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Everton's Attack Stifled By Swansea's Gameplan

By Lyndon Lloyd   ::  12/01/2013

Everton 0 - 0 Swansea City

Everton's hopes of recording a third successive win in 2013, one that would have pressed their case for Champions League qualification, met the stubborn wall of Swansea City's defensive resistance at Goodison Park today as the Blues were held to their first 0-0 draw since May last year.

Despite sitting in the top five of the Premier League, frustration has been a key theme for much of the season for David Moyes's side — be it with injury, ill-timed suspension, refereeing injustice, or a failure to put clearly inferior sides away and claim the points their performances have deserved.

Today, Everton just couldn't find that elusive bit of quality to pick the lock of Michael Laudrup's well-drilled and tenacious back line, though with more composure in front of goal, their aerial prowess might have dispensed entirely with the need to thread their way through an entrenched Swansea rearguard.

Moyes will no doubt look at some decent chances missed and he will certainly rue a shallow bench and the absence of Darron Gibson and Kevin Mirallas — had both players been on the field, you got the feeling the Blues were almost have certainly won —but credit must go also to the visitors from South Wales who came with a solid gameplan to soak up pressure and try and hit their hosts on the break. It was a strategy that almost worked to perfection, although save for one outstanding fingertip save to deny Michu in the first half, Tim Howard was barely troubled in the Everton goal.

In truth, while he was a lot busier, mostly putting on a superb example of aerial aptitude in his six-yard box, his opposite number Michel Vorm wasn't really called upon as much as Moyes would have liked either — although when he was beaten, twice there was an extra man on the goalline to hook the ball awya and preserve the clean sheet for Laudrup's men.

Despite Swansea's resilience, Everton certainly had enough of the ball and created enough openings to have deserved a victory and they set their stall out in the first half with some lovely passing football and another fast-paced start that yielded early opportunities for Marouane Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic.

The Belgian found himself with space to test Vorm from the edge of the area off Steven Pienaar's sweet backheel but his right-footed shot was tame and Jelavic came very close to catching the goalkeeper in no-man's land but he made a double save to deny the Croatian. And Jelavic, who looked spritely and hungry in the first half before his afternoon descended into another frustrating exercise in chasing shadows, came agonisingly close to turning Pienaar's lofted cross home after brilliantly evading his marker but as the ball dropped over his shoulder he could only steer it inches wide of the far post.

The Blues then came as close to scoring as they would all afternoon, first, when Tiendali hacked Jelavic's glancing header from a corner away right in front of the far post and then when Fellaini knocked Phil Jagielka's header down perfectly for Victor Anichebe about six yards out but Vorm got a crucial touch on it and Ashley Williams belted it clear from under his own crossbar.

Swansea, for their part, didn't get their first sight of goal until the game was almost 20 minutes old, a shot by Pablo Hernandez that sliced high and wide of goal, but they could easily have pinched an unlikely lead but for Howard's denial of Michu nine minutes before the break.

Otherwise, it was all Everton but when the lively and effective Coleman eventually cut the ball back for Fellaini, he again shot low and tamely straight at the goalkeeper and when Pienaar was hauled down by Tiendali just outside the box, Osman missed the chance to mark his 10th anniversary as an Everton first-teamer when he steered a free header wide from Baines' pin-point delivery.

Though annoyed to be going into the interval with nothing on the scoresheet to show for theor dominance in the first 45 minutes, the Blues no doubt felt that more of the same in the second half would surely yield a goal. And they came out of the break as smartly as they had started the game, with Neville unfortunately stepping into the path of a terrific Coleman run and seeing a weaker shot than was required turned behind by Vorm.

Back-to-back corners a couple of minutes later ended with Distin powering a header over the crossbar when he might have hit the target before things really started to go off the boil and Moyes's men started to run out of ideas and impetus a little.

Indeed, after a couple of half-chances failed to materialise into anything more substantial, it would be fully 25 minutes before another clear-cut opportunity would come their way and Jagielka spurned it by despatching an unchallenged header inches over the bar with the upper left side of the goal at his mercy.

