Friday, 21 November 2014

How do you fill a Wilf-shaped hole?

With Bony’s Ivory Coast qualifying for the African Cup of Nations, do we find ourselves with a striker crisis? Josh Kilmister takes a look...




Ivory Coast international Wilfried Bony will, if all goes to plan for the Ivory Coast, miss all of our games from January 17th to February 8th - missing three league games against Chelsea, Southampton and Sunderland. One question on everybody’s mind is whether Monk has any plans to bring in someone to fill the huge gap that Wilf will leave; who will he bring in and what sort of contract will they be offered?

It’s always been inevitable that Bony would be travelling with The Elephants to the tournament. They really are a fantastic team, and it wouldn’t surprise me if come mid-February we have a African Cup of Nations winner spearheading our attack. I can almost guarantee that Monk has been looking at a possible stand-in for a number of months. So, what options does he have?

Firstly, there’s the possibility of bringing Michu back. If the Italian media are correct, then Napoli are keen to get Michu back to South-Wales as soon as possible. Failing to set the Serie A alight with the form he showed in his first season in Swansea, if we wanted him back I’m almost certain we could get him; but we won’t. 

The truth to the matter is that Michu is still very much struggling with the ankle injury that all but ended his goal scoring stint in the Premier League, so calling him back just to add to our outgoings in wages seems pointless; especially considering that Bony’s new contract almost certainly includes a pay rise! Monk has already made it blatantly clear that he has no intentions of bringing back the Spaniard, claiming that he hasn’t even read the terms of the loan deal. 

With all that in mind, don’t be expecting our now second all time Premier League top scorer to make a return. Then there’s the option of promoting someone from our Under 21 system. We’ve already seen the likes of Modou Barrow make an impact in the first team, but is he good enough to fill in? Personally, I think he is. It’s almost fact that Gomis will be our starting striker for the games that Bony will miss meaning that Barrow, along with Emnes, would be our backup options. Rory Donnelly is another option. 

Featuring in pre-season for a number of seasons now, the Irish born striker has struggled with injury of late but might be back for the time Bony will miss. Donnelly has little to no Premier League experience, but is very highly thought of by Monk and Co. Perhaps the most sensible and most likely option is to bring someone in on loan in the upcoming January transfer window. Monk has hinted that this is what will happen, and it might even be someone who we would look to bring in permanently in the summer. 

If this is the case, then I can only assume that we would go for someone a little bit different to what we currently have in our squad. Monk has already stressed that he wants his team to be able to go into a game with numerous styles of play available, and with two strikers with many similar attributes this could prove difficult. For me, a loan deal would be brilliant. As much as I very much doubt Gomis will be pushed out of a starting place with Bony absent, it’s always nice to have a backup option. 

However, I’m equally sure that someone like Modou Barrow has the ability to come off the bench and make an impact every week, as he did against Arsenal. One thing I am sure of though is that whatever happens in our latest transfer saga, for the month of January, I am a proud Ivory Coast fan!

Thanks as usual to Josh for this latest piece. Give him a follow on Twitter @JoshKilmister

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Three key battles that will decide Man City v Swansea

Nathan Lewis takes a look at three potentially significant matchups ahead of Saturday's game at Man City


Wilfried Bony v Eliaquim Mangala

In terms of goalscoring exploits, Wilfried Bony started the season rather slowly. While his performances were solid, if unspectacular, the Ivorian couldn’t quite find his shooting boots. Importantly, he has found the net a few times, but is yet to hit the sparkling form in which he finished last season. It is against Mangala, who has struggled for fitness in the last week and hasn’t exactly shone in the Manchester defence, that Wilf has a chance to impose himself.



With Kompany unlikely to play on Saturday, Mangala is without his captain beside him, which could unnerve him in going up against the strength and physicality of Bony.

Sergio Aguero v Ashley Williams


Man City’s feisty Argentinian frontman has scored 12 goals in the league so far from just 9 starts, making him this season’s current top scorer. Swans fans will vividly remember his Man City debut, where he scored twice in our first Premier League match, condemning us to a 4-0 opening-day defeat. Aguero has hardly stopped scoring since and is vital to the way Man City play, acting as a target man as well as providing many clinical finishes.


