THEY HAVE rightly been dubbed the unexpected success stories of the Premier League season – two promoted clubs who have been anything but whipping boys.
Swansea and Norwich sit side by side in the table, and just four points behind Everton, but the Toffees have already proven there is no substitute for experience at the Liberty Stadium.
David Moyes’ men got their tactics just right on the South Wales coast, and their hard-pressing performance prevented ‘Swanse-lona’ finding their passing groove.
Now Tim Howard believes the Blues must deploy a similarly shrewd plan to defeat the muscular Canaries, and keep Everton’s upwardly mobile league progress on track.
“What we’ve been trying to do lately is really press teams,” says the USA international. “The gaffer got his game plan right against Swansea.
“We were a little bit out of our comfort zone, high pressing all over the pitch but it seemed to give us an edge and get us on the front foot. Rather than sit back and wait to be broken down we were really going and pushing them.”
Paul Lambert’s side will represent a different challenge from Swansea, but Howard believes the win over West Brom last weekend was the ideal preparation.
He said: “We did that a bit against West Brom as well, another tough team to break down, with 4-4-2 and two banks of four. It’s difficult and they made it hard but we pressed high.
“With Norwich we need to do a similar thing. It’s away from home so you need to play a little bit differently but with the run we’re on, and the confidence we have there’s no reason we can’t go there, without taking terrible risk, get up against them and make them try and play around us.”
Canaries boss Paul Lambert has been widely praised for helping his club do more than just survive this term, and Howard has had nothing but positive feedback on the Scot.
“His players think the world of him,” said the 33-year-old who canvassed the opinion of Norwich’s American defender Zak Whitbread and ex-Blue goalkeeper John Ruddy.
“He seems to have a really good way about him, and he’s come up and impressed everyone. The boys seem to play for him.
“Fair play because they haven’t come up and been coy and reserved, getting turned over. They’ve really taken it to teams and I think that’s the way forward for newly promoted teams. You can’t just sit back and be there for the taking. They play well at home too.
“It’s another top Scottish boss. Scotland just produces some really, really good managers and long may it continue because they have got the right pedigree to make top quality coaches.”
In the corresponding fixture at Goodison this season, Grant Holt scored his side’s goal in a 1-1 draw, and the centre-forward has bagged 14 strikes overall so far.
Howard already knows he will be in for a tough test against the tall striker. “It’s going to be tough because he bangs into you and beats you up,” he said.
“He’s non-stop for as long as he’s on the pitch, so he’s another they relied heavily onto bring them up last season, and this time around to keep them up, and he’s not disappointed.”