Saturday, 15 September 2012

Swansea City 0 - 2 Aston Villa: There's always one...

A poor performance and a deserved loss. It was bound to happen at some point, although we hoped it would be slightly later on in the year. If it helps, I almost got my match prediction right...

After a bright opening quarter, Swansea conceded the first goal when a shot from Matthew Lowton sailed past Vorm, via a deflection from Alan Tate. Otherwise the first half was very promising, with three great chances from the Swans. On 45 minutes it was still anyone's game.

Now, I'm not sure what was said in the dressing room at half-time, but it didn't help.
In the second half Swansea tried to play their usual game, but simply made too many mistakes - losing the ball through loose passes and allowing Villa to dispossess them too easily. Clearing the box also proved to be a rare difficulty today, and allowed the home side to pile on pressure.

The players all tried (or looked like they were trying), but it just didn't work out for them. Michu was as feisty as usual - picking up a yellow card - but looked clumsy at times and wasn't as effective. Jonathan de Guzman didn't offer as much support up front as last time. Pablo Hernandez looked more effective than Routledge when he came on - I wish he had come on sooner. Luke Moore came on late, but made something of himself and had the most shots out of any other Swans player (four, with one on target).

Alan Tate, who needed a good game, had a decent one. He never strikes me with pure confidence, but he made a block, a few successful clearances and won most of his aerial battles.

For me Nathan Dyer was the man-of-the-match (for Swansea at least), with plenty of tireless running. He seemed to take a more central role at times, which allowed him a few shots (including a rocket in the first half). He worked hard and tried to win the team a penalty (which - correctly by the referee - wasn't given), and caused havoc as always.

A blunder, a boob, a fault - call it what you will, but Ashley Williams certainly made the biggest mistake of the day. A casual header back to Vorm allowed Christian Benteke to take it away and knock it in. Williams made a similar error earlier in the game, but saved himself. No such luck the second time. Despite a generally superb start of the season for Swansea, Williams has struggled and made more mistakes than usual. Still, he's a vital name on the team sheet and concerned us all when he began limping around in the second half. Needless to say, Swansea do not need any more defensive injuries!

Apart from creating a few good chances in the first half, there are not many positives to take away from this game. Such a shame there was no end product to some of the exciting counter-attacking. Still, after four games, Swansea are in fifth place in the Premier League! That makes it all better.

Elsewhere, all credit to Aston Villa who didn't do anything amazing, but strung together some attractive passes and really capitalised on every one of Swansea's mistakes. This result surely kick-starts their season.

All in all, it really was one to forget today! Onto next Saturday, where the team can redeem themselves against Everton back on home soil.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Swansea City vs. Aston Villa: Defensive woes...

The clearest, biggest, fattest issue that must be addressed before we discuss the upcoming game against Aston Villa is Swansea City's defence. Or lack of it...

We all winced when we saw Neil Taylor stretchered off against Sunderland. The wince turned into a violent shudder when we heard he would be out all season with a fractured ankle. One vital player down. In the same game, another defender ruled himself out of the next three games - the ever-feisty Chico Flores. He'll be serving the first of his three-match ban for his stupidly high tackle on Louis Saha. That's another key man gone.

Then we had a moment of good news/bad news. The good news was we all remembered Kyle Bartley had been signed for situations just like this! Brilliant - an ex-Arsenal/Rangers defender, eager to make his mark on the team! The bad news... yeah, you guessed it - he's injured. Ruled out for three months with a thigh injury picked up in training. Typical.
Don't fret (or stop your current fretting) - Swansea do have a few options. There are those full of potential, like Jazz Richards and Ben Davies, but Swansea do need someone with experience to fall back on. Thankfully, the club have signed former Holland under-21 international Dwight Tiendalli on a season long contract (a good-value free-transfer). He'll replace Taylor on the left. I've not seen anything of Tiendalli, so whether he will be as strong going forward (or at the back for that matter) will need to be seen.

Now... this is it for Alan Tate.

Really, this is his big chance to make an impact in the Premier League. Tate had a frustrating time last season with injuries and defensive competition, but he now has three full Premier League games to show that he can cope with the power and pace of the best attackers in the country. He will slot into the centre-back role next to Williams. Come on Alan - this is your moment.

