Showing posts with label post-season. Show all posts
Showing posts with label post-season. Show all posts

Friday, 25 May 2012

Swansea City: Hello Sigurdsson? Goodbye Tate? Stay there Dobbie?

It's been just under two weeks since Swansea City last took to the field. Brendan Rodgers has barely opened his bottle of SPF 30 and the summer rumours, links and signings are already in full flow.

Too many rumours begin and end on Twitter and, with no attribution, it's barely worth taking notice of most of them. However, some may have legs...

Let's briefly catch up with what's been going on:

Gylfi Sigurdsson
I began writing several posts on Sigurdsson, but as soon as I went to publish them we heard of another twist in the story. It seems Huw Jenkins is opening his wallet wide to grab the Icelandic midfielder, who played such a key role in the latter stages of the season. He filled the centre of the pitch nicely, netting many goals in style for the Swans, so it's no wonder everyone wants him to stay on.

The latest news seems to be that Swansea have agreed a £7.2million fee with Hoffenheim after Huw Jenkins flew to Germany. Sigurdsson must now agree personal terms and decide if he wants to make the switch permanently.

Let us hope it's all sorted soon and £7.2million is the limit. Though he is clearly a quality player, the whole budget shouldn't be spent on one man. You never know - he may have his own bout of 'second-season syndrome'! But I'm almost certain that won't happen. A decision is coming soon though; an announcement we all anticipate highly.

Tate and Monk Released?! 
No... at least I don't think so. But I bring this up as I recently overheard someone say 'I don't believe they've released Tate and Monk from their contracts!'. Thankfully a quick internet search proved it to be another nothing rumour, and rightly so.

While they are struggling in the Premier League they should never be forced out, for two reasons: one being Swansea are severely lacking defenders at the moment. If Taylor and Rangel take a knock, it's Tate who will step in. We don't even have the luxury of two fresh, young centre-backs at the moment with the departure of Caulker, so Monk is currently first choice along with Williams.

The other reason should be obvious - they are Swansea City. Despite being somewhat past their prime, both Monk and Tate are key figures to have on the bench, in the dressing room and, when it's called for, on the field. I'm sure they'd take pay cuts if needs be, but to be released just like that? No!

Stephen Dobbie
Still on the Swans books, but will he play again? Watching the play-off semi-finals it was clear to see why the Blackpool fans love him. His touch, his vision... he is the complete player. For the Championship. Yes, I fear Dobbie is a very good Championship player and that is his limit.

Is it worth keeping him? With the probable signing of Sigurdsson, Dobbie is even less likely to start for Swansea next season, so I think now is the time to let him go (for a nice lump sum of course - £1million is the current price tag). Naturally, he won't be forgotten easily, after what he did for the team in the promotion winning season, but I think most would be happier to see him make the switch to Blackpool permanently.

Marvin Emnes 
Swansea were linked with Marvin Emnes last week, but that little rumour did the rounds and died. Like Dobbie he seems to be a fantastic Championship player and will always be remembered for his goal against Cardiff, but I can't confidently say he'd make an impact on the Premier League.

Rodgers to Liverpool 
He wasn't first choice for the Liverpool job and didn't want to upset the Swans players and supporters, so his decision not to get involved with talks was clever and ultimately the correct choice.

And the rest...
Rodgers to Roma, Emile Heskey to Swansea, Allen to Liverpool for £3million - none of these are happening! I can't decide which one is the most absurd and which I dislike the sound of the most...

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Goodbye 2011/12: a brief reflection

From crashing back to reality with the hammering from Man City in August, to the comfortable win over Liverpool on Sunday, it's been one hell of a debut season for Swansea City!

The months since the Premier League new boys walked out at the Etihad have been incredibly memorable. The first win against West Brom; taking points from games against Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea; Alan Tate and his golf buggy; incredible possession stats; and the 3-1 loss to Shrewsbury in the Carling Cup (…yeah, scrap that last one).

This season has shown the world what Swansea City are all about. The pundits and bookies said the club would rejoin Cardiff in the Championship if they tried to replicate the pass-and-move style in the Premier League - how wrong they were.

Over the months we've seen some real talent join the club: Michel Vorm, Wayne Routledge, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Steven Caulker - vital players in the survival campaign. They won't all stay, but they'll be welcomed back any time! Some players joined and didn't make much of an impact, like Josh McEachran and the incredible return of Fede Bessone.

