Friday, 24 February 2017

Chelsea v Swans: First Game Back!

Apologies for the lack of activity folks but it won’t have escaped anyone’s attention that we’ve had the better part of 12 days off for training whilst the rest of the league has been messing around with the FA Cup and what-not – but we’re back and what a game to come back to: a trip to Stamford Bridge!

I’m not sure I need to point out that Chelsea are currently top of the Premier League and will be looking to tighten their grip on top spot at our expense on Saturday afternoon. However, I firmly believe we can cause them some serious problems courtesy of Paul Clement’s intelligent football styling the lads displayed against Leicester last time out.

Okay; I know there’s a major difference between the now managerless Leicester City and Conte’s Chelsea but we still romped to victory over the Premier League champions without giving them so much as a real chance on goal.

We also need to consider that Paul Clement is a former Chelsea assistant manager and we’re showing signs of that top level experience – I’d be concerned if I were Antonio Conte; especially given their iffy draw against Burnley in their last Premier League game!

Sadly, we’ll be heading for Stamford Bridge without Nathan Dyer (Achilles), Jefferson Montero (hamstring) and Ki Sung-Yeung (knee) which is a damn shame quite frankly. The pace of Dyer and fearlessness of Ki would’ve added another dimension to our play against Chelsea but there’s always a plan B.

Britts is back after injury and Luciano Narsingh and Jordan Ayew are both pushing to start the game against the league leaders. I’m eager to see what Ayew can bring from the start of a game and Narsingh could be ideal cover for Dyer – I just hope his delivery is on point because we’ll stand more chance in the air than we do on the deck.

Sideshow Bob lookalike, David Luiz, and Marcos Alonso are likely to start at the back for Chelsea meaning playing through their backline is unlikely to happen as both are competent ball playing defenders but Luiz in particular often gets caught out in the air as ref’s are wise to his nasty streak – Llorente could profit massively from his hesitance to get embroiled in midair scuffles.

I’m not saying we’ll romp to victory; that’s a bit much to ask if I’m honest but Chelsea look a side who are set to allow complacency into their game. A few passes falling short and the likes of Narsingh and Carroll can nick the ball away and expose the gaps in their three man defensive line.

Paul Clement needs to get it into the player’s heads that it’s just another game and they are no better than us – they just cost more and get paid ludicrous sums to do exactly what we do; play to win every game. 

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Jordan Ayew - Why Swansea? Why Now?

Jordan Ayew could make his Swans debut against Leicester on Sunday but what exactly attracted Paul Clement and the club to the former Villa striker? What can he bring to the squad that wasn’t already available? Is there something special about the Ghanaian that we haven’t noticed? What is it that forced the club’s hand?

Ayew was born in France but is of Ghanaian descent making him eligible for the Ghana national side who he has recently represented up to the Semi Final stage of the Africa Cup of Nations – hence his delayed debut for the Swans. Starting his career at Marseille, Ayew was transferred to FC Lorient as he found his first team chances limited at Marseille – this is where he attracted some major attention.

Aston Villa made a move for Ayew just 12 months after he signed for Lorient paying £10.2 million for him – they were confident he’d be exactly what they needed to stay in the Premier League. Sadly, they were wrong but they deployed him in such a way that any striker would’ve struggled. Isolated up front, Ayew found it hard to hit the back of the net and Villa went down.

Now, Ayew has signed for Swansea (for an undisclosed fee and Neil Taylor going in the opposite direction) and it makes him the second Ayew to play for us. Andre Ayew has, of course, departed the club in a £20 million move to West Ham that laced our pockets and shifted on the more tempestuous Ayew sibling.

Jordan Ayew is without doubt a talented striker. He has good technique, plenty of pace but he does rely on the ball coming to his feet a lot of the time. If anything, Ayew reminds me of former Man Utd striker Javier Hernandez – very underrated, makes a lot of great runs and is always on hand to pick up a loose ball. Hopefully he can have a similar impact to the Mexican in the Premier League.