Elsewhere, the Swansea starting XI (that's '11' for those who didn't do Latin in school) still isn't as predictable as last season. In a good way I guess, as there is a little choice among the rest of the squad.

We should see the same effective trio start in the middle: Britton, Michu and de Guzman. Originally I had a feeling Sung-Yueng would start this one, but he is likely to begin on the bench after fitness concerns. He played 90 minutes for South Korea in their World Cup qualifying match on Tuesday - we don't want to risk another injury now, do we?

Nathan Dyer, overlooked for the England squad once again, will appear on the wing. While his exclusion from the England squad seems ridiculous to everyone except Roy Hodgson, at least every time he pulls on a Swans shirt he will feel like he has something to prove, and that can't be a bad thing for Swansea City.

Joining Dyer on the wing will probably see the d├ębut appearance for Pablo Hernandez. This may be a little harsh on Wayne Routledge who has been nothing short of superb in the opening games, capped off by a superb goal against Sunderland two weeks ago. It would be good to see what Hernandez can do though, so I wouldn't say no to Routledge sitting this one out.

Now, onto Aston Villa. It's not been a convincing start for Paul Lambert's men - one point from three games sees them just one place above the relegation zone in this early stage. Without a win in 13 Premier League games, Villa will be gagging for three points.

Not sure about you, but I have a feeling Villa may nick it. For the first three matches I was optimistic but I just have this looming feeling of a loss on the cards for the Swans.

As you know, now and again I like to link up with an opposition blogger to share thoughts ahead of the game. This week we have Stuart Young from avillafan.com, who knows Villa inside out and has given us some brief thoughts:

There is a new positive vibe around Villa Park following the appointment of Paul Lambert. Too many people in the media were quick to jump on the Villa faithful last season for them not getting behind Alex McLeish. In reality, the vast majority did give him a chance, but his negative style of football soon turned us.
Anyway: this is a new Aston Villa. We wont make out that we will return to the heights we found ourselves under Martin O'Neill this season but we hope for slow and steady improvement to get back into that position.
Lambert, didn’t hang around, and brought in seven new faces during the summer - some will make an instant impact, while others will take time. I fully expect the new manager to stick with the same side that managed a score-draw with Newcastle. So we should line up something like this:
Guzan 
Lowton, Clark, Vlaar, Lichaj 
Holman, El-Ahmadi, Ireland, Bannan 
Weimann, Bent
I wouldn't be surprised to see both Gabby Agbonlahor and new signing Christian Bentake come off the bench and make some kind of impact.
It wont be an easy game for us, but I believe we must get a win and really kick start our season. 

Thankfully Swansea's first three games have produced seven points, so a slip up won't be taken too badly. This doesn't mean Swansea can afford to lose this match - there will be plenty of time to lose matches against bigger teams. Aston Villa, once a top six club, are now struggling at the wrong end of the table and Swans need to kick them when they're down so to speak.
 
As I mention, I'm not as confident as usual for Swansea to get a result, despite the amazing start. I will say Aston Villa to win 2-1 (odds around 7/1). Another bet I've been happy to cover recently is Michu to score two or more, this week at around 18/1 - worth a pound or three with his record!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Global Jack Army: Catching up with Swans fans from around the World!

We can't all be lucky enough to live in Swansea. (I'm serious).

Yes, despite the beauty of Indonesia, the endless sun of Florida and the high quality living in Austria, the residents of these countries are missing one thing: the Liberty Stadium. As you know, when you don't have the Liberty Stadium, you don't have the Swans.

This may not matter to some, but since Swansea City have gone global after joining, and staying in, the Premier League, the club has picked up a mass of new fans along the way. But who are these fans? Why did they pick the Swans as their adopted team instead of Man City, Arsenal or... Cardiff?

I have been very fortunate to speak to a great group of Swansea City fans who live in faraway places (yes, further than Glynneath) and ask them why they chose to follow Swansea City, what it's like supporting a team many people haven't heard of before and how do they keep up-to-date with the most exciting club in the Premier League!

In this article we have Jacks from South Korea, India, Australia, USA, Indonesia and more, all giving us a taste of what it's like to be a Swans fan abroad, from brand new supporters to exiled Jacks!