We've also said our goodbyes to some such as Craig Beattie, and two gingers, Ryan Harley and Shaun MacDonald, while Stephen Dobbie made a loan move (again) to Blackpool (again) where he helped them secure a place in the play-off final (again).

Swansea had their ups and downs on the field, from the deserved victories against Man City and Arsenal, to never being able to win against Wolves (even when it looked certain!). Low periods of form did become a worry at times, but the Swans never looked like being dragged into a relegation battle, with 17th being the lowest place all season, after the second game.

Despite that well-deserved win against Liverpool, Swansea ended the season with a poor spell - winning just one in eight and losing four in a row. Had they been a little more clinical in the final third, scoring just one or two goals where it mattered, Swansea could easily have finished in the top ten.

Having said that, finishing too high in the first season might not be desirable as it could set unrealistic ambitions for next time.

No, this season will be remembered as a highly positive campaign. 11th place was more than any of us predicted and to do it in such style and with limited resources has gained the club followers from across the globe.

So, what can we expect next season?

Some are already using the clichéd 'second season syndrome' when looking ahead, but this seems to be coming from the same people who said we'd see Elvis sooner than we'd see Swansea survive... and we all know what happened there.

In their 100th season as a football club, Swansea will no longer have the 'new boy' tag and many fans will expect to better the 11th place finish. Maybe a place in Europe? Maybe that's a bit too ambitious for now, especially with a squad lacking depth. I'm sure we'd all take another season of survival!

I will explore the ambitions, targets and how it'll be done over the next few weeks, but for now enjoy the summer Swans fans - you've earned it!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Swansea City Preview - Man City (away)

After two months of checking news feeds, watching friendlies, reading endless season previews and queuing at the Liberty Stadium for one reason or another, Swansea's Premier League debut is almost here! Thankfully the riots in Manchester haven't prolonged the wait, so there is nothing (apart from a few inconvenient hours) standing in the way of Premier League action.

The game on Monday is basically the big spenders against the little spenders. Both teams have very different Premier League aspirations this season. One team are aiming for their first Premier League title... and the other is Man City.

Jokes aside, the bookmakers price Swansea at 12/1 to win the 90 minute match with the majority of football fans believing Swansea will leave the Eithad Stadium a broken team, being smashed 7-0.

But we know this will not be the case.

Swansea have had a comfortable pre-season, with highlights being wins over Celtic and Real Betis, and have strengthened an already solid team with the likes of Danny Graham, Wayne Routledge and Michael Vorm. The travelling Swans will go into the game confident that they can function as a slick unit, though will be aware that they are massive underdogs.

Swansea's defence is probably the weakest area as it stands going into the first match, with Garry Monk ruled out due to an ongoing foot injury and Neil Taylor still serving his three match ban thanks to the sending off against Nottingham Forest in May. Ferrie Bodde is another, almost permanent feature on the injured list, though this should come as no surprise.

With the exclusions in the squad outlined, my team to face Man City would be:

Vorm
Rangel Caulker Williams Tate
Dyer Allen Dobbie Britton Sinclair
Graham


I'm sure this won't be much different to what many of you would want to see and very close to the actual team Brendan Rodgers will field, perhaps using Agustien or a third holding midfielder instead of Dobbie for added defensive strength. However, without Dobbie Swansea have sometimes struggled to create, so dropping him may not be wise if the Swans want to look for an opening win, or a draw should Man City score first.

It's certainly going to be Vorm between the posts; even though he has had little experience with the team, he is a highly capable keeper and will boost team confidence. The wings pick themselves and Danny Graham is the natural first choice striker, finally getting his first goal in a white shirt against Real Betis last week.

As Man City go, the influential goalscorer Carlos Tevez is not expected to play on Monday, though breathing a sigh of relief is not advisable with the likes of Balotelli, Silva, Santa Cruz, Dzeko, Clichy and other World Class talent ready to test Alan Tate's men. It's a high quality side which is finally looking more of a unit than a miscellaneous group of primadonnas. The FA Cup winners will accept nothing less than a win to kick off their potential Premier League winning campaign.

Despite a defensive blip in the Community Shield match against Man United last week, City are strong at the back. Led by midfielder-turned-defender Vincent Kompany, Man City conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League last season (joint with Chelsea) and, with the England number one, Joe Hart, in goals, scoring against City will not be easy.