Keeping Sergio under control will be the remit of Ashley Williams, who is not one to fear a physical battle. If Ash can match the physicality of Aguero, and prevent the Argentinian striker from finding himself through on goal, then Swansea will be a long way towards keeping a clean sheet.

Gylfi Sigurdsson v Fernando

Sigurdsson has been the main creative outlet of the Swans this season, providing Wilfried Bony with plenty of chances, as well as creating a few for himself. On a few occasions, Gylfi has been kept quiet, most notably in the Chelsea match. At Stamford Bridge, the Icelander’s creative spark was dampened largely by the pressure applied by Chelsea holding man Nemanja Matic.

The Serb seemed to pop up next to Gylfi whenever he got the ball, and was able to prevent his opponent from taking control in the Chelsea half. Brazilian defensive midfielder Fernando will most likely be the man tasked with keeping a lid on Sigurdsson. If Gylfi can escape the clutches of his marker, he has the ability to dictate play, and provide plenty of ammunition for the more attacking players in Swansea’s line-up.

Nathan provides a weekly look back at our last four fixtures versus upcoming opponents - make sure to check back ahead of the Man City game to see what he's got to say. Give him a follow on Twitter @NathDavidLewis

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Bony signs contract extension! South Wales rejoices!

Well, South West Wales anyway...




Swansea have just announced that star striker Wilfried Bony has penned an extension to his contract, which now runs until 2018 - news which will undoubtedly have been well received by Swansea City fans in South Wales & beyond. 

Bony has become a cult figure at the club, and after announcing himself with a spectacular second half to last season he's looking like a player on the up. Four goals so far this season in nine starts (working out at about 0.5 goals per game when you look at minutes played) is as good a goal return as you'll get out of anyone who isn't Suarez, Messi, Ronaldo or Aguero in a top league in Europe, and the fact that he's obviously capable of performing better in front of goal than he has so far this season leaves you wondering just how good Wilf can be.

“It’s great news for the club. I’ve spoken a lot about what Bony has brought to the club not just on the pitch but off it as well.  These types of players are ones that we do our best to keep at the club for a long time, but it’s also important that we see commitment from that player towards the club, his team-mates and the fans.  
“Bony has shown that he is very committed to this club by signing an extension here. When we talk about the future and progressing it can’t be just talk – there has to be commitment from myself, the players and the club.  Bony has bought into the direction the club wants to take. He is a big player for us so to tie down his future is fantastic news for everyone connected with the club.  
“I’m sure the fans will be more than happy with the extension. For them to see a big player, who they have a lot of affection for, tie down his future with their club is something they will thoroughly enjoy hearing about.” Garry Monk
http://www.swanseacity.net/news/article/bony-new-contract-2092368.aspx#zQJGQaRYAZhU45bs.99

Monk is most definitely right - I thoroughly enjoyed hearing this news. Wilf apparently completed the paperwork whilst away on international duty with Ivory Coast, and I can't wait for him to get back and start firing in the goals for us. While we're talking about international duty, Ivory Coast today qualified for the ACON by drawing against Cameroon, so we'll likely be without Wilf in the new year for a good spell, which means Gomis will definitely get a good run in the team too.

In the meantime, we've got Manchester City this weekend, and they're likely to be without their defensive talisman Vincent Kompany. Granted a win is unlikely, but we've already won in Manchester once this season and City are far from the imperious free-scoring side they previously were under Pellegrini.

One last note would be that Wilf's new contract surely doesn't have the kind of release clause which gave us so much bother over the summer. He knows if we get a fair bid we'd let him go, but the beauty of the new contract being signed is we won't be forced into selling below his value. 

A value which would increase significantly if he was to score the winner at the Etihad...

Alan Tate spotted...in Tanzania?!

Swansea favourite is to leave this summer, but he'll undoubtedly appreciate that 6,729 miles away there's a gardener wearing a Swansea shirt bearing his name




When Alan Tate first made his debut for Swansea we were battling relegation to the Conference, and money was so tight the owners were paying tradesmen in season tickets in a bid to keep the club afloat, and the stadium safe. 