(NB: While these are the genuine answers given to me by the fans, some have been edited slightly for clarity).


RJ Kim, 25 
Seoul, South Korea











When did you start following Swansea City? 
Since Ki Sung-Yueng was transferred from Celtic.

What made you choose the Swans?
Because Swansea show remarkable growth in EPL 2012-13 and their style of play is very attractive.

Are Swansea City a popular team in your country?
Since Ki's signing, Korean football fans have looked at Swansea with interest and now they like Swansea. Countless Koreans cheers for the Swans.

Who is your current favourite player?
Miguel Michu. He scored his fourth Premier League goal of the season already. I was very impressed with it.

How do you manage to keep up-to-date with Swansea news and matches?
I check SCFC and their fan's Twitter frequently. When it's a game day, I watch games on television or live streaming. Sometimes, I use a live text message service from a Korean sports website.

Give me an interesting fact about your country! 
Google 'Gangnam Style' now! This is a song of PSY which is very popular in Korea. Gangnam Style has been a big issue across the border. Above all, its music video is very funny. Watch it!



Joarezka Adriargo, 25 
Surabaya, Indonesia
 










When did you start following Swansea City? 
Since last season, when Brendan Rodgers was in charge.

What made you choose the Swans?
The way they play is totally different from other EPL teams. It's tiki-taka from the Welsh they said. Then I started to browse and watch the games, regularly whether on TV or streaming, and started to follow them.

Are Swansea City a popular team in your country?
Not that much. But everyone starts to open their eyes widely now. They start wondering - curious, just like I was before.

Who is your current favourite player?
Monk and Tate.

How do you manage to keep up-to-date with Swansea news and matches?
We had a fan base, unfortunately they're not as active as before. So I decided to follow some Swansea news such as you [I'm honoured! - Chris] to keep me updated.

Give me an interesting fact about your country! 
Indonesia is a beautiful country with friendly people. Surabaya has a local football club named Persebaya and the supporters are called Bonek (Bondo Nekat / Modal Berani; it means 'with just bravery') and we are the most fanatic here. Also, in Surabaya you will find a lot of good food! Semanggi is one of them.



Leo Howell, 26
Lakeland - Florida, USA











When did you start following Swansea City?
Just before their rise to the Premier League over a year ago.

What made you choose the Swans?
My family is of Welsh descent, and I have been looking to follow an EPL team for a while. I only began to like football later on in life, and had a tough time picking a team. Once Swansea were promoted, I had a team to follow and support (it's tough to follow any non-top flight teams over here due to media coverage).

Are Swansea City a popular team in your country?
Not at all. I am the only Swansea supporter I know of in the States. [Almost - we actually have a West Coast representative just below!]

Who is your current favourite player?
Neil Taylor, hope he gets well soon!

How do you manage to keep up-to-date with Swansea news and matches?
Most of the information I get is from Twitter, following Swansea blogs and news accounts. I watch the games on TV when they're shown, or online when they're not shown on television. I wish I had access to more of the Sky Sports online features, as they seem to show plenty of football.

Give me an interesting fact about your city!
There's nothing too special about Lakeland, except that it is only an hour away from Disney World, Florida.



Jacob Cristobal, 28
Seattle - Washington, USA











When did you start following Swansea City? 
I am a newbie Swansea supporter. Decided a couple months ago they would be the team to support in the Premier League.

What made you choose the Swans?
I was intrigued by Swansea last year. I was always more interested at the clubs that get promoted into the top flight than the mainstays that were in it year in and year out. Maybe it's because of the underdog mentality that comes with the new kids on the block, and I just don't want to see them be one and done. Also, the way Swansea moved the ball in the now famous "Swanselona" style was really something to see and I loved seeing that the big bright lights of the Premier League did not scare them in their first run.

Are Swansea City a popular team in your country?
I honestly don't know. I am sure if they keep up this hot start and continue to roam in the top ten and beyond, people are going to be very aware of what Laudrup and gang are doing. Among the circle of folks I chat with about the beautiful game, there is a general consensus that Swansea City this year could be a serious dark horse. I know a couple people want to see them finish in the top ten and more or less become a new mainstay/gradual power in the Premier League.