In between, the lack of depth in the squad, the even more glaring shortage of match-turning alternatives on the bench, the over-reliance on the Baines-Pienaar partnership that the Swans had, by this stage, almost completely smothered with tenacious marking and closing down, and the deficiencies in Neville's game became ever more apparent.

Moyes reacted with what was, on paper, a positive switch with 21 minutes to go when he withdrew his captain and threw on the more attack-minded Steven Naismith but the Scot has often been ineffective wide on the right and he would prove to be again today. In hindsight, moving Pienaar to the right and deploying Bryan Oviedo on the left in front of Baines might have yielded more chances but the increasingly restless home crowd would not find out if that would have been a better option.

An 84th-minute change that saw Apostolos Vellios replace Anichebe probably came too late to really affect the pattern of things up front where Jelavic will no doubt be blamed for being out of form when, once again, he barely got a sniff of a goal all afternoon and all too often moves fell apart on the edge of the visitors' area in the face of a wall of defenders.

Two points dropped, and, with Tottenham also drawing and Arsenal losing, another opportunity missed in the chase for Europe but, with their growing reputation and after how they tore Swansea apart in the reverse fixture in August, it's not surprising that Laudrup's men came with a defensive plan that they were able to see out.

No option, then, but to regroup in nine days' time for the trip to Southampton, a team far less defensively resilient than Swansea City.

Man of the Match: Seamus Coleman

Reader Comments

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Bob Parrington
600 Posted 14/01/2013 at 07:58:45
Lyndon, Problem seemed to me to be that we lacked any punch on the Right wing. Their game plan was so simple, just to load their right side defensively. We just didn't have the imagination to change. Definition of insanity etc.

They deserved their draw.

Kieran Fitzgerald
606 Posted 14/01/2013 at 08:05:14
The saving grace was that Stoke, Arsenal and West Brom lost, Spurs also dropped points. With a depleted squad, all we can do for now is to keep picking up points and hope that things pick up once players come back. Unfortunately, Swansea have identified exactly the wasy to counter us at the moment.
Laurie Hartley
617 Posted 14/01/2013 at 09:08:55
Bob, I have to disagree with you to a certain extent about us lacking punch on the rights side. Coleman had a stormer - I can recall him beating his man in the box on at least two occasions. First time he laid on a really good chance for Fellaini and then Nevile took the ball off his toes when he was clean through. The lads confidence is growing match by match and I don't thing it will be too long before he is bossing the right hand side like Baines does the left.

I think as Lyndon suggested, Piennar should have been switched to the right and Neville subbed for Oviedo not Naismith. Neville has been a great leader for us especially against the top four teams, but I think time is catching up with him and DM may have to start leaving him out of the starting eleven. One thing is for sure, if Coleman is paired with Mirallas when he comes back, teams won't be able to counter us by loading one side of the pitch.

Christopher Timmins
641 Posted 14/01/2013 at 12:15:39
Saturday's result was not the end of the world. Swansea are hard to beat as evidenced by their performance at Chelsea. We lack a little bit of invention at the moment but we do not have the weaknesses that Spurs and Arsenal have at the back. Champions League football is within reach!
Trevor Lynes
647 Posted 14/01/2013 at 12:44:51
Good comments, Christopher, I fully agree. We are still more difficult to beat than our main rivals for a top 4 place. Our centre backs are the best pairing in the country contrary to some negative comments I have read on the site. Neither give away silly free kicks and seldom get booked. Both are brave and decent tacklers, Distin must be one of the fastest centre backs in the league and its testimony to his professional approach to keeping fit.

Swansea are playing very well at the moment so they got the draw they were after. Spurs were held by QPR despite the money they have spent and the luxury bench they have available.

We just need a little money given to DM for him to get a couple of promising younger players to bolster our run in. We do not need anymore poundland buys or Charity shop freebees. When Gibson and Mirallas are back, we will galvanise the side for a strong run in.

