Wednesday 11 December 2019

Swansea's unbeaten away record ends in dismal fashion. What next?

Before last weekend, Swansea were the only side in the Championship boasting a 100% away record. Fast forward to Sunday evening and the Swans were licking their wounds after promotion-favourites West Brom heaped more misery on the Welsh side with a 5-1 drubbing.

Swansea have won just twice in ten games, falling out of the play-off spots and down to 11th in the process.

The contrast between the two sides could not have been starker as the Baggies taught Swansea a footballing lesson.

A Sam Surridge goal six minutes before half-time made it 2-1 before a Hal Robson-Kanu goal on 44 minutes restored West Brom's two-goal lead. Two further goals from the home side in the second-half, aided with some horrendous defensive lapses from the Swans, restored the Baggies' place at the top of the Championship.

That position could have been filled by Swansea a few months ago, but, after going on an eight-match winning run at the start of the season, Steve Cooper's men have failed to win in five games and with just three wins in 15 games, the pressure is on at the Liberty Stadium to pick up performances or risk dropping further down the table.

Of course, the injury to Joe Rodon hasn't helped at the back and that frailty was all too apparent at the Hawthorns with Ben Wilmot and Mike van der Hoorn experiencing horror shows. In fact, only Sam Surridge appeared to cause West Brom any trouble - a feature which Cooper will want to address ahead of the busy Christmas schedule.

Livewire Bersant Celina hasn't played in recent weeks with George Byers preferred to support lone striker Sam Surridge, but recent results may influence Cooper to change things.

Swansea host Blackburn Rovers tonight and it will be interesting to see if Cooper changes things or sticks with the same side that was battered by West Brom. Plus, with the January transfer window just round the corner, there may well be some new blood required.

Thursday 28 November 2019

What do Swansea need in January to reignite promotion hopes?

Swansea's recent run of results of two draws and one loss have highlighted just how competitive the second tier of British football is.

And, currently in danger of dropping out of the Championship play-offs, the Swans certainly need some new impetus in the New Year. But, in which positions?

Six time-capped England Under-21s international and loanee star Freddie Woodman is excelling in goal. No wonder then that his parent club Newcastle United did not allow the youngster to permanently leave and tied him to a contract until the end of 2021.

In defence it's another story; the injury to Mike van der Hoorn in Swansea's draw at Huddersfield affected the Swans greatly. And, despite youngster Ben Cabango coming in for some high praise on his first league appearance, the injury opened up a can of worms.

Joe Rodon has already been sidelined for months with an ankle injury and van der Hoorn's sidelining has highlighted the defensive frailties within the squad. Cabango has stepped in admirably, but being thrust into the limelight in a pivotal part of the season as the Christmas period approaches, is probably not what boss Steve Cooper had in mind.

Swansea have no issues on the right or left side of defence wiith Kyle Naughton and Connor Roberts rotating marvelously on the right and Jake Bidwell and Declan John performing admirably on the left.

Last year, the absence of Leroy Fer meant that Swansea lacked that engine-type player, the one that thrives playing in the gruelling Championship. And, since his transfer to Feyenoord, the Welsh club are perhaps missing the "hard man" in midfield.

One thing is certain, though, Cooper is blessed with wingers and strikers. Nathan Dyer, Wayne Routledge, Kristoffer Peterson, Jordon Garrick, Bersant Celina and even Andre Ayew have all tinkered in the wide positions in 2019. Plus, Celina, Yan Dhanda, George Byers and Aldo Kalulu have excelled in the "playmaker" role.

Ayew and Borja Baston have been superb up front too; the duo have been involved in 17 goals in the Championship so far with back-up Sam Surridge scoring five himself. Whilst Swansea have been linked with other forwards, it would not be a disaster if Cooper continued with the same frontmen.

So, the goalkeeper issue seems to have been sorted and with widemen and forwards in abundance, Swansea have a tremendous basis from which to mount their Premier League charge. A defender and midfielder are perhaps, however, imperative if the Swans want to reach the top tier, two seasons after falling into the Championship.