Who is your current favourite player?
The easy answer here is Michu. Since week one I've coined the trend (at least I want it to trend) #MICHUMANIA, but just as important to their hot start is Nathan Dyer. It's a toss-up between those two. #MICHUMANIA and #DYERMITE - still in the process of developing Twitter nicknames for the rest of the squad. Oh here's another one #ROWDYRODDYROUTLEDGE.

How do you manage to keep up-to-date with Swansea news and matches?
Being more or less on the other end of the world, I resort to stream sites. Of course the challenge is the difference in time, which in most cases means having to be awake at 7am. Then there's the special moments of matches at 4am like the West Ham match, complete with one bloodshot eye. There is that badge of honour of waking up early to watch these games and it makes the journey of following the Swans all the better. And if their matches are shown here on ESPN or another sports channel, you can bet I will watch it as well as record it for replay later.

Give me an interesting fact about your city! 
It seems that every so often there's some magazine or poll listing "the best cities to live in/work/most educated people..." and Seattle always seems to rank somewhere in those listings. It's nice, but also kind of annoying because people keep moving here. WE ARE FULL AND SEATTLE IS NOTHING LIKE WHAT YOU SEE IN GREY'S ANATOMY! AND STOP ASKING WHERE FRAISER CRANE LIVES!

[Jacob is also the editor of a great football website and podcast, CheekyBackheel.com]



Akshay Mhaskar, 31
Mumbai, India
 










When did you start following Swansea City?
I've been tracking them since 2005.

What made you choose the Swans?
Since I'm from India, geographically I have no allegiance with any English team. However I am a Man United fan. But my Aunt and Uncle who live in UK, moved to Swansea from Carmarthen in 2004. My Uncle, being an Arsenal fan, used to have banter with me over email all the time. So when he started to go to the Swans games, my interest started growing. Now they've become British citizens so I have family in Swansea and a valid reason to go Swan.

Are Swansea City a popular team in your country?
Umm... not really. In a cricket frenzy country, Man United, Liverpool and Arsenal have been dominant and now, according to worldwide glory hunter trend, Chelsea and anti-Man United fans have sprung up like mushrooms. But since last season, as Swansea games started to reach football fans live, the Swans have quickly become one of the teams to love. Much of that credit goes to English 'Tic Tac Toe', derived from Catalan Tiki Taka. I've been playing my part by making more and more of my friends watch and follow Swansea.

Who is your current favourite player?
I like Ashley Williams and Leon Britton from the current squad but I've been following Michu for a few seasons - he's a top draw wild card.

How do you manage to keep up-to-date with Swansea news and matches?
ESPN and Star Sports in India show most of the Premier League games live. But if a Swans game is not live then I follow them on a streaming website.

Give me an interesting fact about your country!
Mumbai is the most vibrant city in the continent in terms of mixture of cultures, arts, sports and of course it is famous for the Bollywood. The city is completely sports crazy and it is a mad house.

[Akshay is also a football writer, with a dedicated Swans section on his blog The Bottom Three]



Aussie Jack, 43 (real name withheld)
Sydney, Australia









When did you start following Swansea City? 
In 1977, my Dad took me to see the Swans, Harry Griffiths was manager and the team contained the likes of: Curt, Robbie, Charlo and Wyndham. When we played Spurs in the League Cup I had probably the best view in the house when Tommy Smith gave Ossie Ardiles a welcome to English football. I am not sure but I think Smith wasn't booked for the challenge. Refs were scared of him as well as players. Today he would have gone; it made Chico's violation look rather petty!

What made you choose the Swans?
We actually lived in a Valley between Swansea and Cardiff which was and is a Cardiff stronghold, but I wasn't going to follow them a******s - even at that young tender age I had principles.

Are Swansea City a popular team in your country?
No not really. There is a great market here, it is the fastest growing sport and they follow any team with Aussies. Everton got a lot of mentions when Cahill was in the team. If the Swans gave Kewell a season (this is an example not a suggestion), then the Swans would be big over here. Everton cashed in with a pre-season tour over here two years ago - I'm waiting for the Swans to do the same.

