Tuesday 18 February 2014

Mamma Mia! The Swansea City vs Napoli preview

After a much-needed break from European competition, Swansea will face Napoli in the first leg of the Europa League Round of 32 this Thursday. A place in the last 16 against either Eintracht Frankfurt or Porto awaits. Our blogger GAVIN TUCKER runs us through how the Swans may get there...

By Gavin Tucker 

Swansea City, having rested the vast majority of the first team in Sunday's FA Cup defeat, should be at pretty much full strength going into this landmark game.

The squad has looked revitalised under Garry Monk's stewardship, pressing higher up the field while looking to regain possession and playing with the width we have missed going forward lately.

Shelvey played against Napoli while at Liverpool

Jonjo Shelvey may be available after suffering a hamstring strain in the West Ham game. Interestingly, it was now Napoli boss Benitez who signed Shelvey for Liverpool towards the end of his time there, stating he was looking for "British players with passion".

Stranger still is that Jonjo's first start for Liverpool was actually against Napoli in the Europa League aged 18 in 2010. Also, perhaps most strange was his teammate for that fixture was Swans new boy David N'Gog... football has a funny way of throwing coincidences like this up!

Being at home first leg is not ideal and it will be important to get a positive result at the Liberty, a clean sheet would be a massive plus and a goal (or three) should give us a solid base in the difficult second leg on 27th February at the Stadio San Paolo.

There's also a chance we could see the long-awaited return of marvellous Michu, although it may only be a cameo appearance as it's unlikely he will be able to dive straight into a full 90 minutes.

Rafa Benitez's Napoli will make their first appearance in the Europa League this season after being harshly dumped out of their Champions League group despite impressive performances and results.

The Azzurri have been in good form of late - three straight wins including a 3-1 league victory over AC Milan and eliminating Roma 5-3 on aggregate in the two-legged Copa Italia semi-final. They currently occupy third place in Serie A, the final Champions League qualifying position.

Napoli have no major injury concerns or suspensions in their ranks going into the clash. Although top scorer Gonzalo Higuain may not make Thursday's clash after taking a knock to the back in his previous game.

You tend to know to a certain degree what to expect when facing a Benitez side. When taking over at Napoli he moved them away from the more traditional Italian formation of 3-4-3 to his favoured 4-2-3-1 set up that he has used consistently throughout his managerial career. Implementing his zonal marking system and a pretty solid defensive set up that concede few goals to good effect.

Pepe Reina is likely to feature in goal on loan from Liverpool and expect Marek Hamsik to be pulling the strings in midfield. Should Higuain miss the game, Rafa will probably opt to play Jose Callejon up top who has made a strong start since his move to Napoli from Real Madrid.

With approximately 1,700 Napoli supporters making the journey from Italy it should be a lively atmosphere. European competition under the floodlights is a special occasion and should be cherished.

After over 20 years since Swansea's last continental adventures, who knows when we could be tackling an Italian giant again. Savour it!

Napoli should hold no fear for Swansea and there is no doubt the Italians are a well drilled, tough opponent with some quality players. However we have outplayed and beaten better sides in our recent history. It was not so long ago we overcame Rafa Benitez's Chelsea side over a two-leg knockout format on route to Capital One Cup glory. Is this Napoli side any tougher than Chelsea last year?

Concentration, determination and a bit of luck and we can progress from one of the toughest draws we could have got. We are capable enough and, as cliched as it sounds, we can beat anyone on our day!

Prediction: Swansea 1-0 Napoli

Monday 10 February 2014

Swans On Film: The South Wales Derby as told by the players

Monday morning hasn't hit us that hard this week after that incredible 3-0 crushing of Cardiff on the weekend! What a win!

While Cardiff fans are rightly licking their wounds, Swansea City fans are still celebrating!

And to keep the celebrations going I've collated the official Swansea City player reaction videos into one convenient blog post so you can see how the players felt they performed, starting with the manager...

Gary Monk (Press Conference):

Nathan Dyer:

Angel Rangel:

Pablo Hernandez:

We'll be back with more Swansea City blog posts very soon! For now check us out on Facebook or Twitter.

Thursday 6 February 2014

The South Wales Derby Part II - The Monk era

The South Wales derby just got a lot more interesting...

Not that it wasn't interesting before. A match between Swansea City and Cardiff City is always intense and there is so much riding on this for the Swans - but with Garry Monk leading the line it has an additional twist.

If there's ever been a must-win match for Swansea, this is it. A draw won't do and a loss isn't worth thinking about.

