Friday 22 April 2011

The heat is... off

In what is certainly another massive game against Portsmouth this Saturday, the pressure may have eased slightly for Brendan's men.

“What the...?” you may ask as your pointer hovers over the X in top right corner of your screen.

Keep listening. I genuinely feel the pressure on the Swans to put in a massive performance is slightly less than in previous weeks. Don't get me wrong, this is not the time for the team to take games casually, but because the play-offs are now where their promotion hopes lie (with the auto-promotion places more than likely going to Norwich or Cardiff), the Swans have a focused date of May 30th to aim towards.

In fact, so long as the Swans claim seven points from their last four games, they will get into the play-offs. I feel if they now chase an auto-promotion spot they are aiming too high. The team had the chance to remain in 2nd, and even chase the top spot, but lost their nerve slightly a few weeks back.

This isn't to say they shouldn't go for the win tomorrow and for the following three games, but by mentally taking some pressure off, the team can play their brand of smooth, fast football without having to worry about conceding the odd goal. Naturally the pressure will be piled back on during the play-offs, but at least they will be there, instead of slipping out at the last moment, like last season.

These are only the ideas of one man, and naturally may not be the philosphy of the team, players or any other supporter. Just like to throw that out there.

The next four games may now be the last time Brendan Rodgers can play around a little to figure out what his best, play-off winning team is and, more of an issue it seems, what his best substitution options are. Who replaces Dyer or Sinclair if they come off due to fatigue? Moore isn't working on the wing, and neither is Priskin. Play Borini on the wing? What about using Rangel as a winger and Tate as LB? As I've said in past blogs, without Dyer and Sinclair out wide, the Swans don't seem to function properly and this needs to be changed now.

With all this idea in mind, let's have a little preview of Saturday's game vs. Portsmouth:

What results mean:
A win is still very important. All three points could see the Swans back in 4th, so long as Reading lose.

A draw now would still see the ForzaSwansea “seven points in four games” idea work out. A draw would see the Swans remain in 5th with 71 points.

A loss wouldn't actually change much either: Swansea would hold onto their 5th place spot as Leeds are too far behind to overtake them at this stage.

Betting on the game?
It's been a while since Swansea have walked away with three points on the road. I feel it will happen on Saturday, and am predicting 1-0 to Swansea, Borini to score.

This isn't the ideal way to finish the season, but for a manager new to the club, Rodgers has really brought the team up to a different level. This time last year we were umm-ing and ahh-ing over who to play up front. Kuqi, Pintado or overweight Trundle. Depressing options. Just think how exciting things have become in the last season! It's a joy to watch and, whatever happens in the next month, you know you'll always get value for money with Swansea City!

Sunday 17 April 2011

Two gifts for Burnley

I don't quite know how to start this blog post. It seems Saturday's game against Burnley was one of the many defining points of the season.

Though technically one automatic promotion spot is still in reach, it relies on too many other factors to go Swansea's way for it to be a realistic dream. But the play-offs are still fully up for grabs, and that is where the team, and fans, should now focus their attention.

Brendan Rodgers explained in a post match interview that his main task of surviving in the Championship is complete (I don't think that task was in any doubt from a couple of games in), and to be in a near play-off position is great. While I will agree with him that it's a great position to be in, being a couple of points off the top spot earlier in the season means anything but promotion would now seem a little disappointing to fans.

Right, I've tried to put it off, but there must be a mention of Saturday's falling apart against Burnley.

I felt, as I'm sure many listening to the dramatic radio commentary did, that Swansea had a great first half and were showing that they were a changed team on the road. Britton and Pratley added some solidity to the midfield and defensive mistakes were kept to a minimum.

Then came the second half. Fabio Borini beat the offside trap and scored his first away goal in a white shirt. Brilliant! The travelling Swans were ahead. This was the time they needed to learn from past mistakes, most recently in the previous game against Hull, and build on the lead. After three minutes things were looking good, Swansea hadn't conceded, they were still ahead. Then... then we hear of an own goal. Ashley Williams is able to beat De Vries with a header, putting the home team level.

