Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Swansea City: "Paella and chips please mate"

"Un San Miguel por favor Pedro."

Like the majority of British holidaymakers, I only really know one or two Spanish phrases. And - with most of Swansea City's Spanish contingent making a moody exit this summer - it's probably for the best that I didn't make the effort to learn much more.

Joking aside, it is looking more and more likely that when the 2014/15 season arrives we will probably not see the likes of Alejandro Pozuelo, Jose Canas, Pablo Hernandez and Michu at the Liberty Stadium.

Rewind to 19 September 2013, when Swansea demolished Valencia in the Mestalla. The Swans fielded a starting eleven featuring six Spanish players - more than their hosts! But, once the heart of the team, time seems to be up for the Spaniards.

So what went wrong?

Towards the end of the season, after Michael Laudrup's departure, there appeared to be a rift forming between the Spaniards and the rest of the team (Angel Rangel excluded perhaps). We heard of no less than two separate training ground bust-ups, including the notorious #Brickgate incident in April 2014.
 
But on the field the Spaniards did have some brilliant moments in the spotlight. Against QPR in 2012, Chico was described by the Daily Mail as 'composure and comfort on the ball personified', while Michu was the poster boy for Swansea's centenary season - and rightly so after his 22 goals and the incredible passion he showed for his new club.



Alejando Pozuelo - on his way out.

The others showed potential at times. Hernandez had moments of genius - look at his blistering performance against West Brom in 2012. He was like a player possessed. It's just a shame he couldn't keep those intense periods of wonder football at a consistent level. Chico too had his moments, but they were watched tentatively, knowing he was only ever a few minutes away from doing something ridiculous.

Meanwhile, Pozuelo - while raw - showed glimmers of what he may be capable of in the future and Canas tried to emulate the Leon Britton pit-bull role in the centre, though was nowhere near as composed as he should have been.

The only one I haven't mentioned is Alvaro Vazquez, but there really is no need to mention him...

In all - as I've suggested - consistency and the lack of it was the problem. For every one game of brilliance and excitement, there were two or three of confusion and boredom. Naturally it was not just the Spanish players at fault, but their attitudes didn't seem to help.

We'll never fully know what goes on behind closed training ground doors, but it is clear that the majority of the Spaniards are not part of Garry Monk's 'get back to basics' plans.

Monk has hinted he wants to keep hold of Michu - who has been tipped to go to Napoli or even West Ham - but the midfielder just doesn't look like he wants to stay with the Swans. Hernandez, meanhwhile, has been linked with Qatari outfit Lekhwiya SC (no coincidence that a certain Michael Laudrup has recently taken over there).

Whatever happens these Spanish players need to be replaced if they do go, otherwise the squad will be left looking a little bare. 

It's unrealistic to say 'let's just use homegrown talent' or 'let's not have any more Spanish players' because - as we all know - the Spaniards have generally been crucial in Swansea's rise and establishment in the Premier League. But maybe next time the club should go for quality over quantity.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Swansea City: A Midsummer Night's Update!

Firstly, I'm very sorry for the relative silence on the blog. This is partly down to it being the summer and not having loads of material to write about, while I've also spent so much of my time finishing off my new book, Swansea City's Greatest Games (more details on this in the coming week or so)!

But for now, let's have a brief catch-up!

(Free) Transfers

Garry Monk and Huw Jenkins have been uncharacteristically busy in the transfer market this summer and have accrued four new players already, paying next to nothing for some top talent (nothing new there then!).

At the start of June we saw the applauded arrival of Lucasz Fabianski. The Polish keeper joined from Arsenal on a free transfer for four years which was great business. Then came the most exciting addition in Baf├ętimbi Gomis from Lyon. A long-standing target for the Swans, the 28-year-old formidable French international striker was out-of-contract and is another to arrive in South Wales on a free transfer. He'll make for exciting watching next season, hopefully pairing up well with Wilfried Bony (if the big man is still around!)

Gomis!

Marvin Emnes has also joined the club for the third time - this time a permanent fixture! He wasn't free (although we don't know the price) but we don't mind splashing out a little on an attacker who knows the club and can score/create enough from the bench to make it worthwhile.

Then comes the signing of young left-back Stephen Kingsley from Falkirk (another undisclosed fee... if they don't want to tell us let's assume it was £35million!). The 19-year-old is probably another one for the future, but may make more of an impact if Ben Davies does leave.


