Tuesday, 23 September 2014

BEWARE: Leave the Swans at your peril!

After watching Michu getting hauled off for Napoli on Sunday, ALEC JOHNSON considers why any player that leaves Swansea with a greedy motive tends to end up sitting the rest of their career out on a bench.

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By Alec Johnson

It’s Sunday, 21 September and our former glory boy Miguel Michu gets his first start in Serie A for the perennial underachievers, otherwise called Napoli.

Just over 8,000 people are there to watch Udinese beat Napoli 1-0, with a frustrated Michu and equally miffed Argentinian hitman Gonzalo Higuain shooting blanks once again. The truth is that neither has scored a league goal this season.

So why did Michu - once worshipped in this part of South Wales - force this move?

Yes, Naples is a nice place to live but he won’t win anything there unless Maradona comes out of retirement. The games are played out in front of half-empty stadiums which themselves are crumbling, none worse that the Stadio San Paolo, as the 900 over there with me last February will confirm.

But it's not just Michu's decision to move that's puzzling. We also have our Spanish-now-Arabian brothers... what's all that about? Moving to a start-up football club in a league with average crowds less than Ashleigh Road on a Sunday morning. It's cash and lifestyle over club and country. That essentially finishes the careers of Pablo Hernandez and Chico Flores.

Add Ben Davies and Michel Vorm to the ever-growing list of evacuees and you start to see a pattern developing. While Ben is at least getting some Thursday football over at Spurs, Michel hasn’t put his gloves on yet. One year ago he was the Netherlands’ number one, now he is Spurs’ third choice. While accepting that Vorm actually didn’t choose to leave, he did choose the destination and clearly hadn’t considered the options fully.

Nice hat Danny - shame about the bench.

Roll back a few more years and it’s Darren Pratley, Dorus de Vries, Sam Ricketts and Danny Graham all scrapping around in the Championship having, in their own small-minded way, forced through exits from our club. Nobody on this list bettered themselves and none of them would find a place in our squad today. No doubt we have become a stronger club, but have they all gone backwards?

I believe so.

The greatest disappointment of the lot was our hero Scott Sinclair. In his final match for us he scored a stunner in a 5-0 win at Loftus Road, before leaving for a club where he played 78 minutes in the whole next season. What a waste of a raw talent that would have continued to improve within our environment.

Sinclair on the bench - a familiar sight.
Swansea City give players the freedom to express themselves, playing with confidence that forces technical improvement. This is also not a club that carries the weight of great expectation so the fans don’t turn on you with every mistake.

We feel that we are on the journey together and Saturday’s awesome spirit through the stadium as everybody sang for the entire second half confirms this. We barely touched the ball yet the attitude was one of togetherness. That itself is very rare in football.

So, the loyalty is reciprocal, as is the success of the players and the club. Nobody needs to leave for a few pieces of extra silver or an opportunity to play for their country (unless you’re English of course) as the land of opportunity is right here. The club now compete on salary in the richest league in the world, the city provides a fabulous lifestyle and the management encourage players to play. What more would you want in a football career?

Welcome to the most successful football in Wales, and the best run club in football.


Saturday, 13 September 2014

Swansea City 2 - 4 Chelsea: "We are the Swans and the Swans sometimes lose."

...and we are back down to earth!

It's good to get a bit of a reality check now and again and it happened today when Swansea lost 4-2 at Stamford Bridge.

In fairness the Swans began superbly, passing it around with comfort and playing with speed, power and flair. They rightly scored the first goal (even though it was an own goal from John Terry) but then allowed Chelsea into the game.

And into the game they came, with Diego Costa scoring one goal a few moments before the half-time whistle before grabbing another two, with Loic Remy scoring the last. Swansea's defence fell apart and Chelsea were clinical with their finishing, deservedly winning and showing why they are top of the league.

It tastes a little sour after the last day or so. After the hype and praise over the Jack to a King film and Garry Monk winning the Manager of the Month award, it would have been a bit too perfect for Swansea to go on and win the game against Chelsea and become outright leaders of the Premier League! It just would have been... well, it wouldn't have been very Swansea.

So a pretty crushing defeat, but no-one can really complain.

In general it wasn't a terrible performance by the Swans. There was a time in the first half pretty much 99 percent of Swans fans would have believed a win was imminent.