Unfortunately for us fans, it's a must-win game for a team that's been so devoid of passion, skill and goals recently. It's not just Chico who's embarrassing - the whole side has been a let down. Arguing, no fight, no organisation, passing for passing's sake and generally looking clueless.

However - things are changing.

Michael Laudrup was sacked for a reason. It's not just down to the last few games as the national media may lead you to believe, it's because of months of lacklustre displays and unrest in the Swansea camp. But as Swans fans you don't need me to tell you this!

The appointment of Garry Monk as temporary manager alongside Alan Curtis will instantly instill some passion - the crucial element in a derby - back into the side. And with the likely addition of Michu (on the bench at least) we are back to an almost full strength squad.

Not to mention the fact that this time it's on our turf. The Liberty Stadium crowd have a vital role to play on Saturday in motivating the team.

We may finally see some passion with Monk in charge

So things are changing for the better and I honestly believe we can and will win on Saturday!

But for this to happen we need concentration from the players. No laughing about and joking in the tunnel or during the warm-ups. It's not about you today, it's about Swansea City winning against our bitter rivals. It's your chance to pay us back for the embarrassing display last time around.

There's no way Cardiff are going to lay down or play for the draw. It's a derby and they will be desperate to embarrass us again and do the double. And they are playing for survival, which is the biggest incentive they need. Cardiff, despite their position, are also now a stronger attacking team with the additions of Kenwyne Jones and Wifried Zaha. It's not going to be an easy game (and that's the only respect I'm giving to Cardiff).

However we have a Wilfried of our own and we hope he can smash a couple in. If there's a match we need him to be on top form in, it's this one!

It's got to be attack, attack, attack for Swansea. It doesn't matter if we have 50 shots, as long as one goes in they will all be worth it. That's why I think Monk should start with a different formation, perhaps 4-4-2.

My adventurous team for Saturday (this is assuming Shelvey is still injured, with Michu on the bench) would be:

Rangel, Amat, Williams, Davies
Dyer, Britton, Pozuelo, Routledge
Bony, N'Gog

That's pretty attacking, but it could pay off. It would be great to see Michu make an appearance instead of N'Gog if fit, and Shelvey instead of Pozuelo. However Britton and Dyer are both must starts (and I'm sure Monk knows it!).

It's going to be tight - a South Wales derby always is. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out to be a draw, but Swansea need to pick up points and perform well for the sanity of the fans. So, providing everything goes to plan, my prediction is an exact reverse of the score earlier this season: 1-0 to the Swans.

Come on Swansea!

For some great online odds check out http://www.888sport.com/football/football-betting.htm ahead of the match!

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Michael Laudrup: Thank you and goodbye

By Matthew Jacob

Swansea City have parted company with Michael Laudrup, with long-serving defender Garry Monk and club legend Alan Curtis placed in charge for the foreseeable future.

I speak with my hand on my heart when I thank Michael Laudrup for the sterling work he's done at my football club. Leading the Swans to a major trophy and into Europe is a superb achievement and a level that many thought the club could never aspire to.

He continued the good work of his predecessors and has certainly added considerable talent to our playing squad with the likes of Michu and Wilfried Bony, while overseeing the development of Ben Davies from youth academy product to Welsh international.

There was a mutual acceptance by fans that Laudrup would not be in charge by next season, given that he had always made it clear that he intended to look for a new challenge when his contract came to an end. Yet it is hard to imagine that anyone envisaged this sequence of events that has led to the Dane's dismissal.

I was at the West Ham game on Saturday and can honestly say it was the worst performance I've seen from a Swansea side in the last eight years. The writing was on the wall and it all felt wrong.

Laudrup is highly rated and I'm sure clubs will queue up to bring him in and rightly so, yet there can be no doubt that since securing the Capital One Cup, Swansea have simply not been good enough.

We have played 35 Premier League fixtures since that day at Wembley and only managed eight wins, losing 18 times. That's relegation form, pure and simple. So where did it all go wrong for Michael's men? What caused the slide from ninth in the league to two points above the trapdoor to Championship football barely a year later?

It boils down to several things which have created a shroud of uncertainty around the players, the club and inevitably the fans. There's truth in the argument that Laudrup has been a little unlucky with injuries. Michu and Vorm have been a massive miss for the side, while a couple of results this year have swung away from Swansea at pivotal moments.

There have been some truly bizarre issues particularly around transfer dealings. I can't honestly say I ever agreed with the idea of a 'streamlined' squad and having to battle on four fronts has really taken its toll on the players this season.

I rate Ki Sung-Yueng as a footballer and was disappointed to see him leave on loan, yet I don't believe anyone would have thought he could make the kind of impact he's had at Sunderland. To not recall him felt shortsighted, whether the blame lies with the board or the manager on that one is a real conundrum for me.

