Monday 30 January 2012

Swansea vs Chelsea: a small preview

After a wonderful start to the year, with two away wins and that game against Arsenal, the last week has seen Swansea lose to Sunderland (where at least a point was deserved), and dumped out of the FA Cup by Bolton.

So I don't know why I feel so confident that the Swans can take at least a point ahead of tomorrow, when Chelsea make their way to the Liberty Stadium.

We all remember what happened last September in Stamford Bridge – Swansea put in a proud performance, but failed to stop four goals going in, despite being a man up for much of the game. However, Swansea have grown through the season and are so much more confident now.

In a blog previewing Chelsea it's just too easy to mention the ongoing incapability of Fernando Torres... but I'm going to anyway. He's failed to score for a total of over 15 hours of football. There I said it. Interestingly, his last league goal came against Swansea back in September. I think I'd take another goal from him if he is willing to get sent off again. (I think he would take another sending off just to score!)

Despite the suffering Spaniard, lest we forget that Chelsea are fourth in the table and have oodles of talent. Thankfully, a handful of that talent is unavailable: Ramires - who scored two against the Swans last time - is out for a few weeks and John Obi Mikel and John Terry are also both out injured. Elsewhere Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou are away for the African Nations Cup, while Frank Lampard is doubtful due to a calf strain.

For the Swans, Alan Tate is back and ready for selection (though I can't see him starting), while the likes of Sinclair and Britton, and (apart from the last 25 minutes) Graham and Dyer were rested on Saturday, so should be fresh. Josh McEachran is ineligible due to terms of his loan.

It's very close in the middle of the table and a win would see Swansea overtake four teams and finish Tuesday in ninth. A loss isn't going to change much tomorrow.

Prediction time: it's not going to be a 4-1 type scoreline again, even if Swansea do lose. With the home fans behind them and the knowledge that they can beat the bigger teams, a draw is not unlikely. I'm going to say... 2-2 (around 13/1 if you're up for a bet).

Let's end the month as we started it!

Sunday 22 January 2012

Rodgers out!

Get him out! Bring back Sousa! What's Rodgers ever done for this club? While we're at it, lets get rid of Sinclair too!

I am, of course, being ironic. Or am I...? (Yes I am.)

The loud thud at the end of the loss to Sunderland was the sound of Swansea falling back to Earth after the euphoric victory against Arsenal.

I was a little surprised – I expected no less than a draw, especially with high team confidence and a decent run of recent away form. However, two classy goals from Stephane Sessegnon and Craig Gardner ensured Swansea were not even picking up one point, in a match where they actually deserved to.

Possession and passing were high as usual (64% possession for the travelling Swans), but they seemed flat near goal and were unable to put away any chances. Swansea had four attempts on target - Sunderland had just two and both went in.

During the match, I tweeted on Twitter (where else?):

Swansea frustrating in the final third as usual. Creating all the chances, but can't get anything from them.

I had a little stick from this, saying I was negative and my use of 'as usual' was way out of line, but I stand by it.

Swansea are usually frustrating in the final third. Think of all the possession and passing close to the box, but the opportunities that go wide, go over or don't actually go near the goal at all. Recently we've seen a little more cutting-edge from the players, but I think I'm right in saying they are frustrating to watch at times!

I'm not a negative person when writing about the Swans – a shameless plug for my recent article on the Sabotage Times will prove I am sometimes over optimistic when it comes to the future of the club.

However true you believe or don't believe the "frustrating in the final third" statement to be, there is no reason to vent your feelings against the players via social networking (yeah, it's happened again).

I'm not really listening to what's been happening – I don't follow any of the Swansea players on Twitter (or any footballers or "celebrities" for that matter), so I am not “in” on the conversation, but have noticed a number of mentions that someone or other is abusing some player about something he did in the match.

No need. Yes, Scott Sinclair is not putting them away like he was last season. He knows that. It's a different game in the Premier League so that affects things. Maybe he's just having a dip in form. But abusing players? Save it for the bigger celebrities who feed off the abuse, or other fans who have a go.

This ends a short blog. See you next week for a build up to the Chelsea match – another “big one” I am confident the Swans will win!

Saturday 21 January 2012

Swansea vs Sunderland: A brief look at another winnable game!

While Sunderland have had a recent revival after replacing Steve Bruce with Martin O'Neill, I see Swansea winning this one.

Going against Swansea is the fact that they are travelling. We know how poor their general away form is, but recent wins against Aston Villa and Barnsley, combined with that historic win over Arsenal should see the Swans full of confidence.

