Before the start of this season few people would have had this game down as an ‘eagerly anticipated clash’ but the way the ‘campaign’ – terrible word but it saves us saying season again – has unfolded for both clubs, this ‘encounter’ – same again – has an intriguing look about it.
The match at the Liberty Stadium encapsulated Everton’s season so far and, to a certain extent, this most unpredictable of Premier League seasons – we actually used it twice there but possibly got away with it. Everton absolutely murdered the home side for long stretches and eventually ran out 3-1 winners but that only tells part of the story: as well as squandering a ton of chances to make the scoreline even more emphatic they were caught on the break repeatedly and just before half-time Swansea might have actually levelled the scores and changed the outcome completely.
Michael Laudrup’s team are mustard on the break and they will certainly look to soak up Everton pressure on Saturday and then spring counter-attacks when the opportunity arises. The onus is on the Blues then to pin them back and keep them chasing the ball to the point where they start to get dispirited and doubt themselves when the time comes to try and commit men forward.
Their midweek win at Stamford Bridge showed just what they are all about and underlined once again how cool their star man Michu is when presented with a sight of goal. Both goals on Wednesday night were very similar, with Michu and then Danny Graham pouncing – yeah, that’s right, pouncing – on Branislav Ivanovich errors. When you are long-haired and slightly Christy-looking like Michu your finish gets noticed by everyone whereas if you are Graham and resemble one of the lads off the stacker trucks in the Wernham Hogg warehouse you barely get a mention. Such is life.
That result against Chelsea will have certainly given Swansea a boost then in terms of confidence but Goodison Park is one of the last places they would want to visit only three days later.
It will be Marouane Fellaini’s first home game back following his three match ban and if the newspapers are to be believed it could well be one of his last. Many of them are of the opinion that there’s a release clause in his contract somewhere north of £22 million and that Chelsea are prepared to activate it. That fee is the equivalent of 11 Michu’s – the Spaniard is has become a standard unit of measurement now, the transfer fee equivalent of London buses, full-sized football pitches and areas the size of Rafa’s shadow.
We’ve been through this whole Fellaini to leave thing countless times now so there’s really no point sweating it. It is worth pointing out though what a snidey development these provisions in contracts are though. Essentially, when you negotiate a new deal you insist that if you actually justify your pay rise then not only do you have the right to move elsewhere unopposed, but there should be a limit on how much money the club can make on the deal –therefore maximising the amount you can leverage in terms of a signing fee. That said, no one forces the clubs to agree to these terms in the first place so they only have themselves to blame when players and agents exploit them.
Wigan’s James McCarthy is said to be the player David Moyes sees as a replacement for Fellaini, even though their styles are not really alike. The young Republic of Ireland midfield rarely scores but he does look a good player though – big, quick and all action, sort of like a Jack Rodwell who doesn’t mind getting his kit muddy.