The excitement of the transfer window evaporated to be replaced by a feeling like Christmas had been cancelled in Swansea. The signing of David N'Gog and Marvin Emnes plus a handful of youngsters on deadline day was hardly going to get the East Stand bouncing, while Cardiff snapped up Wilfried Zaha and sides like Crystal Palace, West Ham and Sunderland all strengthened their hand for the relegation battle we now find ourselves in.

For a club that has always put team spirit and togetherness in the face of adversity at the heart of what it stands for, can any of us honestly say the on-pitch shouting matches between the players have gone unnoticed? Or #Brickgate? Think of it what you will but did we ever hear of this under Martinez? Or Rodgers? Even Sousa! I'm not suggesting that there were not training ground bust-ups between players and management while they were in charge, but the majority seemed to slip the media's gaze. Not so under Laudrup.

The Dane is an ice cool character. I could never imagine him head-butting the changing room door before matches or chucking bottles around screaming at the players, yet I never imagined him as a timid character either - just a man who spoke with experience. While I believe that certainly serves you well during the good times there must be the ability to pull it out of the bag when it's not going your way.

I'm not sure Laudrup knew how to change it at Swansea or, if he did, whether he could have changed it to drag us out of the mire. Some say he lost the dressing room - the body language of the players certainly has not been positive of late.

Now Swansea need to go back to basics.

Monk and Curtis are Swansea City through and through and I do believe that they can lift the squad. They must get Laudrup's signings like Pozuelo and Canas onside now and ensure all the playing staff are pulling towards one common goal. I believe they'll do that.

Huw Jenkins is a shrewd man, and will not have made this decision lightly. Yet the Premier League demands instant success, leaving teams with little option but to turn to drastic measures to boost their chances of survival. It is the nature of the beast as they say and to keep up in the high stake games, you have to roll the dice. That's what Swansea have done here. Let's hope it pays off.

I'm right behind Garry Monk and Alan Curtis to see us over the line this year. I felt really strongly about the club's 'Wear Your Colours' campaign (as some of you reading this may have seen on Twitter). I wear my colours to every game - talk to the players about wearing the shirt with pride. And who better to install that in them than Garry Monk?

So thank you Michael Laudrup - for the free flowing football, for Michu, for the Capital One Cup and the Europa league. And good luck to Monk and Curt - good job they've got a nice easy game to start with, eh?

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Blogger Q&A - Five tough Swansea City questions

Swansea City are not enjoying their football at the moment. And we aren't enjoying watching.

But we've got great players, a good manager and a brilliant fan-base... so what's going wrong?! Myself, Alec, Gavin and Matt have shared our opinions on form, management, the derby and relegation in a very testing Blogger Q&A!

Q1: What are your thoughts on Swansea's recent form?

Alec Johnson: Frustrating. All the talent is there and the injured lads are back so we are running low on excuses. This is a stronger team than the past two seasons and they have to fight first and play second. They currently have this in the wrong order.

Gavin Tucker: It's not the results, it's the manner of the performances. I could accept our position if we had showed some fight, some passion or desire; but we are making some simple errors and failing tactically on a basic level. Poor preparation, a lack of concentration... it's hard to watch at times.

Matthew Jacob: I think we can all accept a dip in form if there’s passion in the performances. Quite frankly at present I’m not sure Laudrup knows what to change to improve results. Players are coming back from injury which will hopefully give us a timely boost in a massive run of games.

Chris Carra: It's disheartening. And it's, unfortunately, a vicious cycle - the poor performances feed fan negativity which feeds player negativity which results in more poor performances. The club need a few good displays (and wins!) strung together, because one positive performance in every five matches isn't going to cut it.

Q2: What's your view on Michael Laudrup's recent 'I'm not really bothered' attitude?

AJ: I’m not convinced that he’s not bothered - I believe that he is. His manner is consistently cool, win or lose. However, there are moments when passion needs to be delivered with a message. Now is one of those moments.

GT: The apparent lack of tactical preparation and some questionable team selection has raised concern. He's laid back - it's his nature and player management has never been his strong point. However, if just for his own reputation and future career in management, he needs to take action, rally for the battle ahead, motivate and help guide the team through this difficult period.

MJ: I can’t say I’m surprised by it. Laudrup has always come across as very laid back and if I’m being totally honest I’m not sure he’s ever really bonded with the fan base in the way that Brendan Rodgers did, or even Roberto Martinez. It hurt when they left the club but there was certainly a feeling of togetherness with those two in charge. That seems to have evaporated under Laudrup recently.