An own goal is unlucky. As is a penalty (I'm getting to that). But these two things come from defensive errors and letting the opposition pressure you deep. It's unavoidable at times, but with the Swans dominating the first half and then scoring early in the second, they shouldn't have let Burnley get their heads up. But they did. Then, during the 76th minute, Burnley won a penalty (told you I'd get to it) thanks to a rare Rangel error and the game was as well as over.

What can you say? It is crushing. If it was a 1-0 loss, say, after Burnley had strung together a few nice passes early on in the game then shut up shop, it wouldn't have been so bad. But to literally gift Burnley with two easy goals, after taking the lead, shows that Swansea don't have the cutting edge they need to consistently win games.

There was no blaming the bowling green pitch this time and the "curse of the black shirts" wasn't a plausible excuse either.

Nevermind though! As I said, it's disappointing but the play-offs are just around the corner and, so long as Swansea can pick up about six points in the next four games, they will be around to battle for that final promotion spot. A good idea would be to get the results with minimal effort (is that possible?) and rest some vital players at home, so everyone is refreshed and raring to the play-off games. This is one of the best positions the team has been in in many, many years so, despite little disappointments, the team as a whole should be applauded.

This brings me onto my side note: the Mark Gower incident. I have yet to see this, but rumour has it (and there are many) that one/a few travelling Swans fans were shouting abuse at Swansea as they left the pitch (singling out Gower). Gower retaliated by showing one or more fingers to this group. What can you say? Not much. A minority of stupid fans get over emotional and then hurl abuse, which shouldn't happen, no matter how angry they feel. Meanwhile, Mark Gower shouldn't have reacted. He is a professional and, despite being full of emotion himself, is being paid handsomely to act in a specific way. A role model to youngsters should just suck it up and let the cool headed fans sort the abusers out. Lesson learnt: just leave the stands in silence if you didn't think anything of the performance (this goes for players and supporters alike).

With that, I leave you with this thought. Swansea vs Cardiff, Wembley, May 30th. Anyone fancy that?

Friday 15 April 2011

Bite-size Blog: Swansea vs Burnley

I feel that writing about 'the importance of winning at Burnley' is a waste of time. You all know. There is no reason to “big it up” - it's already massive. This game, like the remaining four Swansea will play, will define the season.

Swansea regularly start with the likes of Pratley and Britton on the bench and it gives the illusion of squad depth. While this does show that there are plenty of options for the three midfielders, a change in attack seems to stump everyone.

Brendan Rodgers appeared desperate for a second goal against Hull, and ended up throwing on Priskin, Moore and Beattie. Three strikers. Swansea can't function with three strikers. What he really needed was a solid, speedy winger to replace Sinclair or Dyer, and then a man-for-man swap of Borini with either Beattie or Priskin (...or Moore). However, there is nobody to replace Dyer or Sinclair. If one of them does get fatigued or injured during a game, there is no replacement. Van der Gun? He can do a wingers job, but he isn't as creative or fast.

It may be a little late to get a winger on loan, but that is what the team needs. Even if they aren't used they'll be there just in case the worst happens or, like we saw against Hull, something needs to change.

What results mean:
A win could see the Swans end the day in 3rd, providing Cardiff lose. 2nd place is just out of reach after Norwich beat Nottingham Forest. More than likely, a win for the Swans would see them hold onto the 4th place spot. If Cardiff slip up then all the better, but a win is vital to keep the pressure at bay.

A draw wouldn't be the end of the world, though it's certainly not what Rodgers and his men should be aiming for. If Reading (5th) lose or draw, Swansea would remain in 4th. If, however, Reading win, the Swans would slip down to 5th.

A loss is, needless to say, not worth thinking about. It would probably impact the table in the same way as a draw: Swansea would fall to 5th if Reading win. A loss would be crippling to confidence levels for the following game.

Betting on the game?
I feel confident that Swansea will hold it together under immense away pressure and get a victory. They wasted a chance on Tuesday against Hull. As Rodgers has said, the team need to be more aggressive away from home. They can't buckle and concede an early goal as this would destroy any team spirit.

I will say a 1-0 win to the Swans looks promising. Burnley have lost their last four games (and haven't won for six) and do concede plenty of goals, but Swansea's away form isn't the best. Still, I feel the travelling Jacks will have the edge. It may be worth covering 1-1... just in case.