The Swans are still sitting second in the Premier League table with nine points. The team is full of solid players, with no-one really just there for the ride. The manager is working hard and clearly working for the team. And there are few complaints among Swans fans.

All in all this makes for pretty good reading. Just avoid the rest of the match reports and enjoy the remainder of your weekend!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Rangel's last ride?

After giving a quick round-up of the summer's main business dealings at Swansea City, MATTHEW JACOB discusses Angel Rangel's role with the club and who is around to cover him if he is no longer up for the task.

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By Matthew Jacob

Now that the dust has settled on another summer of transfer dealings at Swansea City, we have the opportunity to reflect on what has actually been achieved.

First and foremost we kept our goalscorer, Wilfried Bony. Some may say against the odds, given that the big Ivorian is considered to be one of the hottest strikers available in the market place, who won't be cup tied in a European competition come January.

Allegedly carrying a release clause in his contract I, along with the rest of the Jack Army, held my breath as the deadline day clock ticked down to 11pm. Would anyone test our resolve with a bid in excess of £20 million? (Think about that for a second, twenty million pounds for a Swansea City forward... how times have changed!). Thankfully that bid didn't come. He remains our number ten, and personally, I believe that to be our best bit of business.

Additions have come all over the pitch though, and have significantly improved the squad. Lukasz Fabianski looks to be an absolute steal, while Gylfi Sigurdsson has given our midfield not only additional flair but a focal point to channel all our good play through.

The jet-heeled Jefferson Montero offers another option in the wide areas, while we also sorted a new deal for Ki Sung Yueng, and recruited Bafetimbi Gomis, again on a free - more shrewd business by the club.

However, despite all this success, there were areas that, for me at least, were not addressed. Hands up if you honestly feel we have competition for Angel Rangel in that squad?

Still a crucial part of Swansea City?

The Spaniard is arguably the club's most loyal servant following the likes of Leon Britton, Alan Tate, and the boss himself, Garry Monk. It is almost certain that he has given us the best years of his career and at 32 it wouldn't be unfair to suggest that this season may be his last as a real quality option at right back.

That is not to suggest that Rangel hasn't been a superb servant for the club, and the way he has started this season has more than confirmed he still has what it takes to compete effectively at the top.

The question still remains though: where do Swansea City go when Rangel cannot bomb on past the winger and put a cross in? Or when he can't beat a winger for pace and cover?

This leads me back to the transfer window, and probably the only disappointment for me was the club failing to land a right back to first and foremost challenge Rangel for that spot, but also to provide effective cover for the former Terrassa man.

Dwight Tiendalli could be forced into action should the need arise but is naturally a left sided defender, while another summer recruit in Stephen Kingsley has also been earmarked for left back, and is seen as a firm development player for the time being.

Neil Taylor, who has shown signs of getting back to his best following his start to the season, has played at right back for Team GB but again is a more natural left sided player. For me, this leaves us with Jazz Richards as our only solid right back after Rangel.


Does Jazz have what it takes?

Jazz Richards has been at Swansea City a considerable time. Following his professional debut in 2009 he's had loan spells with Huddersfield and Crystal Palace before signing a new contract with the Swans last year (one which will take him up to June 2016).

The local boy is seen as a brilliant deputy right back and nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see him step up and become first choice in that role once Rangel eventually starts to wane. Having players come through our youth system and into the first team is something Swansea City have had considerable success with in years past, namely Joe Allen and Ben Davies who both moved on to bigger clubs, while Josh Sheehan is slowly breaking into the first team.

Now is the time for Richards to really push on. If he is to be Rangel's successor, it has to happen soon or it won't happen at all.

For me, this season and next could see Rangel's time as a first team player come to an end, but for the time being I see no better option. Frankly, we're very lucky to have a player of Rangel's considerable talent in our team already, and I hope he continues those overlapping runs for a little while yet.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Lukasz Fabianski - Has Swansea's gamble paid off?

Three games down and just one goal conceded, with Lukasz Fabianski deserving much of the praise for Swansea City's solid defensive performances. But as JUSTIN AGTAV discusses, signing the mistake-prone Pole was a bit of a gamble. So has it paid off?

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By Justin Agtav

When Swansea sold Michel Vorm in the summer and were left with new recruit Lukasz Fabianski as his replacement, I was a little nervous.