Fast forward ten years and we're sitting in fifth in the Premiership - quite a remarkable rise which has been well documented, and with an increase in stature comes an inevitable increase in exposure. Especially with the global reach of the Premier League.

Back to Tate, and he has already been in the news this week when it was revealed he'd be leaving this summer (link), so to see photos of a gardener wearing a shirt bearing his name in far off Tanzania really made my day. I'm sure Tate never expected to see his name in such far flung locations. 

They show Swansea fan Alex Graham, currently volunteering at the Newlands Orphanage near Moshi, Tanzania, with local gardener Richard - who's clearly a fan of the Swansea hero. Who'd have thought that around twelve years after Tate made his first appearance for the Swans, our reach as a club would be this broad? 

I have no idea how he came to possess the shirt (Alex's post to Facebook didn't elaborate), but I for one was very pleased to see someone so far away rocking Tatey's name across their back. We don't know where Tate will be playing next year, but he'll forever hold a place in the hearts of Swansea fans.

As mentioned, Alex is currently volunteering in Tanzania, working with Newlands Orphanage. They're just short of their target in terms of donations, and it would be great if we could help raise the last bit of money they need to provide clean drinking water to the children there. You can donate to the project by clicking here: link




Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Tatey to leave this summer - Tate's Best Swansea Moments

Club stalwart is currently on loan at Crewe, and will not be getting a new contract when his current deal expires in the summer 


Alan Tate. As it says on the t-shirt - he'll always be a Jack.



Few players at Premier League clubs mean as much to the fans of that club as Alan Tate means to Swansea City fans. While Leon Britton is perhaps now in a league of one for his contribution on the pitch (in terms of longevity, and excusing his silly decision to go to Sheffield United), Alan Tate is very much up there with the diminutive midfielder in the hearts of the Jack Army, and along with Garry Monk, Lee Trundle and now Ashley Williams & Angel Rangel he can rest easy, knowing the level of affection he imbues from Swansea fans is completely warranted.

This is why, when I read quotes from Tatey today confirming he'd leave this summer, it made me very sad. I understand that he's too young to simply slip into a backroom role at the Swans (plus I don't know whether that's something he'd even be interested in), and that he's still clearly capable of playing football at a high level, but it still pains me to think that we're unlikely to ever see him pull on the white shirt of Swansea City again. 

"I've spoken to the manager (Steve Davis) briefly about it. He asked me what my plans were when the loan finishes and plans for next season. I'm open to offers. I'll be leaving Swansea in the summer, so it's down to me. But Crewe will be the front-runners because I'm here and I'm enjoying it. If I wasn't, then it would be different." Alan Tate
https://www.clubcall.com/swansea-city/tate-confirms-exit-1747828.html?

I remember when he first came to us as a fresh-faced youngster, full of the pomp you'd expect from a Manchester United loanee playing in the old Third Division (or was it League Two by then? My memory fails me...). For a good while Alan Tate was definitely one of our most technically gifted players, and his first touch and short passing was, compared to most of our other players, very good indeed. It's no wonder we wanted to retain him, and the rest - as they say - is history. 

I thought a fitting tribute to Alan Tate's Swansea City career would be to put together a collection of his finest (and possibly not-so-finest) moments. See if you agree, and if you've got any memories/favourite moments that slipped my mind get in touch in the comment section!

Scoring a wonder-volley against Tranmere


This needs no further explanation. Just a video:



What a finish! It's worth mentioning that at this point I'm realising that if you were to put together a "Top Three Memorable Alan Tate Moments" piece (as I've essentially done here), that the next two in the list of memorable moments aren't necessarily entirely positive. But, in the interest of fairness, I'll soldier on regardless.

"The Golf Buggy Incident"


After captaining the Swans in our first ever Premier League match (away at Man City), Tate dropped to the bench for the next two games, before suffering a serious leg break in an incident where a golf buggy crashed into a tree. No further details ever emerged, but here's an artist's impression of what the scene may or may not have looked like after the incident.



"The Flag Incident


Definitely the most infamous incident of recent times, Alan Tate & Lee Trundle were pictured holding up a Welsh flag with a naughty word on it in reference to our Championship cousins Cardiff. Should I post the photo? Well, I've always said I'd keep the site profanity-free, so here's a link to the image for those that haven't seen it (link). It's not safe for work! Well depending where you work I suppose...

