Wednesday 16 April 2014

2013/14 - The final four predictions!

It's almost over - and not a moment too soon! With just four important games left to secure survival for a faltering Swansea City, our former Swan ALEC JOHNSON takes one last look at what we can expect, and shares his score predictions.


By Alec Johnson

Before we look forward to the final four crucial matches, let's briefly take one last glance at last Sunday’s encounter - the 1-0 loss to Chelsea.

After starting so brightly and competing for possession, our tempo and movement gave us real hope of picking something up from the ‘bonus’ game that nobody expected anything from. We won every challenge for the first 15 minutes, except the two that Chico lost. How cheap they were and how expensive they could be.

The Terry and Jose anger tactics played the part necessary to see our pantomime villain sent off once again. What happened next was a mistake in my opinion - hauling off Pablo (who had started with real purpose) and leaving Dyer on (who had started poorly) was an own goal in itself. The logic I get - keep the pace and hard-working runner on - but I felt we needed the form player to sit in the middle and hurt when necessary. We lost, but not without heart and spirit.

So where does that leave us? A strange bag of results threw my ‘super six’ predictions off course and the blew the bottom wide open. We are now a game away from level points in the trap door.

Newcastle United (away) - Sat, 19 April

First up, a trip to Newcastle. St James Park isn’t what it used to be. The Geordies have turned on Pardew showing their lack of appreciation for the punchy cockney with a set of banners last weekend. Their form is poor having lost the last four, while their record of lowest goals scored and most conceded in the top half isn’t a proud medal to carry.

Therefore it’s all about the start. If we get at them early on and unsettle the crowd, breaking the confidence, we can get a grip and win by a couple as we did last season. I do feel that there will be a reaction and a fight, but I cannot see us getting beat, so I will throw in a nervy 1-1 draw. Probably something that both clubs would take before of the game.

Aston Villa (home) - Sat, 26 April

Next up is Villa at home. The away fixture over Christmas ranks as one of my most frustrating in recent years. We battered them for 80 minutes, keeping almost 99% of the ball and the Jack Army were awesome from start to finish. We deserved better, but took a point. This is payback and I believe we can boss this and hurt them at home, hopefully through our three winger approach, which is so effective at the Liberty. I will go for a 2-0 win, edging us towards safety on 37 points with two games to go.

Southampton (home) - Sat, 3 May

Are they on the beach yet? Some are already at the World Cup and going through the motions. On their day they can be devastating and I do feel that they will be up for it on their last away game of the season. Assuming we have collected the four points from the previous two fixtures, I can see us losing this one as they play with freedom and flair. So it’s a 2-1 defeat in my eyes, leaving a nail-biting finish.

Sunderland (away) - Sun, 11 May

The finale! I haven’t considered the other results going on around us but I assume the bottom three will consist of Sunderland, Norwich and either Cardiff or Fulham on the final day. Wouldn’t it have been great to go to the Riverside leaving Sunderland win to send Cardiff down? I would have celebrated each goal flying in past Vorm.

However, given their run of games and shocking form I think they will be down before kick-off. That can only help us, so I see the Swans picking up something and celebrating survival - an ugly point or three will do nicely sitting on 38 points, or even the targeted 40. I'm going for a 2-2 draw.

Then we can all breathe and regroup, before a summer that will undoubtedly see considerable change at our beloved football club.

Agree with Alec? Or dare you disagree? Leave your own score predictions below! And make sure to follow Alec on Twitter.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Just a note...

Hi everyone, Chris here (that's Chris Carra, who runs the blog, not the former Swans midfielder from the early 80s Chris Marustik... in case you somehow made the wrong connection...).

Just a quick note to say we haven't had a blog post up for a week or so because I've been tied up working on a project that's taken up most of my time, while the other bloggers have also been busy with their own things.

But fear not! We will be back with blog posts very soon! In the meantime check out some of the archived material or have a look at some other brilliant Swans blogs on our links page.

Thank you and see you soon!

Thursday 20 March 2014

Blogger Q&A - Swansea City: Doomed?

