Big Ben!

Posted in Swansea City with tags , , , on September 2, 2012 by Nigel Davies

Alright I know, I know…it was an obvious headline but hey, it’s absolutely appropriate after the way young Ben Davies stood tall yesterday afternoon having been thrown in at the deep end to replace the injured Neil Taylor.

Youth Academy product Davies has impressed greatly this season in less significant games, such as the Blackpool friendly, Capital One Cup clash with Barnsley and then in the Premier League for ten minutes against an already well beaten West Ham.

Yesterday though was an acid test for Davies, called upon early in proceedings with all to play for and up against a talented ten million pound winger in the shape of Adam Johnson…and the kid came through with flying colours!

In every appearance so far Davies has looked calm and composed in his defending and he’s slotted seamlessly into the Swans style of play – which is a huge credit to Tony Pennock and his coaches who have been instructed to implement the first team blueprint and have done so impressively.

What I’ve liked about Davies is that he hasn’t tried to “be a hero” or attempted to over impress…he’s been eager to go forward but never tempted to do too much, and when a simple ball has been required he’s delivered it with the minimum of fuss.

It’s also always a promising sign when a young and inexperienced player comes into a side full of senior pros and isn’t afraid to start bossing them about – that says a lot about Davies’s confidence and attitude.

There’s some fascinating stats courtesy of the We Are Premier League blog that show how comfortable Davies was on the ball with some impressive numbers for passing success rate and the number of times his teammates used him during that last twenty minutes when the Swans were down to ten men and it really would be worth clicking HERE to read through them.

Unfortunately it appears that everyone’s worst fears have been realised and Taylor has dislocated and broken his ankle in three places, a horror injury that will keep the full back out of the game for the rest of the season. It is a massive blow to the player and everyone here at “A Touch Far Vetched!” would like to wish Neil a speedy and successful recovery.

With the transfer window only slamming shut two days ago Taylor’s injury couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time for Michael Laudrup and he must now rely on the resources already at the club to plug the gap. It will be interesting to see whether in the short term the Dane shows ultimate faith in the potential of Davies or whether he goes for the safer option of Alan Tate.

There is of course the halfway house option of the still young but more experienced Jazz Richards who is more than capable of playing at left back or possibly on the opposite side with Rangel moving over but Laudrup has a reputation for giving young players a chance and I believe we’ll see a lot more of Ben Davies in the coming weeks and months.

And I for one am really looking forward to watching this prodigious young talent grow and develop on the first team stage!

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Rodgers Has Been Robbed!

Posted in "A Touch Far Vetched!" with tags on September 2, 2012 by Nigel Davies

Watching Brendan Rodgers perched on an advertising hoarding as his side loses to Arsenal has left me unable to resist uploading one of the Simmons Slot contributions from the new issue of “A Touch Far Vetched!” which went on sale yesterday…

Gutsy Swans Earn Point in Liberty Thriller

Posted in Football, Match Reports, Premier League, Swansea City with tags , , , , , on September 1, 2012 by Nigel Davies

Birthday Boy Neil “Spider’ Jones tells us the score…and grudgingly accepts a point after a breathtaking 2-2 draw

Swansea City fought back from being a goal down twice, a man down for twenty minutes and three officials down for ninety to claim a deserved point against Sunderland but it came at a cost as Neil Taylor was stretchered off and Chico Flores sent off in a frenetic fixture at the Liberty.

The result secures the Swans’ lofty position of second in the Premier League table for the next few weeks as we head into the international break still unbeaten under Michael Laudrup. But boy was that unbeaten record put to the test by an ugly Sunderland side and a set of officials struggling to keep their Stadium of Light season tickets hidden from sight!

Having said that about the referee and his two co-clowns…I mean assistants…we were the architects of our own doom for both Sunderland goals and Ashley Williams will find tonight’s Match of the Day uncomfortable viewing after a disastrous error led to the opening goal of the game.

