I'm aiming to sum up Shrewsbury, preview Sunderland and talk about transfers in this bumper post, so I've split it into three digestible sections:
Shrewsbury 3 – 1 Swansea: Opinion
Swansea crashed out of the Carling Cup in the least glamorous fashion on Tuesday, losing 3-1 away to League Two minnows Shrewsbury. I wasn't at the match, so am basing this part of the blog on my experience of the game from watching Tony Cottee's scrutiny live on Sky, reading match reports and speaking to fans who made the journey.
In a recent blog post I stated it would be in Swansea's best interest to fall out of any cup games as soon as possible, avoiding the risk of injury and fatigue for some first team players, but I almost regret typing that now. Swansea shouldn't have dropped out in the fashion they did, not against a team 65 places below them in the collated league table and certainly not when they took the initial lead!
The worrying element is, despite theoretically being a weakened side, on paper it wasn't that weak. Plenty of first team players started the match (Ashley Williams, Danny Graham, Joe Allen, Alan Tate) with more joining in the second half as subs (Scott Sinclair, Stephen Dobbie and Neil Taylor) – between them they should have been able to seal a comfortable win or, at the very least, a goal (remember, the one Swansea 'scored' was an own goal by Shrewsbury's Cansdell-Sherriff). The rest of the team was made up with the likes of Leroy Lita, Luke Moore, Mark Gower and Jose Moreira who, last season, wouldn't have been considered weak players.
Can we single anyone out? Lita and Graham both missed chances; I guess for £3.5 million, Danny Graham should have scored against a League Two side. Maybe he wasn't being fed the ball enough but, again, this would highlight the ongoing problem of plenty of possession and attractive passing, but no end product. Graham is not the only one to blame. By all accounts, Orlandi and Gower seemed to waste set pieces and Tate was out of position a little too often. Ashley Williams was also singled out for acting too big for the game (see this post from an angry fan on a Swansea City message board).
I don't think anyone has ever seen or heard Brendan Rodgers speak so angrily about his team before, but the stark truth needed to be voiced and he did so very well. Though I can't see many players telling their grandchildren they lost to Shrewsbury, like Rodgers suggested, the statement hopefully makes them think, even feel a little embarrassed.
A good performance, and possibly a goal, against Sunderland on Saturday and this will all be forgotten, but it's been a wake-up call to the players and fans alike.
The two gingers I mention in the title are Ryan Harley and Shaun MacDonald, who have both left the club permanently. Harley left for Brighton for an undisclosed fee, while Shaun MacDonald made the move to Bournemouth for £150K.
MacDonald was never going to force his way into the first team, so the move was probably best for his own career. One thing: I am glad we never got to see him play in front of the Sky cameras – I don't think the world was ready for Shaun MacDonald in High Definition, let alone 3D! Best of luck to him anyway.
Ryan Harley's departure, however, was a little more disappointing. He seemed to be an interesting prospect for the central attacking midfielder role back in January, though his immediate return to Exeter on loan allowed Stephen Dobbie to claim the position as his. With Premier League promotion and another helping of new signings able to slot into the role, Harley was left fighting one too many for the position.
He played a wonderful game for Brighton in the Carling Cup by all accounts; a 1-0 win against Swansea's next opponents, Sunderland. He might not have had first team football on tap in Swansea, but games similar to the one against Shrewsbury might have seen Harley able to push his case forward. Again, good luck to him.
So, onto Sunderland, who Swansea play this Saturday at 3:00pm in the Liberty Stadium. It's a game full of opportunities: to get a much needed first goal (especially for Danny Graham), to get another point or three on the board and to claw back a little respect from the fans after the woeful display in the Cup.
What do you need to know about Sunderland? They are currently 13th in the Premier League, with one point. They lost 1-0 to Newcastle at home last week, though pushed Liverpool to a 1-1 draw at Anfield in their opening game. They've recently lost players such as Welbeck and Bent, though still have one of World Cup 2010's stars, Asamoah Gyan who is quick, clever and very exciting.
Swansea are actually favourites against last season's top ten team, currently 7/5 (PaddyPower). If I was betting on this one (...who am I kidding, I am betting on this one), I'd put a few pound on Sunderland to win as they are priced at 2/1; seemingly generous odds, all things considered. However, I predict another draw, albeit a score draw – my money is on 1-1 (currently 5/1).