Everton vs Swansea City

Sunday, 17 December, 2017 0comments  |  Jump to last
Match Preview

Morgan Schneiderlin has looked more like the player he was at the start of the year over the last match and a half but will he start?

Everton return to Goodison Park following a brace of away games that yielded four points from six to play two home fixtures that present an opportunity to keep closing the gap on the top seven.

Three wins and a draw in the League since that dismal 4-1 reverse at Southampton have vaulted the Blues away from relegation danger and into the top half where they sit level on points with Watford and nine points off fourth place.

Now, with the team looking upwards rather than over their collective shoulder and first bottom club Swansea City then a fallible Chelsea team coming to Goodison Park before Christmas, manager Sam Allardcye is eyeing further improvement.

“The credit goes to the players who've achieved so much in a short period of time,” he said in his pre-match press conference. “10 points from 12 is a miraculous recovery from them.

“It's put the club in a very stable position that allows me to perhaps think a little bigger than when I first came in, to think more about sustaining our position in the top half, to think about improving the players because their confidence is greater, and taking each game as it comes and trying to get as many results as we can.

“The club's had a difficult spell and hopefully we can continue to get through this difficult spell. [The recent run of results] has given us some breathing space but not stopped us from being as ambitious as we possibly can.”

In view of Everton's improved position in the table and the feeling that the club is getting close to being back on track in terms of its European aspirations, the focus will increasingly be on how the team plays under Allardyce given that he has implemented a very back-to-basics approach since taking charge.

That has firmed up what was one of the softest defences in the Premier League but has come at the expense of genuine entertainment going forward, particularly away from home in the Merseyside derby and at Newcastle in midweek.

It may be too early for radical change in that respect but there was a noticeable attempt to keep the ball against the Magpies in the Blues' 1-0 win which was aided by what was arguably Morgan Schneiderlin's best performance of the season.

The Frenchman has been curiously and frustratingly poor this season and lost his place in the side amid a dreadful run of results for Everton and suggestions that he lacked focus and discipline. Since coming on at half time against Liverpool last Sunday, the £20m acquisition from Manchester United has looked more like the composed central midfielder he was when he first arrived almost a year ago.

That will likely see him keep his place alongside Idrissa Gueye for the time being, despite many supporters' misgivings about playing two holding midfielders, particularly at home.

Assuming he plays, Schneiderlin's selection would likely be at the expense of Tom Davies while Wayne Rooney continues in his more withdrawn role playing off the improving Gylfi Sigurdsson and behind Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The young striker has earned his stripes leading the line and will probably be preferred to Oumar Niasse again should Allardyce only opt for one striker.

Swansea, of course, come to Goodison on a poor run of form that has seen them sink to the bottom of the table. Just one away win all season so far and one victory since mid-October has brought the Welsh club's top-flight future into sharp focus and highlighted just how important Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente were in keeping them up last season.

Despite that, there are no easy games in the Premier League, a fact that Allardyce knows all too well and he has been cautioning his players against assuming the points are theirs for the taking.

“I'm not expecting any complacency,” he said. “That's been my big word to the players — that [Swansea] this will not be an easy task [so] don't slip up in against a side that everybody expects you to beat.

“You'll only get the opportunity to beat them if you play 100% to your level which is what we've had to do over last the four games we've played.”

Kick-off: 8pm, Monday, 18 December, 2017
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Last Time: Everton 1 - 1 Swansea City

Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Kenny, Holgate, Williams, Martina, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Rooney, Lennon, Sigurdsson, Calvert-Lewin

 


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