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...)


Monday, 4 August 2014

Swansea City Summary: A month of pre-season friendlies

For those who didn't see them or who haven't been keeping an eye on the scores, here's a recap of how the Swans have fared in their pre-season friendlies:


vs. Chivas Guadalajara (16 July) - Drew 1-1
Many first-team players were involved in the opening friendly against the Mexicans in America, including Angel Rangel (captain), Leon Britton, Bafetimbi Gomis, Jonjo Shelvey and Nathan Dyer, who scored Swansea's only goal in the 57th minute. Chivas proved tricky opponents and found an equaliser through a last-minute penalty. There were two red cards in this game, including one for Neil Taylor.

vs. Minnesota United (19 July) - Lost 2-0
The first loss of the season, courtesy of two first-half goals from Justin Davis and Greg Jordan. Again the Swans showed off several first-team players including Chico Flores, Gerhard Tremmel, Bafetimbi Gomis, Neil Taylor and Angel Rangel. Swansea enjoyed most of the possession, but failed to turn it into anything worth celebrating.

vs. Plymouth Argyle (27 July) - Won 4-0
Back in Britain following their short American tour, Swansea finally claimed a victory in their pre-season campaign. The game saw the return of Ki Sung-Yueng to the team. Rory Donnelly scored first within ten minutes, followed by a rare goal from Jordi Amat in the second-half. Then came two goals for Gylfi Sigurdsson on his return to the club. A very comfortable afternoon for Garry Monk and the travelling Swans fans.

vs. Exeter City (29 July) - Won 2-0
Another comfortable game for the Swans against League Two opposition, which saw a number of first-team players out with injury. New striker Bafetimbi Gomis scored his first goal for the club in the first half, before Josh Sheehan made it two in the 78th minute. Wilfried Bony made his first appearance following his World Cup campaign, and set up Sheehan's goal.

vs. Bournemouth (1 August) - Lost 3-1
Garry Monk started with quite a young and inexperienced team, which probably explains the 3-1 loss to Championship side Bournemouth. The most experienced players to start for the Swans were Gerhard Tremmel, Nathan Dyer and Angel Rangel. Swansea's speedy new winger Jefferson Montero grabbed the only goal for his new side.

vs. Reading (2 August) - Won 3-1
The Swans second game in two days saw a much more experienced starting eleven and it showed with a convincing 3-1 victory against Reading. Wayne Routledge was in great form and scored two of Swansea's goals in the first-half, before Bafetimbi Gomis made it three in the second-half with a nice chip. Wilfried Bony also missed a penalty (but we'll forgive him this once).

vs. Villareal (9 August, 3pm) - Lost 3-0
A pretty poor return to the Liberty Stadium for Swansea who looked pretty clueless in their set-up against the Spaniards. Monk selected pretty much his complete first-team, but they were torn apart by an average Villarreal. A little worrying a week before the season kicks-off, but at least it's exposed some problems before it's too late.


Friday, 25 July 2014

Summer silence on Forza Swansea

Just a note to acknowledge the lack of blog updates recently. From February to the end of June I spent nearly every day researching and writing about the Swans for my upcoming book, Swansea City's Greatest Games, so this summer I've taken a bit of a break.

I mean, I am usually pretty lazy over the summer anyway, but at least this year I have a bit more of an excuse... (do I?).

Rest assured, as the new season dawns there will be more fresh content from myself and the contributors (who also seem to have taken a bit of a summer break).

Meanwhile, as soon as the book is available for pre-ordering I will write a big article about what's in it and what you can expect. It's looking good though!

Anyway, that's it for now, keep checking back and see you soon!

"Good goal Messi son - done exactly what I taught you."

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.