Embarrassing away form continues
Another away game passes, and it’s still just the two wins on the road for Everton this season.
This should have given the Blues a decent opportunity to notch up another win as this disappointing campaign winds towards its end.
Of course there were reasons to think otherwise. Swansea had won their last four Premier League games at the Liberty Stadium and still have something to fight for in their last five games of this term.
A draw helps neither side at the end of the day.
Everton fans are left with the long trip back to Merseyside with the disappointment of another trip without three points in their minds, while Swansea still find themselves in that scrap at the bottom of the table.
There’s only two away matches left between now and the end of the season for Everton and they don’t necessarily get easier than today – Huddersfield and West Ham are the opponents.
The failure to hang on to three points here might seem insignificant in terms of how the Premier League might look at the end of the season, but it means more than that to Blues fans.
The club’s away form has been embarrassing for some time, and today’s result just extends that misery for a little longer.
Swansea 1-1 Everton
Rooney’s struggles continue
Wayne Rooney will have probably had something to prove coming into this match.
His early substitution in the Merseyside derby was well documented, as was his clear disappointment to being withdrawn.
Sam Allardyce was quizzed multiple times in the following days about the performance of the 32-year-old and his role in the Everton squad.
Clearly, starting Rooney was a show of faith from the boss, and a chance for the player himself to show why he deserves his place.
The former England captain missed that opportunity.
Asked to play alongside Idrissa Gueye from the start, lining up just in front of Morgan Schneiderlin in the holding role, Rooney just couldn’t get a grasp on the game.
Yes he was putting himself about constantly and trying his best to cause pressure, but it just wasn’t good enough as the hosts were all too easily able to bypass him.
When in possession, a few raking cross-field balls aside, Rooney just didn’t have the cutting edge to be able to slice through that Swansea defence.
The position the midfielder was used in probably didn’t help, as it looked like he would have been much better suited being as close as possible to Cenk Tosun.
Rooney’s best form for Everton this season has still been when sharing a pitch with Gylfi Sigurdsson.
With the Icelandic international out injured, the 32-year-old is struggling to find those great displays again.
Defensive style isn’t working
Heading into today’s match against a side fighting relegation, Sam Allardyce only made one change from the side he picked to take on Liverpool in last weekend’s Merseyside derby.
And it was a defensive one.
Tom Davies made way for Idrissa Gueye, who few Everton fans would have argued with returning before the game.
But, as it transpired, the Senegalese international was used in a role we’re more accustomed to seeing Davies utilised in – the link between attack and defence, useful in both areas.
For all the will in the world, Gueye isn’t effective in the final third, but his inclusion and Everton’s starting line-up shows the wider problem affecting the Blues right now.
The defensive way of setting up hasn’t been working for weeks, and today was no different.
When Allardyce first came to the club and found form his preferred midfield options were Rooney, Davies and Gueye.
The question will remain with Everton fans – did the Blues really need two defensive midfielders against Swansea?
Granted the hosts will be fired up for the match, but the fact that they are in a relegation fight surely shows that Everton shouldn’t have been scared to take the game to them, to show a better attacking presence.
The line-up seemed to have the Blues starting on the back foot and, barring a lucky own goal, could have even led to another defeat on the road.
Everton need to start shaping up to attack sides if they are to pick up the wins and performances fans desperately deserve.
Schneiderlin’s consistency a positive
Following Everton’s draw with Liverpool in last weekend’s Merseyside derby there were few positives to take from the performance.
One of those, however, came in a surprising form. Morgan Schneiderlin’s display.
The French international was booed on to the pitch at home to Crystal Palace earlier this year as his relationship with supporters seemed to hit an all time low.
His performances were nowhere near what fans wanted or expected from a man who was so effective for Everton in the second half of the 2016/17 campaign.
However, the 28-year-old was clearly one of the best performers for the Blues under the pressure of a Merseyside derby.
His manager called for consistency from Schneiderlin following that display – and was deservedly handed another start against Swansea.
He didn’t disappoint.
Once again the midfielder was asked to sit in front of the defence and acted brilliantly as their shield, stopping Swanea’s attacking midfielders from having any effect centrally.
Not only that but Schneiderlin was cool in possession.
You won’t see any of his passes in dubstep compilations on YouTube, but he was effective in the Blues getting the ball down and getting his side back on the front foot.
He’s still not up to last season’s extremely high standards, but he’s certainly on the up.
Performances like this will certainly win over a few supporters.
Chances for fringe players
Right at the end of the match at the Liberty Stadium we saw two Everton stars make their returns from long absences.
Ramiro Funes Mori made his first appearance for the Blues in over a year, having recovered from a serious knee injury picked up on international duty in March 2017.
And, Nikola Vlasic also came of the bench late in the day. That’s the first time Everton fans have seen him on the pitch since January, and only the fifth time he has played under Sam Allardyce.
Both weren’t really given enough time to impress, but their inclusions in themselves could suggest something wider.
Perhaps the Everton boss is going to allow some of the club’s fringe players some more opportunities as the term closes.
And why not? With the Blues having little to play for in terms of the Premier League in these last four fixtures, they surely present the chance to experiment.
Many fans have been calling for the return of Vlasic as with Davy Klaassen, although the latter was once again absent at the Liberty Stadium.
It’s certainly for the benefit of these players that they see more first-team game time – and the Blues don’t have much to lose at this point.
Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.