It had been a fairly neutral start to the game, the Swans passing nicely without too much penetration of the Sunderland massed ranks and in return Sunderland offering very little in attack despite the £20 million additions of Steve Fletcher and Adam Johnson to their ranks.

Neutral gave way to nasty after quarter of an hour though as Neil Taylor sustained what looked to be a serious ankle fracture and after lengthy treatment on the pitch he was stretchered off and then taken to hospital.

Sadly a minority of the Sunderland fans decided to boo Taylor as he was carried from the field of play, in complete contrast to others in the away end who joined the Swans fans in rising to their feet and clapping the full back as he was stretchered off.

Taylor’s unfortunate injury meant another opportunity for rising starlet Ben Davies, fresh from his Man of the Match performance in midweek against Barnsley and it’s fair to say the youngster didn’t disappoint again, looking assured and composed throughout the game.

By this point it was pretty obvious we weren’t going to get much from the match day officials but it was a Sunderland player first to get booked, Craig Gardner forced to foul Wayne Routledge as the Swans upped that attacking pressure.

It was Sunderland’s turn to be forced into a change on the half hour mark as influential captain Lee Cattermole was forced to give in to a knock and he was replaced by David Meyler.

As the half went on it looked liked only a matter of time before the deadlock was broken…surprisingly though the breakthrough was made by the away side, who had barely threatened, and it all stemmed from a catastrophic error by the captain.

With the Swans stroking the ball about and no real danger, Ash Williams was left to watch in horror as his hashed back pass was collected by Sunderland debutant Fletcher, who made no mistake as he stroked the ball past an advancing Michel Vorm. It was a real howler and Williams was left lying in the box beating the turf in frustration.

Sunderland’s smugness lasted just five minutes though, the Swans equalising with the best goal of the game just as the stadium announcer announced the allotted injury time; another confident passing move saw the ball moved to Nathan Dyer and his glorious chipped ball was perfect for fellow winger Wayne Routledge and his finish into the roof of the net was emphatic!

But the Swans’ joy was short lived too as Sunderland regained the lead right at the end of that allotted injury time and the goal left the Liberty crowd absolutely furious with referee East. Having waved away the home side’s penalty claims for a suspected handball just minutes earlier, Mr East wasted little time rightly penalising Angel Rangel for the same offence as the Spaniard looked to prevent a Sunderland counter attack.

Amidst the howls of protest from the home fans Seb Larsson drove the free kick into the area and the ball eluded everyone except for Fletcher who bundled it over the line from two yards. The howls of protest went up a notch, not only at the award of the free kick but also the strong suspicion that Fletcher was off-side. None of it mattered a jot though and Sunderland went in ahead 2-1 at the break.

The second half started with the Swans on the front foot from the off, and hopes were high for an equaliser for in both previous league games the Swans have saved their best football for the second period.

With a narrow lead Sunderland had something to bite on though and a bank of five was protected by a bank of four as they sought to repel Swansea’s pass and move play. Britton blazed over in the box and Dyer had a shot well saved by Mignolet in the Sunderland goal as Laudrup’s pumped up side looked for a second equaliser.

It didn’t come in that opening period but what did come was a yellow card for Ashley Williams; it was another wobbly moment as the defender tried ducking too far forward to head a long Sunderland clearance on the halfway line and his fluffed effort only served to present Fletcher with the ball with plenty of clear grass to run into. In desperation Williams fouled his forward and the referee wasted no time in punishing the big defender for his error.

The Swans should have been level just after the hour mark; first De Guzman, having a fine game in midfield, saw a free kick parried by Mignolet who then had to rely on his defenders to stop the follow up effort going in. And then Michu headed De Guzman’s cross into the ground, the bounce taking it just over the Sunderland bar.

The Swans’ top scorer didn’t have to wait too much longer for his fourth goal in three games though. Once again a De Guzman delivery was met by Michu but this time it was a clean header that streaked into the net to bring the Swans deservedly level.