We've seen it before with Swansea though – it could well be another Blackburn (losing 4-2 away) as they sometimes lose concentration when not surrounded by 18,000 supporters.

I'm thinking 2-1 to the Swans today (currently 12/1 on PaddyPower). That could be a little optimistic if I'm being honest, so if you're after a bet, try something on 1-1 (at 5/1). Nathan Dyer to score in another game? It's pushing it but he seems to be on a roll at the moment and at 9/2 it could well be worth a few pound.

More of my thoughts on this game and recent Swansea City fixtures are here at the after I guest blogged there earlier this week. Check it out!

Sunday 15 January 2012

Swansea 3 – 2 Arsenal: All round complete

Well, well – Super Sunday truly lives up to its name if you happen to be a Swans fan!

An exciting and significant game, with goals from Scott Sinclair, Nathan Dyer and Danny Graham, cancelling out the two Arsenal scored (Van Persie and Walcott). It's significant in the sense that Arsenal are the first “big” team Swansea have taken three points from this season. Notice I said first – Chelsea are just around the corner.

So, what went right this Sunday?

The team selection worked. While the keeper, back four and striker usually write themselves, midfield is always a headache (albeit a good one). This time, the combo of Allen, Agustien and Britton worked well in the first half, with Dyer and Sinclair both well on form at the same time (for a change).

Dyer deserved the man of the match award – well-earned from the little winger after setting up the penalty and scoring a fine strike himself. It was the third game in a row in which he scored, meaning he is becoming more of a well-rounded player, combining dizzy runs and an abundance of speed with goals... finally. He'll be a target for a number of teams come the summer.

This kind of thing I felt was missing in the first half of the season: long shots. by anyone, not just Dyer. Walking every ball into the goal was never an option in this league. I'm not sure what has changed recently – a managerial decision or just more confidence – but long shots are being taken more frequently, with some being scored. Good.

At half time I felt Kemy Agustien was taken off a little prematurely – he was having a decent game. However, Gylfi Sigurdsson made an appearance and the decision paid off. Nice to see the Icelandicman (Icelandian? Ice... forget it) slot into the squad with ease. Midfield is surely well equipped now, especially with Josh McEachran on his way next week. Britton, Allen, Gower, Agustien, Orlandi, Sigurdsson, McEachran... as each game goes by, it is hard to see where Stephen Dobbie will fit in.

Captain Ashley Williams did well enough to quell most of the danger, though his passing was uncharacteristically sloppy at times and, though he looked dangerous going forward, his runs left a few gaps when the ball was intercepted. He did enough to have a good game though, as did the rest of defence.

Arsenal were decent. I personally don't mind them as a team (apart from when they consistently cock up my betting accumulators!) and there is plenty of talent in their ranks. I'm sure you'll agree when I say I wasn't comfortable with a one goal lead at 2-1 or at 3-2. It could have feasibly gone three ways with ten minutes left on the clock; thankfully it went the right way.

I'm not praising Arsenal too much – just enough to drill home the fact that it wouldn't be such a significant win if they were shit! I'm sure a number of those sitting in the home stands / corporate boxes only came to see Thierry Henry and team-mates grace our small city, yet left with a new found love for the Swans (or so you would hope).

So, Swansea start the week 10th in the table. With a winnable game against Sunderland on Saturday, the Swans are finally looking like the complete Premier League team.

Friday 13 January 2012

Swansea City: Weekly thoughts

Time for a very brief Swansea City catch-up.

Dobbie + Lita + Cash = Maynard?

Rumours were confirmed earlier in the week that a 'cash and Dobbie' deal is on the table for Bristol City's Nicky Maynard.

Dobbie was so influential in Swansea's final championship season – a true fan favourite – but is he worth hanging onto? I guess if he never warms to the different game that is the Premier League, the answer is no. But I can't see this being it for Dobbie and the Swans. I feel he still has something to prove. His time is running out though, so he'd better shape up soon or he will be gone.

Lita is another who has been rumoured to be included in that deal, but it hasn't been confirmed by the club and seems a little unlikely. Dobbie AND Lita AND cash for one decent Championship player? I think not. Lita is one worth hanging onto for his clinical (albeit rare) goals and strength up front.

Nicky Maynard has scored eight goals for Bristol City this season, from 25 appearances. This is in the Championship mind you, and we all know the step up the player would have to take. Star boy in the Championship can mean nothing in the Premier League. Look at Danny Graham – last season's top scorer, but took a while to get going (though now, thankfully, he is putting away a few good goals).