Toffee throwing and spoiled bets

"I prefer Werther's Originals"

Ki Sung-Yeung and his South Korean team-mates were pelted with toffees thrown by angry fans when they arrived back home after their disappointing World Cup group stage exit (the video of this incident is here). Harsh on Ki, who actually played some brilliant football throughout his games.

Wilfried Bony, meanwhile is also back home following Ivory Coast's failure to make it out of the group stages. Bony scored two goals, but their early exit from the tournament means my bet on 'Bony to be top Premier League goalscorer' at 50/1 was essentially spoiled there and then! Gutted.

From a Swansea perspective both Jonathan de Guzman and Michel Vorm are still in the cup with Holland, who face Costa Rica in the quarter-final on Saturday at 9pm. I expect de Guzman to feature again in the tournament, especially with Nigel de Jong ruled out, but seeing Vorm may be limited to quick flashes of him on the bench.


Back to the action

Swansea are back in training which means the new season is just around the corner! Not before the team head off to America first for a series of friendlies. On Wednesday, 16 July they'll take on Mexican Lega MX side Chivas Guadalajara, then will travel north to face Minnesota United (North American Soccer League) on Saturday, 19 July.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Swansea City: New fixtures, World Cup watch and transfers round-up!

Another week or so has passed - the World Cup is in full swing, the transfer market has seen some movement and Cardiff are still in the Championship. So let's see how the summer is treating Swansea City!


Fixtures

The Premier League fixtures for the 2014/15 season were released today. Rumors of playing West Brom at home for the first game were false - instead Swansea will play Man United again for their opening fixture, albeit at Old Trafford this time around (this will be on 16th August).

The rest of August, September and October are all pretty winnable and should give us some nice points to take into November which looks like a bit of a tough month (with games against Everton, Arsenal and Man City).

The season overall is pretty well balanced between tough and not-so-tough teams. Hopefully survival in the Premier League will be sorted before May as the Swans will face both Arsenal (away) and Man City (home) in that month. The final game is on 24th May with an away trip to face Crystal Palace. The full list can be found on the Evening Post's website.


Emnes during his first stint with the club in 2010/11

Transfers

There's not been much in the way of transfer activity over the past week. At the moment the biggest news is that the Swans are pretty close to signing an old face - Marvin Emnes - for around £1million. The 26-year-old has been with the club on loan twice over the past few years and, although he's nothing groundbreaking, he offers another decent option up front and is already a firm fan favourite. And, let's be honest, £1million is a bargain!

Wilfried Bony has said he will only leave Swansea for a top six club, which - I guess - is fair enough, even though we hope it doesn't happen this summer. It may/will definitely be difficult for the club to keep hold of the star striker in the long term, but if he does go it will be better to see him with Arsenal or Chelsea, not Stoke or Sunderland.

Meanwhile the question mark still hangs over Ashley Williams' head, but all this talk from his agent smells too much like a tactic to increase his wages rather than an actual threat to go elsewhere. Another 'watch this space'!


World Cup watch

The World Cup is only a week old, but it's already been a fascinating tournament. And Brazil - home to the Copacabana, the Rio Carnival and the BSOP - is the temporary home to some of Swansea City's stars.

Wilfried Bony popped up to score Ivory Coast's first goal in the 2-1 turnaround against Japan, with a glancing header after latching on to Serge Aurier's cross in the second half.

Meanwhile Jonathan de Guzman played around an hour of Holland's thrilling 5-1 hammering of Spain (even if he looked a little out of his depth at times). Michel Vorm was on the bench for the Dutch for that game, but with Holland having no set number one, don't be surprised if we see him at some stage in the tournament.

In South Korea's 1-1 draw with Russia last night, Ki Sung Yueng showed the kind of midfield passing and domination that, had he shown more of in his first season with Swansea, may have seen him avoiding that loan spell at Sunderland. Either way, he looks like a player Garry Monk - and the Swans fans - will want to keep hold of.

More from all these players in the next few days (including de Guzman tonight hopefully)!


Shirt sponsors

Finally, the Swans look to have agreed a new shirt sponsorship deal with the company with the almost unreadable logo, GWFX (the Goldenway Global Group).

It turns out to be the biggest shirt sponsorship deal in Swansea City's history, supposedly worth more than £4 million to the club. Good business there, even if I do hate that logo!


Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Swansea City: a procrastinators weekly summary

I've been away on holiday, then I spent a week procrastinating. So, without further delay, let's have a brief and sketchy look at what's been happening in the world of Swansea City over the past week or so!


Fabianski

For a change, the Swans have been very quick to nab a player in the transfer window - Lucasz Fabianski signed last week on a free transfer for four years. Great business to bring in a decent Polish international.

While he's not been Arsenal's first choice, he has been solid enough at times during his 32 appearances, even though he's made his fair share of mistakes. He's a capable keeper though - check out the video post on him from last week, highlighting his top ten saves. Whether or not he'll be first choice keeper next season will depend on...


Vorm

...Michel Vorm. One of the reasons Swansea excelled in their first and second seasons in the Premier League. But oddly the Dutch shot-stopper didn't look himself last season, conceding soft goals and making several uncharacteristic mistakes.

I'm sure most Swans fans would be happy to keep him next year, but rumours have been rife that he's heading off, with Liverpool showing interest. This seems to just be paper talk at the moment, with the man himself telling Dutch reporters there is little in the way of news on his departure. Watch this space.


Why always me?

Ashley Williams vs. the World

I'm not completely certain what has been happening with Ashley Williams. While I was away on holiday a brief look on Twitter showed he was having some sort of battle with everyone's favourite ex-Cardiff fat striker Michael Chopra. Who knows what it was about (most of us can probably guess), but it touched a nerve with the defender and he deleted his Twitter account.

Around the same time he was photographed at the Emirates Stadium. Maybe he was just having a tour? It didn't bode well with Swans fans with the apparent interest from Arsenal. QPR now seem to be the prime candidates to get his signature, though £4million seems a little cheap if Swansea were to let him go.

However, it seems the club are starting new contract negotiations today, so we'll just have to see what happens. I reckon he will stay, with a plumper wage packet.


Leon Britton

On the other hand we have Leon Britton, who has been nothing but professional in his ten or so years with the club. The good news today is that he has signed a contract extension to keep him with Swansea City until at least July 2017, which is nothing short of great news.


Luc Castaignos

Finally on the subject of transfers is the acquisition of Luc Castaignos, for £6.5million from FC Twente last weekend. Another Dutch international (albeit at U21 level), the 21-year-old scored 14 goals in 31 games last season and looks set to make more of an impact than the past few years of new strikers (Bony the exception). He still needs to complete his medical and agree personal terms, but it's another positive move for the Swans this summer.




World Cup Watch

There's not been any action yet, but already one of ours in injured. Jonathan de Guzman is now a doubt for the World Cup after suffering a hamstring injury in a training session for Holland. While there's still a chance he won't be with the Swans next season (he's still a Villarreal loanee, lest we forget), it's not great news. Let's hope Wilfried bony stays in one piece.

I have a £5 bet on Ivory Coast (as well as £20 on Italy of course...). While they aren't favourites by any length, they've got some quality including the big man. And with online betting odds of around 125/1 them winning will see me pick up a nice sum! (I've jinxed it now, haven't I?)


Thursday, 29 May 2014

Swans On Film: Fabianski's Top Ten Saves

I've been away in America for ten days and have returned to news that Swansea City have signed Lukasz Fabianski on a four-year contract as a free transfer!

Still jet-lagged and having fried food withdrawal symptoms, I am in no state to write much about the new keeper. However it's pretty certain that the 29-year-old will start the 2014/15 season as Swansea's number one, with the departure of Michel Vorm looking more and more likely.

So here's a video I've pulled from YouTube highlighting the Polish international shot-stopper's best saves. Let's hope he can prove as effective for the Swans next season!





Friday, 16 May 2014

Blogger Q&A - "Goodbye 2013/14"

Swansea City's 2013/14 season is finally over! It's been eventful - happy, sad, angry and proud, the emotions were all over the place this year.

So, to end the season, myself and the Forza Swansea bloggers are answering a few questions to round it all up, including the best and worst games, goals and players!



Q1) What was Swansea's best game this season?

Jules Price: For me the best game would be the draw at the Emirates Stadium. Bony's headed goal was sublime, underlining his increasing confidence. What was so pleasing was how the Swans were able to put up a solid resistance for most of the game against an Arsenal side that were completely dominating the match.

