No sign of evergreen Distin slowing down

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

AllsportEven at 36 years of age, Everton's Sylvain Distin continues to play at a high level.

Whether it is the swift, impressive impact of Roberto Martinez or the displays of the new signings or merely general acclaim for a side on the up, Everton are starting to turn heads on the back of a string of exciting results and performances.

Plenty of the media buzz centres on the emergence of Ross Barkley, who is striking up a promising partnership with hotshot loan signing Romelu Lukaku, while Gareth Barry continues to garner praise for the experience and steadying influence provided in midfield.

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Another attracting widespread praise is James McCarthy, who returns for this Sunday's visit to Swansea after a one-match ban. Despite the 4-1 scoreline against Fulham, the absence of the Irish midfielder was telling. Leon Osman deputised adequately, but the two are totally contrasting players; Everton missed the work rate and pressing of McCarthy.

However, for all the attention toward the summer signings and the emerging young players, one of the most consistent performers is the ever-dependable Sylvain Distin. The evergreen centre-back turned 36 on Monday, but there is no sign of age catching up with the defender.

David Moyes broke his strict transfer policy in August 2009 to sign Distin for five million pounds from Portsmouth. Prior to this transfer, Moyes refused to spend his meagre budget on thirty-something players.

This exception to that wise rule has proven a more than worthwhile investment. During his time on Merseyside, Distin has surpassed 400 league appearances -- no foreign outfield player has made more appearances in the Premier League.

Though known primarily for defensive attributes, especially his strength and ability to eat up the turf -- there are wry smiles aplenty around Goodison when opposition forwards attempt to beat the Frenchman for pace -- Distin is adapting well to the shift in approach under Martinez for the most part.

Alongside Phil Jagielka, this pairing is beginning to perfect their roles in this possession-based setup, although old habits still resurface on occasion. The win over Fulham served as reminder of the teething problems related to this kind of stylistic overhaul.

Nevertheless, helping to dispell the myths surrounding Martinez and a supposed inability to match flowing football with the art of defending, Distin and company are excelling at present. The defensive resolve synonymous with the Everton of old remains intact in this latest incarnation.

Along with Southampton, the Blues are the only team conceding less than a goal a game -- each side have shipped only 15 in 16 matches. Everton also boast eight clean sheets this season; West Ham are level in this regard but have played a game more.

Providing a solid defensive platform, and ably assisted by those around him, Distin will form part of the travelling party bound for Swansea. The often-eventful transfer window looms large on the horizon, but there is the small matter of a hectic festive period in need of careful negotiation before then.

Like a number of other recent games, Everton head into this looking to improve upon a relevant statistic. Home wins over Stoke and Fulham equalled and then broke the club's best Premier League unbeaten run at home, while the victory over Manchester United meant a first win at Old Trafford in 21 years.

In this fixture, the Toffees are striving to extend an 83-year 17-match unbeaten run against Swansea (12-5-0). In fact, the Swans are yet to score against those in royal blue since their promotion to the top flight; Everton can point to four clean sheets in the four meetings thus far.

Elsewhere, this trip to the Liberty Stadium sees Martinez return to the place where it all began for him as a manager, although his eventual departure to Wigan left a bitter taste in the mouth for some and that may liven up the atmosphere for this one.

Looking to build on current form, as a team and individually, Distin is liable to play a key role in a potentially testing encounter. Similar to his team-mates, the defender is going from strength to strength and few could question a well-deserved contract extension in the near future. First and foremost, though, three points are the order of the day in Wales.


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