The humiliating crisis of David Unsworth’s latter days have drifted out of footballing consciousness. Before a ball was kicked this weekend, the Toffees were level on points with Watford. Sam Allardyce’s appointment has played its part, but the team’s improvement has been as much down to individual upturn as coaching.
Mid-table was the bare minimum at the start of the season. Everton are there now, and the prospect of relegation is as faint as a top four finish. The board would not have taken this on opening day, but they certainly would have done a month ago. Some would say it was foreseeable, though.
Their visitors on Monday night are in a distinctly less relaxed situation. Swansea are at the foot of the Premier League table, coming into this match after a thrashing at the hands of Manchester City. A vital win over West Bromwich Albion last weekend probably saved Paul Clement’s job, but that could only be a short-term fix.
Swansea have, in part, been unlucky. Their league-worst goal scoring record is not a direct reflection of their chance creation. Finishing has been as much an issue as midfield imbalance. The burden on Tammy Abraham has been vast in the final third, with a lack of pace leaving the side short of penetration. Abraham is a 7/1 shot to open the scoring on Monday.
Clement could really do with Wilfried Bony hitting form sooner rather than later. The Ivorian has scored just once this season.
The league’s lowest scorers visiting a team who have conceded one in four league matches is enough to get people watching Coronation Street. The back line that was riddled with error and disorganisation is suddenly a more coherent unit, with Jonjoe Kenny and Mason Holgate impressing.
Unfortunately, Swansea’s offensive record is so poor there is little value in backing an Everton clean sheet at 49/50. The Toffees’ solidity of late might make it tempting even at those short odds, but errors in that defence put me off the price.
Cards are a market worth looking at for this one. Only three teams have been shown more cards than Everton this season, and they could find themselves having to halt Swansea counter-attacks. Over 1.5 cards for the hosts at 17/20 looks a real steal.
The resurgence of Wayne Rooney makes him a worthwhile bet at 33/20 to score within the 90 minutes. Thriving off of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, the former Manchester United man was the match-winner in midweek and could be again.
I expect a low-scoring affair at Goodison Park on a bracing Monday night. The match might not get much more exciting than the inevitable Christmas puns on the Sky Sports commentary. Swansea are in dire need of a result, but their trip to Merseyside comes a few weeks too late for Clement. Their focus will be on their clash with Crystal Palace on the 23rd.
Everton could yet finish in the top eight. I think they will take another important step towards that under the lights. Their superiority in the final third should prove the difference.
TIP: EVERTON 2-0 SWANSEA CITY (Priced at 6/1 with 888sport)
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*