At this point there looked only one side that would go on to win the game for the Swans had been camped in the Sunderland half since the restart…but a moment of madness by Chico Flores changed the whole complexion of what was an absorbing – if prickly – contest.

French sicknote Luis Saha had come on to replace two goal Fletcher and there was some obvious niggle between him and Chico, the two swapping fouls on each other. And then a rush of blood to the head saw Chico attempt a high challenge which may or may not have caught Saha on the back of the head.

I have no idea if Chico connected or not as I didn’t see the challenge but by all accounts it was a high and rash challenge, made all the more mindless by the fact it was right out on the touchline, and Mr East probably felt he had no other option other than to produce a red card. 

Laudrup immediately responded by sacrificing Routledge and bringing on Alan Tate to plug the hole at the back, and then a few minutes later the manager showed his tactical acumen by bringing on Ki Sung-Yeung for Michu. And it was this substitution in particular that allowed the Swans to not only see out the remaining twenty minutes with 10 men but to look the more threatening over that period too.

Ki just oozes class and brought so much composure to the proceedings as the Swans channeled everything through him, keeping the ball for long periods and thus denying Sunderland the chance to hurt the 10 men.

There was time for one final nervy moment, Vorm messing about at the back and then serving the ball up on a plate for Sunderland’s final substitute Frasier Cambell but the striker was denied at the death by a trademark Alan Tate block. Had he scored it would have been a total injustice but just typical for us on a day where we inflicted our own damage in amongst a dominant display.

Verdict: A battling display and a precious point overshadowed by the injury to Taylor and the loss of Chico to the inevitable suspension. Despite only drawing I thought this was our best display yet – and but for two really soft errors it would have been a deserved three points from a very good performance. Laudrup will have learnt a lot from today though and he’ll be very pleased with the character and resilience on show from his side, just as the appreciative Liberty crowd was. All in all a well deserved point and a massively enjoyable game to watch as the Swans continue to impress at the top end of the table.

Man of the Match: Once again the two wingers were phenomenal, Dyer and Routledge combining beautifully for the best goal of the game and generally terrorising Sunderland all afternoon. A strong case could be made for Ben Davies to take the award – not easy for the lad coming on in those circumstances and up against some very good players on the Sunderland side. But my award this week goes to Jonathan De Guzman – I’ve tried dropping him twice in favour of Kemy Augustien but this was the Dutchman’s best game yet, an all-action performance that deserves to be recognised. Well played that man!

Beat the Black Cats and Top the Lot

Posted in Football, Match Previews, Premier League, Swansea City with tags , , , , on August 31, 2012 by Nigel Davies

Swansea City could cap an incredible week by going back to the top of the Premier League table tomorrow…but the Black Cats of Sunderland will have to beaten before the Swans can leap-frog Chelsea to reclaim top spot.

Current leaders Chelsea have played a game more than those around them and so sit out this weekend’s round of fixtures, and that means the Swans can grab top spot and keep top spot should they be successful against Sunderland – unless nearest rivals Everton record a freak win over West Brom to overturn a plus five inferior goal difference.

And with Michael Laudrup claiming the Liberty crowd is worth at least seven points to his side this season he will no doubt be thrilled with the news that the Swans will be backed by a record number of home fans after all 1,000 tickets returned by the opposition were sold to Swansea supporters hungry to see their side in top of the table Premier League action.

It has certainly been a big week at Swansea City with the club’s incoming transfer record broken not once but twice, a host of players leaving and progress in the League Cup maintaining an impressive unbeaten start to the season. Wow!

The capture of Ki Sung-Yeung at the start of the week has been eclipsed today with a deal for Valencia winger Pablo Hernandez finally pushed through for a reported £5.55million and with two hours to go before the closure of the transfer window at the time of writing this article…who’s to say the record won’t be broken again? 😉

Those two exciting captures have of course been offset by the departure of Scott Sinclair, Huw Jenkins once more donning his highwayman’s mask to secure a fee of up to £8million from Manchester City for the Wembley hat-trick hero. Andrea Orlandi, Fede Bessone and Curtis Obeng (loan) have all joined Sinclair in heading for the door marked Exit and there could well be more leaving before the night is out.