With all this in mind, my prediction is a 3-1 win to Man City. Naturally, as a Swansea blogger, I hope I am drastically wrong, with Swansea grabbing a tight 1-0 victory, though the odds of this happening are 25/1 (PaddyPower). If you do want to bet on this game, it may be advisable to put something on Swansea, as the odds are generous and we all know the start of a new season can throw up many upsets. 1-0 to Swansea, with Scott Sinclair as the scorer is a huge 150/1! Being a realistic scoreline and a realistic scorer that's a bet certainly worth a pound!

Silly-odds-checked-so-you-don't-have-to: Alan Tate to score first and Swansea to win 9-0 is 4000/1. Don't.

From Wembley to the Manchester, Swansea City are about to prove there is one Premier League team in Wales!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Friendly Previews: Swansea vs. Celtic / vs. Real Betis

As the title suggests, this is a brief preview of Swansea's friendly matches between both Celtic and Real Betis.

Admittedly, these matches don't impact the club much in the long run, but they have their importance. It'll be the first time many fans will see the likes of new recruits Leroy Lita and Wayne Routledge, as well as the other summer signings such as Danny Graham, Steven Caulker and Jose Moreira, if they didn't attend the friendlies in Neath, Port Talbot and Afan Lido. It might also be one of the only matches in the Liberty some fans will see if they weren't lucky enough to get a season-ticket / don't want to queue over night next season.

The three friendlies I just mentioned, as well as the two abroad (including a loss to the UAE Olympics team) were nice warm-ups for the team and more of a chance to stretch their legs, practice playing with new team mates and an opportunity for the reserves to play what will probably be their only games in a Swans shirt this season.

The games against Celtic and Real Betis are the final two opportunities for Brendan Rodgers to try out anything new and look towards what starting eleven he'll field against Man City in just under two weeks time. However, these are big name teams so there is a little more attention and hope on winning these two than there was at, say, Neath.

Swansea first play Scottish giants Celtic on Wednesday (7:00pm) at the Liberty Stadium, in the first game there since that euphoric night against Nottingham Forest back in May.

Oddly enough, Celtic have already begun their 2011/12 SPL season with a 2-0 win against Hibernian but their new season took an immediate break to play a series of friendlies. Within the last week they have lost 2-0 against Wolves and another 2-0 loss against Inter Milan so will be looking for a good win against a Premier League side, especially a Welsh one after their efforts, along with Rangers', to break into the Premier League were unsuccessful.

In reality Swansea have nothing to lose, though Cardiff may think differently. I heard an amusing theory a few days ago: Cardiff lost 1-0 to Celtic in a recent friendly, so, should Swansea lose by more than a goal to Celtic, do Cardiff have one-up on the Swans? I don't see it being much of an issue. Cardiff fans have been uncharacteristically quiet recently, and I don't think their friendly successes (or lack of) will be much to cheer about. They now have bigger problems than Swansea.

Moving onto the match against Real Betis (Saturday 6th, 3:00pm) and we encounter a team I actually don't know too much about.

Last season they won the Spanish Segunda División, achieving promotion to La Liga, so Betis are effectively in the same boat as Swansea – a team gaining promotion and wanting to build confidence against a top tier side from another country. Swansea will get to sample some high quality European football, while Real Betis will get good practise for playing Barcelona if Swansea continue their quick passing, high possession game!

Real Betis will not be an easy team to beat and will be up for showing Swansea why they were champions last season. Recently the Spanish side hammered Havant and Waterlooville 7-0 and, while the H&W Hawks are not really at the same standard as the Swans, it shows that Betis will want to grab as many as they can from what may be a relatively new Swansea side.

So on to my predictions, where I foresee a calm 1-1 draw against Celtic, before a more energetic 2-1 win for Swansea against Real Betis.

Whatever happens, I'm sure these will be fun games to watch and interesting for fans to see how Swansea cope against teams they may not encounter again for a while (maybe not until Swansea leap into the Champions League... give it a few years though)!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Swansea City Summer Catch-up

I'm back with a brief recap of Swansea City's summer so far!

After the Wembley hangovers settled, we said our amicable goodbyes to the likes of Cedric van der Gun and Albert Serran, as well as our “I-honestly-forgot-you-were-playing-for-the-Swans” farewells to Kerry Morgan and Jamie Grimes early in June. Shortly after went Darren Pratley, which was no surprise after the on/off season he'd had, followed by the shocking move of Dorus De Vries to Wolves (read my full thoughts on his departure here).