Who is your current favourite player?
Chris Rock, sorry Nathan Dyer - I keep getting them mixed up. Probably one of the most skilful and understated players in the Premier League. I was a big fan of Wayne Routledge last year and I'm glad that he's been given a chance this year.

How do you manage to keep up-to-date with Swansea news and matches?
Smartphones and apps are brilliant at keeping me up-to-date especially because of the time difference. Evening matches in the UK, I am travelling into the City so I can keep up with scores and I usually get the breaking headlines when most people in the UK are asleep. I watched every game live last year on Foxtel, I didn't miss a minute, but because of the time difference of GMT and daylight saving over here, matches start at 2am. So for nine months I'm like a zombie on Sunday, and if we lose a grumpy zombie.

Give me an interesting fact about your city!
The only difference between one Australian city and the next is the size of the Great White Sharks; apart from that they're all the bloody same! Sydney had one of the biggest gay parades in the world - that is totally unconnected to why I live here.



Daniel James Edwards, 27
Vienna, Austria
 










When did you start following Swansea City? 
Many, many years ago.

What made you choose the Swans?
They were my local team before I moved to Austria.

Are Swansea City a popular team in your country?
At first, no. When I wore my Swansea shirts people would ask what team they were and which country they came from. Now they are familiar with the team, but not familiar enough to name players. An article was written about them in one of the local football magazines a few months back. They had a four-page spread about the passionate fans and how the club have risen over the years.

Who is your current favourite player?
Toss up between Dyer and Britton. I first saw Dyer the season he came in from Southampton. He looked so good then, and you could see the potential he had. Britton because he's small but fights for the ball like a rottweiler. His influence in play making is something that makes him rise above the rest in his position, especially for his height: small boy, big heart.

How do you manage to keep up-to-date with Swansea news and matches?
When they were in the Championship it was hard. I could only rely on text/radio commentaries. I rely mainly on sites such as the official Swansea website, Vital Swansea, Twitter, Facebook and Sky Sports. Now that their games are regularly televised, I watch every one.

Give me an interesting fact about your country!
It has the third highest quality of living in Europe. Also, Swansea came to train in an Austrian camp before their maiden season in the Premier League.



Natalie Jenkins, 20
Paris, France











When did you start following Swansea City? 
My dad is Welsh and has been a Swansea supporter since he was a kid, so I began to follow them through him, pretty much as soon as I could walk.

What made you choose the Swans?
As mentioned above, it was kind of a family thing. We're from the area so I guess it just made sense... regardless of where they stood on a league table.

Are Swansea City a popular team in your country?
They've definitely been getting a lot more attention since their move to the Premier League. As of late I've been wearing my jersey out and about and people actually recognize it!

Who is your current favourite player?
Michel Vorm!

How do you manage to keep up-to-date with Swansea news and matches?
It's definitely a combination of watching on television and online. I've actually found that Twitter has been the best medium because it's literally an up-to-the-second live commentary.

Give me an interesting fact about your city!
Someone told me this a while ago and I found out later that it's completely true: modern night-time photos of the Eiffel Tower are actually under copyright and aren't legally publishable without the permission of the Tower's operating company (this hasn't stopped me!)

---

There you go! What a fantastic collection of Swans fans! If you're from another country and support the Swans, get in touch with me and I'll do another of these articles - looking for Jacks from the likes of Russia, Ukraine, Italy, Germany, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil... anywhere!

Remember you can now follow us on Facebook for updates, photos and chat.




Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Flying the Swansea City flag at the Wales Blog Awards!


Hi. This is Chris (...Chris Carra) (...the writer of ForzaSwansea.com) (...yes, that one).

This is a rare non-Swans announcement! ForzaSwansea has been short-listed for Best Sports Blog at the Wales Blog Awards 2012.

It's the third year of the Wales Blog Awards and, on September 20th, a panel of (lovely) expert judges from across Wales will decide if I am worthy of holding the title of Best Sports Blog 2012.

However, you (even lovelier) readers can help me out!

If you've enjoyed reading the blog over the past two years, you can cast a vote for Forza Swansea in the People's Choice Award category. Just click the link below and then click 'Forza Swansea'. It's that simple!

Click HERE to vote (...or here - it's exactly the same link).