CC: Laudrup has really disappointed me in the last month or so. I don't agree that he needs to stand up and shout at every game - that's not his style - but he seems too casual at times, which probably rubs off on the players. I can't say I respect some of his recent team selections either.

Time to say goodbye?

Q3: Chico... have we had enough of him yet? Or does he have enough potential to justify his place in the squad?

AJ: This fella has too much passion, he’s off the scale! If only he could control it. However I would sell him in the summer.

GT: I still have faith in him. Although his dramatics against West Ham were embarrassing, he showed how good he can be against Fulham a few days earlier. We need more of that side of Chico. I think he needs some guidance, be it from Laudrup, a coach or Ashley Williams.

MJ: I thought Chico was excellent against Fulham and has put in a number of good performances since he joined the club. Then in almost the same instance he manages to embarrass us with his antics. And that’s what they are: embarrassing. I rate Chico, but please cut out the rolling around and the squealing.

CC: He's not the player he was last season that's for sure - too many mistakes and the play acting is getting a little embarrassing now. I think - like Gavin said - some mentoring would help him. I'd like to see him improve in the next few months otherwise he should go in the summer.

Q4: Who is going to win the South Wales derby on Saturday? 

AJ: Fine lines will decide this one. Passion will play its part but it is the moment for talent and composure and no doubt we are the better team. For us it’s about tempo and for them set pieces.

GT: Swansea. We have a point to prove. They might think it will be easy but we will be up for this. As supporters I think we will need to be patient on the day and get behind the team whatever. We will have enough to break them down over 90 minutes. Emnes is bound to score!

MJ: I was at the West Ham game - if we turn up and put in a similar performance we’ll be humiliated at home. It’s time to stand up and fight back. I’m going for 2-1 Swansea.

CC: A month ago I'd have said Swansea, but I'm less sure as the days go by. Cardiff - despite their table position - seem to have a few players that could hurt us. However, if the crowd at the Liberty play their part and the team actually show some passion for a change Swansea will win.

Q5: And finally... will Swansea get relegated?! 

AJ: Honestly, no. Michu and Vorm returning at the crucial stage of the season will make the difference.

GT: No. Looking at the remaining fixtures and current form it will be tough and we may struggle to get to 40 points, but so will quite a few other teams. Ultimately I feel we will scrape together enough points to finish 15th-17th

MJ: No. Though I think there are members of the squad who could do with reminding we’re not "too good to go down". We’re in a scrap, so it’s time to roll up our sleeves and dig in.

CC: No, but it may be a close call. Fulham and Cardiff will probably be relegated and there are other teams that should fill the final doomed position. However, like the others say, Swansea really need to play well now. A few wins and we're back in the top 10. A few losses and it could be "hello Championship..."


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Sunday 2 February 2014

Why Financial Fair Play is perfect for Swansea City

While each transfer window is getting less entertaining thanks to UEFA's Financial Fair Play Regulations, it's good news for Swansea City! Our blogger ALEC JOHNSON gives us an in-depth look at the positive impact Financial Fair Play has had on teams like the Swans.


By Alec Johnson

"Should I stay or should I go..."

I sang this Clash classic a few weeks ago at a party - very badly - and it relates to the mindset of the players through the madness that is January...

It’s been a boring month. The transfer windows are becoming less and less exciting as each window delivers less drama than the previous. Our lot at the Liberty don’t get poached anymore, so we don’t brace ourselves for the big boys to come calling with the sole aim of dismantling us to put our stars on their bench.

What’s happened? Has 'the Swansea way’ influenced Mansour and Abramovich? Not a chance.

A few years back, Blatter and his merry men introduced this Financial Fair Play concept. Initially it was perceived as an anti-Premier League initiative to control the spend levels that were directly linked to domestic dominance of the Champions League.

The sceptics considered it merely a headline act as the bully boys with the thick chequebooks manoeuvred around it through inflated commercial deals. But the reality is that this 90-page book is actually having a very direct and positive effect on the beautiful game.

This gruelling monster of a document basically comes down to two things: the club’s responsibility to pay tax and salary commitments, plus controlling the losses within a period covering a few seasons.


Is this just a bark from UEFA? The early action to ban Malaga from 2014 tournaments suggests that this is serious and there is a bite to go with the bark.

The initial objective was to drive parity across European football, to counteract the surge of foreign investors in the Premier League, plus the massive imbalance of the media revenues. However, it has since extended into the domestic leagues and the clubs are policed into running prudently.

In real terms the figure of £15m of losses cannot be exceeded over a three season stay in the Premier League - if this is breached and the owner doesn’t invest real capital (not loans) in the club then points are deducted.

Should we be concerned at Swansea City?