The big question is what he’s going to bring to the squad quite frankly. We’re starting to find the back of the net more regularly, we look more resolute at the back so where can Ayew help? There’s nothing more useful in a team than a player who can change the way the game is being played – Ayew adds more pace to the front line that has been lacking somewhat with the reliance on the classy Llorente and absence of Ki.

When a player of Ayew’s quality becomes available; Premier League clubs can’t ignore it and let him slip away to a rival – Paul Clement has clearly been aware of Ayew for some time and letting Taylor go after nearly seven years with Swansea is a big decision.

The most irritating thing about Ayew’s transfer is definitely the number he has been given. Despite being an out and out striker, Ayew has been handed the number 3 shirt usually reserved for the left full back – absolute madness.

I’m expecting big things from Ayew and I think it’s safe to say the club are too – fingers crossed he can smash one in against Leicester on his debut.

Swans v Leicester: Relegation Battle Commence

Ties don’t get much more important for Swansea right now: Leicester City at home with both sides level on points and skirting dangerously close to the relegation zone – this is what Super Sundays were made for!

Three points will be enough for the Swans to at least leapfrog Leicester but it might also see us move above lacklustre Middlesbrough. Manager of the month Paul Clement has told the press he wants the team to make the home field advantage count – Leicester’s pitch is substantially wider than at the Liberty thanks to their Champion’s League endeavours this year.

Ideally, we can limit Leicester’s wide play to nullify the threat of Riyad Mahrez and Christian Fuchs from full back. It may not seem like much, but a pitch that’s a few yards narrower than a club is accustomed to can make it incredibly difficult to play their normal game – great news for us.

The news that seems to have kept Swansea in the print media this week comes courtesy of Jordan Ayew. The Ghana international agreed his deal on Deadline Day and is back from the Africa Cup of Nations ready to make his Swans debut. Ayew might not have made headlines for Aston Villa but I can see him turning a trick for us; we play his preferred game: keep the ball on the deck, pass and move.

Leicester are also off the back of the only FA Cup Fourth Round replay against Derby. The Foxes won the game in extra time but several first team players were included in the squad – three days rest might not be enough for them to fully recover and Ranieri will need to rotate once again.

It looks as though Ki, Montero and Britton will be absent for Swansea with a knee, hamstring and calf issue respectively. This isn’t too much of a concern thanks to Carroll’s emergence as a key player and Llorente remembering his shooting boots – we can field a side to worry Leicester here.

Schmeichel, Huth, Morgan, Drinkwater, Mahrez and Vardy are all expected to earn recalls to the team after the FA Cup tie and Demarai Gray is pushing hard for a starting place. Slimani and Ulloa are out with injury but Molla Wague could be involved after missing the Derby game for a ridiculous reason.

Apparently, and I didn’t know this, if a player signs after a domestic cup match is drawn and a replay is incurred – they cannot play in the replay as they weren’t available for the original game. Sounds daft to me but the FA do as they please I suppose.

Annoyingly, Mahrez netted a hat trick against us in this fixture last season so it’ll be down to Olsson to keep the Algerian as quiet as possible. I don’t care if he doesn’t go near another player; his threat needs to be quashed.

We can win this game, that’s painfully obvious, but I’m going to be conservative and back Swansea to win 2-1. I’ve just got a feeling about a late winner and can wholly see Ayew netting it on his debut.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Man City v Swans: On for the Hat Trick

I'll be the first to admit I wasn't certain when Paul Clement was announced as our new manager, akin to many of our fans, but he has done a fantastic job since his appointment securing victories over Liverpool and Southampton in a matter of weeks - next target is Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola has finally shown his true colours at City and dropped his chosen Goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo, and his talismanic striker, Sergio Aguero, in favour of what he believes is a more balanced side with bags of experience and youthful exuberance.