While it would be a great personal victory, I am the only blog flying the flag for Swansea City FC at the 2012 awards. Also, the blog celebrates its second birthday on September 19th, so an award would be one hell of a birthday present!

Meanwhile, look out for the new blog post coming on Wednesday - a post featuring Swans fans from across the globe!


Friday, 31 August 2012

Swansea City round-up at the end of silly season!

As we head towards the closing of the transfer window, most of us will be religiously checking Twitter, NewsNow and Sky Sports simultaneously, even though the rumour-mill is in overdrive and 80% of what we read will turn out to be nothing of any truth!


Example of the general bollocks we have to put up with!

I don't think there will be much more action for Swansea City in the next few hours. In reality, we've already been spoilt quite a bit this summer and anything we get now will surely be surplus.

So, overlooking the rumours, lets look at the confirmed (or 'most probable') comings and goings of South Wales' favourite football team!


Going, going... still going... probably going... GONE.


The first big mention goes to one of the most significant names Swansea have moulded over the past two seasons: Scott Sinclair. That first season was a dream for him and fans alike, punctuated by the hat-trick in the play-off final. However, since that mental day in London, Sinclair never looked happy at the club.

His departure to Man City is actually fine for Swansea - £8million (or £6.2million plus add-ons) for the winger is, yet again, superb business from Huw Jenkins. But I can't help feel that for Sinclair it's a stupid move. A youngster who spent most of his early career moving from one club to another, until he found his feet at Swansea, where he was the first name on the team sheet during that final Championship season.

Now he's off to Man City - clearly a club oozing with world-class talent and with no obvious need for him. Man City is a club where Sinclair will be lucky to make the bench for most games. So, why is he moving? Money? A whiny girlfriend? Probably a mixture of both. One thing I can guarantee: it's not to further his career. Good luck Sinclair. See you when you're loaned out to QPR a year down the line.

Elsewhere, we've recently said our goodbyes to Andrea Orlandi (to Brighton for an undisclosed fee). While it's refreshing to see a player like Orlandi leave with no long, drawn out negotiations, it seemed a little abrupt as there was some sentimental value with Orlandi.

He had been with the club for about five years, across four different managers. However, he's not done much in the grand scheme of things for Swansea City. I feel he had much more potential than some in midfield and showed sparks of brilliance at times (including his diving header which produced one of the fastest Premier League goal's ever!). Realistically though, he's not achieved that potential and is rightly gone.

Fede Bessone has left to Swindon to vast cries of “I didn't even realise he was still part of the squad!?”. Rodgers dived for ex-Swan Bessone in the 2011 summer transfer window as cover for injured Alan Tate. He wasn't used that much apart from one or two games and a substantial amount of bench-warming. He took wages, played a little for the reserves and ultimately did nothing much for the club. Best wishes Bessone, but please don't return a third time!

The ongoing debate of 'is Stephen Dobbie good enough for the Premier League?' has been solved: he's joining Orlandi at Brighton on a three-year contract. One of those players who never made the step-up to the current level. He'll do well at Brighton, I have no doubts about it!

Others likely to leave, but with no confirmations yet are Leroy Lita, who is rumoured to be loaned out to Crystal Palace, while Garry Monk is set to go to Bristol City on loan (though this is to be delayed for a few weeks after a back injury). Meanwhile, Curtis Obeng is likely to head to Fleetwood Town - again, on loan.


Welcome to Swansea City!


I'm not going to re-mention the likes of Michu, de Guzman and Chico Flores as there is plenty written on them and we've already seen them in action two or three times so far this season. All three are superb signings - let's leave it at that.

A player we will talk about is one of the biggest names of the summer and one who has finally signed - Pablo Hernandez. After much speculation and uncertainty, he's come from Valencia for £5.5million on a three-year deal, linking up again with Laudrup, who managed Hernandez during his time at Getafe. What a good replacement for Sinclair, especially with money left over from his sale!

Maybe having Hernandez is a little rough on Wayne Routledge who has been surprisingly brilliant over the first two games, but wing is one area where Swansea are pretty bare and needed beefing up. Anyway, I'm sure we'll see plenty of rotation and plenty of Routledge as the year goes on - we all know Dyer can tire himself out!

