Monday 12 June 2017

Thanks for the memories but it's time to say goodbye...

Whilst the end to the Premier League was great and we’d hate to put a dampener on it, for the large part of the campaign, the Swans drastically underperformed. There are a number of players responsible and while no-one is free from blame, some players simply performed worse than others.

We looked at the players who should depart the Liberty this summer, a move which would suit both parties.

The first player to go should be Borja Baston, the biggest disappointment of the season. A club record signing, Baston started just four games, costing the club £3.75million per start. The Spaniard spent the large part of the season as substitute, being given a few minutes here and there and his one goal is a far cry from the 18 he scored for Eibar last season, and the 23 for Zaragoza prior to that.
It’s perhaps fair to say that the striker may not be suited to the physicality of the Premier League and he is clearly capable of doing a job in La Liga, thus a return to Spain’s top flight may beckon. Villarreal are said to be monitoring Baston’s situation and it’s likely we’ve sign the last of the 24-year-old at the Liberty.

Another player we’d like to see head for the exit door is Jordi Amat. The centre-back’s campaign was littered with mistakes and his incompetence finally cost him when he was frozen out due to the flourishing partnership between Alfie Mawson and Fredico Fernandez. In truth, Amat has struggled since he was left to fill the void by Ashley Williams following his transfer to Everton.
Elsewhere in defence, Mike van der Hoorn should also move on. The centre-back made little to no impact in the Swans back line and was limited to just eight appearances, failing to impress Francesco Guidolin, Bob Bradley or Paul Clement. Much like Amat, the solid partnsership striked up between Mawson and Fernnadez has seen him frozen out. Of course, van der Hoorn could stay as back up or stay to fight for his place, however, he’s something more of a squad player as opposed to a first-team player.
Jefferson Montero is another summer signing that may benefit from leaving South Wales. The winger started just two games for the Swans last season, spending the rest of the campaign as a substitute. Admittedly, his season did come to premature end having picked up a knock but still, Montero underperformed and failed to make an impact when did grace the pitch. Club America are rumoured to be interested in acquring the services of 27-year-old and Liga MX is a league Montero is familiar with.
We had high hopes for Montero and Baston in particular and it’s a shame things have not worked out. Amat is a player we’d say goodbye to with a heavy heart, however, it is a move that would prove mutually beneficial. The centre-back has had his day at the Liberty and has been a good servant to the club, even filling it at right-back when called upon, though now it’s time to say farewell.

Who must the Swans hold on to? Part One.

Steve Kaplan is hell bent on keeping Gylfi Sigurdsson at the Liberty and with the superstar being involved in 22 of the Swans 45 Premier League goals, you’ll be hard pressed to find a Swans fan that isn’t desperate for him to stay.

Sigurdsson was undoubtedly the stand-out performer for the Jacks, but he is far from the only player Kaplan and his associates should do everything to hold on to.

Midfield ace Tom Carroll may have only joined the club in January but his impact was instantly recognisable. The former Spurs man is great at controlling the game from the centre of the field and his passing attributes were a joy to behold. A pass success rate of almost 82% certainly isn’t bad going for the 25-year-old.

Martin Olsson joined the club alongside Carroll and is another player that the Swans should hang on to. Olsson admitted joining the club whilst they were in the relegation was a gamble but he took the risk and it duly paid off. Joining from Norwich, Olsson impressed since joining the fray and even scored two vital goals in those wins over Leicester and Burnley, it’s no surprise he’s a fan favourite!

Olsson played 15 games for the Swans and during his time in defence, the side conceded just 19 goals, averaging at 1.3 goals per game. Prior to his presence, the Jacks averaged 2.2 goals per game, so his influence is definitely notable, also helping Lukasz Fabianski to keep four clean sheets during those 15 games. The defender has worked under Paul Clement in the past, during his Blackburn Rovers stint and holding on to him makes sense for all parties.