Pull the other one Pep - even though the Etihad is hardly ever near capacity; the fans that do show up will be baying for blood if Aguero misses another game and it would just happen to the Swans who are the opponents for what many City fans believe to be judgement day.

Let's face it, we're on a great run at the moment despite conceding in both of our last two games. There's a real belief about the team that can't be ignored; we'll score more than our opponents and that's that. It reminds me of Brian Clough and Sir Alex Ferguson's managerial style - keep attacking and you'll score more than you concede: Simple.

Only Jefferson Montero is missing for us against City but the winger might not be missed too much as Clement is inevitably going to field the same team that looked so comfortable in possession against Southampton - Sigurdsson from the left has breathed new life into his distribution which wasn't exactly lacking before the wide shift.

Do I honestly believe we can beat Man City? Yes. The Liverpool game proves we can compete with these so called 'bigger clubs' and money won't buy City an easy ride against an in form Swans team.

My biggest concern is the injury risk to the likes of Wayne Routledge and Ki who will no doubt come face to face with Fernandinho in City's midfield - a player who's been sent off three times in six games isn't someone I'd like to be trying to beat; he'll jab his studs right in at our quicker players and we all know full well he will.

I'm going to back a draw here - City are playing poorly and we're on a brilliant run but I have a feeling the Manchester side will peg us back eventually. I've been wrong several times before but I'm going for realism here.

If anyone is attending the game and has a spare seat; please let us know in the comments and we'll try and make sure everyone who wants to go gets there.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Swans v Southampton Preview

Paul Clement will be ruing the fact that the Swans didn’t play at the weekend to try and maintain the positivity drawn from the win over Liverpool but plenty of rest will no doubt see his side in better shape than tonight’s opponents Southampton who have been in cup action throughout the last week.

Mixed fortunes for the visitors tonight; a nail biting two leg tie with Liverpool ending in victory and a place in the EFL Cup final and then total collapse as Arsenal romped to a 5-0 win over the Saints – Ouch!

Where does that leave us? Well, I’d say in pole position frankly. Our defensive frailties are still cause for concern but Clement has instilled a classic managerial belief into the team: if they score, we’ll just score more.

Great news as Fernando Llorente looks set to stay, at least until the summer, and Luciano Narsingh stands a good chance of making his debut – albeit from the bench most likely. Ki Sung-Yueng is back after a calf problem but both Leon Britton and the exciting Oli McBurnie both miss out.

Plenty of injury worries for Southampton but one key name is still absent for the Saints. Virgil Van Dijk, the highly rated and much talked about centre back, is set to miss out yet again with an ankle injury meaning Llorente might find a bit more space in the air than he might’ve been expecting.

Claude Puel clearly wasn’t interested in an FA Cup run this season as he made 10 changes to the side that beat Liverpool in the EFL Cup for the trip to the Emirates – does that mean he’s pushing for a decent finish in the league? Does that mean his side are good enough to beat us? Who knows!

Last time out, in the reverse fixture, Southampton won by a single goal that seems to be a regular occurrence between us and the Saints. The last three meetings at the Liberty have ended 1-0 to Southampton but tonight’s the night that changes surely?

My favourite fact for today? Paul Clement has already equalled Bradley’s tally of wins and it’s taken him just three games to do it – stick that in your pipe Bradders; we’ll never know quite why you were ever appointed!

I’m thinking 2-1 tonight. I can’t see us keeping a clean sheet because frankly Shane Long is a lethal forward on his day but I don’t believe Southampton are playing well enough to stop us scoring more than they manage – I’ve been wrong before but I’m feel good about this one.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Transfer Watch: Four Days to Go

With the Transfer Window closing fast; I thought it best to take a look at who could be coming, going or staying in the next few days for Swansea City. There are a few stories doing the rounds in the papers that are of particular interest; but how true they are remains to be seen:

Wayne Routledge

Birmingham City might’ve speculatively approached one of our more senior players but Wayne Routledge has committed himself to Swansea by signing a new two and a half year deal that will see him through to 2019.