With Swansea City now fully engaged in a relegation battle, we are checking in with the Forza Swansea bloggers to see what they believe the problem is and if Monk's the right man for the permanent role. Most importantly we decide if Swansea are Championship bound?

Here we go...

Q1) Honestly, are the Swans doomed this season? 

Alec Johnson: Not quite. We have the talent to see us through and Saturday's wake-up call should see the arrogant swagger knocked out of us. I expect a reaction and the graft with the craft to return, starting at Goodison.

Matthew Jacob: Of course not. There are nine games to go, 27 points to play for, Norwich and Villa to come at home - it's still in our hands.

Gavin Tucker: I don't think so. I won't accept that until it's a mathematical certainty anyway. The Swans are not doing it the easy way though, and it could get worse before it gets better. If we don't stay up with the squad we have then we won't have deserved to.

Jacob Cristobal: I don't think so. Have they regressed? Sure, if you call an injury to your best attacking option regression.

Chris Carra: As a general pessimist I would say it's looking more likely as the games go on. However, providing they can pull their fingers out, there's plenty of talent in the squad and points up for grabs to secure safety.

Q2) Who/what do you feel is to blame for the poor second half displays in recent games? 

AJ: Complacency and nothing else. Dominating teams for 45 minutes and believing we can do it again without the hard yards. Palace was exhaustion which is excusable, but the game against West Brom was pure arrogance.

MJ: Honestly? I saw absolutely nothing from the players second half against West Brom. I forgave them for the Palace performance on account of the fixture congestion, but no Swansea fan is going to overlook the frankly spineless offering we all had to endure last Saturday. Mulumbu ran unchallenged from the halfway line to score for goodness sake! Time to stand up and battle.

GT: I don't think you can blame any one person or action. No single Swansea player is completely innocent. We seem to have struggled to react during games to changes in opposition tactics. We need to better organise ourselves to prevent or at least limit the mistakes that are gifting the opposition goals.

JC: Honestly I still think this is just the crash from the high of last season, which has lingered on throughout the season. The injury to Michu eating up the first half of the campaign took away what was to be advertised of 'Michu and Bony: The Wonder Twins', torching the back of keeper's nets around the Premier League and Europe.

CC: I agree with the others. Arrogance and complacency are the main downfalls. Players believing they are going to finish mid-table with no effort. Hopefully the threat of relegation will spur them on to putting in better performances.

Q3) Is Monk right for Swansea at this point or would a more experienced manager be desirable? 

AJ: Too short a window to bring anybody in so we have to back our man. However he is clearly making some dodgy calls. Lita ahead of N'Gog is bonkers and this is not a time for friendly favours.

MJ: I would argue that were Laudrup still in charge I don't believe we would have beaten Cardiff and certainly would have been beaten at Stoke. The change had to happen - Gary Monk is on the receiving end of some very harsh criticism in my book. While I admit changes are coming too late in games at the moment, I believe he can get us over the line. Experience is a must in the summer.

GT: I think he's right for the short term. I don't feel that bringing a stranger to the squad and the club following Laudrup's departure would have worked at the late point in the season. If we stay up I think Monk should remain on the coaching staff but take a step back to possibly an assistant role as was Huw Jenkins' original plan. Appoint a manger with some experience for the new season and Monk can learn and assist them while completing his coaching badges.

JC: Garry Monk deserves to finish out the season whatever the result may be. I think he should also be on Huw's shortlist as one of the top three candidates for next season. As for the two other names... I'll get back to you on that.

CC: After the Cardiff game it just made complete sense, although that remains his only win. He needs to stay in charge until the end of the season, but it may be wise to move him to the coaching staff and look towards a shrewd tactician for next season.

Q4) Just in case the worst case scenario happens: what's the best thing about the Championship?

AJ: I cannot see any positives. Of course we would be one of the favourites to win it but we lose that decade of momentum and that cannot be disregarded. Our win ration would increase but I would take 38 battles against the big fellas any day!