Alfie Mawson, Olsson’s defensive partner is another key player the Jacks need to keep. More than deserving of the Young Player of the Season award, Mawson claims he is not yet the finished product, though we’re not sure just how much more the 23-year-old can prove. Not only did the centre-back chip in with four goals, three of which helped the Swans to secure nine points, he looked like an established defender far beyond his years. Clement is clearly a big fan and started Mawson in every game since his arrival, the former Barnsley man may just be a future Swans captain.
Of course, the Swans are not in need of a new captain just yet, Jack Cork should be donning that armband for years to come. Cork played the majority of the campaign for the Swans, partnering Carroll in the middle of the park following the latter’s arrival. A slightly more defensive figure than his teammate, Carroll helped to make the Swansea half impenetrable during that crucial end of season run in.

Friday 9 June 2017

Pre-season Breakdown Part Two

Earlier this week we brought you the low-down on the opponents the Swans are set to face during their North American tour. Today we’re back with part-two of our pre-season preview.

The first of the Swans’ pre-season opponents is of course League Two side Barnet. Rossi Eames side finished 15th last season. John Akinde was the club’s top scorer with a 26 goal haul and may cause the Swans a few problems.
Goalkeeper Josh Vickers spent last season on loan at the Bees, playing some 23 games, conceding 31 goals. Paul Clement’s side will travel to Barnet on the 12th of July for the first time the two side’s have met since 2010. The Swans romped to victory with a 3-0 win in the League Cup.

Following their US tour, the Swans will travel to Birmingham to play Harry Redknapp’s side on July 29th . Redknapp was appointed the City manager mid-April and tasked with keeping the Blues in the second-tier. Of course, Redknapp duly delivered and his side secured survival on the last day of the season, beating Huddersfield 2-0 and Bristol City 1-0 away in the final two games.
Former Jack David Cotterill will be a recognizable face for Swans fans, the winger played his trade at the Liberty for two years making 35 appearances for the club and scoring four goals. However, the 29-year-old has been told he can leave St. Andrews with Derby and QPR both on alert, so whether he’ll face the Swans remains unclear. Lukas Jutkiewicz was the top scorer for the Blues last season, chipping in with 12 goals.

A home match against Sampdoria will complete the Swans’ pre-season campaign. The Italian club will travel to the Liberty on August 5th, just a week before the Premier League season starts. Managed by Marco Giampaolo, the club finished tenth in Serie A last season. Luis Muriel and Patrik Schick will be the men to watch for the Swans defence with the duo scoring ten and 11 goals respectively during the last campaign. Muriel is being tipped to leave the Serie A side and Swansea are just one of the clubs linked with a move for the Colombian. Though Liverpool are also said to be monitoring the 26-year-old who comes with a price tag of a rumoured £20million.
It will be the first time the two sides have met and will be the perfect opportunity to see how the Swans are shaping up for the season ahead as well as a chance to watch Clement’s new signings hot in action.

Monday 5 June 2017

Part One of the Lowdown on the Swans' Pre-Season Opponents

As disappointing as last season was for the large part, we can’t help but miss the beloved Swans. Still, it’s only five weeks until the first pre-season game. Paul Clement’s men will first travel to Barnet before heading to America for the pre-season tour and will then playing Birmingham City and Sampdoria on their return.

During the US tour, the Jacks will face MLS side Philadelphia Union on July 15th, Richmond Kickers on July 19th and North Carolina on July 22nd. We decided to delve into each of the pre-season opponents, starting with those across the North Atlantic. 

Philadelphia Union were founded just nine years ago, back in 2008. The U began in 2010 as an expansion team of the league and currently reside in 9th place in the Eastern Conference. They play their home games at the Talen Energy Stadium, marginally smaller than the Liberty with a capacity of 18,500. They’re no stranger to English opposition and played both Crystal Palace and Bournemouth last summer, drawing 0-0 and losing 4-1 respectively. 

