Thursday 15 June 2017

Fernando Llorente: Our Jack in Attack

Following our two-part blog on the players the Swans should retain, you may have noticed one player in particular that was missing. We’ve raved about Gylfi Sigurdsson’s influence last season but paid little to no attention to Fernando Llorente’s assertion. The Spaniard is the subject from a number of clubs including Chelsea and Manchester City but the Swans should only sell for silly money.

Llorente’s influence cannot go unnoticed and was just as important to the campaign Sigurdsson. The 32-year-old scored 15-goals and grabbed one assist as the Jacks fought to the end for their Premier League lives. The striker was one of the stand out performers under Paul Clement and has duly earned his plaudits.

Arriving from Sevilla for an undisclosed fee, Llorente was under pressure to prove his worth in the top flight and whilst he could have gone the same way as Borja Baston, he staked his claim as Swansea’s mains striker. One of Llorente’s best games came during Bob Bradley’s first win as Swans’ manager.

Llorente ran riot against a hapless Sunderland, bagging a brace and picking up the man of the match award. That said, Llorente’s best game came against Liverpool, the turning point of the Swans’ season following Clement’s appointment.
The former Barcelona man put the Swans 2-0 ahead at Anfield and helped to run Jurgen Klopp’s defence ragged as the Jacks eventually went on to win 3-2. Another win in which Llorente shined in was that 3-2 win over Burnley. A crunch tie for the Jacks having loomed at the bottom of the table for far too long, the Spaniard came through.

Our star man opened the scoring early in the game but just after the hour mark, the Swans were 2-1 one down. Still, Clement’s men stayed resilient and Martin Olsson was able to make it 2-2 no more than eight minutes later. Heading into injury time, the game looked set for a 2-2 draw but the Jacks weren’t prepared to give up that easily and who other than Llorente to smash home the winner? The Spaniard left the game with yet another brace and another man of the match accolade, scooping four of each in total across the course of the season.

Chelsea tried to sign Llorente in January but fortunately, the Spaniard stayed in South Wales. The main concern is losing Llorente on a free, the striker is only contracted to the summer of 2018, though if he does depart this summer, finding an adequate replacement could prove tricky. A move to Chelsea is more likely than a move to the Etihad, there has been concrete interest from the London club in the past and Llorente has played under Antonio Conte previously during his time at Juventus.
His 15 goals in 33 Premier League games (28 starts) averages at a goal almost every two games, thus it’s no surprise Chelsea want him on their books. With Diego Costa China bound, Llorente may be one of the players Conte eyes to fill the void left by his fellow countryman.

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Players Paul Clement Should Look to Keep: Part Two

Earlier this week we brought you the five Swans’ players that the club must hold on to and today we’re bringing you our second list of players.

Gylfi Sigurdsson, Tom Carroll, Martin Olsson, Alfie Mawson and Jack Cork headed that list but who will feature in today’s list?

Club stalwart Leon Britton simply must stay. The 34-year-old may have been limited to just 18 appearances last season but since he was restored to the side towards the end of last season, the Jacks took 13 points from five games, winning four and drawing one, a respectable point away to Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. That cannot go un-noted and his presence undoubtedly influenced that unbeaten run.

Prior to Britton’s arrival back in the squad, the Swans lacked speed in both their attacking and passing departments, watching the side trying to counter was beyond painful and any seemingly promising attacks were short-lived due to a sheer lack of clinical passing. However, Britton on the other hand, came in and once again demonstrated his ability to move ball around quickly and efficiently, linking up perfectly with Carroll. And not only is he great to have on the pitch, his off the field influence can also not go unnoticed, he’s a great head to have in the dressing room and we hope to see him hang up his boots at the Liberty having resided in South Wales for some 14-years.

Ki Sung-Yueng is a player who received mixed opinions and the South Korean international was the subject of interest from a number of Chinese clubs in January, however, rather than cash in on the midfielder, he should remain at the club. Granted, off the ball, Ki isn’t great and is far from the strongest or most physical player in the middle of the park but his passing attributes are second to none and he is the man who can make things happen. If you pardon the pun, he’s essentially the man with the keys, he can unlock attacks and support the forward line.
Another player Swansea should definitely retain, despite having a slow start, is Jordan Ayew. In the final few weeks of the Premier League campaign, the forward went from bit-part player to unsung hero. His Swans career was kicked off with a run of substitute appearances, the majority of which saw his teammates hoof the ball to him – great for 6ft4 Fernando Llorente, not so great for 5ft9 Ayew.

A change in system fell in Ayew’s favour, Paul Clement’s decision to switch with two strikers and a midfield diamond drastically changed the Jacks’ fate. Having two strikers allowed for a more versatile game plan and it mean the team was not too over reliant on Llorente’s frame, but could use it if needed. Ayew’s pace and ability to run the passage helped Clement’s side to widen their horizons, allowing them much more room for creativity in midfield.

In defence, Frederico Fernandez should be retained, whether it’s as a squad player or key player. Clement does need to add a centre-back to his ranks and Raul Albiol has been linked (that’s a story for another day), but Fernandez has proved his worth at the Liberty. The Argentinian formed an impressive partnership with Mawson and was part of that watertight defence that helped the Swans on that unbeaten run to clinch survival, conceding just two goals in five games.