Saturday 27 April 2013

Chico's future with Swansea City

With the Premier League season drawing to a close, JULES PRICE takes a brief look at one of this season's most influential signings, Chico Flores, and where his future may lie.

We are all aware of the success of Swansea City’s second season in the league and winning the Capital One Cup. We are also aware of the impact the 2012 arrivals had on the team such as Michu, de Guzman and not forgetting the promotion of Ben Davies to the starting eleven.

However, another standout performer this season has been Chico Flores and, as Michael Laudrup begins planning for the next campaign, speculation around Chico and the other Swans players is already underway.

The Spanish defender could be a man in demand according to respected commentator Guillem Balague. During a recent event evening at the Liberty Stadium, Balague more than hinted that Chico could be the target for some of Europe's largest clubs, in particular Barcelona.

It is widely understood that Barcelona stalwart Carles Puyol could leave in the summer, and that would mean an enormous gap for the Catalan club to fill. Balague cutely suggested Chico could be the man as he looked over at him and smiled. Of course, Chico did play for the Barcelona B team when managed by a young Pep Guardiola.

More pleasing to hear was another hint from Balague that Chico is on the verge of Spanish call up to represent his national team.

It seems Swansea’s success is being closely monitored throughout Europe and with Guardiola apparently a fan of the central defender, there is a quiet suggestion that he could be a target for German giants Bayern Munich.

Should the transfer speculation of Chico become true and the possible departure of Ashley Williams to Liverpool or Arsenal, it could be a long hard-working summer for Michael Laudrup and his coaching staff.

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Summer Starts Early!

With Swansea City's eventful season almost over, it's almost time for 'silly season' to begin - four months of excitement and uncertainty. But before the rumours start ALEC JOHNSON takes us through what we have and what we need in the summer transfer market.

What’s in store for us this summer? I believe far more stability and positive moves rather than counteractive managerial hunting. After two seasons in the top flight, a major cup and a European adventure ahead, we have become a safe, exciting proposition for developing footballers.

We have developed an identity as a well-run club playing attractive football, but interestingly we are now considered specialists in the Spanish market, in the same way that Newcastle are for French or Arsenal were for French or African talent. Yet I still remain surprised not to see a Danish player or two.

So, what do we need?

Defensively we are solid with depth across every position. Four proven centre-backs and four dependable full-back options gives us plenty of versatility. So I would not add to defence unless the bombshell of Ash leaving to a top four club is realised. Sadly this is highly possible and that opens up a like-for-like exchange with Alberto Botia or another mobile man mountain. It will also be interesting to see if Darnel Situ can finally step up - he is highly thought of and must be in his thirties by now, the length of time he’s been hanging around.

Midfield is an area where Laudrup tends to freshen things up by changing things game to game. The engine room is vital to our game with both the box-to-box nature and the creative artists requiring fresh legs to break with pace. Jonathan de Guzman is expected to find another club - he replaced Joe Allen and, in my eyes, did a better job, offering more in the final third and on set pieces.

The board will fight to keep de Guzman and his statement suggesting that he would love to stay is encouraging, but money talks and he will have lucrative alternatives. Even if Jonno chose the Swans, would we pay £7million for him? I’m not sure.

So who could fill the gap? Personally I would love to cherry pick from the relegated bunch which could include Seb Larsson? Ashley Westwood? Tarabbt (cue multiple boos)? Possibly Wigan’s Shaun Maloney or James McArthur? Jose Canas may be brought in to compete with Leon, but where does that leave injury plagued Kemy?

Out wide I expect an addition to provide another menace for tired legs, covering off-days for Dyer or Routledge. So far Lamah has proved nothing yet and Pablo is far more effective in a more central role. Laudrup has quoted on several occasions his desire to work with four wingers capable of both creating and scoring.

Iago Aspas: Perfect signing for the Swans?

In attack I expect two strikers to be recruited, plus Luke Moore offered a new deal. Rory should be retained to complete the pack of four chasing the goals. Iago Aspas seems to want to come to Swansea and I believe he will for a club record fee and will fit in perfectly. It’s been a long time since we had a smaller more nimble option.

The Lukaku merry go round is back in motion - we nearly snared him last summer but his demands were too big, however this year we have a 30% greater budget to play with. A cheeky bid for Steven Fletcher if Sunderland drop would be fantastic, but I expect us to chase value overseas, or cherry-pick from the Championship. And what about Glenn Murray at Crystal Palace or even Jordan Rhodes - these fellas are all about goals and we do create a few chances.

