Lack of width cost Blues against Swans
It was a frustrating afternoon, as Everton were held to a goalless draw against Swansea City, at Goodison Park last Saturday and, after a few days to contemplate what was missing from the Toffees’ game plan, one problem seemed more symptomatic than anything else.
Roberto Martinez’s charges lacked width.
Naturally, the Spaniard’s hand was forced by a lack of options to deploy on the wings. Kevin Mirallas is still recuperating from the hamstring strain he suffered in the Merseyside derby, Steven Pienaar has been plagued by niggles since hobbling off in the August draw with Arsenal, and Christian Atsu has so far struggled to adapt to the Blues’ tactics.
These three issues combined ensured that Aidan McGeady was the only natural winger that Martinez had at his disposal and, with Ross Barkley deployed in an unorthodox left wing position, both wide men found themselves cutting inside from their respective wings onto their more favoured feet.
Coupled with a Swansea City side that, for all intents and purposes, arrived with a more defensively minded mentality than usual, that included flooding the middle of the park with bodies and narrowing the space inbetween their back four and midfield, and the Blues struggled to break down the resilient visitors.
The introduction of Pienaar midway through the second half ensured that the normally maruading Leighton Baines had greater opportunities to ghost down the left wing, whilst Samuel Eto’o was shunted out onto the right wing when Romelu Lukaku was introduced to the fray, which stretched the Swans’ defence and allowed for a supply of crosses from both wings as the match wore on.
The dismissal of Jonjo Shelvey twenty minutes from time evidently aided the Blues’ cause in fashioning more goal scoring opportunities too, but for sixty five minutes Everton noticeably toiled against Garry Monk’s men. And with the likes of Leon Osman and Pienaar sitting on the bench, no doubt being saved for the upcoming Europa League tie against Lille in two days time, there will always be the argument that Martinez could have deployed either player in front of Baines to act as a foil, for the full back, and allow the 29 year old to supply the width that was lacking from Everton’s gameplan.
Distin ‘row’ can wait until after Christmas
Much has been debated since rumours surfaced, at the end of September, that Sylvain Distin and Roberto Martinez had had a falling out following Everton’s defeat in the third round of the Capital One Cup to, funnily enough, Swansea City, despite the French man making an appearance just two weeks ago in the draw at Lille.
However, with Antolin Alcaraz now joining John Stones on the centre back injury list, pride must be swallowed and Distin has to be introduced back into the fold.
The Blues, and Martinez, can ill afford to go into another busy schedule in the fixture list, especially with a packed month of December looming over the horizon, with captain Phil Jagielka, youngster Tyias Browning and emergency options Gareth Barry and Tony Hibbert as the centre back choices available, despite Barry effortlessly slipping into the makeshift role last Saturday due to Alcaraz’s injury.
Distin is experienced, pacy, strong and had played with the rest of Everton’s back five for the last few seasons, therefore the 36 year old would need no bedding in period if selected in the starting eleven for the upcoming matches against Lille and Sunderland.
Once the hectic Christmas schedule is over, and the likes of Stones and Alcaraz are fully recovered, Martinez and Distin can sit down and clear the air over whatever issues, if true, came about on that night in September. For now, though, Everton need Distin if the recent run of good form is to be continued.