20 goals in 204 games for Swansea might not seem like a great return but, as a player who’s been with us since 2011, it was vital to Clement’s cause that he secure Routledge’s services moving forwards.

Modou Barrow

A player who tends to be something of a forgotten man despite appearing 14 times to date this season; winger Modou Barrow is on the radar of Newcastle United according to their manager Rafa Benitez.

I doubt Barrow will make the move given he has been labelled a back up option if Newcastle fail to tempt Andros Townsend back to the club and he is currently plying his trade in the Premier League not the Championship.

Newcastle may be favourites to secure promotion this season but that probably won’t be enough to convince Barrow to make the move to St James’ Park.

John Terry

Not necessarily a transfer rumour; instead the opinion of former Swansea winger Leighton James. Alfie Mawson has impressed since coming to Swansea but he needs someone with Terry’s level of experience to give him the knowledge to compete at the highest.

Wages would no doubt be a concern as our pay structure wouldn’t allow for us to pay anywhere near all of Terry’s exorbitant salary but if Antonio Conte is serious about allowing Terry to leave the club on loan then we should definitely lodge a bid – we do miss the commanding presence of Ashley Williams something rotten.

Gylfi Sigurdsson

Obviously, our talismanic midfielder will be linked with a raft of clubs repeatedly during any transfer window and this January has been no different.

The story has broken thanks to Dimitri Payet’s stubborn attitude towards his current employers: West Ham United. The Hammers are set to sign Robert Snodgrass from Hull City this week and Sigurdsson has been identified as the ideal creative partner for the Scottish midfielder.

I can’t see it happening personally. Even if we do get relegated this season, Sigurdsson has learned his lesson about playing for other clubs in England – his dismal spell at Tottenham will live long in his memory for certain.

The Future's Bright: Under 23's to Watch

With the Checkatrade Trophy out of our younger stars’ minds; they will no doubt be looking to impress Paul Clement in the hopes of gaining regular first team football. Some have already made their Premier League bows but who should you be keeping an eye out for in the coming weeks?

Mark Birighitti
Anyone who’s ever watch the Australian A-League will be more than familiar with one of our leading reserve ‘keepers. Five appearances thus far for the Under 23’s has seen Birighitti keep two clean sheets and the 25 year old stands a good chance of usurping Kristoffer Nordfeldt of his place on the bench in the near future.

Aaron Lewis
A very cultured defender with a knack for getting forward; Aaron Lewis reminds me very much of Luke Shaw in his early first team years at Southampton. Lewis is a big fan of Roberto Carlos and has clearly modelled much of his playing style on the legendary Brazilian. His overlapping runs and incredibly accurate crossing make him perfect back up for the recently arrived Martin Olsson.

Lewis even has family ties to the Busby Babes. His uncle is Kenny Morgans; the last survivor rescued from the plane wreckage in 1958 – clearly the 18 year old comes with strong pedigree.

George Byers
Formerly of Watford, Scottish midfielder George Byers has been a star turned in Swansea City’s Under 23 squad. Five goals in eleven appearances from midfield this season will no doubt have Paul Clement interested in giving Byers his debut for the club – he has made his professional debut for Watford in the past but only as a substitute against Charlton.

A free transfer with an eye for goal and superb distribution make George Byers a great option moving forward – it only takes one injury to a first team midfielder and Byers will be included without doubt.

Oli McBurnie
Probably the pick of the bunch in the Under 23’s – Oli McBurnie has had a busy career already and he’s only 20 years old. Starting out at Bradford City; McBurnie has had loan spells at Chester, Newport County and Bristol Rovers but has been retained by the club this season and made his debut in the EFL Cup game against Peterborough; scoring twice in the game.

McBurnie has scored 10 in 10 appearances for the Under 23’s and is knocking hard on the door of Paul Clement’s Premier league squad – it won’t be long before we’re all singing his name and hoping the club can keep hold of such a prolific talent.