So how do all those comings and goings affect tomorrow’s game? Well it will be business as usual at the back, the experimental line up of Tuesday’s cup game at Barnsley making way for “The Usual Suspects” – Vorm, Rangel, Williams, Chico and Taylor – although there is a slight doubt over Chico who is reportedly still troubled by a groin problem. If the towering Spaniard fails to make it then Laudrup will be faced with a tough choice between Kyle Bartley and Alan Tate, both players impressing enough in midweek to stake a claim to deputise.

Out on the flanks it will again be Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge as new boy Hernandez hasn’t been included in the squad – but considering the damage Dyer and Routs have inflicted on their opposition this season it would be harsh if either of them had lost their place to accommodate the new record signing.

Once again it is in central midfield where the selection dilemmas exist: the free scoring Michu will start and it would be a major surprise if ‘Ickle Leon didn’t line up alongside him; but the so far hot and cold Jonathan De Guzman must surely feel threatened by the form of Kemy Augustien and the presence of previous record signing Ki Sung-Yeung. Thrown straight in on Tuesday Ki looked solid if not spectacular in a sometimes disjointed Swansea City performance whilst Kemy simply bossed the game and continued his excellent form so far this campaign. It will surprise no-one that Kemy would be my choice to start against the Cats.

Danny Graham will again lead the line with his position the only one that has a lack of options, although clearance has finally been received for striker Itay Shechter and the likelihood is that the Israeli international will take his place on the bench to provide some cover.

As for the opposition they have not exactly been quiet in the transfer market either, eyebrow raising moves for Steven Fletcher (Wolves) and Adam Johnson (Man City) dwarfing the Swans’ clever outlay on players. Both players will make their League debuts and there may be a third debutant in the shape of ex-Tottenham player Danny Rose, who might well start at left-back.

Rose won’t so much be in between two thorns as next to a Bramble of the Tight-arse variety, the formidable Carlos Cuellar and John O’shea with Simon Mignolet between the sticks. Further forward Martin  O’Neill has assembled a powerful and penetrative midfield with Johnson supplementing the skills of Stephane Sessengnon and Seb Larsson plus the graft of James McClean and Lee Clatter-mole. O’Neill will be hoping that his £12 million investment in Fletcher will cure the Cats’ chronic goalscoring problems last season and the big striker will no doubt have a fascinating battle with Chico and Ashley Williams.

My Side

  • Vorm
  • Rangel
  • Chico
  • Williams
  • Taylor
  • Dyer
  • Britton
  • Augustien
  • Michu
  • Routledge
  • Graham

My View

Tomorrow’s match will be a very different contest to the two previous matches we’ve played this season; both QPR and West Ham were fairly physical and quite limited in terms of finesse to go with the fire. Sunderland however are a different proposition and they have plenty of talent in the shape of Sessegnon and Larsson plus the penetrative Adam Johnson. The flip side is that O’Neill will come to attack and that should see the shackles taken off the Swans from the start…last week against West Ham it wasn’t until Sam Allardyce was forced to throw caution to the wind and remove the centre half he was playing in midfield that the Swans found the freedom to put their passing game together.  One thing’s for certain…it will be a fascinating contest between the wingers on show and it could well be that the result will hinge on which pairing performs better – Dyer and Routledge for the Swans or Johnson and Larsson for Sunderland.

My Prediction

Can the Swans remain unbeaten under Laudrup competitively? Can we do what we failed to do last season and beat Sunderland? I say we can! And I’ve got a 100% success rate in my predictions so far this season 😉 Swans to win 3-1

 

Where Does Our Ki Fit?

Posted in Swansea City with tags , , , on August 27, 2012 by Nigel Davies

He’s the £5million man, our all-time record signing, but many are asking where this particular Ki fits in the Swansea City midfield…well my answer is that Ki Sung-Yeung will fit in EVERYWHERE.