Monday 18 November 2019

Swansea set for six-way battle for Australian ace

With the January transfer window rapidly approaching, clubs are on the hunt for new recruits that can steer them towards promotion or survival. Luckily for Swansea, the Welsh side are in the first bracket and they have set their sights towards Livingston striker Lyndon Dykes.

Who is he? Well, Lyndon Dykes is an Australian-born forward. His footballing career has so far taken him to Scotland to Australia and back again with the powerful forward finally settling at the Scottish Championship club Queen of the South in 2016 where he netted ten times in 86 league appearances and nine times in 31 cup appearances.

His form precipitated a move to Scottish Premiership club Livingston in January 2019 - an agreement in which Dykes would be loaned back to the Dumfries club to end the 2018-19 season at Palmerston Park, scoring a further three goals in 15 appearances.

Since moving to Livingston, the striker has netted five times and registered two assists in 14 appearances, including one in the West Lothian's side's famous victory over Celtic in October. Despite the attention of many English and Welsh clubs, Dykes signed a new contract with Livingston in September until the end of the 2022 season.

But, in football, contracts can often mean little and Dykes is now subject to a huge amount of rumour surrounding his future. And, it's claimed that Livingston may choose to cash in in January when the transfer window re-opens.

South Wales seems to be on red alert as Swansea's main rivals Cardiff also appear to be monitoring the 24-year-old. But these two are not alone either as six Championship clubs are believed to be keen on making a move, with Middlesbrough, Bristol City, Derby and Blackburn among Dykes' suitors.

Though able to play in a number of positions in the final third, mainly as the main striker, he has also operated on either wing and in the no.10 role.

Image result for lyndon dykes"
Dykes sporting silver hair
Yet, it's his disciplinary record that may deter some clubs. He has already accumulated five yellow cards this term, and was sent of in Livingston’s 3-1 defeat to Rangers in September.

It's not yet clear just how much cash it would take to prise the striker from Scotland to join a club in England or Wales, but for the time being, he is certainly one to look out for ahead of January with Swansea said to be keen on a player that throws up memories of an 'old school no.9'. 

Standing at 6ft 2ins and with the physique that rugby players would be proud of, the Australian powerhouse possesses fearsome aerial strength and hold up play that allows him to bully his opponents. He would surely fit in in the second tier of English football, it just remains to be seen who wants him the most.

Wednesday 13 November 2019

Daniel James transfer to Leeds United "not right" according to Huw Jenkins

It was one of the biggest transfer sagas in not only Swansea's recent history, but the whole of the 2019 January transfer market.

Daniel James came close to joining Leeds
James pictured with a Leeds United shirt before his transfer fell through at the 11th hour.

But, despite having completed a medical at Leeds United ahead of a loan move until the end of the 2018/19 campaign - which would have been made permanent had Leeds gained promotion - Daniel James and Leeds were left high and dry by Swans chairman Huw Jenkins.

Jenkins - who left his job as Swansea chairman just two days after the transfer following 17 years at the club - appeared willing to sign the deal off until the last minute, ignoring phone calls from an increasingly frustrated Elland Road office.

It was after 2pm when the call came granting James permission to start a medical at Leeds United on deadline-day and make good his transfer from Swansea City. In fact, the winger arrived in Yorkshire as early as possible, having driven all the way from Wales to sign on the dotted line.

The 22-year-old winger was identified as a winger that could help propel Leeds back into the Premier League after a 15-year absence. And, in the Leeds United documentary Take Us Home - which shows United's 2018/19 campaign under Marcelo Bielsa - James was actually pictured holding up a Leeds shirt with both the player and club believing the transfer was all-but completed.

United had attempted to get their man in the days before, but Swansea's board had remained resilient. What began as a £5m up-front offer from United became a loan to the end of this season with a commitment from Leeds to sign James for a fee in excess of £5m if they won promotion from the Championship.

In fact, a loan fee was necessary to bring negotiations to a close. Having agreed to it, Leeds finally felt their man would come through the door.

James passed a medical in good time at Thorp Arch - Leeds' training complex - and was driven to Elland Road around 6pm on deadline-day to complete the paperwork and go through the process of media interviews and photographs.