MJ: Two games a week and the thrill of the chase of being promoted. I love the Premier League and I love being there, but I'm a Swansea City fan first, and if that means in the Championship so be it. I'll embrace it come what may. It isn't going to come to that though.

GT: Returning to 3pm Saturday kick-offs for one! Also, it's a proper, fairer league in the fact that there is no glass ceiling like in the Premier League where the best Swansea could realistically finish is around 8th. The Championship is a league you can win (if that makes sense)? Anyone can beat anyone and usually does!

JC: While I think Swansea will avoid relegation, if the worst happens... maybe ticket prices to matches will be cheaper? I don't know... Secondly, those promotion play-offs make for some dramatic finishes as seen with last year's take.

CC: I second Gav's comment - anyone can beat anyone! We'll also be able to have another South Wales derby, considering Cardiff will be there too. I'm sure this won't happen though.

Monday 17 March 2014

Replacing Monk?

Garry Monk's appointment as temporary head coach initially brought a positive impact to Swansea City, including the Cardiff hammering and brave displays against Napoli. However, with less convincing results following, GAVIN TUCKER checks out the other managers who may be on Huw Jenkins' radar.


By Gavin Tucker

After Laudrup left, the decision to hand the reigns to Monk made sense. Bringing in a complete stranger and expecting immediate results at this late and vital stage of the season would have carried too much risk.

With no official confirmation on the planned duration of Monk's reign other than 'the foreseeable future' it would seem fair to assume that Monk will stay in charge for at least the remainder of this season.

The club will then either feel Monk has earned the chance to take the squad into next season or seek a new manager soon after the season ends. This will allow time for an outsider to familiarise himself with the squad, make a few signings and complete a pre-season, before embarking on the tough year ahead.

In an ideal world we would unearth a manager with all the best bits from our recent past. Someone with the discipline and coaching ability of Roberto Martinez, the man management skills of Brendan Rodgers and the contact book and transfer market pull of Michael Laudrup. Not a lot to ask then...

So who could be the next manager at Swansea? Who would be interested? Do we give an upcoming rookie a chance or try a more experienced option? Here's a look at some potential contenders...

Dennis Bergkamp
"The promising gamble"

Huw Jenkins is reportedly a big admirer of the Dutch legend, currently at Ajax as an assistant coach. Bergkamp is hugely respected in this role by his peers and a disciple of the strict technical total football philosophy that would suit what our board try to instill at Swansea. Although he has previously distanced himself when asked about a career as a manager, it wouldn't hurt to ask!

Bergkamp would also bring a certain level of appeal in the transfer market, similar to what Laudrup brought to the club. It would have its risks of course - with Bergkamp unproven as a manager there would be a level of uncertainty as to how he would take to management being thrown in at the deep end of the Premier League.

Marcelo Bielsa
"The experienced choice"

The 58-year-old Argentinian, nicknamed Loco Bielsa (Madman Bielsa) has over 20 years experience in management including spells with the national squads of Argentina and Chile, and most recently in charge of Athletic Bilbao.

Unique in his coaching style, he is known for watching and collecting numerous football videos to the point of obsession. He is said to be meticulous in his preparation for games using all forms of statistics and technology to aid him. Referred to by Pep Guardiola in 2012 as 'the best manager in the world' that surely counts for something!

Oscar Garcia
"The up-and-coming young option"

Spending most of his playing career as an attacking midfielder in La Liga (sounds familiar) Garcia previously managed Barcelona youth squad, Maccabi Tel Aviv and is currently making a push for a the Championship play-off place at Brighton.

The 40-year-old was loosely linked with the Swans last time round. He's another young manager who fits our philosophy and tactics. Garcia, although a little inexperienced has made a pretty good start in management so far.

Ronald Koeman
"The big name"

Koeman is currently set to leave his role as Feyenoord manager at the end of this season and media friendly Swans director John van Zweden let slip this week that enquiries had been made by Koeman's agent as to whether Swansea would be a suitable destination for the Dutchman.