One of the most telling features of Michael Laudrup’s Swansea City set-up so far has been the interchangeable aspect of the midfield five players; gone are the days where players would be pigeon holed into one position in the midfield – now we have the players to mix and match and change throughout the game and a manager that insists on it happening to keep the opposition guessing.

Take Saturday’s victory over West Ham for example…Leon Britton was popping up all over the place, no longer restricted to sitting in front of the back four and instead given license when appropriate to appear far further up the pitch or out wide in the space left by our wingers pushing more infield.

The magnificent Michu is the one nominally playing just behind Danny Graham but he often dropped deep to receive the ball or to hunt down an opponent and get a tackle in, and this was no problem to our shape as one of the other midfielders took up his position and filled in. With the ever dangerous Dyer and Routledge constantly moving inside and swapping sides it was poetry in motion watching the midfield mix and match so effectively…

…no wonder West Ham didn’t know where the next attack was coming from in that superb second half!

So back to the South Korean set to make his debut tomorrow night against Barnsley in the Capital One Cup. Ki Sung-Yeung has all the attributes to be a worthy record signing; superb vision and a terrific range of passing supplemented by a strong engine and an eye for goal – it’s not for nothing that he’s been nicknamed the “Korean Steven Gerrard”!

You could take out any one of the three current midfielders and replace them with Ki and he’d be able to fulfil the role put in front of him and with the style of play we are currently adopting it would be a seamless change: play him in Michu’s role and he’ll get goals; swap him for De Guzman and he’ll deliver some wicked set pieces whilst motoring up and down the pitch; let him take over Leon’s role and he’ll sit deep and pass the opposition to death.

For what it’s worth, in my opinion it is De Guzman that is most vulnerable at this moment…Michu and Britton have been magnificent in our two games so far whilst De Guzman has been a bit of a mixed bag – some great passing and wicked dead ball deliveries interspersed with some shockingly sloppy touches that have coughed up possession. He’ll come good though, a bit more fitness and time to adjust will do him wonders.

It’s a mouthwatering prospect to think we have a player as good as Ki Sung-Yeung to add to what we have already – and I include Kemy Augustien in that as he’s been terrific too on both occasions he’s come on as substitute. Those five fighting it out for three spots will be fascinating to watch this season – unless of course you are Mark Gower, Stephen Dobbie or Andrea Orlandi I guess!

I have no doubt that this Ki will fit in nicely wherever he is asked to play and he will almost certainly unlock even more success for Swansea City this season.

Swans See Off Hammers for Top Spot!

Posted in Football, Match Reports, Premier League, Swansea City with tags , , , , , , on August 25, 2012 by Nigel Davies

Angela and Jack Smith show us the score…3-0 to the Mighty Swans!

This day has been 10 years in the making as the Swans’ journey from rock bottom of the League to the very pinnacle of the English pyramid system was completed thanks to a hard fought win over West Ham United.

The Swans sat proudly at the top of the Premier League with 6 points and a plus 8 goal difference but Chelsea’s third win of the season propelled the Londoners back above us having played a game more.

But the duration of our stay is wholly besides the point…the Swans topped the old First Division thirty years ago but it very nearly killed the club in the process and it has been a long haul back to the top division, never mind top of the Premier League. And football has changed so much since the heady days of the eighties that clubs with a budget as minute as ours aren’t supposed to be in the Premier’s pole position…

…but the history books will show once again that the Swans were top and indeed ‘aving a laugh!

There was mixed news for the Swans before kick off; Spanish centre half Chico passed a fitness test and so Laudrup was able to name the same starting XI that took to the field at Loftus Road but Scott Sinclair was left out of the squad with the Western Mail reporting that the latest bid from Man City had been accepted. The blow of losing Sinclair though was softened as record signing Ki Sung-Yeung was paraded before the game.