Alec Johnson: It has to be Cardiff at the Liberty - beating your fierce rivals so comfortably with so much at stake. The six point swing was crucial for momentum and it could have gone horribly wrong had we lost.

Gavin Tucker: It has to be my trip to the Mestalla and our 3-0 annihilation of Valencia. Perhaps it didn't have the historical significance of a play-off match or cup final but it's up there with my all time favourite game. Quite possibly the best away trip ever.

Jacob Cristobal: It's a tie between these two: September 16, 2013 against Liverpool. You have to look back with a sense of humour and appreciate that Jonjo Shelvey was MOTM for both sides - that's special talent right there. And February 27, 2014 against Napoli. All Swansea fans should be damn proud of their Europa League campaign. To be 35 minutes away from the Round of 16 is nothing to scoff at.

Chris Carra: The Cardiff game was of course superb, but I enjoyed the penultimate home game against Aston Villa. It secured safety in the league with four good goals, and the players did it with the drive that had been missing for much of the season.


Probably the worst game...


Q2) What about the worst game?

JP: The early season defeat against Man United at the Liberty. It was the most watched game in US history and I know Swansea's performance that day ensured we gained many new followers and admirers from the other side of the Atlantic. The scoreline flattered United because for the first 25 minutes we were on top.

AJ: West Brom at home was the most frustrating. The manner of the defeat turned the majority of our supporters into predicting certain relegation. We rolled over and let them tickle our soft centre in a must not lose game.

GT: West Ham away was my lowest point of the season, as I'm sure it was for many. The apparent lack of preparation and so many simple errors... Chico. There was just nothing positive to take from that performance.

JC: That would be November 3, 2013 against Cardiff. One, it came on at some ungodly hour here in the US (time zone differential) and two, losing to rivals just stinks.

CC: I'm agreeing with Jacob and probably thousands of other Swans fans - the Cardiff loss was terrible. No fight from anyone and Cardiff deserved their one moment of glory.



Q3) Apart from Bony, who was the stand-out Swansea player?

JP: Pablo Hernandez. He had an average season but the increase in his confidence and match performances were evident to see once Garry Monk was installed as the manager. Without doubt he seemed a much happier player in the centre of midfield.

AJ: Jonjo Shelvey. I was one of the excited few when he arrived last July. A genuine Steven Gerrard type that doesn't exist at many clubs. He's scored key goals at key times - Fulham away, Villa at home and, of course, the two against the scousers.

GT: I really want to say Wayne Routledge, but I'll go with Jonjo Shelvey - he still needs some refinement but his potential is clear. Lately everyone has raved about Everton's Ross Barkley but if you look at the stats over the season Jonjo has scored as many in less games, assisted more, created more key chances, passed, shot and tackled more successfully. Get him on the plane to Rio Roy!

JC: Jordi Amat - who I had as the player to watch this season. Simply put he should always be starting over Chico.

CC: Jonjo Shelvey would also do it for me. He wasn't everyone's first choice when he arrived, but showed exactly what he is capable of!


Celebrating one of the goals of the season!

Q4) For you, what was Swansea's goal of the season?

JP: I think the De Guzman goal at the Mestalla was an incredible piece of skill in front of a very large crowd and an even bigger European television audience watching. Even the home fans were stunned.

AJ: A few ways to look at it! The biggest relief was West Brom away when Pablo scored the second in front of us in the away end - we knew we had our first three points of the season after two nasty defeats. The most celebrated was Nathan Dyer's header against Cardiff, while the sexiest was de Guzman's against Norwich: Bony's back heel to set up the delicate chip from our Canadian Filipino Dutch international!

GT: You can't really look much further than THAT goal by Shelvey, but there were many others I loved. Ben Davies' laser guided left foot volley away to West Brom is probably my next choice.

JC: I'm going with Jonathan de Guzman's brilliant free kick in Valencia.

CC: The first goal against Cardiff in February was brilliant - Hernandez's cutting pass through to Routledge who took it superbly.



Q5) With Swansea not in it for obvious reasons, who will you be supporting in the World Cup? And who's going to win it?

JP: South Korea or Ivory Coast for the Swansea connections. Probably South Korea as I enjoyed watching them play during the 2002 World Cup. I also went to watch them play against Japan during the Olympic Games at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and they play some attractive technical football.