'Tintin', as he was known had an illustrious career as a player, most notably part of Johan Cruyff's dream team at Barcelona in the early 90's where he played with Michael Laudrup among many other greats.

His history in management is a bit mixed, most of it has been reasonably positive in the Netherlands. He's spent time in charge at Vitesse, AZ and PSV but his most successful period came with a four season spell at the helm of Ajax. He has ventured outside the Eredivisie twice with less success, with short times at Benfica and Valencia.

Koeman has experience at some massive clubs and his renowned name in the football world would bring appeal to Swansea in the transfer market.


It's always worth remembering that our board tend not to go for in-work managers, as the last four appointments have shown. Martinez, Sousa, Rodgers and Laudrup were all unattached before taking the reigns at Swansea. Whether this is out of a respect to other clubs or Huw Jenkins doesn't want to pay out millions in compensation is not exactly known - it's probably a bit of both.

There is a massive decision to be made this time round and seeing as we have a pretty healthy bank balance, it may be that we need to approach an in-work manager this time round if it means we get the right man.

Nervous times? Exciting times? It's all just another lap on the Swansea City roller coaster!

Thursday 13 March 2014

Swansea City: The Business End

Welcome to the time of the season where everything matters.

The time for bluffing, blaming and brave losses is over. There's no more Europa League, FA Cup or Capital One Cup... all efforts can finally be concentrated on the league.

There's no hiding from the fact that everyone involved with Swansea City have enjoyed a crazy month or so.

Since Michael Laudrup was relieved of his duties at the start of February we've seen some brilliance on the pitch. The Swansea City we actually enjoy watching. Hammering Cardiff at the Liberty Stadium was undoubtedly the highlight, though holding Napoli to a draw was pretty special. 

We've also seen some bad times - losing in the final game to Napoli was a blow but, as many have said, it would've been a result we'd have taken at the start of the season. The hangover from the intense Europa League schedule resulted in the 1-1 draw to Crystal Palace, which actually felt like more of a defeat considering the nature of the game.

Players have limped off, trundled around and some even vomited on the pitch - all signs that maybe too much football has been played. The streamlined squad was too small and stretched beyond their means with three different competitions on the go. Thankfully most of the players have had a good rest and should be raring to go on the weekend.

The first time Michu will play for Monk

When the teamsheets are read over the loudspeakers on Saturday, the one name we'll all be hoping to catch is Michu, who should return against West Brom after being away since mid-December. Whether struggling with injury or just weighing his options after the departure of Laudrup, Michu just hasn't been a Swansea player this season.

Even before his absence he didn't look like himself. If he has hopes of making the Spanish plane to Brazil this summer he needs to find his form again - and where better to start than against West Brom this Saturday.

With Michu joining a relatively full-strength squad at the Liberty Stadium, there should be high confidence ahead of the clash with the Baggies.

Though Monk has only guided Swansea to one win in seven matches, it's important to remember two were against Napoli, with others being against Liverpool and Everton. Another good stat to remember is that Monk has collected more points (five) in his four Premier League matches as manager than Laudrup did in his final eight!

Still - he needs a win this weekend.

We've talked about must-win games many times in the past, but it really is vital to walk away with all three points come Saturday evening.

Swansea are 14th in the table, with 29 points. A win could see the Swans back in the middle of the table with another injection of breathing space. A draw would be very unsatisfying and... well, it's pointless talking about a loss because it's just not worth considering at this stage.

Despite the tightness at the bottom of the table, I genuinely can't see Swansea getting relegated. Sure, if we lose the next five it's probably a deserved relegation, but with players like Bony, Michu, Vorm, Britton, Williams and Dyer all fit and likely to play a part in the next few matches - along with teams like Fulham and Cardiff almost certainly back in the Championship next year - it just doesn't seem feasible to me.

But it's up to the team to prove me right on Saturday. I'm going for a 2-1 win for Swansea, with no injuries and no vomiting from anyone (with the possible exception of West Brom fans who are so overwhelmed at the quality of Swansea that they feel nauseous with excitement).

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Alec's Napolitano tour: "I came, I saw, I survived!"