West Ham on the other hand included their big signing in their starting line up, Matt Taylor making way for £10 million man Matt Jarvis. The Hammers also signalled their aggressive but defensive intent by including James Tomkins just in front of the back four, with two other strong arm enforcers either side of him in the imposing shape of Mo Diame and the smaller but just as niggly Mark Noble.

A packed Liberty said a hearty hello to Michael Laudrup as the boss took his fancy new Swans seat in the dug-out for his first competitive home fixture and hopes were high after the five goal thrashing of Rangers the week before. But just like last week it was a scrappy opening from the Swans with possession given away regularly and cheaply and that stopped any flowing football from the home side in its tracks.

West Ham were, to an extent, capitalising on this and causing problems with the pace and trickery of Jarvis and the blunt instrument approach of Carlton Cole but the Swans dealt tidily with anything that came their way and there was a sense that as soon as the home side got to grips with the Hammers’ muscular style there would be plenty of opportunity to secure another precious three points.

When the breakthrough came though it was from an unlikely source and, just as it was at Loftus Road the week before, it was an error by the ‘keeper that proved costly for the opposition. The ever dangerous Dyer picked out a beautiful pass to Angel Rangel and the Spaniard left full back George McCartney in his wake and arrowed in towards goal before letting go a cross-cum-shot which Hammers ‘keeper Jaaskelainen somehow conspired to throw into his own net!

The home crowd went wild and so too did the mentality of the West Ham players as they upped the ante in the aggressive stakes and the Swans were forced to meet fire with fire, Michu and Chico in particular refusing to take a backwards step – referee Martin Atkinson having stern words with both of them.

The goal though had settled Swansea down and the passing was becoming more accurate and possession more bountiful much to the ever growing frustration of the Hammers’ horrible midfielder Kevin Nolan. Nolan’s ugly style and constant moaning to the referee was really starting to get on the nerves of Swans players and fans alike and it was kind of poetic justice when Nolan was forced to watch the Swans double their lead due to another self-inflicted wound.

Ex Cardiff defender James Collins incurred the wrath of Kevin as he woefully underhit a back pass and was then forced to watch on in horror as the alert Michu nipped in to poke the ball past the advancing Jaaskalainn for his third goal in two games.

With half an hour on the clock the Swans were cruising but once again there was a parallel between this game and the QPR match as Michel Vorm was forced to make an incredible save shortly after the Swans scored; on this occasion it was Jarvis that was denied a debut goal as Vorm somehow managed to parry at point blank range.

The two sides continued to trade blows with Carlton Cole taking that metaphor just  little too far as his assault on Chico led to Martin Atkinson delivering a card…but it was a yellow one rather than the red one perhaps the challenge deserved.

As the fourth official announced three minute of injury time West Ham enjoyed their best spell of pressure of the first period, three corners in quick succession forcing Swans defenders to clear off the line twice.  But any alteration to the score in the Hammers favour would have been massively unjust as they offered nothing other than long balls and bully boy tactics throughout the half.

The self styled “Big” Sam – I assume by that he means he’s the size of an African Bull Elephant – made a significant change at the start of the second period, taking Tomkins out of that deep midfield role and replacing him with striker Ricardo Vaz Te. But it was the Swans that came closest to scoring again as Michu and Britton combined to set Danny Graham up, the striker curling a 20 yard effort on goal that Jaaskelainen was forced to turn aside for a corner.

The set piece came to nothing as the referee blew for a bit of pushing by Chico and it was again the officials coming to West Ham’s rescue as Routledge’s simply brilliant through ball for Danny Graham was spoiled by the offside flag.

Kevin Nolan went into the notebook at last, the midfielder getting his just desserts after a naughty challenge left Leon Britton in an albeit tiny heap, referee Atkinson brandishing a yellow card much to the delight of the home fans.

West Ham’s second half change had made little difference to their attacking threat but it had played into Michael Laudrup’s hands, the resulting additional space in the middle areas allowing Swansea to counter attack far more effectively. Even though the Swans were starting to get a stranglehold on the game though another goal would ease the pressure as West Ham looked to “launch it and hope something dropped”.

