What promised to be a feast of football between sides managed by two of the most progressive managers in the Premier League actually ended up something of a bore.
Michael Laudrup’s Swansea City didn’t exactly come and park the bus at Goodison Park; it was more as if they drove it slowly and deliberately around some cones in the depot, concentrating intently with their tongue stuck out the corner of their mouth.
The Welsh side look to play in the big spaces on the pitch – the ones that the opposition willingly concede. It’s a style that never got them anywhere – they only had one real effort on goal, a brilliant chip from Michu that Tim Howard touched onto the crossbar – but it ate up time and made it hard for Everton to really build up a head of steam.
Despite looking more attractive, as they knock the ball about neatly in their own half, in its own way this approach is as negative as that of a side like Stoke City defending deep and humping the ball up towards some big yard dog. It’s equally legitimate though and certainly effective – Everton spent more time hunting for the ball than they are used to and despite creating almost all the game’s scoring chances never enjoyed a spell where you felt that a goal was inevitable.
In such tight games against unadventurous sides you need someone to be ruthless in front of goal and as we all know by now, that’s not Everton’s strong point. That’s one of the things that separates us from the very best sides – Manchester United, for instance, face teams desperate for a point in every game they play at Old Trafford, but more often than not someone will find a way to break the deadlock and force their opponents to come out and take some risks.
Leon Osman put a free header wide in the first half and Phil Jagielka followed suit in the second. Nikica Jelavic did well to spin a defender in the six-yard box but could only stab Steven Pienaar’s deep cross wide of the mark with Michel Vorm beaten.
In the second half the Swansea keeper got enough on Victor Anichebe’s header to allow Ashley Williams the time to get back and hook the ball off the line. Jelavic missed a spectacular overhead kick and substitute Steven Naismith summed up a disappointing afternoon when his attempt at a Marco Van Basten-style blammer from a tight angle almost knocked the lead off the church roof.
No one was in the least bit surprised then when Jelavic curled the last chance of the match over the bar in the dying seconds.
David Moyes was correct afterwards when he said he couldn’t fault the effort of the players. What they did lack was a bit of guile going forwards against a side that defended well and were frustrating whenever they got the ball. Without Kevin Mirallas in the side the Blues quickly resort to the deep ball towards Marouane Fellaini and on the whole Swansea negated that tactic pretty well.
Leighton Baines and his battered old lady legs look like the season has started to take their toll on them too – he will more grateful than most for the extra couple of days’ rest thanks to the Southampton game being moved to Monday night.
There doesn’t really seem a lot more to add about what was a pretty forgettable afternoon other than who ever thought that Everton would get booed off at the end of a goalless draw on the same weekend that Liverpudlians are almost considering sewing another star onto their shirts to commemorate the ‘playing better in the second half trophy’ they earned while being beaten by Manchester United?