There’s also a familiar face in the U roster, former Arsenal, Milwall, West Brom, QPR and Hull forward Jay Simpson now plays his trade for the MLS side. Simpson has three goals in nine games to his name this season. Georginio Wijnaldum’s younger brother, Giliano, plays for the side as a left-back. The club’s all time top scorer is S├ębastien Le Toux with 50 goals in two separate spells, however, the Frenchman now plays his trade for Washington side DC United.
The Richmond Kickers are quite a lot older than Philadelphia Union, though still no-where as near as old as the mighty Swans, the Virginia based side were founded in 1993 and are one of the oldest continuously run soccer clubs in America. They play at the City Stadium which boasts a capacity of 22,611, though this can be limited to just 9,000. The Kickers average crowds between 2,000-4,000, perhaps highlighting the popularity of soccer in America compared to that in England.

Currently residing in 14th place in the USL, the second tier of American soccer, the Kickers are enjoying a less than successful season. That said, they proved to be no push overs last summer. The Swans fell to a 2-0 defeat to the Kickers.

North Carolina play their trade in the North American Soccer League, the second tier of the American soccer pyramid, equal to the USL where the Kickers reside. The club were in founded in 2006 and up until December last year, were known as the Carolina RailHawks, however, underwent a name change amid plans for a MLS franchise. The club play their home games at WakeMed Soccer Park.

They are currently in 4th place and are enjoying a pretty sound season. Former Oldham defender Paul Black regularly starts for the side and may well feature against the Swans. The club attracted a record attendance of over 10,000 during a pre-season game against West Ham last summer with the game finishing 2-2.

Friday 2 June 2017

Liverpool win marks the turning point of Swans' survival bid

Despite a turbulent campaign, it was a pretty sound end for the Swans and to be honest, we’re already missing the Premier League. And whilst we can’t wait for next season, there’s still a long way to go with pre-season and a transfer window to get through first. For pre-season, Paul Clement’s men will head to America to take on Philadelphia Union, Richmond Kickers and North Carolina on the East Coast, as well as a game against Birmingham City at St. Andrews.

But before we delve into the Swans’ pre-season plans and discuss their opponents, we decided to look back on the season and highlight the turning point.

Undoubtedly, the Swans’ turnaround came with the arrival of Paul Clement. Having already sacked Francesco Guidolin and Bob Bradley after two pretty disastrous tenures, it was vital that the Swansea hierarchy got the next appointment right otherwise their Premier League status would be no more. And you have to hand it them because they did, they got it spot on.

Clement watched his first game as Swansea boss from the stands as they claimed a hard fought 2-1 victory away to Crystal Palace. The win took the Swans from the bottom of the table and up one place. However, no more than one league game later, Clement found his side back at the bottom following a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Arsenal. It was a demoralising defeat for Clement in what his first Premier League game for the club and fans can be forgiven for thinking “here we go again”.

Though to be fair to Clement and his troops, rather than dwelling on the defeat, they dusted themselves down and delivered a resilient and spirited display against Liverpool. Their resilience and determination duly paid off as they ran out 3-2 winners at Anfield, that was the ultimate turning point for the Jacks. They showed they had the ability and quality to beat the top sides and needed to continue doing so.
Fernando Llorente and Gyfli Sigurdsson were in fine form and Clement was getting the best out of his two star players, with Llorente grabbing a brace and Sigurdsson netting the winner. The latter was the star of the show yet again in the following game as he scored another winner in a 2-1 home win over Southampton. The Swans were finally out of the relegation zone and two points clear of 18th place.

The Swans then won just one of their three games in February but did put up a good fight away to both Chelsea and Man City. Heading into March they were still clear of the drop and a 3-2 win over Burnley helped take them five points clear. Though that was as good as things got for the Swans in March as they lost to Bournemouth and Hull before picking up five points in April, including a respectable draw away to Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.

May was set to be a huge month for the Jacks and they started off in 18th place, something special was needed. And something special was delivered. Kicked off by beating Everton 1-0 thanks to a Llorente header, Clement’s men followed up by beating a sorry Sunderland 2-0 at the Stadium of Light to secure survival and another year of Premier League football. The Swans ended the season on a high at the Liberty by beating West Brom 2-1 to finish 15th and five games unbeaten.