Friday 24 February 2017

Contract Talk: Who Should Get a New Deal?

It’s getting to that time of the season where the first teamers find out if they are to be offered a new deal at the club or if they still have work to do to impress the hierarchy. With January’s transfer window long shut; players are having to stay put whether they want to or not but who should get a new deal with the Swans?

Federico Fernandez
Big Fed might not have been my first choice for a new deal given our defensive issues under Bradders and Guidolin but Paul Clement seems to be a big fan of the Argentine. So much a fan, that Fernandez has signed a new deal today that will keep him at the club until 2020 and up until he is 31 years old – what happens then remains to be seen.

Fernando Llorente
He might not be the super star striker we all believed he would be when he rocked up at the Liberty but he has found his shooting boots and looks comfortable in the team at last. The rumoured interest from Chelsea in January will no doubt force the club’s hand into offering Llorente a new deal that features a fairly large buy-out clause along with a wage increase that would see him level with the team’s top earners: Britts and Gylfi.

Tom Carroll
I don’t care if he’s only just signed his three and a half year deal; this lad needs tying down for five years at least. At 24 Carroll has yet to peak in the traditional sense but he has played a lot of football for a young lad and most of it has been outside of the Premier League. His work ethic is beyond any player I’ve seen in a Swans shirt since Ashley Williams first pulled his jersey on.
We might’ve lost Williams but we cannot lose Carroll if his early performances are anything to go by – an early extension is essential.

Alfie Mawson
Easily a future Swansea City captain, Mawson hasn’t had the easiest career of all our first teamers. A lot of wasted time on loan and a short spell at Barnsley has led him to us and he’s going to be a mainstay in the team for some time.
He is growing in confidence with every game he plays and there’s shades of brilliance in his play – one year into a four year deal will no doubt see an improved contract come the summer to ward off interest from other clubs.

Paul Clement

An odd choice, some might say, but Clement is the future of the club. I have heard rumours that Clement was brought in as a short term option initially given his lack of formal managing experience but we may as well give him a lengthy deal now – it might stop the board from swinging the axe if a run of poor results comes our way; stability is needed. 

Chelsea v Swans: First Game Back!

Apologies for the lack of activity folks but it won’t have escaped anyone’s attention that we’ve had the better part of 12 days off for training whilst the rest of the league has been messing around with the FA Cup and what-not – but we’re back and what a game to come back to: a trip to Stamford Bridge!

I’m not sure I need to point out that Chelsea are currently top of the Premier League and will be looking to tighten their grip on top spot at our expense on Saturday afternoon. However, I firmly believe we can cause them some serious problems courtesy of Paul Clement’s intelligent football styling the lads displayed against Leicester last time out.

Okay; I know there’s a major difference between the now managerless Leicester City and Conte’s Chelsea but we still romped to victory over the Premier League champions without giving them so much as a real chance on goal.

We also need to consider that Paul Clement is a former Chelsea assistant manager and we’re showing signs of that top level experience – I’d be concerned if I were Antonio Conte; especially given their iffy draw against Burnley in their last Premier League game!

Sadly, we’ll be heading for Stamford Bridge without Nathan Dyer (Achilles), Jefferson Montero (hamstring) and Ki Sung-Yeung (knee) which is a damn shame quite frankly. The pace of Dyer and fearlessness of Ki would’ve added another dimension to our play against Chelsea but there’s always a plan B.

Britts is back after injury and Luciano Narsingh and Jordan Ayew are both pushing to start the game against the league leaders. I’m eager to see what Ayew can bring from the start of a game and Narsingh could be ideal cover for Dyer – I just hope his delivery is on point because we’ll stand more chance in the air than we do on the deck.

Sideshow Bob lookalike, David Luiz, and Marcos Alonso are likely to start at the back for Chelsea meaning playing through their backline is unlikely to happen as both are competent ball playing defenders but Luiz in particular often gets caught out in the air as ref’s are wise to his nasty streak – Llorente could profit massively from his hesitance to get embroiled in midair scuffles.

I’m not saying we’ll romp to victory; that’s a bit much to ask if I’m honest but Chelsea look a side who are set to allow complacency into their game. A few passes falling short and the likes of Narsingh and Carroll can nick the ball away and expose the gaps in their three man defensive line.

Paul Clement needs to get it into the player’s heads that it’s just another game and they are no better than us – they just cost more and get paid ludicrous sums to do exactly what we do; play to win every game. 

Saturday 11 February 2017

Jordan Ayew - Why Swansea? Why Now?

Jordan Ayew could make his Swans debut against Leicester on Sunday but what exactly attracted Paul Clement and the club to the former Villa striker? What can he bring to the squad that wasn’t already available? Is there something special about the Ghanaian that we haven’t noticed? What is it that forced the club’s hand?

Ayew was born in France but is of Ghanaian descent making him eligible for the Ghana national side who he has recently represented up to the Semi Final stage of the Africa Cup of Nations – hence his delayed debut for the Swans. Starting his career at Marseille, Ayew was transferred to FC Lorient as he found his first team chances limited at Marseille – this is where he attracted some major attention.

Aston Villa made a move for Ayew just 12 months after he signed for Lorient paying £10.2 million for him – they were confident he’d be exactly what they needed to stay in the Premier League. Sadly, they were wrong but they deployed him in such a way that any striker would’ve struggled. Isolated up front, Ayew found it hard to hit the back of the net and Villa went down.

Now, Ayew has signed for Swansea (for an undisclosed fee and Neil Taylor going in the opposite direction) and it makes him the second Ayew to play for us. Andre Ayew has, of course, departed the club in a £20 million move to West Ham that laced our pockets and shifted on the more tempestuous Ayew sibling.

