Friday, 19 May 2017

Preview: Swansea City v West Bromwich Albion

There’s likely to be something of a party happening at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday. Swansea secured their Premier League status last week with their 2-0 over Sunderland, followed by Hull’s 4-0 drubbing away to Crystal Palace enough to see them safe. 

The travelling Swansea fans were sent into raptures upon the final whistle at the Stadium of Light and it’s unlikely they’ll care too much about Sunday’s result against West Brom.
However, the same can’t be said for Paul Clement who is keen for his men to finish the season strongly. Whilst he admits he is “delighted to have got safe”, he added:

The season is not over yet and we want a good performance at home - there's lots of motivation going into the last game. If we win on Sunday, we could end up with 29 points from the second half of the season. so let's finish in style.”

It’s probable that Clement, who has won eight of his 18 league games this season, will offer the same side that beat Sunderland as there no new injury concerns for the Swans. Borja Baston, who may just play his final game for the Swans should he feature, faces a late fitness test whilst Wayne Routledge may be named on the bench after returning from a hernia problem. Baston has been a huge disappointment at the club following his £15.5million transfer from Spanish giants Atletico Madrid.

The Swans head into the game in good stead and are unbeaten in four league matches, taking ten points from a possible 12, scoring six and conceding one during this run. Clement’s men have also lost just one of their last seven league games, drawing one and winning five. West Brom on the other hand, are without a win since March and have not won on the road for eight games.

It’s fair to say it’s looking like advantage Swansea. The hots have won four of their five home top-flight home games against West Brom, scoring three goals on three separate occasions. Tony Pulis will hope his side can keep the in form Fernando Llorente quiet, the striker has netted nine goals in his last ten league appearances at the Liberty and scored against Sunderland at the weekend. Elsewhere, should Gylfi Sigurdsson score, he will be the first ever Swansea player to chalk double figures for both goals and assists in a Premier League campaign.

Prediction: Swansea City 2-0 West Brom

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Swansea secure top flight status for another season

Swansea saw cemented their status in the Premier League this weekend. Paul Clement’s men did their job by seeing off a lacklustre Sunderland side 2-0 away home from and were duly rewarded with safety as Crystal Palace thrashed Hull 4-0 to condemn the Tigers to the Championship.

It was a spirited display from the Swans but even by Sunderland’s standards this season, their display was poor. Still, nothing can be taken away from Clement and his side, the former Derby County manager has done a remarkable job in turning around their fortunes and deserves some credit. Swansea wanted it more than Sunderland, chased every loose ball, every pass, every cross, the fight they put up at the Stadium of Light was truly commendable.

Fernando Llorente opened the scoring inside ten minutes, heading home Gylfi Sigurdsson’s free-kick to score his 14th of the season whilst making it Sigurdsson’s 13th assist. The Spaniard has been crucial to his side’s survival, particularly their current four game unbeaten run in which has scored in all three of Swansea’s victories. The link-up play between the striker and midfielder called the Wearsiders problems all afternoon, though David Moyes men did not look too keen to do something about it and Swansea continued to dominate.

The visitors’ efforts were rewarded on the stroke of half-time as Kyle Naughton wrapped up the victory with a superb goal. The full-back piled a brilliant angled drive into the far top scorer past a hapless Jordan Pickford to worsen the Black Cats’ misery. The goal sent the brilliant travelling support into raptures as this spurred their team to the finish line, knowing another season in the top flight beckoned. What could have been a nervy encounter proved to be a stroll in the park for Swansea and now all eyes were on Crystal Palace v Hull.

Following Hull’s disappointing defeat to Sunderland last weekend, a lash back from Marco Silva’s men may have been on the cards. Fortunately for Swansea and Big Sam, Hull delivered a performance that would make even Sunderland blush and Palace were allowed to run riot. Wilfried Zaha, Christian Benteke, Luka Milivojevic and Patrick van Aanholt each scored in the four goal rout to secure both theirs and Swansea’s Premier League status.

Whilst it’s by no means the greatest of escapes for Paul Clement and his men, it’s a hell of an achievement. The Swansea have had three managers this season and found themselves at the bottom of the table at the midway point of the season, boasting a mere 12 points. It’s a great turn around for Swansea and Clement can now look to the future and begin to build a squad that is ready to compete in the top flight.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Preview: Swansea v Everton

Swansea host Everton tomorrow in a crunch tie that will help decide the Swans’ Premier League fate. Paul Clement’s men currently reside in 18th place, two points adrift of safety and desperately need a win if they are going to survive. Everton will be a tough test with the Toffees flying high in 7th place.