Friday 8 April 2011

Bite-size Blog: Swansea vs Norwich

Swansea cannot lose against Norwich. Not if they want to battle for the automatic promotion spot. A win is vital.

With a full strength squad, this would usually be an easy outing, with three points almost certain on a smooth Liberty surface with a sell-out crowd spurring them on. However the loss against bottom of the league side Preston last week has asked some questions of the Swansea defence (“how could you let such a weak team pressurise you?”) and attack (“why could you not put away your chances?”). These questions must be answered by a convincing win over fellow promotion contenders Norwich.

Norwich, on good form, will be full of confidence after thrashing Scunthorpe 6-0 on Saturday. Can Swansea stop their decent run?

What results mean:

A win would probably see the Swans retain their 4th place spot, which is still a great place to be in considering a slightly bad run recently. If Cardiff lose or draw a win against Norwich would see the Swans leapfrog them to 3rd!

A draw would be better than a loss (duh!). If Cardiff lose Swansea would jump into third.

A loss would be terrible. Technically a loss could see the Swans drop to 6th place (if both Leeds and Reading win, thanks to goal difference), which would be one spot away from dropping out the play-offs. Not a good position to be in considering what happened last year.

So you can see: a good result against Norwich now means everything.

Betting on the game?

I honestly don't know these days. Swansea aren't the most predictable of teams at the moment. You don't know who will score at any point! As for score prediction, a 1-1 draw seems likely, though if Swansea really go for it 2-1 is also a high possibility.

This is the time to prove you have what it takes to get into the top tier once again. Don't let us down.

Monday 4 April 2011

Blaming the pitch!

I know all too well how annoying a bad pitch can be, being a keen 'Sunday kick-about on a muddy field' kind of guy, but blaming the pitch quality is no excuse for the way Swansea mentally approached Saturday's disastrous loss against Preston.

I'm not having a go at Brendan Rodgers; after all he has made the club fantastic to support and watch over the last few months, but I did cringe when listening to his hints of groundsman conspiracies after the match. The pitch wasn't the problem I feel. Swansea go into these bottom-of-the-league fixtures seeing the win as 'one in the bag'. I guess with fantastic performances such as the one against Leeds, nobody can blame the Swans for being expected to win. But there is 'expecting to win' by playing good football (no matter how bad the pitch), and then there is turning up with an air of arrogance and expecting the opposition to be terrible, only to find that they are up for a win themselves!

So what happened on Saturday? It seems Swansea did show up with a little arrogance and then paid for it. The media (myself included), the players and the management are all to blame, giving a little too much hype and almost casting Swansea as invincible (with predictions such as 3-0, 4-0 and 5-0 from some). Yes, it was unlucky giving away a penalty in the first few minutes, but you only give away penalties when you let the attacking team get well into your box, something a promotion contender shouldn't be doing against a bottom placed side. As commentators then said “it's only early; there is plenty of time for Swansea to win this”, but the Swans looked increasingly harassed as Preston looked to score a consecutive second and third very soon after.

It is odd that Swansea can literally ruin rival promotion contenders such as Leeds, but then consistently slip up against the likes of Derby, Scunthorpe and Preston. In theory this should be great news for the Norwich game on Saturday. Norwich ruined Scunthorpe 6-0, so the way things are going Swansea will step up their game and beat them 3-0! But winning only the home games in style against big teams and “hoping for the best” while on the road is not a strategy that will get them to the play-offs, let alone the automatic promotion spots. They need to up their away game and go into the smaller games with confidence (not arrogance) if they have any hope of getting to, and surviving in, the Premier League.

So, is now the time to panic? Of course not, there are still 7 games to go. The season is far from over. A win on Saturday against Norwich won't see the Swans back in second – they are just out of reach – but would see them hold onto their auto-promotion dreams. A loss would probably see them drop to fifth, and that's when it would be time to start panicking. Swansea can buckle under pressure, as we've seen, so the pressure of being dangerously close to dropping out of the play-offs may be too much. Look what happened this time last season.

Despite not always showing it on the field, all the players do want to win every game and do want to get promoted, just like the fans, so now is the time to really get behind the team and be the 12th man. The word 'believe' is being throw around quite a bit, and I think it is something we all have to do, though the words 'hope' 'they' 'don't' 'throw' 'it' 'away' are all starting to float around.