Jordan Ayew is without doubt a talented striker. He has good technique, plenty of pace but he does rely on the ball coming to his feet a lot of the time. If anything, Ayew reminds me of former Man Utd striker Javier Hernandez – very underrated, makes a lot of great runs and is always on hand to pick up a loose ball. Hopefully he can have a similar impact to the Mexican in the Premier League.

The big question is what he’s going to bring to the squad quite frankly. We’re starting to find the back of the net more regularly, we look more resolute at the back so where can Ayew help? There’s nothing more useful in a team than a player who can change the way the game is being played – Ayew adds more pace to the front line that has been lacking somewhat with the reliance on the classy Llorente and absence of Ki.

When a player of Ayew’s quality becomes available; Premier League clubs can’t ignore it and let him slip away to a rival – Paul Clement has clearly been aware of Ayew for some time and letting Taylor go after nearly seven years with Swansea is a big decision.

The most irritating thing about Ayew’s transfer is definitely the number he has been given. Despite being an out and out striker, Ayew has been handed the number 3 shirt usually reserved for the left full back – absolute madness.

I’m expecting big things from Ayew and I think it’s safe to say the club are too – fingers crossed he can smash one in against Leicester on his debut.

Swans v Leicester: Relegation Battle Commence

Ties don’t get much more important for Swansea right now: Leicester City at home with both sides level on points and skirting dangerously close to the relegation zone – this is what Super Sundays were made for!

Three points will be enough for the Swans to at least leapfrog Leicester but it might also see us move above lacklustre Middlesbrough. Manager of the month Paul Clement has told the press he wants the team to make the home field advantage count – Leicester’s pitch is substantially wider than at the Liberty thanks to their Champion’s League endeavours this year.

Ideally, we can limit Leicester’s wide play to nullify the threat of Riyad Mahrez and Christian Fuchs from full back. It may not seem like much, but a pitch that’s a few yards narrower than a club is accustomed to can make it incredibly difficult to play their normal game – great news for us.

The news that seems to have kept Swansea in the print media this week comes courtesy of Jordan Ayew. The Ghana international agreed his deal on Deadline Day and is back from the Africa Cup of Nations ready to make his Swans debut. Ayew might not have made headlines for Aston Villa but I can see him turning a trick for us; we play his preferred game: keep the ball on the deck, pass and move.

Leicester are also off the back of the only FA Cup Fourth Round replay against Derby. The Foxes won the game in extra time but several first team players were included in the squad – three days rest might not be enough for them to fully recover and Ranieri will need to rotate once again.

It looks as though Ki, Montero and Britton will be absent for Swansea with a knee, hamstring and calf issue respectively. This isn’t too much of a concern thanks to Carroll’s emergence as a key player and Llorente remembering his shooting boots – we can field a side to worry Leicester here.

Schmeichel, Huth, Morgan, Drinkwater, Mahrez and Vardy are all expected to earn recalls to the team after the FA Cup tie and Demarai Gray is pushing hard for a starting place. Slimani and Ulloa are out with injury but Molla Wague could be involved after missing the Derby game for a ridiculous reason.

Apparently, and I didn’t know this, if a player signs after a domestic cup match is drawn and a replay is incurred – they cannot play in the replay as they weren’t available for the original game. Sounds daft to me but the FA do as they please I suppose.

Annoyingly, Mahrez netted a hat trick against us in this fixture last season so it’ll be down to Olsson to keep the Algerian as quiet as possible. I don’t care if he doesn’t go near another player; his threat needs to be quashed.

We can win this game, that’s painfully obvious, but I’m going to be conservative and back Swansea to win 2-1. I’ve just got a feeling about a late winner and can wholly see Ayew netting it on his debut.

Sunday 5 February 2017

Man City v Swans: On for the Hat Trick

I'll be the first to admit I wasn't certain when Paul Clement was announced as our new manager, akin to many of our fans, but he has done a fantastic job since his appointment securing victories over Liverpool and Southampton in a matter of weeks - next target is Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola has finally shown his true colours at City and dropped his chosen Goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo, and his talismanic striker, Sergio Aguero, in favour of what he believes is a more balanced side with bags of experience and youthful exuberance.

Pull the other one Pep - even though the Etihad is hardly ever near capacity; the fans that do show up will be baying for blood if Aguero misses another game and it would just happen to the Swans who are the opponents for what many City fans believe to be judgement day.

Let's face it, we're on a great run at the moment despite conceding in both of our last two games. There's a real belief about the team that can't be ignored; we'll score more than our opponents and that's that. It reminds me of Brian Clough and Sir Alex Ferguson's managerial style - keep attacking and you'll score more than you concede: Simple.

Only Jefferson Montero is missing for us against City but the winger might not be missed too much as Clement is inevitably going to field the same team that looked so comfortable in possession against Southampton - Sigurdsson from the left has breathed new life into his distribution which wasn't exactly lacking before the wide shift.

Do I honestly believe we can beat Man City? Yes. The Liverpool game proves we can compete with these so called 'bigger clubs' and money won't buy City an easy ride against an in form Swans team.

My biggest concern is the injury risk to the likes of Wayne Routledge and Ki who will no doubt come face to face with Fernandinho in City's midfield - a player who's been sent off three times in six games isn't someone I'd like to be trying to beat; he'll jab his studs right in at our quicker players and we all know full well he will.

I'm going to back a draw here - City are playing poorly and we're on a brilliant run but I have a feeling the Manchester side will peg us back eventually. I've been wrong several times before but I'm going for realism here.

If anyone is attending the game and has a spare seat; please let us know in the comments and we'll try and make sure everyone who wants to go gets there.