Here’s my top three to mull over that could add firepower up front for us:

  • Adam Szalai of Mainz is a big lad and superb finisher, previously with Real Madrid and of Hungarian nationality, in his mid-twenties. He never fulfilled his early potential but could blossom under Laudrup.

  • Wilfired Bony has been banging them in all season for Vitesse Arnhem, a current Ivory Coast international and at 25-years-old he is deserved of a go in a big league. 

  • Jonathan Soriano moved to Red Bull Salzburg for a few extra euros last summer. Why this lad hasn’t left the Barcelona fold and moved onto a big club in a major league surprises me, he’s got everything needed to succeed at a club like ours.

Adding one of these three plus Aspas takes into the category of top six challengers, it really does.

Closer to home, the under-25 home grown rule will affect decisions. Clearly Tiendalli was rated above Jazz last season but the decision is reversed for next season. The extra space in the squad is unlikely to be deemed important for another full back - a shame as Dwight has done very well.

Anybody coming in will fit the profile characteristics necessary at the club: a few years before their peak, great work ethic, comfortable on the ball in any area and the hunger to work hard.

In addition to the character profile we must consider how a blend of highly paid egotistical stars blend together. Adding the wrong individual can be hugely counter-productive if team selection doesn’t go their way. But I have faith in our board to assess the character assess anybody joining in ‘Fokker’ style.

We will continue to do it the Swansea way and, despite any whispers or speculation, I forecast a bunch of new players that we haven’t heard of and an even stronger season ahead.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Swansea City: Competition winners!

Thanks to everyone who entered the ForzaSwansea blog competition to win a wonderful Swansea City caricature print from SwansFootball.

In the end the main prize went to a very deserving winner, Marie Pearson, who was in hospital receiving treatment for breast cancer at the time.

Afterwards she said: "I was so chuffed I won, it brought tears to my eyes."

Well done Marie!

Marie showing off her prize!

Meanwhile Tash Smith, Clive Mitchell and Sian Protheroe were the lucky runners-up who bagged an individual player print each.

Stay turned for more great blogs and competitions!

Friday 5 April 2013

Cardiff... it's been a while.

We've had several brilliant blog posts from some top contributors over the past month, but now ForzaSwansea editor CHRIS CARRA returns with a post of his own, discussing the likelihood of Swansea City's biggest rivals making the leap into the Premier League

There is no point hiding the fact that most Swansea City fans have been keeping a close eye on the Championship table recently and not for nostalgic reasons. It's about time we addressed the possibility of sharing the Premier League with another Welsh team next season.

We've seen how many times Cardiff have thrown away the opportunity to propel themselves to the top flight, usually in the most painful way - the play-offs. However this season it looks almost inevitable that they will finally be successful in their attempt.

With seven games to go, the Red Dragons are seven points clear at the top of the table and have a game in hand. The teams that can stop them all seem to be slipping up. This year seems to be the year Swansea City's greatest rivals will shake off the bluebottles label. But is it a bad thing?

Instantly I would say yes. It is ingrained in Swansea fans that we do not want Cardiff to succeed. They don't want Swansea to succeed. How many Cardiff fans were cheering us on in the play-off final? How many were willing us to beat Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea? None (or a very few odd ones). Yes, the rivalry between the clubs and the fans is historically mental.

However Cardiff being promoted would see the return of the South Wales derby which is certainly one to be celebrated, and is up there with the best 90 minute rivalries in the world - Italy vs. Brazil, Real Madrid vs. Barcelona and Shenzhen Xiangxue Eisiti vs. Guangzhou Pharmaceutical F.C. (I've discussed this before - it is an actual derby, albeit less media friendly as others).

It's been a while since the last one - we have to go back to February 6th, 2011 when Brendan Rodgers was still wooing us with David Brent-isms and Yves Ma-Kalambay was making an impact on the bench. Cardiff came down to the Liberty Stadium and won 1-0 in a match where they were hungrier for the win (though a few poor refereeing decisions helped their case). We were close to witnessing a South Wales derby in the play-off final later that season but thankfully that was an M4 bubble match that didn't happen.

And this time around the derby will be on the biggest stage - probably a Super Sunday 3D affair! The whole world will have the opportunity to watch, including the newer fans that Swansea have collected over the last few seasons.

Some may say Cardiff's promotion is good for Welsh football but I don't fully buy into it. Unless it's a team bursting with Welshmen it won't do that much good - not as good as Swansea's promotion anyway. Apart from Craig Bellamy, Cardiff don't have much Welsh talent to brag about and less to develop. Yes some of the younger reserve players may fall into the same category as Ashley Williams, Ben Davies, Joe Allen, Neil Taylor, but with only Bellamy in the first team it won't be groundbreaking move.