It is up to the players now, both old and new, to prove Swansea are a Premier League side.

Friday 1 April 2011

We all dream of a team of...?

It's been a little while since I last wrote, mainly thanks to the time I spent working on the podcast and the international teams selfishly having a kick-about, however I'm back on the eve of Swansea's final leg of their run to the Premier League. Here's some new sketchy thoughts!

What's been happening?

The slightly underwhelming signing of Tamas Priskin from Ipswich almost went undetected by me, considering the mass euphoria of Borini's arrival and his stunning debut. I can't see Priskin making the starting line-up; not with Borini available. In fact there are now four strikers ready to play, all fighting for that one striker position. Unless Rodgers decides to change a winning formation and add a second striker, three men will unhappily be sitting on the bench. Yeah, signing Priskin was an odd move, which was probably no more than Rodgers using him to strengthen the squad. Much like Newcastle did with our friend Kuqi.

Danny Rose was another, more sensible, option. Not that Priskin is a bad player, just more sensible in the sense that Rose would offer relief and options to the wingers if Dyer or Sinclair fall ill, injured or fatigued during a match. The wing play is the core of the team at the moment – Swansea's attack is built from the wings, and I wouldn't be too far wrong by saying well over 50 percent of goals scored have been from Dyer or Sinclairs darting runs. At the moment, without a loanee, Cedric van der Gun is the only real winger replacement, which isn't perfect considering the strength and depth in the rest of the midfield. Danny Rose would have been perfect, though it looks like that isn't happening... or is it? You never know with Rodgers – you think the chance is gone, then suddenly there is a new debutee (debutant?) scoring goals for fun!

While I am on the subject of strength and depth in the midfield, I notice rumours that Ferrie Bodde is on his way back! This is, of course, great news for the team as he has been missed over the last few seasons. But will he fit in is the new question? In a squad where Darren Pratley and Leon Britton regularly start on the bench, will the newly recovered Bodde actually make the starting team? How much has the team changed since he last played? Who will have to make way for him?

This leads me onto another 'dropping' question - the dropping of a defender. As I've discussed with a few fans recently (and also on the most recent podcast... *cough*), one of either Williams, Tate, Rangel or Taylor will have to make themselves comfortable on the bench to accommodate the return of Captain Monk. But who? Originally, I thought everyone would say “Taylor”, though it seems Tate is the popular choice. I hate to admit it, but I can see this. Alan Tate is the one who is most likely to make a mistake (though Ashley Williams has had his fair share recently) during the last part of this season. He is still pretty solid as defenders go though. And very loyal. If Swansea don't get into the Premier League, chances are Williams and even Rangel may leave, but Tate will stay put (and that's not because nobody else wants him). Nobody can sing “we all dream of a team of Alan Tates” if he is left out. I don't know... it's a hard one. But then again it's a good situation to be in. Five defenders competing for four spots – depth again. Thankfully Edgar's loan didn't work out or we'd have a real dilemma on our hands!

So, onto Preston then Swansea! It's another (like they all will be from here on) must win game, especially as Preston are sitting right at the bottom of the table. I know it's an away game, but if you can't win an away game against a bottom of the table side, you have no hope in the Premier League.

All together now: “We all dream of a team of Borinis, Sinclairs, Williamseseses, Monks, Rangels, Gowers, Dobbies, De Vrieseses, Dyers, Pratleys, Taylors... and Alan Tates!”

Monday 21 March 2011

NEW PODCAST! - "It wouldn't happen in Swansea..." Episode 2

Below you'll find the second episode of It wouldn't happen in Swansea..., the podcast for Swans fans, by Swans fans!

This episode contains a discussion of Swansea's game against Nottingham Forest, the question of who should be dropped now Monk is back, a profile of an ex-Swan, Matt's weekly rant, some non-Swans related stories and, of course, Challenge Matt!

As always your feedback and comments are very much appreciated, we are still pretty new to this and a little rough around the edges, but can only get better (hopefully)!

Thanks to everybody who has contributed with questions and comments!


It wouldn't happen in Swansea - Podcast - Episode 2 by ChrisCarra