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.