife with gossip surrounding comings-in and goings-out of Everton. Landon Donovan is confirmed for a loan return and Steven Pienaar could follow after leaving for Tottenham Hotspur a year ago, while Diniyar Bilyaletdinov’s troubled Toffees’ tenure could be set for a conclusion as German side Wolfsburg open negotiations and Jack Rodwell is linked with a switch to Chelsea. On top of this, Everton face Swansea City on Wednesday in a crunch tie.

If you were to design an opponent to cause Everton maximum trouble on their own ground, you would come up with something pretty close to the Swans. A side with enough firepower to take the lead, enough nous and technical ability to hold it and enough speed on the break to add to it, Swansea are set up to cause problems for teams who struggle to hold the ball, who struggle to break down defences and struggle to score goals. Everton fit to varying degrees into all three of those categories.

At one point against Norwich City on Saturday Everton had 75% of possession, but they were also a goal down. For that first half hour David Moyes’ side evidently held the ball extremely well but failed to create a clearer opening than the Marouane Fellaini toe-poke smothered by John Ruddy. As the game wore on the Canaries grew in stature and, by full-time, although Everton still held the majority of possession it was a much closer contest after the home side meekly gave up the ball throughout the second period. Norwich were also particularly well-organised, making them the second away side, after Stoke City, in a matter of weeks to come to Merseyside and out-think Everton. Swansea could yet be the third – finding the mix of possession and penetration will decide that.

After the recapture of Donovan was announced last week, Moyes revealed the American would not be the only arrival next month. While it is yet to be confirmed it appears South African winger Pienaar, much loved and lamented by Evertonians, especially since the South African’s performances never wavered even when it became obvious he was to leave, will return on a six-month loan in January. Everton have not replaced Pienaar and his homecoming would be welcome, although Aaron Lennon’s hamstring injury complicates matters a little. But if Pienaar did return it would free Royston Drenthe to play on the right of midfield – Moyes’ apparent preferred station for the Dutchman – and possibly Donovan through the middle to bolster Everton’s striking options.

As for the potential departures, few would be sorry to see Bilyaletdinov leave in return for around £5m, although Everton are believed to want closer to £7m, but the case of Rodwell is less clear. Everton would be hard-pressed to turn down an offer around £20m from Chelsea, and that money could go a long way towards curing Everton’s ills in other positions. But it is always wrenching to see a young talent spirited away by big bucks, a pain perhaps only soothed by the signing of an established striker.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Everton v Swansea

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