Swansea City's adventure in Italy will forever be remembered as one of the most memorable away matches in the club's history for both the occasion and performance. ForzaSwansea's ALEC JOHNSON took a trip to South Italy with 900 other Jacks to cheer on the Swans... and he survived! Here's how he got on:


Before the journey

That wonderful saying "see Naples and die" had another twist ahead of the Jack Army's visit as the Welsh media seemed to believe we were stepping into a first century gladiator battle instead of a Europa League game!

My stock response to the danger was "we will all be fine", but I eventually gave up telling people that I wasn’t going to die in some Italian battleground. Yes you have to be cautious, but having previously survived the San Siro and Stadio Olympico, I travelled feeling comfortable in the fact that it wasn’t going to be my final journey.

Alec (centre), Eli and their Italian friend Alessandro

The destination

If you wanted a degree of comfort in the company of fellow Jacks along with transport provided to the stadium, there were three clear choices: Naples, Rome or Sorrento. We opted for Sorrento as it was close, but not too close to Naples. Also we knew that Jim White SCFC tours had the round-trip sorted with a pre-arranged police escort, flashing lights, an English boozer, a rowdy mob and a sing song.

Before the match

As me and my boy Eli strolled down the Corso Italia in Sorrento looking for the proposed meeting place for Swans fans, we could hear the English Inn a few hundred metres before arriving. Hymns and arias followed by 'the scum came up and they’re going straight back down' blasted out across the peaceful town.

On arrival, there were around 30 or so Swans fans inside, most looked like they had been there since breakfast. The barman, Fabio, was draped in a Swans scarf with a Swans badge on his collar and he too joined in the songs albeit without understanding what the hell 'the scum' were or who Ki Sung Yeung or Vincent Tan may be.

Six Perronis and two hours later, we headed back to our apartment unbeknown that a group of Sorrento Ultras strolled in shortly after. Now, this bit is baffling: they approached the Swans fans who remained in the pub, asking if they would like to have a fight. Have times changed or is this a cultural thing? Back home, bottles would have been thrown across the bar and there would have been no polite invite to have a fight - it would just kick off.

Catching up with several other groups staying in Naples, they encountered the exact same experience. So it seems that anybody visiting Napoli in future just needs Italian lessons not body armour.

Alec and co on the SCFC bus to the San Paolo

The San Paolo

The Sorrento mob were first in a good half an hour before kick off, greeted by hundreds of riot police and a dozen Liberty stewards. None of either group spoke the other language so the entire translation was delivered by Alessandro, a friend of mine from Milan who had come down for the game.

The San Paolo is the worst of the big old stadiums in Europe - beyond basic to the point of being third world. Horrific facilities with the only catering being pre-packed sandwiches and Ritz biscuits to munch on from your plastic bucket seat. However, the atmosphere generated from the two curva ends was deafening. 15,000 thousand at either end and they didn’t stop all game. Despite our constant singing we did feel drowned out.

Alec's view from the away end

The match

Oh how different it could have been. The Emnes chance in the first ten minutes. Bony one on one. Ash's late header. Bony's spin and volley. Our pace cut them open time and time again. We looked threatening on corners and they were very un-Italian in their defending of set pieces.

Pablo created havoc drifting around between the midfield and Bony did the same up top. He’s found his home in there and it will be interesting to see what happens when, not if, Michu returns. The turning point in the match came with bringing Neil Taylor on and playing people out of position. Nothing against Taylor but he isn’t a left midfielder and it was unfair to ask him to play it. It also wiped out our pace and width which is a huge part of our game and we never looked the same.

The Napolitano nutters
The riots

What riots? Despite the shockingly late arrival of the Rome and Naples port buses, the police did a fantastic job in keeping the supporters apart. The reputation of police aggression and a history of inciting riots wasn’t on view last week.

If anything their ignorance of multiple incidents of supporters throwing missiles was far too tolerant - almost as if it was accepted behaviour for us to be dodging Coke bottles. Even the customary 30 minute lock-in after the final whistle was relatively calm and they seemed to clear the surrounding escape routes very quickly with the help of half the Italian police force and a few copper choppers.