Well, there you have it. My "top three memorable Alan Tate moments" - perhaps not the "best" moments of his career by any means, but three moments that fans will remember for a long time to come. 

Do you agree with the top 3 memorable moments? What would yours be? Get in touch in the comment section below!

Monk’s Merry Men Are Making Waves

The Swansea Way's London Correspondent Andrew McGlashan on the season thus far


Lukasz Fabianski has been making waves for Swansea this season


With almost a third of the season in the books, I thought it would be useful to have a mini review of our performance to date and what our expectations can be for the remainder of the season. To kick this off, I thought a little summary of this season’s highs and lows so far would be just the ticket:

Highs

  • Wins against United (at Old Trafford – again!), Arsenal and Everton (finally!)
  • Monk winning Manager of the Month 
  • THAT free kick from Siggy against Arsenal followed by THAT celebration from Gomis 
  • Having the second best defensive record in the Premier League
  • Gylfi Sigurdsson – enough said
  • We have a team spirit again! 
  • 5th in the table


Lows

  • An incredible amount of terrible decisions (Moses penalty, Fernandez and Rangel red cards and that Alcaraz “save” to name only a few)
  • Conceding late against Newcastle when three points seemed in the bag
  • Losing to Southampton having battered them before the Bony red card
  • Bowing out to Liverpool in the League Cup when another trip to Wembley seemed possible


As you can see the highs are outnumbering the lows and I had far more highlights I could have included. Therefore, upon review, I think the Jack Army can be very pleased with the season so far. 

So what are our expectations now for Monk’s Merry Men? Well pre-season I wrote an article that pretty boldly predicted we finish 8th this season. I think it’s fair to say I took a little bit of stick for this and the majority of comments I received were along the lines of “don’t be stupid, I’ll bite your hand off for 12th position again”. Now I can see where people were coming from as it was Monk’s first full season, we’d had quite a bit of squad rotation and it is the Premier League we are playing in after all. 

However, we are now four months on and I am going to stick to my guns - although I must admit I did not see Southampton having the start they have had (who did?!). Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham currently sit below us but I’m not sure it is a guarantee that all three of them will overtake us - European football is clearly taking its toll on these sides, as it did with us last season having to play mid-week across various parts of Europe. In particular, Spurs are looking very poor and you have to wonder what Ben and Vorm are thinking at this point in time as neither of them are playing in the league. 

Elsewhere, West Ham, Stoke and Newcastle are in good form but I just believe we have a better team than them. I say this because I don’t think these teams, along with the rest of the bottom half of the table:


  • have the firepower that we do in Bony, Gomis and Siggy;
  • possess the pace to unlock defences that we do with Dyer, Routledge and Montero (just ask Callum Chambers about the latter – I mean seriously, he mugged him right off); 
  • can retain possession like we can once we have Britton back playing with Ki (oh Leon how we love you); or
  • are as good defensively.


Out of these four points I want to quickly highlight our defence this season. We have conceded only 11 goals in the league, four or which came against Chelsea at the Bridge. That means we have conceded 7 goals in the 10 other league games we have played. That is incredible. Ash and Fernandez are forming quite the partnership and Fabianski has been as good as we all hoped he might be [and considering Ash has already had three different partners at centre-back this season it makes it even more remarkable - Ed]. In particular, Fabianski's ability to claim crosses has been a difference maker and something which we unfortunately were not used to with the smaller Vorm in between the sticks. 

As the season goes on I can only see our defence getting better as they continue to get used to playing with each other. Of course luck with injuries will be key here, especially given our lack of depth at full back - that back four looks very different if Rangel or Taylor were to get injured. Further, I think we can expect more goals from Bony, who is still yet to hit the heights of the second half of last season, and Gomis who has now registered his first league goal. I’m also excited to see how Montero progresses as he’s been very up and down. If he can find some consistency, and the back of the net a few times, then we could have a very special winger on our hands.