With Fabio Borini having already left for Italy, Swans fans were delighted to learn that a capable, goal-hungry striker was on his way to South Wales: Danny Graham. Luke Moore and Craig Beattie might have adequately fulfilled their roles last season and have impressed in the pre-season friendlies (though playing against the likes of Port Talbot and Afan Lido, can you expect anything less?!), but the club needed to aim higher than the combined seven goals those two brought last season. The arrival of Graham took the “striker needed” advert out of the Liberty Stadium window for a while, though another one or two would be ideal before mid-August.

With one purchase secured, the club were able to look at strengthening other vital areas, with no position more needy of a fresh face than the goalkeeper. A number of names were thrown around but, so far, only Jose Moreira has fallen into the “for keeps” bag. Moreira helped Benfica win the Portuguese League Cup last season and will no doubt prove an asset for the Swans who are struggling in that area – Ma Kalambay is not up to Premier League standard, the same going for David Cornell. It seems another keeper is in Brendan Rodgers' cross-hairs, with a loan bid going in for David Stockdale and an unconfirmed bid for Nottingham Forest's number one, Lee Camp. Another keeper would be desirable.

Looking at the defence, Neil Taylor signing a new four-year deal is good news, though the celebration was blemished after his alleged threats to sue the club after they made his Newcastle move difficult, which has certainly lost him some support (his agent seems to be the main cause of this fiasco, though Taylor must carry some of the blame). He'll have to ensure a great season in the Premier League to convert those disgruntled fans back to full support.

Alan Tate and Garry Monk are staying put, though may see themselves playing secondary roles as Ashley Williams and, new loan signing, Steven Caulker look likely to start in the centre next season, though I'm sure both Tate and Monk will get plenty of game time as the season goes on. Garry Monk signed a new three-year deal, which will no doubt see him end his career with the Swans.

Midfield wasn't a burning issue at the start of the summer with Gower, Dobbie, Allen, Britton, Orlandi and a newly fit(ish) Bodde available, though Senna and Gudjohnsen both stole headlines after Swansea were linked with them. Now they aren't coming, I can get off the fence and say it probably wouldn't have been the best move for the Swans. Yes it was refreshing to see Swansea linked with such high quality players who ooze experience, but high wages and an already large midfield roster would mean someone would suffer.

Let's not forget Ryan Harley, who signed back in January this year. He'll be one to watch, though not holding my breath for immediate wonders – bypassing the Championship and starting in the Premier League with a new team after playing in League One last season may prove a little too much straight off for Harley.

Out wide Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair will be relied on for their pace and skill, though another winger is desperately needed to provide cover for injuries. In an idea world, Swansea would get a winger who is capable of pushing Dyer and Sinclair onto the bench, but this isn't an ideal world so a cover winger would suffice. Marvin Emnes has been consistently mentioned and, at the right price, would be great forward/wing cover, though Middlesbrough won't want to see him go. I know Luke Moore can play out wide, but it's not a mouthwatering prospect is it?

Were Swansea to play their first Premier League game of the season tomorrow, things may look like this:

Moreira
Rangel Caulker Williams Taylor
Sinclair Britton Dobbie Allen Dyer,
Pintado


Just joking with the Pintado bit; but substitute Pintado for Graham and it's not a bad looking team, with a nice mix of youth, speed and experience. No doubt Swansea will be linked with a few more possibilities between now and then (when I started writing this blog they were dead certs to sign Mariano Pavone, though as I go to publish it the move is definitely not happening – I can't keep up!)

Staying in the Premier League will be no easy task, but with a little more strengthening it's not impossible. Another three weeks and we'll be very close to the first game against Man City, where the hard work really starts.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Swans on film! - Part Two

Back in January you may recall I broke the text-base blog mould (what a pioneer I truly am!) and brought you five of my favourite Swansea City themed videos from YouTube.

So due to popular demand (and because I am lacking blogging creativity over the post-season), here are another five videos worth checking out if you are a Jack. You'll see goals, passion, song and... queues. Enjoy!