I had seen Fabianski play almost every season during his spell with Arsenal and in that time I noticed that he was constantly misjudging crosses and had certain problems catching the ball. He even made a mistake in the FA Cup final last year which almost cost Arsenal the trophy.

But it seems he is not making any of those errors with the Swans and has been one of their best players over the three games so far this season.


The key man for Swansea this season?

Considering that Swansea got him for nothing he is the very definition of a bargain signing. Arsenal shelled out around £3 million just to get backup goalkeeper David Ospina, while Southampton spent £10 million to get Fraser Forster.

Based on past performances one may have said that Fabianski may not be as good as these two keepers, but after seeing him with the Swans we now know he is certainly capable of becoming a Premier League star.

In the first three games he was outstanding, keeping a clean sheet against plucky Burnley and West Brom and conceding just one against Man United. Of course every time the ball came towards him I still had the lingering feeling that he was about to make a mistake, but he actually dealt with cross after cross superbly.

Meanwhile, his height (6ft 2in) makes him a much better aerial presence for Swansea than Michel Vorm (just on 6ft). His distribution was excellent as well which suits Swansea's game perfectly. And he communicated well and looked generally very confident.

And confidence is why I think Fabianski will be a star for Swansea this season.

He always made excellent breakaway saves and was excellent at shot stopping for Arsenal, but at the same time he always looked nervous. He may have been afraid to make mistakes, because it was likely that he wanted to be Arsenal's number one keeper so much.

But now that the Pole is the undisputed number one at Swansea, he should have no problem with confidence and could end up being one of the goalkeepers of the season.

Monday, 18 August 2014

The Swans' first game: a brief chat between Chris and Alec

After the first game of the season producing three fantastic points for Swansea City, I thought it would be a good idea to have a chat with ForzaSwansea's resident former Swan and football agent Alec Johnson for his reaction and to see what we can expect from the season ahead.

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Chris Carra: So, a 2-1 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford... I can't say I knew of anyone who thought that was very likely to happen, especially after the poor showing against Villarreal the week before. Was it a shock three points for you?

Alec Johnson: Well I wasn't confident until I saw the team sheets, then it all changed. I actually tweeted that we would score a late winner, believing that Gomis would get the important goal. United were also very poor and lacked movement and pace, which helped our cause. We caught them at the right moment in the season.

CC: Yeah, United were quite ordinary on Saturday, although I don't want to sound like I'm taking anything away from the Swans' performance. What do you think we did right against van Gaal's men?

AJ: It was our shape. We were back to our solid best. Protect the back four, get the wingers working within ten yards of the fullbacks and be patient. It paid off in the end!

CC: It certainly did. It wasn't a flawless performance though, especially the opening ten minutes where nerves seemed to play a part. But I guess that was to be expected. What do you feel could have been improved on?

AJ: Our ball retention. We certainly panicked for patches and kept giving it back to United, which is understandable for the season kick-off. Plus I felt our wingers didn't have a go at their vulnerable full backs when given the chance, especially Nathan Dyer against young Tyler Blackett.

CC: On to next week where Swansea will take on the 'new boys' Burnley at the Liberty Stadium. After the first game do you reckon this will be an easier three points?

AJ: Not necessarily - it will still be a very difficult game and they will be right up for it. Sean Dyche will allow no easy ride. However if we approach the game with the right attitude we could get a decent win.

CC: Can we get an early score prediction? 

AJ: I'll say 2-1 or 3-1 to Swansea.

CC: That sounds about right. I'm going to say 2-0 to Swansea. Now, more generally speaking, let's look at our key players this season. I'm enjoying Montero from what I've seen of him - the kind of kick and chase player I've always loved to watch. He'll be very important I feel. What about you?

AJ: The most important for me will be Siggi, as Michu was in previous seasons. Playing the system we play relies so heavily on the 'ten' floating between the lines and he can do just that. As for the player I'll enjoy watching the most, I'd say Gomis edges this over Siggi, simply because we haven't had pace up top for two decades. Suddenly we have speed, which will force teams to sit deeper against us, opening up pockets of space around the park.

CC: Taking a great leap nine months into the future and the season is coming to an end. Where are Swansea City in the Premier League table?