Clement will be buoyed by news that Fernando Llorente has recovered from a stomach bug in time, however, Jefferson Montero’s season looks to be over due to a niggling hamstring injury. The game comes too soon from Angel Rangel who will return to training next week after missing two months through injury.

Everton will be looking to comeback from their 3-0 drubbing at home to leader’s Chelsea whilst Swansea will be keen to extend their unbeaten run to three games. Clement’s side picked up a respectable 1-1 draw at Old Trafford last week, off the back of a promising 2-0 home win over Stoke. If the hosts do go unbeaten, it will be the first time they have done so for three league games this season and if they win, it will be their first back-to-back home wins since May 2016.

Undoubtedly, Swansea will be wary of Everton’s good form and should not be fooled by Ronald Koeman’s six away games without a win, though they should look to exploit the Toffees’ away day misery. Everton have never lost a league match away to the Swans, winning eight and drawing three of the last eleven fixtures and that is something Clement must change tomorrow as time is running out, and fast.

Swansea are unbeaten in their last five games against the Toffees and if they wish to take that to six games, they must be at the top of their game defensively. They may not be bottom but Clement’s men hold the accolade for the worst defensive record in the league, conceding a total of 69. And with players like Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley headed to the Liberty, they can’t afford any mistakes as they could prove fatal.

If the Swans are to get one over on Koeman’s side then it’s highly like Gylfi Sigurdsson will be involved, out of Swansea’s 20 league goals, the Icelandic man has been directly involved in 21 with creating 12 and scoring nine. In addition to this, the midfielder has seven assists from set-pieces, something which no other player in the league is close to matching.

With Hull at home to Sunderland, it’s looking to be a certain three points for Marco Silva’s men thanks to their impeccable home form and Sunderland’s doomed fate. Clement and his side will know the outcome of that game before the kick-off against Everton and they must cope well under the added pressure. But if they manage to keep their form of the last few games up, they are more than in with a chance.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Paul Clement set to remain as Swan's boss even if the club are relegated

Reports from the Liberty Stadium today suggest that Paul Clement will remain as the club’s manager even if Swansea are condemned to the Premier League.

Currently, the Swans reside in 18th on the league are two points adrift of safety and have just three games to save their top flight status. Clement’s men host Everton at the weekend and head into the game with two respectable performances behind them, following a hard fought 1-1 draw at Old Trafford and a 2-0 home win over Stoke.

Clement arrived at the club at the turn of the year with Claude Makelele joining him as assistant, with experience at Real Madrid and PSG on their CVs. The ex-Derby man recorded his first win as Swansea manager with a 3-2 victory over Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at Anfield. Following a successful first month in charge, Clement received an accolade for the Premier League Manager of the Month.

Although the Swans remain in 18th place, 45-year-old undoubtedly has them playing better football. The Premier League table, if started in January, would see Clement’s side in an respectable 11th place whilst fellow stragglers Sunderland and Middlesbrough would still be cemented to the foot of the table. During his 16-game tenure at the Liberty, Clement boasts six wins, two draws and eight losses, compared to 13 losses, three draws and just three wins under Francesco Guidolin and Bob Bradley, both of whom were dismissed.

Chairman Huw Jenkins and American owners are keen to bring stability to the club with the Swans having had three managers in charge this season. Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan visited South Wales last month and held discussions with Clement regarding the club’s long term future, a future they want to be part of. The owners are said to be impressive with the way the former Madrid coach has developed talent at the Liberty and changed the team’s style of play.

If Swansea do take the plunge, there is no doubt that Clement can do a job in the Championship judging by his spell at Derby. Despite the fact Clement lost just one game in 19 from September to December, Clement was given his marching orders having won just one game in seven. He left Pride Park with a record of 14 wins, 12 draws and just seven losses accumulating to a win record of 42.4%. If afforded the funds, Clement is capable of constructing a strong squad that can fight to get back to the top as soon as possible. And if the Swans do survive the drop, he is able to rebuild in the summer to ensure this season’s relegation battle is the club’s last.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Bournemouth v Swans: Recovery Mode

After last weekend's iffy showing against Hull City; Paul Clement will no doubt have told the squad to buckle down and play to win, no matter what. The side looked as though there was too much consideration for the backline rather than pressing forwards and it proved to be Swansea's downfall against Hull - we can't afford this against Bournemouth.

With so many teams around us holding a game in hand advantage; we cannot afford to leave the Vitality Stadium with anything less than three points. Hull are easily the biggest threat to our position of safety but Middlesbrough have a game in hand to upset even the Tiger's party - it's all very complicated at present and the fixture list needs addressing urgently.

