Thursday 27 September 2012

Swansea vs. Stoke: not that different?

The 'top of the league' chants have stopped, the Michu goal-machine is broken and the fawned-over passing stats have recently been less impressive.

Yes, after the unbelievable start - picking up six points in two games - Swansea City have settled into a more believable Premier League season, earning just one point in the last three and looking like a poor Championship team in the process.

It should be pointless me saying 'let's not panic' because people shouldn't be panicking. However, Swans fans are understandably uneasy with the way things are going. The team need to sharpen up a little and play a bit of... well, football.

Still, it's early in the season and there is now a chance for the team to redeem themselves against Stoke on Saturday. Stoke are 13th in the table - two places below Swansea after a poor start for them - on four points with four draws.

Most media outlets will be billing this as a 'clash of styles' and last season it was very true. Stoke are a big physical side who - clich├ęd as it may be, but quite true - love to play a long ball to a tall front man. Last season Swansea were bullied off the ball and succumbed to strong set-pieces. But this season things already seem different. Swansea are looking to play a longer pass at times and - with the likes of Michu, Chico Flores and Sung-Yueng - are looking a tougher side, able to cope with what Stoke can throw at them physically.

Who should start in the middle on Saturday is a question worth asking. The side certainly missed Leon Britton against Everton so he needs to be the first name on the team sheet in my eyes. Michu, despite a poor spell recently, is certainly on there too. The fiery ying to Britton's calmer yang. Completing the trio should be Ki Sung-Yeung who was one of the only players against Everton to have a decent game. This relatively untested group should work well.

Nathan Dyer's silly sending off meant he missed one game (as it was two yellow cards, not a straight red), so he will be back this week after missing the Crawley game. I'd assume Wayne Routledge will join him on the other side as Pablo Hernandez looked a little useless against Everton.

Swansea's defensive worries remain worrying, though we're relieved to see Chico Flores back from his three-match ban. He'll certainly bolster the back four considerably, in place of Alan Tate who looked unable to cope against Everton. Elsewhere I think I'd prefer to see Dwight Tiendalli start at left back instead of Ben Davies for a change. Tiendalli had a good game at Crawley by all accounts and a Premier League start is deserved.

Would it be a stupid move to change Ashley Williams for Garry Monk? Probably. Either way, Williams needs a good shake after some of his worst ever performances in a Swans shirt recently.

With a defence lacking in confidence, goals are likely to be conceded - there's no escaping that. However the attacking players need to balance this out with goals of their own.

Stoke, as we've mentioned, have also started poorly and will be desperate for all three points after not winning in their last 11 Premier League matches. Stoke are without banned Andy Wilkinson, while former Swans player Mamady Sidibe is also out with an injury. They still have power, skill and, of course, height in players like Peter Crouch and Charlie Adam, though have a talented short-arse in Michael Owen likely to cause some trouble.

I feel it'll be a fiery game, with goals from both sides. However I have a funny feeling Swansea will feel the pressure away from home, especially at the Britannia - well known for its great home atmosphere. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm going for 2-1 to Stoke (at around 7/1). However with Stoke's recent record of score draws, 1-1 is a bet worth covering at around 5/1.

I'm sure none of us would complain with a point. None of us would complain with a loss if Swansea played with a little more purpose and direction than against Everton!


  1. i dont know about well known for home atmosphere it was quiet last time lol

    1. Ha I've never been myself - just seem to read 'Fortress Britannia' everywhere! Sure Swans fans will out sing them anyway!

  2. I agree that the Everton performance was very poor, but it was totally down to our defence not coping with having the distribution lines cut off.

    Whether you agree with me or not, every manager who is going to play Swansea (and Liverpool for that matter) will have taken notes on that strategy. Moyes did exactly the same thing last season and it worked then too.

    The answer is not in changing our style of play, but as ML put it getting better at it, playing faster. Using our strength of technique rather than wishing we were taller.

    Everton were no mugs and set out to play for fouls and set pieces, they were inviting challenges and we took the bait, rather than soak up the pressure, run them into the corners and try to hit them on the counter (which we have been brilliant at this season). I'm sure the ref was in on the act too.

    I thought the midfield had good penetration and had some shots actually hit the target (as our first few games can testament) we would have come away a lot better and perhaps may have swung things. But the temptation to use players like Routeledge and Dyer inside all of the time means that they close spaces infield allowing the opposition midfield to push up quickly at our defensive midfield and back line.

    This is OK if Joe Allen is sat there, but he is sadly not. Britton is a superb player and vital to our performances, I just hope that Ki can take some pressure off him as he (Britton) is a marked man now.

    But for me the really worrying thing looking at the big picture is our lack of defensive strength in depth for the coming season.

    Admittedly losing three key defenders was a blow, but as much as I am grateful to Tate and Monk, they are simply not at it enough to cope at this level with the likes of Fellani and co. If we are to survive we need a fully fit squad, with no karate champs.

    I worry a little about ML's new emphasis on attack play over conservation of energy, as a big part of our success last year was the fact that we had very few injuries and very few bookings. We were making the opposition run too much rather than running too much our selves.

    I thought Hernandez looked good actually, even though he didn't create much, he actually got into dangerous positions but the final ball let him down. I would give him a couple of months and he will come good.

    I am not worried about the midfield, but I hope our defensive performances get better now Chico Norris is back in town.

    1. Yeah midfield had a poor game last week and Swansea suffered, but they are not an ongoing worry - everyone has bad days!

      Defence, as you say, are currently the worst aspect to the team, with Williams not in the right frame of mind and fringe players needing to cover. Hopefully Chico Norris (as you accurately put it!) makes things a little more solid at the back! Cheers

  3. Stokie in peace. It's Wilkinson who's suspended not great loss to Stoke. Rory Delap will probably not even make the subs' bench as there are lots of midfielders higher up the pecking order nowadays. Stoke will be feeling the pressure too given their lack of wins - anything could happen!

    1. Thanks for that - I've ammended it to read Wilkinson!