But Leeds were met with silence with two hours to go until the deadline. Complicating proceedings, Swansea's relegation had already seen the loss of players, but with the likes of Wilfried Bony, Jefferson Montero and Leroy Fer seemingly set for the exit on deadline day, Jenkins pulled the plug on James' departure, fearing mutiny from the Swansea faithful.

And, he has now explained why.

“I communicated with everybody at Leeds on the phone, back and forth, and I am sure they put Dan on to me as well.

“They were all trying to convince us to do the deal but I just felt from a club’s point of view, based on value and based on Graham’s (Potter) success, it wasn’t right.

"I thought, second half of the season, as it proved, he’d have a big impact for the club. Dan was just coming into his own.

"I did give Dan my views. He had no guarantee of going straight into the Leeds team, and the uncertainty over whether they would buy him or not is not a good thing for a young player. Take all that into account and there was only one decision to be made. Thankfully, it worked out well for the football club and for Dan.”

James returned to Swansea unhappy, but continued to ply his trade in Wales before Manchester United came in for him in the summer, paying £15m, rising to £18m with add-ons applied.

That, of course, benefitted Swansea to a much greater extent than letting James leave for one of their promotion rivals for a third of that price.

And, with pace to burn and a willingness to attack, James has already enamoured himself to the Old Trafford faithful.

The curious case of Barrie McKay

Barrie McKay - the seemingly forgotten man at Swansea.

The Scottish international was one of former boss Graham Potter's six summer signings in 2018 and went on to feature in 31 of the Swans' games last season. But, under new head coach Steve Cooper, McKay has made just three appearances and all of these have been in the Carabao Cup. Even then, the winger has appeared for only a combined 120 minutes.

So, what's happened to the former Rangers flyer?

The 24-year-old hasn't been included in a match-day squad since the 2-1 defeat to Watford in the Carabao Cup back in September while his only appearance in an 18-man Championship squad was when he was an unused substitute for the opening day win against Hull City.

Even though the Scot performed decently under Potter - including a superb goal away at Bolton as well as a number of important assists - McKay is far from a loved footballer at the Liberty Stadium with Cooper at the helm.

Though regularly played out of position at Swansea with Bersant Celina favoured in the No.10 role, McKay has come in for stick from a swathe of the Swansea faithful.

The former Nottingham Forest winger should have been well on his way to staking a claim for a wing position with the departures of Daniel James, Luciano Narsingh and Jefferson Montero in the summer, but, he has instead become even more of a peripheral figure at the Liberty Stadium as the Swans hit promotion form in the first part of the 2019/20 campaign.

McKay has seen his route to the first team blocked by the return of Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer to the side, both of whom have been impressive in recent weeks whilst the previously outcast Andre Ayew and Celina have been found operating in wide roles also.

Image result for wayne routledge and nathan dyer"
Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge have performed well for Swansea.

In fact, McKay has found himself even further down the pecking order with the likes of Aldo Kalulu and Kristoffer Peterson getting more game time as the season progresses. And, even when Celina has played out on the left, George Byers and Yan Dhanda have been preferred to McKay in the central role behind the lone striker.

With options appearing increasingly limited at the Liberty Stadium, the Scot cuts an ever-depressing figure. Though contracted until summer 2021, McKay is surely likely to leave if he doesn't get a chance, especially when considering he has even been relegated to the Under-23s of late.

It's sad to see the decline of a talented footballer, but sometimes players just don't fit at certain clubs. McKay's quandary seems exactly that.

Wednesday 6 November 2019

Former boss Paulo Sousa believes he was the one that harnessed the Premier League dream

In a bizarre turn of events, former Swansea head coach Paulo Sousa has hit out at the club's "very poor" facilities and claims he was the man that made Brendan Rodgers' Premier League achievement possible.

The Portuguese head coach - who is now in charge of French Ligue 1 side Bordeaux - guided the Swans to within a whisker of the play-offs during the 2009-10 Championship season, but the Welsh dream collapsed on the final day as a draw against Doncaster Rovers meant that Blackpool leapfrogged Swansea into the final play-off spot in sixth.