Ultimately if Cardiff do achieve promotion they deserve it. They've played well enough throughout the season and look to be making the step up as champions of the second tier. While no-one in Swansea will applaud, no one should really begrudge.

Besides, they will probably be relegated anyway.


Aus readers who fancy football tipping should have a look at TABs footy tipping website.

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Ashley Williams: On his way out?

In this blog post, JULES PRICE takes a look at why Swansea City legend Ashley Williams may well be heading away from South Wales this summer. And we don't mean on holiday.

I’ve lost count of reports linking established Swansea City players with bigger clubs, especially on the back of the Swans' continued success in the Premier League. This season there has already been a lot of speculation over players being lured away from Swansea including Michu, Vorm and of course Laudrup himself, while loanee Jonathan De Guzman would create a genuine void should he return to his parent club Villareal.

But a major headache for the club would be the departure of captain Ashley Williams. While he denies seeking a move, maybe there are some telltale signs to suggest otherwise.

What career path has Williams followed so far? After a short spell as a youth player at West Brom, he joined non-league Hednesford Town before being snapped up by Stockport County. He was well respected at Stockport and club captain, and was given a farewell round of applause when he signed for the Swans during the 2007-2008 season.

Since then, Williams has been a stalwart in the heart of the Swansea defence, breaking many records along the way. He holds the record in the 2012/13 Premier League season for the most blocks. His player influence stats are nearly always the highest in the Swansea team, and he has one of the highest pass completion rates amongst his peers. The icing on the cake was lifting the Capital One Cup at Wembley in February.

However, I have seen a side to Ashley Williams this season that has not been so visible previously. At the start of the season, the club was surrounded by rumour that all was not well behind closed doors, with the chairman holding meetings to resolve disputes between the players and the new management team. This seemed to have an effect on Williams as some sloppy back passing from him cost Swansea dearly. His levels of concentration were clearly strained.

Credit to him, his season has got back on track. But another problem occurs. Is he satisfied with the quality and commitment he sees from some of his teammates, especially the newer recruits? At the end of the West Brom away game and the recent Arsenal game at the Liberty Stadium, Williams was livid with some of his teammates, but one player in particular has been at the wrong end of his disgruntlement – Pablo Hernandez.

I have observed him shouting, swearing and screaming at Hernandez like I have never seen before, with pure frustration and anger. Could this be too much for Williams? I suspect he has had and will continue to receive offers from now until the start of next season, from other clubs and the opportunity may finally be right for him.

At 28-years-old a move to a richer club would guarantee one large pay-day before retirement, the possibility of Champions League football, and the chance to play with players of even greater ability. Or will Williams see Swansea’s entry into next season’s Europa League as enough of a challenge, and it will suppress any other desire to leave the club?

His agent Jamie Moralee has reiterated Williams is likely to stay, but he has confirmed discussions would need to take place between all parties if a substantial offer is received. With Arsenal and Liverpool reportedly admirers of the Swansea defender, the Swans will be lucky to have him playing for them during the 2013/14 season.

Monday 1 April 2013

ForzaSwansea in March '13

March was a superb month for the blog, I hope you'll agree (or at least keep quiet if you don't)!

Since I made the decision to open the blog to a small team of contributors we have seen healthier numbers of interesting Swansea City articles.

As with all good sports websites (I think) the direction changes from time to time and it's refreshing to see more detailed, standalone articles profiling certain aspects of Swansea City, instead of match previews and reports which saturate the blog market (in a good way - it's good to have a lot of choice these days).

Over the past few weeks we've seen Jules Price take a look at the Liberty Stadium expansion plans and in another article he highlighted Swansea's 'other' summer signings. Jacob Cristobal made a very enthusiastic debut post outlining why he chose to support the Swans despite living over 4,500 miles away.

Alec Johnson also made his first contribution with a really solid piece looking at the past and present, before trying to define where it is the club are going in the future. Elsewhere in a piece that proved popular with many fans, Matthew Jacob profiled my favourite Swans player, Angel Rangel.

We have another couple lined up for April, before we look at the end of season drama (there is usually a little when it comes to Swansea) in May.

Remember, some of the ForzaSwansea writers have their own blogs and websites so be sure to check out the contributors page for the links.

Thanks as always for visiting,



Off to the Swansea Bay Beer Festival this week? Check out my review of last year's event on my food blog, SwanseaOnAPlate!