(NB: I did not film, edit or upload any of these videos, neither do I own any of the music - no copyright infringement intended)


1) Swansea City at Wembley - Swansea Sound Commentary
Most of you will have been at Wembley or at least will have watched the final on Sky Sports, therefore missing Anthony O'Connell's dramatic commentary for Swansea Sound. He may not be the best out there, but it's worth hearing a passionate, Swansea-biased commentator's take on the match, instead of some stuffy suit who doesn't really care. All set to pictures from the final.



(Uploaded by Swaansea)


2) The Vetch Field 2011
This was created by a good friend of mine and probably the most passionate Swans fan around. So passionate that he snuck into the derelict Vetch early one morning, just before the demolition work began, and took some very unique photos which will surely stir some memories. Very poignant.

(Make sure to cancel the annoying advert at 0:10)



(Uploaded by RichardCopp)


3) Top 5 Goals - 2010/11 Season
It's a shame this video doesn't include more goals as there were some real stunners throughout last season, though five of the best are definitely included here, from the likes of Rangel, Beattie and Sinclair.



(Uploaded by SwansHighlights23)


4) The queue for the new Swansea City shirt
No high production values here, but a perfect reminder of all the queuing that took place at the Liberty Stadium this spring! Wembley tickets, season tickets and the new shirt. The people of Swansea do love a good ol' fashioned stand in the rain!



(Uploaded by MrLow3sy)


5) Swansea Song at Wembley
I rarely show emotion, though seem to recall a little tear in my eye as I sung this song, along with 40,000 other Swansea folk, after the match. Great song, great occasion to sing it. Now, dry your eyes mate...

(Skip to about 0:16 into the video!)



(Uploaded by PCSCymru)

If you have a video recommendation that you think may be worthy of inclusion for the next video-based blog, leave a comment below!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Making sense of Jack Army Membership

It doesn't take much to confuse me, and the Jack Army Membership scheme was no exception. At first I wasn't sure how it differed from other club schemes like the 1912 Foundation and the Swans Supporters Trust, though after asking questions and actually taking the time to read the website, I now know what it will mean to be a member of the (regulated) Jack Army, and you will too after reading this blog ... maybe.

If you aren't already aware, the Jack Army Membership is a new scheme aimed at allowing supporters who become members the chance to have priority when buying home and away tickets next season.

There is one tier of membership, at different prices: £10 for season ticket holders, Vice Presidents and Premier Club members and £25 for non-season ticket holders (make sure to add the, these days, obligatory £1.50 “admin fee”, for the £1.50's worth of “admin” that will no doubt take place).

The benefits of being part of the scheme are obvious for those who were not able to obtain a season ticket, for whatever reason: priority. Come the Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea games to name a few, you will need all the help you can to get a ticket. Though the club do state on the website that becoming a member of the Jack Army is no guarantee of tickets, it will give you that edge over those who don't want to pay the £26.50 now. Plus it will, in theory, give you priority on away tickets which will be in just as big a demand (if not more due to limited numbers) as home tickets next season.

So what are the benefits of paying £11.50 if you're already a season ticket holder? Well you may have a plastic friend who wants you to get him/her a ticket, but I can't really see you getting Jack Army Membership for that reason! No, it seems away tickets are the main reason a season ticket holder would become a member. That and cup matches.

On the topic of cup matches, thankfully next season we won't be too upset when we don't pull a “big name” out of the hat for the FA Cup / Carling Cup as we'll be playing them every week! One of the biggest names we would all love to pull out is Cardiff, as this is one classic derby match that everyone will miss next season. If Swansea do face Cardiff next season it'll be in a cup match. A good enough reason alone to join the Jack Army scheme, season-ticket holder or not.

To me, despite the initial confusion, the membership scheme seems adequate for a club that probably didn't expect ticket demand to be this high for a few years yet.

As many were crying out for, a loyalty scheme was probably a better way of dealing with the demand; that way those who have actively supported the Swans for years (buying their fair share of home and away tickets) will rightly have priority. However, this really needed to be implemented a few years ago for it to mean anything. The club have announced plans for a loyalty scheme to come into force at some point in the future, but until then this is the next best thing.

The only problem is that by this way of doing things, a truly loyal Swansea City supporter now has the same priority as somebody just joining to get tickets “for Man Utd and the big games and stuff” (not sure who I'm quoting there, though I reckon it's been said by plenty in the past few months).