Absolutely not. This represents the only chance for us to grow and prosper. We have been operating this way for 12 years and the profits delivered in the last two seasons allow us to over invest and gamble if we wished to do so. Although that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

Should our neighbours up the M4 be concerned? Of course not. They won’t be in the Premier League for three years so they can take their debt into the lower leagues and have their points deduction elsewhere.

Other clubs are responding in a variety of ways: Liverpool aren’t overspending anymore, Man City are in selling mode (look at Tevez, Adebayor, Barry and even Sinclair) reducing their losses by half, Newcastle sell more than they buy which is also the case with most clubs.

Chelsea’s response to the regulations has been to throw out expensive fringe players like De Bruyne, Mata and Essien. This trade sale is unheard of at Chelsea. They cannot afford to invest in new players without selling - it’s all changed!

Few have the cash to splash. However Arsenal fall into that category after years of prudence. Their strategy to build stability and add a wordie per season is mirroring the Bayern approach for the past decade and just look what has happened to that lot. Arsenal’s goal is to finally compete at the top table and the Financial Fair Play model should allow them to do so, while reducing the ticket cost for their fans being a direct benefit.

I am sure that Financial Fair Play will evolve through the years as its merits are challenged by the club’s legal teams. However one weakness in the system is that the purchase price of a player can be spread across the duration of a contract, so a £30m acquisition on a three-year contract shows as £10m within the financial accounts - watch out for those ten year contracts!

So the new era is here, together with a whole new world of opportunity for little Swansea City and the few proper football clubs to pick up the trophies.

Let’s enjoy it.

You can follow Alec on Twitter, and join us on our new Facebook page.

Saturday 1 February 2014

Underwhelming but understandable: Swansea City's transfer round-up!

While no Swansea City fan is going to be scrambling to get a new club shirt with N'Gog on the back, let's face it - we are all relieved that we signed a few players.

A week or so back we were panicking over the fact that most of our first team players were injured and no-one had come in to replace them.

Thankfully we are now in a position where many of our stars are returning from injury and the new transfers are just here to reinforce the squad or to develop for the future.

Let's a have a very quick run through of the Swans' transfer window activity:

For the bench:
These are potential first team players, but probably won't see much action with others coming back from injury.

David N'Gog (Striker)
We won't dwell on this too much, but it's safe to say N'Gog from Bolton wasn't anyone's first choice. But, while uninspired, he is a Premier League player and has some talent (if not many goals to back it up). As I've said before, if we get just one goal from the ex-Liverpool man it'll be worth it. Jonjo Shelvey wasn't an ideal choice in the summer but he's turned out alright!

Marvin Emnes (Winger)
At first I thought this was a joke. In fact I'd been joking with a friend last week about resigning old players like Emnes and Kuqi and... well it happened! Our old Championship loanee has rejoined the club on-loan from Middlesbrough again, to mixed reaction from Swans fans. He's not Premier League quality as far as we can tell, but he did score against Cardiff in 2010 and it's destined for him to score against them again next week!

For the future:
These are all lined up for the development squad. If injuries occur, they may well feature, but it's unlikely we'll see much first team action from any of these.

Adam King (Midfielder)
18-year-old Adam King agreed a three-and-a-half year deal from Hearts.

Raheem Hanley (Left back)
The 19-year-old signed for Swansea following his release from Blackburn.

Jay Fulton (Midfielder)
The 19-year-old Falkirk midfielder has been on Swansea's radar for a while now. He has finally made the move to the Liberty for an undisclosed fee.

Leaving the club:
Even though we want to, we can't keep them all!

Alan Tate 
It was inevitable that Tatey would leave us once again. He's joined Aberdeen for the rest of the season on loan.
a loan move to Scottish Premiership side Aberdeen for the rest of the season.
Read more at http://www.swanseacity.net/news/article/transfer-day-live-1330189.aspx#tXW9UXcj2IFBPQQY.99
a loan move to Scottish Premiership side Aberdeen for the rest of the season.
Read more at http://www.swanseacity.net/news/article/transfer-day-live-1330189.aspx#tXW9UXcj2IFBPQQY.99
a loan move to Scottish Premiership side Aberdeen for the rest of the season.
Read more at http://www.swanseacity.net/news/article/transfer-day-live-1330189.aspx#tXW9UXcj2IFBPQQY.99

Rory Donnelly
The young striker hasn't has a look in with Bony and (for some reason) Vazquez on the team, so he's joined Coventry City on loan until the end of the season for some much needed game time.

Lee Lucas
Swansea City's 21-year-old midfielder has joined Cheltenham Town on a one-month loan.

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