Focusing on the game in question; we are set to be without Kyle Naughton unless he passes a very late fitness test to secure his involvement in the game - his influence will be missed should he fail to regain full fitness. Perhaps worse than Naughton's potential absence; Fernando Llorente has been struggling with a dead leg he picked up in training and must shake it off before the game if Clement is to field his preferred line up.

I honestly don't know what went wrong last weekend but I do know that we cannot allow it to happen again. A win could take us above Leicester City where defeat could see us too close to the relegation places for comfort - it all depends on which version of our side turns up!

If it's the free flowing, attacking side that showed the rest of the league we are here to fight then we'll have no problems against Bournemouth. However, if we set up defensively and start to confuse one another again then it will be a long, long trip home from the English South coast.

Either way; I'm looking forward to this game more than most this season as I genuinely can't pick between the sides. Obviously my favour is towards Swansea but it's such a close run thing that I won't be betting on the game - that's for certain.

My hope is 2-0 Swansea but my head is suggesting Bournemouth will at least breach our backline.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Hull v Swansea: The KCOM Calling

If now isn’t the time to press on up the table, then I don’t know if there ever will be a time. Seeing Paul Clement running the entire area of the pitch last weekend has easily become my favourite moment of the season so far – it’s about time we had a manager who wears his heart on sleeve and shows the same passion for victory as the fans!

It was a tense affair last weekend against Burnley but from the moment Olsson levelled the game there was a real feeling that we could win the game around the Liberty – thankfully – Fernando Llorente pulled it off yet again but I didn’t have any nails left by the time he headed in the winner! A bit earlier next time Nando!?

Then again, early goals have proven to be an issue for us earlier in the season as we still struggle to keep clean sheets. That’s nothing against Fabianski nor the back four; we are in the Premier League and there are no easy games! Only Leicester have failed to breach us in the last six league games; winning games is vital but we must stop making it hard for ourselves.

Hull are in the midst of a sticky patch where injuries are concerned as Davies, Mbokani and Evandro look set to miss out. The latter might pass a fitness test but the Tigers are somewhat toothless since they allowed Robert Snodgrass to leave the club in favour of West Ham – great news for us!

Dyer is set to be absent for the Swans once again as he continues his injury struggles; we wish him a speedy recovery but Montero and Ki are both available for selection – will Clement change the winning formula to accommodate the pace and fearlessness of the duo?

Given our clean sheet issues; we will no doubt find ourselves breached at the back but we look imperious moving forwards. The space the midfield are finding to play the ball between themselves is exceptional and strings are being pulled up top to offer avenues towards goal – I can wholly see us outscoring Hull in this one rather than romping to victory.

If you’re a betting character; I’d be backing both teams to score and Swansea to win this one – we need the points to get away from the relegation zone, despite a five point cushion, and Hull are on a rotten run of form.

We’ve got this in the bag, I hope!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Swans v Burnley Preview: Up the Table?

So how do we all feel about the idea of taking an enormous step away from the issues that are plaguing the clubs around us? Three points at home against Burnley will no doubt see us above Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth and beyond the struggling Leicester City – we’re well on the way to safety and it could be a path less travelled looking at the competition.

The last time it was so close at the bottom at this time in the season; allegations were thrown at Sir Alex Ferguson for fielding a weakened side to allow Hull City their Premier League survival. However; things might not be so crass this season as it becomes ever more apparent that Sunderland and Hull have run their course in the top flight so only one place is up for grabs in the drop zone – realistically.

Thankfully, that has nothing to do with us and Sean Dyche’s Burnley turning up on our doorstep is a welcome reminder that we’re off the pace in the Premier League. Winning at Leicester, Liverpool and at home to Southampton proves very little – beating opponents we ought to overtake before the end of the season is a very different.

Annoyingly, Jefferson Montero is back in training but is very, VERY unlikely to feature as the lack of pace in the squad continues overall. Narsingh and Ayew are set to start but at the expense of whom? Wayne Routledge is a key candidate for the chop despite his acceptable performances.

The most likely outcome, according to the BBC, is 1-1 but I can’t see it going to a draw – especially not a low scoring draw. I’ve a feeling that Jeff Stelling will be asking for updates from the Liberty all afternoon – high scoring draw or big scoring victory for the home side.

Burnley lost at Turf Moor in August and are seven points ahead of us – this all means utterly nothing as we’ve lost two managers; bought and sold in January and resurrected our season since then. We’re on for a win here and a decent win at that – I can’t wait for Dyche’s excuses in that 20 a day Marlboro voice.