Andy Peers
663 Posted 14/01/2013 at 13:42:30
It is time for Neville to hang up his boots. His performances are just not good enough and taking the ball off Coleman's toe was just so frustrating. I think a Coleman and Mirallas combo could be as exciting as Bainaar and we could name it Miraman (sounds like 'mirror-man', I'll get me coat.)

We need new January blood, ridiculous to think that we have not nailed a couple of loans. Surely these deals, in the transfer window, should be negotiated before the window and completed as soon as window opens? They are only loans which is only a 5 month conmmitment and then the whole Summer to figure out a more permanent move.

Steve Edwards
665 Posted 14/01/2013 at 13:58:04
Coleman is definitely starting to win me over. I have been very critical about his defensive abilities but you can see a big improvement in this area. He has always been good going forward but that has also improved. I'd like to see how he dose against a decent winger but the signs are good.

If people think that Gibson will come back and stay fit for the rest of the season then I think they are in for a big disappointment. He will come back play two or three games and then be out for another lengthy spell. That's why Man Utd let him go for buttons.

When he does come back, I think Moyes should use him sparingly. Only play him in games against better opposition and not play him in more than one game a week. At least that way he will be of more benefit to the team. It's a pity we can't get more quality in as cover, well it looks like we won't now that Hitzlsperger been kept on. So near but yet so far, comes to mind.

Steavey Buckley
673 Posted 14/01/2013 at 15:06:46
Everton have become a one trick pony down the left hand side. But what surprises me most, other teams have not realised this until the Swans visited last Saturday and did a number on us. With their full back switched to their right hand side of midfield to stifle Baines. And it worked. When I suggested before the match that the Everton right hand side was unbalanced. And that Oviedo should have been employed to support Baines and Pienaar switched to the right to support Coleman, who really is an out and out wing back. Who improved his allround game under Ian Holloway at Blackpool, when he was manager.
Tony Cheek
726 Posted 14/01/2013 at 18:28:33
What game were you all watching?....The only reason Swansea took a point home is because Osman's got a head like a Toblerone and couldn't score in a brothel! The chances were there, all we need is to stick it over the bleeding line FFS!
Sam Hoare
763 Posted 14/01/2013 at 19:45:20
Trouble is depth. Chelsea can take off Torres and Mata for Ba and Oscar. Tottenham can take off Sandra and Defoe for Scott Parker and Dempsey. We take lose Gibson and Mirallas and replace them with Neville and Naismith! Oh for some money to get better reinforcements...
Steavey Buckley
797 Posted 14/01/2013 at 20:56:41
Tony Cheek: Osman has been missing sitters all season. In other games, his shots near goal have been more like back passes to the goal keeper. The only time this season, if my memory serves me, he had header on goal that went over the line was against West Ham, but was overruled by the linesman, who may have one too many the night before.
Bob Parrington
894 Posted 15/01/2013 at 07:01:07
Laurie #617. I agree that Coleman had a good game but the quality and speed of passing down the right was really poor. Pip constantly turned back either because he couldn't see a passing option or there was none. There was no true inventiveness or punch.

Perhaps as you and Lyndon commented Piennaar should have switched. It's not rocket science. so why didn't he try it. Were the instructions from the bench so rigid that the players couldn't use their imaginations.

We just looked so sterile because they cancelled our one sided approach! I agree with Steavey Buckley #673. problem is we did little or nothing to change things up.

Brian Garside
067 Posted 15/01/2013 at 22:56:06
Play Oviedo on the right allowing him to cut inside onto his favoured left foot and creating space for Coleman/Hibbert to overlapp. We then preserve Bains/Pienaar on the left and complement them with much needed speed and skill on the right. Balance and options. Two things we have missed since Miralles got injured.
Harold Matthews
290 Posted 17/01/2013 at 07:06:59
Brian. I'm definitely with you on that one. He could also cut in and reverse pass to the wing in the manner of Pienaar. Also noticeable was the inability of Naismith to hit the ball with his left foot when Fellaini rolled a pass from the left side of the box.

Actually I hate getting at Naismith. The lad always puts in a shift,tries to help the fullback and is able to spot an early pass. It just all seems a bit quick for him at the moment. Perhaps one day he will come good. Who knows.

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