The club needed a little exfoliation – scrubbing off the dead players and replenishing them with new, moister players (is it me, or is this blog turning a little erotic...?)

Are you really sad to see David Cotterill go? I can't say I'll give it much more than a shrug of the shoulders. The club have cancelled his contract by mutual consent, which I feel is fair enough. In the past few weeks there was chat of Cotterill moving to ADO Den Haag but it didn't happen.

He had a few good seasons with Swansea (along with a few terrible penalty misses), but in a midfield rammed with speed, accuracy and strength, he would never have made a starting line-up/bench/cup match line-up/cup-match bench, so he's essentially just dead wood. Cheers David, but it was unlikely to work.

Olympic Team

Brendan Rodgers has essentially given his blessing for Ashley Williams, Joe Allen, Neil Taylor and Steven Caulker to take part in Team GB after the players were shortlisted.

As Mr Rodgers says, it would disrupt pre-season and the start of the 2012/13 season, but if the players want to play in the Olympic squad, who are we to say no?

Frankly I couldn't give a shit about football at the Olympics - there are enough major tournaments to be a part of and it will easily be overshadowed by Euro 2012.

For the three Welshmen it may well be a once in a lifetime opportunity as Wales may not qualify for a major tournament in the next ten years. However, the players should be aware that they're club needs them more than Stuart Pearce, for a competition that... nobody really cares about.

Swansea vs Arsenal

Swansea can win the game on Sunday! Back in September the travelling Swans were unlucky not to grab a point at the Emirates (thanks to the rare mistake from Michel Vorm, who threw it at the heels of Angel Rangel, leaving Andrey Arshavin to slot in a fine strike). In fact, with a little more cutting-edge, a win wasn't that far out of reach for the Swans.

With the home crowd behind them, it's more likely this time around. Saying that, Arsenal have warmed as the season has progressed (currently 5th in the table) and may appear more dangerous this time.

The Arsenal legend that is Thierry Henry has returned to the club, and I expect to see him feature at the Liberty. We all know he is capable of scoring a few, so Williams and co will have to keep concentration up at the back. Going forward it's got to be Graham, Dyer and Routledge starting, with Sinclair coming off the bench later in the game.

I predict a cheeky, though well-earned, 2-1 victory to Swansea.

Monday 2 January 2012

Swansea City 2 – 0 Aston Villa: Happy New Year!

Swansea marked the start of 2012 and the halfway point of the season with a slick performance and generally comfortable win against Aston Villa. A significant first away win in the Premier League, marking the halfway point in the season.

Swansea looked strong, fast and confident going forward, with goals from both starting wingers – Nathan Dyer early in the first half and Wayne Routledge early in the second.

In the 4th minute, Dyer pounced on a silly back flick from Stephen Warnock and, after a slight deflection, put the ball in the back on the net. Routledge had his in the 47th with a follow up to Danny Graham's post hit. A scrappy goal, but his first for the Swans: a long time coming and well deserved.

After recent weeks, Dyer seemed to be back to his old form and used his usual brand of high speed and skill to make a nuisance of himself against Villa's back line. The inclusion of Andrea Orlandi was quite a shock before the game, but he did enough to impress with some nice touches and a wonderful strike in the first half. Leon Britton and Kemy Agustien looked as strong as usual in the centre. Defensively Swansea were solid, with Angel Rangel, Neil Taylor and Stephen Caulker all injury free for a change and joined captain Ashley Williams in contributing to the clean-sheet.

A bigger plus for Swansea is that Aston Villa weren't actually that bad. Villa didn't back down after Dyer's early goal and kept attacking. They also had the most possession (57%), but a number of misplaced passes didn't help their cause, while they were unable to capitalise on any of their fourteen corners (compared to Swansea's no corners), incurring a fourth consecutive home defeat.

Though it's hard to pick out Swansea's negatives, there were a few. The game saw a few silly tackles, with Caulker, Agustien and Orlandi receiving yellow cards which could have been avoided. The final ball was also questionable at times – the hard work was always done well, but the final cross or shot was scuffed a little too often. It's still a concern that more aren't put away, but games like this will give the confidence needed to remedy this problem.

Kudos to the travelling Jacks who filled Villa Park with hymns, arias and confirmation that Swans will, indeed, tear you apart... again. Nathan Dyer rightly saluted you after his goal and you deserved it.

After this good win, Swansea start the year 11th in the Premier League. All eyes turn to the FA Cup match away against Barnsley on Saturday, before the second chance to get something from Arsenal, on the 15th January.