The third could have come when Routledge got free but we’ll never know as James Collins made the most cynical of fouls after initially being taken to the cleaners by the Swans’ wideman and the card that came out was once again yellow when it could have so easily been the same colour as a Cardiff City home shirt!

The resulting free kick led to utter carnage in the box and Michu, Graham and Routledge himself all had chances to finish the Hammers off. The away side may well have survived that scare but it was only a temporary respite as the Swans finally broke Hammers hearts with a well deserved third…and if the first two goals owed much to the Hammers own inadequacies the third one was all about the Swans’ newly discovered lethal cutting edge.

A flowing passing move saw the ball worked from back to front and Routledge’s cut-back from the byline was snapped up by Graham who finished neatly to chalk up his side’s third of the afternoon and his own first of the season.

A couple of subs followed with Kemy coming on for the improving De Guzman and Routledge leaving to a standing ovation as he was replaced by Luke Moore. Changes may have been effected but the overall pattern of the game continued as it had throughout the second period, the Swans dangerously dominating possession and the Hammers living off scraps.

With the cushion of a three nil lead and less than ten minutes left on the clock, Laudrup made a real statement of intent for the season by bringing off Neil Taylor and giving a Premier League debut to Ben Davies, the youth team product getting plenty of touches and a whole lot of encouragement from the crowd as his side saw out the remaining minutes to seal the table-topping win.

Verdict: Another game where the Swans didn’t start particularly fluently but finished it on fire; eight goals scored shows the attacking intent of the Laudrup style whilst two clean sheets should dispel any notion that we are “this season’s Blackpool”. It was pleasing to see us cope with a rough and ready West Ham side and after also beating a physical QPR team we are starting to show that we can cope with these sides. And the best thing is we are only going to get better from here – the introduction of Ki Sung-Yeung will provide even more goals and creative ability and expect at least one more arrival on the wing before the window shuts. Really, if Scott Sinclair wants to leave this Swans set up to sit on the Manchester City bench then more fool him…

Man of the Match: Another tough call as I thought Michu, Graham, Routledge and Taylor were all excellent and I’m half tempted to give the award to Ben Davies for his very mature cameo right at the end (so good to see a youngster come through)…but I’m going to give my MoM award to Leon Britton who was everywhere and did a bang up job of showing his former club what they lost when they let him go.

Hammer the Irons and Top the Lot

Posted in Football, Match Previews, Premier League, Swansea City with tags , , , , , on August 24, 2012 by Nigel Davies

A win tomorrow for Swansea City and the club that was bottom of the Football League a decade ago will sit proudly at the top of the Premier League – the number one club in the country albeit for just a few hours.

To achieve that proud distinction the Swans will have to take three points in the early kick off against a rough and robust West Ham side that will pose a stern test for Michael Laudrup’s new look side.

Both teams have been boosted by significant new arrivals with the Swans finally confirming South Korean Ki Sung-yeung as the club’s record signing after completing a £5 million purchase from Celtic and the Irons sealing a £10 million deal for Wolves winger Matt Jarvis. But while Jarvis goes straight into the West Ham squad Ki will sit things out as his transfer was not completed in time.

The Swans will go into the game brimming with confidence after last week’s demolition of Queens Park Rangers and any sort of repeat of the counter attacking football that ripped Rangers apart in the second half of that match will have the live Sky Sports audience purring in appreciation.

Ki Sung-yeung may not be available but there could be a debut for another of Laudrup’s new signings if a change is enforced in the back four, Kyle Bartley on standby to replace Chico Flores should the Spaniard fail a late fitness test. Laudrup does have Swans stalwarts Alan Tate and Gary Monk waiting in the wings but it’s more likely that the young recruit from Arsenal will be given the nod should Chico fail to make it.

Elsewhere in the back line it will be business as usual with Michel Vorm playing behind Ashley Williams, Angel Rangel and the continually impressive Neil Taylor.