AJ: I believe we will be in our usual spot of top of the middle bag, hovering around mid-table all season. We'll be safe by Easter. If I'm being more specific we'll be 8th with 49 points by the end, beating our best finish and points tally in the Premier League. I also fancy an FA Cup run - that trophy is a missing piece for us and I'd love us to have a right go at it.

CC: I think most Swans fans would happily take that! I'm going to say we'll be around mid-table too - these days that is the safest bet! I think I learnt my lesson when I had a fiver on Swansea to finish in the top six last season... 

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Thanks to Alec for having this little chat - make sure to follow him on Twitter. We'll be catching up again very soon. For now get in touch with your season predictions via Twitter or on our Facebook page!


Friday, 15 August 2014

Swansea City's Greatest Games: The Book

It is with great pleasure that I can finally announce that my upcoming book, Swansea City's Greatest Games, is available to pre-order from outlets such as Amazon and Waterstones!

"...essential reading for the Jack Army, of all ages and generations!" - Kevin Johns, Swansea City club chaplain


The 208-page hardback book brings to life fifty of the Swans' most intense, emotional and thrilling games from across their 102 year history.

The book starts with the very first game in 1912 before moving through the decades right up to the current day. As you can imagine, there are plenty from the Toshack years and the Premier League era to get your teeth into.

There are fresh interviews with former players and a brilliant picture section, while Swans legend Alan Curtis has provided the foreword.

For someone like me who is a stringent perfectionist, I can say I am very happy with how it's all come together and I'm sure any true Swans fan will love it!

The book will be in stores from 1st October 2014, but is available to pre-order now.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the book! If you have any questions please get in touch via the contact form or on Twitter, or leave a comment below.


Monday, 11 August 2014

Swansea City: The Season Preview

Is it just me or was that a short summer?

In less than a week Swansea City will be back up and running, kicking off their fourth Premier League campaign with an away trip to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United (Saturday, 12.45pm).

We've seen / heard / read about the Swans pre-season friendlies (make sure to read my full round-up) - some of them were pretty convincing wins, but other games made for much less comfortable watching.

Unfortunately when Swansea played Villarreal on Saturday at the Liberty they looked to pick up where they left off last season - a little clueless and disorganised. What is worrying is that the players on the pitch were essentially Garry Monk's first team (excluding the injured Leon Britton and Wayne Routledge).

However, despite looking very uninspiring, the 3-0 loss perhaps proved to Monk that whatever he was trying out didn't work. Set up the same way against Man United and it's pretty much the first loss of the season guaranteed.

What went wrong in that game? Well the formation seemed non-existent. Were they playing a 4-4-2? Or a 3-5-2? Or a 4-5-1? Whatever they were trying it wasn't working and they looked very unbalanced. Naturally without Britton soaking up the pressure in the middle and another dedicated winger out wide there was always going to be some unbalance.


Hopefully a key player again this season

So how will Swansea fare this season? It's really hard to predict! To many pundits, the Swans are relegation fodder, but I still can't see it. If they keep hold of Wilfried Bony and he links up well with the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jefferson Montero, Jonjo Shelvey and Bafetimbi Gomis, the attack could be one of the best outside the top four.

With midfield possibly the strongest it has ever been, the main area of worry seems to be in defence - an area that has not been much of an issue in recent years. With the departure of Ben Davies and Chico Flores, this crucial part of the team is looking a little threadbare.

Angel Rangel - though still one of my favourite players - is not as sharp as he once was, while Kyle Bartley looks a little suspect at times. However the club are making a move for Napoli's Argentinian centre-back Federico Fernandez, while Nice's left/centre-back Timothee Kolodziejczak (looking forward to Kevin Johns saying that over the Liberty loudspeakers!) has also been linked with the club.

Whatever happens, fans and the board will be more sympathetic of Monk than they would another manager. But he's not invincible and if we start to see poor results there will certainly be unrest among those who wanted Monk as permanent manager and those who thought it was too soon.

The fixtures are pretty balanced throughout the season, with two highly winnable games to begin (after United of course) - Burnley and West Brom at the Liberty Stadium. I guess it would be worth reassessing after those games. Pick up six points by the end of the month and everything is fine. Anything less and questions will be asked.

But let's end this on a positive - Swansea are an established top flight side entering their fourth year in probably the greatest league in the world. With solid goalscorers, electric pace, longstanding stalwarts and a midfield with plenty of depth there's no reason we should be worried.

(Unless Bony leaves...)