Record signing Ki Sung-Yueng has now played one game for the Swans after coming from Celtic for £5.5million, bringing with him big support from Korea. He'll probably immediately replace Jonathan de Guzman in the centre for now. There's a decent article on another Swans blog, summing up Sung-Yueng, including some words from a Celtic supporter, which is worth checking out.

Elsewhere, Kyle Bartley from Arsenal for around £1million on a three-year deal helps beef up the defence, and Itay Shechter on a season-long loan from Kaiserslautern gives some much needed competition to Danny Graham.

All things considered, I'm sure you'll agree that this has probably been the best summer transfer movement for Swansea in a good while!

As we head into autumn (that's right, all that rain and thunder was actually summer in disguise), Swansea are really looking a solid team, almost unstoppable.

Check out my Swansea vs. Sunderland preview, posted earlier!

Swansea City vs Sunderland: The first real test

This blog post was originally one long unmanageable mess of transfer news and a preview of Saturday's match vs Sunderland. However, I saw sense and spilt them in two! The transfers round-up will be along later today.

-------------

Second Season Syndrome they all cried! They were wrong.

Okay, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. We're only two games in. Still, Swansea City have smashed the first two Premier League games, while comfortably moving into round three of the Capital One Cup mid-week. So far, so good.

However, despite two awesome performances, the quality of Swansea's opponents so far has been on the poor side. Sunderland will certainly pose much more of a threat than QPR and West Ham combined and Swansea can't assume a victory, even though confidence is high.

Last season when the two met they played out a 0-0 draw at the Liberty Stadium before Sunderland took all three points at the Stadium of Light - this was despite Swansea predictably racking up the possession stats and taking more shots on goal. This season we know things like possession stats are just a bonus and mean little unless goals are scored.

Laudrup, we hope, will opt for pretty much the same team that's done the job so far - why change a winning formula?

Though Pablo Hernandez has sealed a place with the club, he won't be in the squad for Saturday. This is good news I think - I'm all for giving players a little time to settle in before releasing them onto the field. The only change will probably come in the centre, where Ki Sung-Yueng should slot in instead of Jonathan de Guzman. Sung-Yueng can take a decent free kick and enjoys sitting back a little, which should compliment Michu and Britton.

So the team you'll probably see Saturday:

Vorm, 
Rangel, Williams, Flores, Taylor 
Dyer, Britton, Sung-Yueng, Michu, Routledge 
Graham 

Meanwhile, Sunderland should be pretty well rested, having only played one game (a credible 0-0 vs Arsenal) after their second was postponed due to rain. They have a strong squad, with a shrewd manager in Martin O'Neill and top class players including a few new faces that should pose some threat to Ashley Williams and co, such as Louis Saha, Steven Fletcher and, fresh from Man City, Adam Johnson.
It's pointless me pretending I know a lot about Sunderland because... I don't. Thankfully I've been in contact with someone who does: top Sunderland writer Dan Williams from The Roker Report, who has given us his thoughts ahead of the match:

There is a renewed sense of optimism around Sunderland as a club, thanks to Martin O'Neill's hard work in the transfer window. The manager made no secret of the fact that Steven Fletcher was his number one target, and after a long and drawn-out saga, finally got his man, picking up Louis Saha on a free transfer too for good measure. However, it is the signing of Adam Johnson that has Black Cats fans purring, as the Manchester City man shows a real statement of intent from the club, something that we have been crying out for since Darren Bent ran off to Birmingham, and Asamoah Gyan went chasing pound coins in the far East.

Although the weather put paid to our second game of the season, we look strong defensively at the Emirates, and sharp in front of goal against Morecambe in the League Cup on Tuesday night. Simon Mignolet will return in goal, having missed that game, while Carlos Cuellar will return to the middle of the back four alongside John O'Shea, with Jack Colback on the left, and Craig Gardner on the right. Lee Cattermole and Seb Larsson should provide the hold in midfield, for a three-pronged attack behind Fletcher of James McClean, Stephane Sessegnon and Adam Johnson.

Swansea have started the season on fire, but this will arguably be Laudrup's biggest test to date, and I fancy us to go in front. Although my colleagues at Roker Report might not agree, I'm going to plump for a 1-1 draw.