Ultimately, if you have the money, become a member. Even if you don't plan to go to many games (if you live too far away, etc), this is a good enough reminder why:

When the loyalty scheme comes into force the priority could be as follows:

Those with the most loyalty points, THEN season-ticket holders (with Jack Army Membership), THEN non-season ticket holders (with Jack Army Membership), THEN season ticket holders (without Jack Army Membership) AND THEN, finally, general sale.

There's more chance of Gorka Pintado scoring a hat-trick against Man City in the opening game than you have of getting a general sale ticket!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Loyalty: no longer playing for the badge

Dorus De Vries has left Swansea City.

For me this is a bigger shame than Darren Pratley and (possibly) Neil Taylor leaving, as it seems to have cropped up from nowhere. I know he was out of contract, but I must have just assumed he'd sign another one. Football lesson #1: Never assume anyone will be playing for your team next season.

I think I'm more confused than anything.

It might be more understandable had Swansea failed to achieve promotion last season, or were in a Cardiff-type state (complete disarray), but that's not the case. Swansea were promoted, have been gifted £90million, have a great team and management in place and have some of the best supporters in the land. Dorus will know this.

Maybe his departure was a lifestyle reason? Unlikely though; I've been to Wolverhampton and, despite what the Wolverhampton tourist board may claim, it has no charm or beauty. Well, none compared to that of Swansea. So we can rule out “change of scenery”.

Could it be the manager? I've never been managed by him personally, but Brendan Rodgers strikes me as an excellent boss, one who you'd struggle to dislike and one who let's the players play their own way. I can't see the appeal of Mick McCarthy over the Kilimanjaro conqueror, so it can't be a reason.

Maybe we don't have to look further than De Vries himself who said (speaking to Wolves club website): "Wolves are a club with all the fundamentals in place to grow and expectations are higher than at Swansea at this moment in time.”

This, again, is odd. I think expectations are very high in Swansea. Higher than they must be at Wolves. A team still flying on the promotion high (I know the crash will come soon enough) against a team who avoided relegation by a point on the final day. I may be a little disillusioned, but I predicted (before this news came to light) that Swansea would probably finish on par, if not higher than, Wolves. Maybe De Vries knows something I don't?

After discussing all these points, it should be clear by now that money is the reason De Vries left Swansea. (I would like to point out that while I am naturally focussing my attention on the Dutchman, it is generally the same story for Darren Pratley and any others that choose to leave now).

In football, money overtook loyalty years ago. Gone are the days where a player will spend his entire career with one club (bar a few exceptions – Giggs, Del Piero, Scholes) and it's such a shame for the sport.

As we all know, the joy of having 20,000 fans chanting your name is nothing compared to the sheer bliss of that extra few grand a week. Forget the kids who save up pocket money for a new kit and have your name sewn onto their shirts, only for you to leave the next week. Forget the fans in stands similar to the Tesco Stand all over the country who will now have to co-ordinate another chant for their star keeper.

Player loyalty (the lack of it) is almost enough to put you off football.

Why can't more players be like Alan Tate? Can anyone remember Alan Tate holding up his Swansea shirt for the camera's when he signed? No, because it was so long ago! One of those rare players that will probably stay with the club for his entire career (and it's not just because no-one else wants him).

So the departure of De Vries leaves a big space to fill. Swansea are currently being linked with Poland international Grzegorz Sandomierski (a lovely name for the commentators to get wrong). However, the 21-year old has impressed a number of top clubs, including Man City, Juventus and Chelsea, so don't hold your breath on this one.

I felt Swansea already needed another keeper before this happened; as a back up in case De Vries got injured. I don't feel Yves MaKalambay is Premier League material yet, though worth hanging on to as a third keeper.

Now Rodgers has another mountain to climb in getting two good quality goalkeepers into the squad; at least one of them with enough experience to face the likes of Rooney, Tevez and Drogba next season.

I guess Alan Tate could take the gloves again?

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Swansea City: All Change!

One thing is certain: the Swansea squad we enjoyed watching last season will be considerably different in August. After a quiet blogging week (apart from the podcast), here is my little catch up on who's in and out, and what still needs strengthening.

Let's face it; with Borini gone, Swansea have limited quality striker options. I guess you could class Dobbie as a good striker, but he does too well in the attacking midfield role to change back now. This leaves Beattie, Pintado (he's back!) and Moore and none of these can confidently do the job. Rodgers clearly understood that a new face up front was needed, with the capture of Danny Graham for £3.5million last week (my mini blog on him is here). Being the top scorer in the Championship with Watford last season is proof that he can score goals when needed, and I am sure he will make a great addition to the team.

