Thursday, 13 March 2014

Swansea City: The Business End

Welcome to the time of the season where everything matters.

The time for bluffing, blaming and brave losses is over. There's no more Europa League, FA Cup or Capital One Cup... all efforts can finally be concentrated on the league.

There's no hiding from the fact that everyone involved with Swansea City have enjoyed a crazy month or so.

Since Michael Laudrup was relieved of his duties at the start of February we've seen some brilliance on the pitch. The Swansea City we actually enjoy watching. Hammering Cardiff at the Liberty Stadium was undoubtedly the highlight, though holding Napoli to a draw was pretty special. 

We've also seen some bad times - losing in the final game to Napoli was a blow but, as many have said, it would've been a result we'd have taken at the start of the season. The hangover from the intense Europa League schedule resulted in the 1-1 draw to Crystal Palace, which actually felt like more of a defeat considering the nature of the game.

Players have limped off, trundled around and some even vomited on the pitch - all signs that maybe too much football has been played. The streamlined squad was too small and stretched beyond their means with three different competitions on the go. Thankfully most of the players have had a good rest and should be raring to go on the weekend.

The first time Michu will play for Monk

When the teamsheets are read over the loudspeakers on Saturday, the one name we'll all be hoping to catch is Michu, who should return against West Brom after being away since mid-December. Whether struggling with injury or just weighing his options after the departure of Laudrup, Michu just hasn't been a Swansea player this season.

Even before his absence he didn't look like himself. If he has hopes of making the Spanish plane to Brazil this summer he needs to find his form again - and where better to start than against West Brom this Saturday.

With Michu joining a relatively full-strength squad at the Liberty Stadium, there should be high confidence ahead of the clash with the Baggies.

Though Monk has only guided Swansea to one win in seven matches, it's important to remember two were against Napoli, with others being against Liverpool and Everton. Another good stat to remember is that Monk has collected more points (five) in his four Premier League matches as manager than Laudrup did in his final eight!

Still - he needs a win this weekend.

We've talked about must-win games many times in the past, but it really is vital to walk away with all three points come Saturday evening.

Swansea are 14th in the table, with 29 points. A win could see the Swans back in the middle of the table with another injection of breathing space. A draw would be very unsatisfying and... well, it's pointless talking about a loss because it's just not worth considering at this stage.

Despite the tightness at the bottom of the table, I genuinely can't see Swansea getting relegated. Sure, if we lose the next five it's probably a deserved relegation, but with players like Bony, Michu, Vorm, Britton, Williams and Dyer all fit and likely to play a part in the next few matches - along with teams like Fulham and Cardiff almost certainly back in the Championship next year - it just doesn't seem feasible to me.

But it's up to the team to prove me right on Saturday. I'm going for a 2-1 win for Swansea, with no injuries and no vomiting from anyone (with the possible exception of West Brom fans who are so overwhelmed at the quality of Swansea that they feel nauseous with excitement).

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