Confidence with caution there from Dan!

Though Sunderland are a bigger team (both physically and in footballing terms) and took three points last time, things will be different this week. Swansea have changed; they now have a few more players up for a scrap and are playing with such confidence it's hard to imagine anything other than a win. They'll also have the edge with the Liberty Stadium as their theatre. It also bodes well that Sunderland have not won in their previous nine away matches.

The bookies (usually in the know) have Swansea as favourites at around 11/10. While Dan predicts 1-1 (odds of around 5/1), I'm more confident of a Swans win. I do see Vorm letting one slip though, but with Swansea's momentum I'm saying 2-1 to the boys in white (around 8/1). A bet on Michu to score two goals or more is 11/1 and also well worth a pound or two!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Not a bad start, Swansea... not bad at all.

Swansea City 5 – 0 QPR
Swansea City 3 – 0 West Ham

That's a good start isn't it?

We've seen two impressive displays from the Swans in the opening week. Eight goals, two clean sheets and now second in the Premier League!

However, it's still early. Plenty of time for Vorm to get injured, the team to lose ten in a row and us to watch as Dyer signs for Liverpool. Yet, so far it's all reassuring stuff from a team tipped for a disastrous season and rock-bottom relegation.

Briefly top of the league, until Chelsea spoilt it.

We knew from the pre-season that Laudrup is a manager with plans to attack. While many - including myself - knew there would be more goals for Swansea this season, many - again, including myself - also assumed there would be more goals against Swansea. So far, in the second aspect, we've been wrong.

Defence, therefore, is doing it's job. Chico Flores has come in and is providing the team with the same stability Steven Caulker offered, though with a little more fire (this may lead to a few cards along the way, but who cares about the Fair Play league if Swansea qualify for Europe the proper way!). Angel Rangel and Neil Taylor look as dangerous as ever going forward, and Williams is as assured as always. Though mistakes have been made at the back, Michel Vorm has been solid enough to clean-up what the defenders leave behind. All looking great.

Going forward, Swansea are already more entertaining to watch. It took the Swans nine games to score eight goals last season under Brendan Rodgers, where it's taken just two this time around. While I thoroughly appreciate everything Rodgers did for the club (apart from pissing off to Liverpool), I found the football last season a little... pointless at times.

While I don't think passing football is boring, the game played under Rodgers was at times frustrating - all pass, pass, pass and incredible possession stats, but not as much end product to get excited about. With Laudrup we are still seeing decent possession (50% in the QPR game and 62% against West Ham), but are also seeing chances made and goals scored, with some exciting counter-attacks thrown in.

Michu is clearly a key figure. For £2million, he's been the signing of the season - no contest. Again, just two games in, but the Premier League's top scorer. He has replaced Allen and Sigurdsson in one hit for literally pennies in this league.

Elsewhere, Wayne Routledge has come alive in the first two games. The ongoing Scott Sinclair moody, pointless move to Man City (until he's loaned out to QPR) has allowed Routledge two starting places and he's done a lot with them; running, cutting inside and offering plenty for Danny Graham and Michu to work with. Though Pablo Hernandez may eventually sign, Routledge is showing he has enough for a permanent first team place.

Little Nathan Dyer - man of the match against West Ham - is looking dangerous as usual. I'm surprised there weren't many rumours/offers from other teams for Dyer this summer. The transfer window is still open, so I won't speak to soon - Rodgers' the thief still has money in the bank. For now, it's nice to see Dyer shooting more.

We are yet to see Ki Sung-Yueng in action. With Britton, Michu and de Guzman all offering plenty in midfield, who will make way for the record signing? I'm guessing it will be de Guzman.

Ultimately it is too early to say Swansea will repeat these exciting scorelines for the rest of the season. There will be tougher games against opponents who actually want to win (both QPR and West Ham haven't looked that up for it). But for now, Swansea still have a nice run of teams where similar comfortable wins are possible - Aston Villa, Stoke, Reading and Wigan are all coming up soon enough.

If Laudrup can keep up a decent run, Swansea can go into the bigger games in November - those against Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool - with no real pressure, already comfortably mid-table. We said before the season started that the Swans must take as many points from the opening games as they could, and things are going exactly to plan it seems!