There are refreshed rumours of Marvin Emnes possibly coming back. This seems a decent move, as Emnes spent time with Swansea last season (scoring the goal against Cardiff... did you need reminding?). He knows how Swansea want to play and would fit in well I'm sure. Middlesbrough won't be keen to let their front man go, but it's definitely worth a move for him.

In midfield, Darren Pratley has left the club (with an alleged eye for Bolton). It seemed inevitable that he'd go after the season he had with the Swans. The whole “refusing to sign a new contract” situation was one massive hint that his future lied elsewhere; a case that saw him booed by some Swans fans earlier in the season. I always liked Pratley, with his keen eye for goal and solidity on the field (and impact from the bench in the later stages of the season). Good luck to him, but with good depth in the midfield already, he won't be too much of a loss.

Brendan Rodgers has already been looking to fill Pratley's position with Marcos Senna. Even if nothing comes from the talks, it's great for club spirits to be linked with a player of this quality. Leon Britton and Marcos Senna in the centre – a wonderful (if slightly unbelievable) pairing. The Spanish Player of the Year 2008 and Euro 2008 winner (… it seems 2008 was a good year for Senna) would be a big star signing for the Swans; one which would really cement the fact that Swansea have made it to the big league.

However, at 35 (when new season starts), his age is a big factor. Ultimately Brendan Rodgers will be signing Senna with experience in mind. The La Liga veteran has played with Corinthians and, of course, Villareal and had 28 caps for Spain. He may be a little too old to feature as a first team player week-in, week-out, but his big game ability is what he will be used for, on and off the field.

Another midfield idea going around is Eidur Gudjohnsen. The attacking-midfielder is a free agent, though has played with Barcelona, Chelsea and Tottenham in the past and would be another massive experience signing. At 32 he, like Senna, would be useful for his big game experience. I'm not sure if having both Senna and Gudjohnsen would be ideal as the wages would be massive and they probably wouldn't both be needed. Still, I'd rather both than none.

Ryan Harley has been with Swansea since January, though remained with his old club, Exeter, on loan until now. I haven't seen much of Harley, though I understand he is a great attacking player with a keen eye for goal. Stepping up from League One to the Premier League will be a massive change in pace and quality though, so we will have to wait to see how effective he really is on the big stage.

Midfield seems close to sorted now, with the likes of Harley, Britton, Dobbie, Allen and, quite possibly, Senna and Gudjohnsen all likely to play first team football next season.

The wings need strengthening. With one injury to Sinclair or Dyer, Swansea's wide game is effectively buggered. With Van der Gun gone, the Swans are relatively short on wingers, which is worrying as their game relies heavily on the wings. Tom Butler is one option, with Luke Moore another. I'd personally dislike seeing either of these warming up next season, so a winger should be the next big thing on Rodger's list.

The biggest area Swansea need to look at is defence. Monk and Tate did wonders last season, though fresh legs and a little speed at the back is now essential against some of the best forwards in the world. With Ashley Williams staying put for now, obtaining another centre back and possibly a left back is more essential than finding a winger and striker. If Taylor stays the left-back is less crucial, but depth is needed with only a handful of quality defenders to actually choose from.

De Vries is already Premier League quality and will easily retain his starting spot next season, after a spectacular 2010/11 season, but MaKalambay is not up to the high standard required in the top tier. A new replacement keeper is needed (not Cornell), with MaKalambay staying as a third keeper possibly.

There is plenty more to talk about as the transfer window remains open. Watch this space!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

“Bite-size Blog: Danny Graham”

It seems Brendan Rodgers was keen to fill the Fabio Borini shaped hole very quickly and has done so with a bid for Watford's top striker.

Danny Graham has signed for Swansea City, after Watford accepted a £3.5 million bid on Saturday.

Borini set a new standard for strikers joining the Swans, so Graham will have big shoes to fill. However, fans can be confident that goals will come – he scored 24 last season, making him the Championship's top scorer.

The 25-year-old scored against the Swans back in their 1-1 draw in March.

Some facts:

- He is over six foot tall (great to have a little height in the squad)
- He has Premier League experience with Middlesbrough
- He was named in the 2011 PFA Championship Team of the Year.
- He was a target of Championship champions QPR earlier this year

Here's a video containing all his goals from last season.

Enjoy!