Taking all of this into account, my ever optimistic self thinks we can reasonably expect a top ten position at least, which would still be yet another successful season. Combine this with a good run in the FA Cup (although don’t expect a home draw for us as usual) and we’ll all be as happy as that chap Larry from Skewen going into the summer. A summer which may well be spent looking at prices of travelling to France for Euro 2016 – c’mon Wales!!

Hopefully after reading this you are excited about the rest of the season as I am - although having Man City away on Saturday is a test of my optimism and we have lost all three of our previous games following an international break. However, a Man City team without Kompany and Silva are a different beast so I’m going for a score draw and the sound of Hymns and Arias filling the Etihad at full time. 

Finally, as with any review, the all-important grade. I’m going for an A and a request for "more of the same please, Garry!"

Thanks to Andrew as ever for his latest piece - give him a follow on Twitter @AJMcGlashan. I'd have to agree with his assessment for our season thus far, and that it warrants an "A" grade! If you had to grade the Swans so far, what would you give them?

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The rebirth of Gylfi Sigurdsson

Icelandic playmaker has reveled in the tactical consistency afforded him this season. Which should be no surprise...



Gylfi Sigurdsson celebrates his equaliser against Arsenal with Jefferson Montero

Once upon a time the Swans had just been promoted to the Premiership, and after a sticky start Danny Graham had started firing goals in on a regular basis. He was always unlikely to be considered a long-term option though, and in January once the transfer window had opened Gylfi Sigurdsson was signed on loan from Hoffenheim for the remainder of the season, to assist Graham in the aim of firing the Swans to safety. 

He went on to impress massively for the Swans - his range of passing and eye for goal were (and still probably are) markedly better than anyone else in our midfield, but that was the Gylfi of then. What of the Gylfi of now? After an ill-fated spell at Spurs - one of a growing number of footballing horror stories which show that you are, in terms of your career at least, not necessarily best served by going to a "big club" for a massive paycheque - he's once again blossoming at the Swans, but this time around he's a much, much more complete player.

When I think back to Gylfi under Brendan Rodgers I think of a player either pinging a longish pass into space, or striding onto the ball on the edge of the area before dispatching a cultured finish goalwards. While that hasn't entirely changed when you compare this with his performances so far this season, his game is so, so different, and the main change is just how good he now is at pressing the opposition defence.

Anyone who's seen the Swans play with Gylfi at attacking midfield this season will surely have noticed the Icelander's work-rate. He covers so much ground I'm amazed he can find the energy to do anything else - never mind find the time to score twice and lay on another seven goals - and the way the team shape shifts as we defend really is testament to his tactical prowess. 

Traditionally you have someone at the back organising team shape and keeping everyone in line, and we do indeed have that player in Ashley Williams. What we also have now though is someone doing that further up the pitch, so that when we're attempting to retrieve the ball it's done with the same cohesion and purpose as when we're trying to stifle an opposition attack. If you're playing a pressing game and one person doesn't press the right space the whole system can be undone in one fell swoop, but with Gylfi leading the charge we've looked seriously good in terms of regaining the ball. With the second best defence in the league, the stats back that up. 

Jon Trew pointed out a while ago (link) that depending on where we are defending the team could either be described as a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1, and over the course of the season we're seeing this system being refined week on week. Key to it's success is Sigurdsson, as with him leading the defensive press it becomes obvious to the other players a) where they need to be pressing for maximum effect and b) that if they don't press as hard as Gylfi they're going to look like they're not working hard enough. Both of which aren't bad things.

This is all without really talking about his prowess in attack. As mentioned he's got two goals and seven assists, and would you bet against him getting more? The free-kick against Arsenal was just further evidence of his quality, and a really pleasing aspect to the goal was that you had the feeling it was coming. Gylfi's performances have been of such a high quality that it was only a matter of time before he stuffed one in from twenty-five yards, and I for one am glad he chose to do it against the Gunners. I'll bet Tom Carroll was too.

With over half the season still to play the sky is the limit for Sigurdsson. On top of his amazing domestic form he's also in scintillating form for Iceland - he really can do no wrong at the moment - and what's refreshing to see is that it's clearly a success borne of hard work and belief in a system. With the Bony/Sigurdsson partnership still finding it's feet I think it's reasonable to expect their goal returns to improve, and if that happens then who knows what we could achieve this season.