Football Expert & Columnist
Jamie Redknapp: Roberto Martinez combines flair and resolve at Everton
Everton are taking on big-spending rivals with flowing football and a solid defence, says Jamie Redknapp.
Last Updated: 20/12/13 5:44pm
In the summer, when Roberto Martinez was appointed as David Moyes' successor, I know some Evertonians were unhappy about getting a manager who had just been relegated with Wigan, despite winning the FA Cup.
But Martinez has got them playing a great brand of football and, as a player, Everton must be a great place to ply your trade at the moment.
They've surprised many people this season; we saw them go to Manchester United and produce a brilliant performance and then go to the Emirates and out-pass an Arsenal team we think of as the possession masters.
Romelu Lukaku, who has bagged eight goals in the Premier League so far, has given them a real threat up top, while I've run out of superlatives to describe Ross Barkley. Now and then a player comes along who's different and that's Barkley; he's a fantastic footballer.
Former Swansea boss Martinez has demanded good football from his side and they've delivered - but they also have a very strong defensive resolve, too.
Going into this weekend's fixtures, Everton have conceded the joint-fewest number of goals in the top flight, with Tim Howard being beaten on just 15 occasions this term (the same number as Southampton have let in).
The American is a sound keeper and in front of him he's got two good full-backs in Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines, who Bryan Oviedo has done a good job to deputise for since the England man's injury.
Then at centre-half they have a very good pairing in Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka - who is probably the best defender in the Premier League at the moment.
Crucially, in front of them, Gareth Barry offers plenty of protection in that holding role - and what a great loan signing he's been this season.
If you were compiling a team of the season so far, he would certainly be one of the top choices for that position. He's been immense since arriving from Man City and also helps out the younger players around him, such as Barkley and Lukaku, with his experience.
Martinez is really getting the best out of his squad at the moment and, with a favourable run of fixtures over the Christmas and New Year period, they should be in a very strong position come the start of 2014.
The big question mark, though, is over their strength in depth and whether they can keep this form going.
They haven't spent the vast sums some of their top four rivals have and, usually, money equals success.
They've got it all to do and it's harder than ever to get into those Champions League spots with so many strong sides competing for those places this year, but with Martinez's methods chiming with the players, they've got a chance.
Their opponents on Sunday, meanwhile, will be far less happy with their first half of the season.
Before this campaign started Swansea were one of my tips for a top six finish but they've not done as well as I thought they would.
There's no question, the Europa League games have hindered them, with the extra matches disrupting their preparation for their Premier League games, but their home form has been poor, too, with them winning just two of their eight games at the Liberty Stadium so far.
It seems that, despite the club spending quite a bit of money in the summer, the drop-off in performance they experienced after winning last season's Capital One Cup has continued into this season as well.
Jamie's backing Swansea and Everton to draw 1-1 - at 11/2. Bet now
They've got a break in their Europa League schedule now which gives them a chance to try and turn what has been a disappointing season around and I reckon they could kick that off this weekend by holding a very good Everton side to a 1-1 draw.
Although Swansea have been far from their best this season they rarely look like they are going to get beaten by a significant margin and, with their old boss in town, they'll be determined to put on a performance.