AJ: The Ivory Coast - it's a long shot, but you never know. We made a promise to our next door neighbour [Bony - who lives next to Alec] that we would back him in Brazil and you never let the beast down with a promise!

GT: I'll be supporting the Ivory Coast and our human battleship Wilfried Bony (150/1 for tournament top goal scorer!). I think Brazil would be the safest bet to win but there are so many excellent players and teams it's hard to say. I just can't believe Tiendalli didn't get a call up!

JC: The United States and I'll consider it impressive if they get out of the group. The winners will be Argentina as this is where Lionel Messi shows why he is the best in the world.

CC: ITALIA! Of course I am supporting Italy and I reckon they are in with a good shout! I do have a bet on Ivory Coast too though - not just for Bony, but their team is full of potential match winners. Should be a great tournament!

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Many thanks to the bloggers for their answers. We'll be back soon! In the meantime, like us on Facebook or follow me on Twitter for updates.
 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Swansea City 2013/14 - "Thank f**k it's over!"

May... we knew this month would come.

Swansea City's eventful season is finally over. In equal parts it's made us happy, sad, angry, proud and, at times, even a little horny. However I am sure you'll agree that there is a part of you that's glad we can put it all behind us?

With European football, Premier League survival, derby glory and some stunning goals, Swans fans have ultimately enjoyed a successful season, which I am going to run through briefly.

It all started with the Europa League in August, which produced some incredible early season moments. First Swansea shrugged off Malmo and Petrolul Ploiesti before an emphatic victory against Valencia at the Mestalla. The Swans thoroughly deserved to win the game 3-0, including a lovely free-kick from Jonathan 'Pirlo' de Guzman.

Progression through the group was less comfortable, with Swansea making a meal of qualification to the knock-out stages. Who can forget dropping a point with Kuban Krasnodar in the final minute, before doing the very same again in the return leg! Mental.

Swansea at the Stadio San Paolo

Still, the Swans made it out of Group A, where they would find Napoli waiting. The Italian giants proved tough opponents, but Swansea gave it a good go and, in reality, should have won the first leg considering the chances they had. The game in the San Paolo was equally as enjoyable, but Swansea ran out of steam and gracefully fell out of Europe. (Read Gavin's brilliant round-up of the group stages, and Alec's travel journal from his trip to Napoli).

Between all this, Michael Laudrup had been sacked. In early February rumours circulated that a backroom shuffle was taking place. The following day the announcement was made that Swansea had parted ways with the Danish prince. Of course there were mixed reactions, but ultimately fans knew it was for the best. Laudrup seemed to have lost any enthusiasm and direction and he had to go. (Check out Matt's thoughts on his departure).

Thank you Michael, and goodbye.

Meanwhile Swansea were slipping down the Premier League table. Unfortunately they joined around ten teams under threat of the bottom three all season and found it difficult to get a foothold in the league. Dropping silly points against West Brom and Crystal Palace at the start of March was probably the lowest Swansea sunk, with the exception of the highly embarrassing 1-0 loss to Cardiff in November. However, revenge for that one was particularly sweet...

In Garry Monk's first game in charge he led the Swans to victory by hammering the Redbirds 3-0 at the Liberty Stadium. There were no excuses from Cardiff that day - they had been outplayed by the better team. The remained in the drop zone until May when they were relegated.

The Swans eventually sealed their safety with an enthralling 4-1 victory against Aston Villa at the Liberty, before the lacklustre game against Southampton a week later showed why the season needed to end when it did!

The big man

We saw some brilliant players offer awesome contributions. Wilfried Bony for one almost single-handedly kept Swansea afloat while the rest of the team were simultaneously out of form. His goals show why he was actually a bargain at £12 million! Jonjo Shelvey also developed into a more rounded player, offering a new attacking option and a couple of very memorable goals (make sure to read Jacob's rules for The Official Jonjo Shelvey Drinking Game!)

Jose Canas, Alejando Pozuelo, Alvaro Vazquez and even Michu all underperformed and ended up playing no part towards the end of the season. It will be interesting to see where they all are come September.

There was plenty of moaning throughout the season (myself included), though in the end - apart from finishing slightly lower than we may have liked - no-one can really complain.

Though the season is now over we will still do our best to update ForzaSwansea.com with the goings-on in the Swansea City world over the summer, starting with an upcoming Blogger Q&A later this week.

For now, thanks for reading again this season - it's been one hell of year, but thank f**k it's over!