Post match

Going out of the Europa league at this stage is a safe exit I believe. We have bigger battles to win and any Jack would have taken elimination in Napoli at the knock-out stages back in July when this all kicked off.

We can be very proud of our achievements and have to keep the memories fresh, as it could be a while before we have the opportunity to experience a European tour once again. Onto West Brom and an anticipated three points that will go a huge way to securing our status as the only Premier League team in Wales next season.

Follow Alec on Twitter or join us on our Facebook page!

Monday 3 March 2014

Swansea City players: Five seasons, five of the worst!

As Swansea City fans we've seen some incredible talent at the club - mainly over the past five seasons as the Swans have made their way up the league ladder and into the top flight. We've witnessed major talent in Wifried Bony, Michu, Michel Vorm, Scott Sinclair and Gylfi Sigurdsson, to name just a tiny handful.

But it's been hard to applaud the team performance at times, knowing there has been some utter rubbish in the midst of the squad.

So I'm bringing you a short post to celebrate the worst Swansea City players over the past five seasons. Feel free to comment below, via Twitter or on our Facebook page to share any you think I may have missed (or if you feel the urge to defend the ones I've included!)

Remember: this is just for fun - we've written hundreds of positive articles about Swansea, so we have to balance it out now and again!

Alvaro Vazquez (aka The Goalmachine)

Come on... you knew he'd be first on the list didn't you? Alvaro Vazquez - although a product of the European Cup winning Spanish U21 squad - is the only player that can summon a 19,000 strong groan when his name is read out at the Liberty Stadium. He's not scored and doesn't look like he ever will.

While he may be a good athlete and a quick runner, we need a footballer not someone who'd impress in the Swansea Bay 10k. I feel some compassion because he's clearly lacking any sort of confidence, but it's hard to feel that bad when he's on so many thousand a week for doing bugger all.

Itay Shechter (aka Mr. Scores When He Wants)

It's hard to believe we celebrated the departure of Itay Shechter when one of his replacements was equally as poor (yes, I'm talking about Vazquez again, I'll stop it soon...). He scored just one goal for Swansea in his 18 appearances for the club. His long awaited goal came in a 3-2 win away against Wigan - his first in 856 minutes for club and country... wow.

The Israeli striker (at least that's what he called himself) left Swansea City at the end of the 12/13 season, then went on to slam the club saying "I experienced a tough season. I didn’t feel part of the team..." The reason, Itay, is because the other members of the squad were decent players.

Jordi Lopez (aka The Team Player)

Though he was signed on a free transfer by Paulo Sousa, Lopez was one of the highest earners at Swansea at the time, which must have been great for a player who spent most of the time on the bench/out of the squad with injury.

Lopez made just 15 appearances for the club, scoring no goals, over two seasons. God knows how much money he took from the club for doing so very little. Cheers Jordi...

Dwight Tiendalli (aka Mr Dependable)

Like Vazquez, Tiendalli is a current part of the Swansea City squad. While he's made more of a positive impact than the Spaniard (hell, I've made more of a positive impact than the Spaniard), there is no denying that Tiendalli can make your blood boil.

He's a defensive liability who loves being out of position and getting an unnecessary yellow card. Bizarrely Tiendalli scored his only goal for the Swans in the same 3-2 win away against Wigan that Shechter scored in! He actually scored the winner... should that exclude him from this list?

Vangelis Moras (aka The Greek Ashley Williams)

One Twitter user (@nickyfran75) summed up Moras perfectly in two simple words: "Absolute garbage." The Greek centre-back joined the club on trial in September 2011, before signing on a permanent deal.

He made his one and only competitive appearance for Swansea City against Wolves in October 2011. The game saw Swansea 2-1 ahead, before Moras came on for Mark Gower in the 86th minute. Swansea then conceded a late goal and ended up dropping two points in a 2-2 draw. Was Moras at fault? Probably. He never played for Swansea City again.