Sousa had initially travelled to UK shores in 2008 to become QPR boss after a stint as assistant coach of the Portuguese national side, but a less-than ceremonious end to his stint in White City and Roberto Martinez' departure to Wigan opened the door for Sousa to join the Welsh club.

Sousa departed Swansea in July 2010 to take up the vacant managerial position at Leicester City, but won just one game from nine in charge and was sacked nearly three months later.

Whilst Sousa's England career nosedived, Swansea reached the promised-land of the Premier League the year after under Brendan Rodgers. A seven-year stay in the top tier followed with the club currently rebuilding for another charge.

But, despite Sousa failing at the final hurdle in his only year in charge at the Liberty Stadium, the Portuguese has insisted he was the one that changed things for the better.

"Huw Jenkins realised that my type of football and my knowledge of the English league during the months I was at QPR were enough to be the right coach to continue the ideas he had in mind to reach the best results with Swansea." Sousa stated.

"And they were the best results, at the time, of the last 27 years. We were one point away from the play-offs, and then, with a little more investment and the improvement of all the game processes, it ended up happening with Brendan Rodgers."

Though Swansea's rise to the Premier League bankrolled the ability to create a new state-of-the art facility at Fairwood as well as the club's now-lauded youth system, that hasn't always been the case and Sousa was quick to point that out.

"Swansea’s facilities were very poor at the time. We had a training ground that, when it rained — and it rains almost every day there — would get flooded and we would go to an indoor of maybe 40 by 60 metres, with synthetic grass from the first generations."

Whether or not Sousa's comments are well-founded, Swansea were a fourth-tier side in danger of relegation to the Conference six years before the Portuguese took over. That kind of history must have been known before Sousa took the job. Perhaps it's just bitterness that Rodgers completed what Sousa could not.

Swansea in the race for Liverpool starlet Rhian Brewster

Reports suggest that Swansea City are among a number of clubs tracking Liverpool ace Rhian Brewster.

A possible loan signing is on the cards, but the Swans are facing competition from Crystal Palace, Bristol City and clubs in Germany.

Image result for rhian brewster signs new contract

The 19-year-old burst onto the scene at the Under-17s World Cup in 2017, scoring eight times to be crowned the competition's top-scorer as England took home the title in impressive fashion.

Though other clubs are reportedly interested in Dagenham-born Brewster, Swansea's links with Liverpool may well tip the balance in the Welsh club's favour.

Head coach Steve Cooper - a former Liverpool Academy Coach - steered England to Under-17 World Cup success with Brewster performing superbly under his guidance.

Image result for rhian brewster england world cup

Assistant Mike Marsh also has links to Merseyside having won the FA Cup in a playing period of six years at Anfield.

Highly-rated at Anfield, Brewster signed a five-year contract with the Reds in July 2018, despite being injured with an ankle ligament injury, and made his senior debut in their 2-0 Carabao Cup victory over MK Dons in September.

A full 90 minutes in Liverpool's classic 5-5 draw and penalty success against Arsenal highlighted the faith boss Jurgen Klopp has in the youngster, despite the likes of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah in front of him.

 But, in regular league games, as Klopp attempts to steer Liverpool to their 19th English title, Brewster has found opportunities hard to come by which isn't exactly surprising considering the triumvirate mentioned above.

For boss Cooper, Brewster would add a goalscoring threat, with the club having sold Oli McBurnie to Sheffield United in the summer. Sam Surridge has come in on a season-long loan, scoring five goals in the season so far, but Brewster would add another dimension and experience of being in a Champions League-winning environment.

Image result for sam surridge swansea

Cooper also has Andre Ayew and Borja Baston to call on up-front and the pair have 11 goals between them in the Championship, so Cooper is not exactly desperate for another forward. And, Liverpool would surely ensure that Brewster heads for a club that will guarantee the youngster game time, something which, with three goalscoring forwards, may not be assured at Swansea.

Whether or not Cooper can ensure this remains to be seen, but who wouldn't want a breakthrough youngster from one of the top footballing sides in the world? If it can be done, the Swans could well cement their place in the play-off places at the right-end of the Championship table.