In midfield Leon Britton will get the chance to face his old club in a Premier League fixture (and who would have thought that when the diminutive midfielder joined our fight for our League lives all those years ago?) and he’ll line up alongside the star of Loftus Road Michu and probably Jonathan De Guzman – although Kemy Augustien once again staked his claim for a starting berth with an influential substitute showing at QPR.

With no deal yet secured for either Pablo Hernandez or Thomas Ince the wingers pick themselves…and so they should really as both Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge played significant roles against Rangers, the former scoring twice and the latter creating three of the five goals. Contract rebel Scott Sinclair is still at the club as negotiations with Man City continue and his goal against QPR may see him come into the equation but it would be harsh to drop either Dyer or Routledge for SS21 – not that that ever stopped Brendan Rodgers!

Focal point of the attack will once again be Danny Graham and after drawing a blank last week whilst his colleagues got five between them will leave the former Watford frontman itching to get on the scoresheet.

For the Hammers it will be close to the team that won in slightly controversial circumstances at Aston Villa last week; former Bolton stopper Jussi Jaaskelainen replaced Rob Green between the Hammers sticks in the summer and he’ll be hoping to fare better against the Swans than his predecessor did last week. In front of him will be former Cardiff defender James Collins, New Zealander Winston Reid, George McCartney and experienced Ivory Coast defender Guy Demel; it’s a solid if not spectacular back line and the collective ability to deal with the movement and sheer pace of the Swans attack could prove crucial.

Further forward lies the Hammers real strength with a robust midfield that also contains the main goal threat in the shape of the prolific Kevin Nolan. The former Bolton and Newcastle midfielder will probably be flanked by long serving Mark Noble and the powerful Mo Diame, a summer signing from Wigan. The big question mark will be on who lines up in the front three…Carlton Cole is a likely starter “up top” with Ricardo Vaz Te on one side of him and then a straight choice between the two Matts on the other side, either cultured Matt Taylor or the dangerous new boy Matt Jarvis.

My Side

  • Vorm
  • Angel
  • Chico
  • Williams
  • Taylor
  • Dyer
  • Britton
  • Augustien
  • Michu
  • Routledge
  • Graham

My View

Last week’s brilliant win against Queens Park Rangers was a massive confidence booster and seems to have dispelled any doubts about the Laudrup revolution…but…just as in the Stuttgart game the week before the Swans were not too clever in the first half. Often sloppy in possession, De Guzman in particular, and a little uncertain defensively it could have been a very different result had Mark Hughes’ side taken one of their chances. Having said that our attacking prowess was there for all to see, even in that first half and with a bit more luck the Swans could have tripled their lead before half time.

If the Swans can start the match with the sort of performance levels that were demonstrated after the break in that Rangers game then West Ham will find it very hard to live with us and the prospect of a narrow playing pairing of Dyer and Routledge running directly at the pedestrian James Collins has me slavering in anticipation.

Hammers fans though will be just as excited at the prospect of Kevin Nolan finding the gaps in our midfield and the possibility of Matt Jarvis tormenting a Swans side just as he did for Wolves at the Liberty in that quite mental 4-4 draw earlier this year.

The game will be a real contrast in styles with Laudrup’s “passing with purpose” style aiming to carve open the Hammers with pace and precision and Big Sam’s functional but effective side looking to bully their opponents out of their stride and make the most of the openness the home side will play with. It should certainly be an intriguing contest and an entertaining one…if the home side scores first.

My Prediction

Last week’s win has suddenly raised expectation and the prize of Premier League leadership (if only until 5pm) will add to the pressure. But Michael Laudrup comes across as a level headed and thoroughly professional individual and I’m sure he’ll have banished any over confidence in his squad. And having said all that I’m going to demonstrate by confidence by predicting a 2-0 win for the Swans…home advantage and our superior fire power should see us triumph but the loss of Chico could throw a spanner in the works. Disagree with me? Then put your own prediction below in the comments section…