Sep 182015

Roberto Martinez says he’s a big fan of Swansea boss Garry Monk ahead of Everton’s trip to the Liberty Stadium.

Everton travel to Swansea on Saturday looking to ensure the 3-1 win over Chelsea is the start of something and not the latest in a recent pattern of bad performances following good.

On paper, at least, the trip to Wales offers arguably the ideal opponent for a team unbeaten in league encounters against Swansea, recording 13 wins and seven draws in the 20 meetings to date. Eight wins, two draws and no defeats is the record for Everton on their league visits to Swansea, although Garry Monk and his team can point to a 3-0 success when the two sides met in the League Cup last season.

But since matches are not won on paper, this is a test noticeably harder than in previous seasons, against a closely matched Swansea side level on points and separated only because Everton have scored one goal more.

Both teams favour an open style and should look to monopolise possession, although the visitors may employ the counterattacking approach working to varied effect in the 3-0 win at Southampton and the 0-0 draw at Tottenham. Successive clean sheets on the road detract from two contrasting final third performances, with a three-goal win at St Mary’s followed by a display in the capital in which Everton barely registered an effort on goal.

Whichever side makes best use of the ball is likely to seize the initiative, as the two teams appear stronger on the front foot than the defensive, particularly with Martinez having to contend without several injured full-backs. There is plenty riding on the fitness of Seamus Coleman, who limped off in the Chelsea win, and much for Martinez to ponder if he does not return to fitness in time.

Injuries permitting, it is the need to build on the positives of the Chelsea game that make three points this Saturday as important as the two-goal victory against the champions, if not more so. Consistency is essential, and stringing wins together on a regular basis has not arrived as frequently as during Roberto Martinez’s exciting opening season.

Early promise shifted up a gear between October and December in Martinez’s debut campaign as the team embarked on a 10-match unbeaten run, including a 1-0 win at Manchester United, their first at Old Trafford in 21 years, and a 1-1 draw away to Arsenal in the space of five December days.

Then, with league form beginning to drift and weary legs evident in a crushing 4-1 FA Cup quarterfinal defeat at Arsenal, another striking and rather unexpected sequence turned a faltering European push into a points tally enough to secure Champions League football in eight of the 10 previous seasons.

Seven successive wins between March and April, a series of results best remembered for a comprehensive 3-0 home win over Arsenal, lifted the Blues above the competition and into the driving seat for fourth place. Costly defeats to Crystal Palace and Southampton derailed the Champions League chase at the death, but Martinez and his players had proven their ability to string results together throughout the season, only falling agonisingly short down the final stretch.

Steven Naismith scored a hat trick in Everton’s 3-1 win over Chelsea last time out.

Even in a second season failing to build upon an impressive first, after a less-than-convincing start in the league, an eight-game unbeaten streak in all competitions from October to November hinted at a consistency lacking thereafter. An excellent 2-0 victory at Wolfsburg in the Europa League proved the defining and final outing in this brief show of quality.

Only when a wretched midseason run of two league wins in 16 games led some pondering an unthinkable battle with the drop did Everton rise above the general malaise and demonstrate a level vaguely reminiscent of the season before. Five wins in a six-game period without defeat culminated in a 3-0 win against Manchester United. Losing three of the next four to end the season offered a fitting conclusion to a season plagued by inconsistency.

The current campaign has opened amid this same inconsistency, with flowing and devastating football swapping readily with the predictable brand prominent for long periods last term. Beginning with a disappointing 2-2 draw at home to Watford, a game filled with many of the issues hampering the team in the past, the sense of deja vu soon faded by way of an unexpectedly clinical away triumph at Southampton.

Lacklustre attacking defined the 2-0 defeat to Manchester City and the Tottenham draw, which is why the result and the manner of the performance against Chelsea once again shocked. The emphatic victories against Southampton and Chelsea are a marked contrast to the corresponding fixtures that Everton lost by a 9-3 aggregate last season.

The next challenge is maintaining the levels shown in those aforementioned victories, proving the team can build on strong displays and imposing victories by delivering another. It is vital Everton rediscover the consistency expected of a team eyeing another European push.

Luke writes about Everton for EPL Index and his View from the Royal Blue Mersey blog. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.

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