Swansea City Preview: The Only Now Today Is Three Points

Following his blistering AGM set, Sir Chips gets to meet his adoring public once again and no doubt will deal with it like the old banker that he is.

Fortunately, that’s just a sideshow – an unwelcome and unnecessary one at that – to the main event. The rarest of creatures, a 3pm Saturday kick-off. Proper football is back. It was already, it returned at Everton last Sunday and there’s no real reason to change that line-up:

Cech; Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal; Bellerin, Ramsey, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Sanchez, Lacazette, Özil

The pressure is on the front three. Last weekend’s devastating performance at Goodison Park whet the appetite with a thumpingly good team display. At the forefront of that, the attacking trio each grabbed a goal for their efforts in a ruthless display.

Expectations rocketed last week at what will be no more than a ‘one season wonder’. Today might prove to be the ‘difficult second album’ with Swansea under no pressure to gift us the same time and space as Everton.

A bigger question is behind them. Aaron Ramsey thrived in being let loose from defensive duties but the need for concentration proved too much for Granit Xhaka. He is enduring a spell similar to that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain suffered a couple of years ago: every mistake results in a goal. It’s a rough ride that he needs to play himself out of. It marred an otherwise good performance on Merseyside.

However, there have been other instances this season which put his place in the team under threat. Can Jack Wilshere replace him? I don’t think so unless he has a purely defensive midfielder alongside him in what would be a 3-5-2 formation. The soon-to-be-recalled England international is much more likely to come into the XI for Ramsey or Özil.

Like a Druid in the Old Days

At his press conference, Arsène sought to give a longer term view of the game rather than the immediacy which has always underpinned football. There has never been a  time since the demise of the secretary-manager when results weren’t the benchmark by which a manager is judged. Even in those all-powerful days, there was no security of tenure, the same applies now.

Things aren’t going to change simply because he declares that he wants “to [win the Premier League] before you get me out of here.”

That is unlikely to happen this season with the painful defeats already suffered. It isn’t impossible, I just don’t think we can hit the kind of consistent form needed to be champions. Manchester City are the best team so far but we’re just about one-fifth of the way through the season. Uncatchable? No. Unbeatable? No.

But we are a long way from being the side that catches them.

The life of a fan has never been any different. We are lifted by victory and a good performance exaggerates that euphoria but on the flip side, mundanity numbs the senses. The win at Everton was well-deserved and worth celebrating but to use it as a pointer to a title challenge at this stage of the season is a pointer. Ten consecutive wins in the Premier League will persuade me to change that view.

There’s a Canute-like tendency with Arsène to rail against everything being ‘now!’ in modern life. While I agree that the pursuit of wealth and celebrity are grotesque, we adapt and survive; so must he in his chosen field rather than becoming an anachronism.

And let’s not forget, the now is the Premier League. It’s so ‘now’, it’s painful. Celebrity, chasing wealth, glory; everything he detests, he contributes to significantly.

Eagles in a Sunbeam

As much as I’d like to believe we’ve turned a new leaf, got a new message into the squad, these players are very much creatures of habit.

Arsène is well aware of expectations after last weekend’s performance. He singled out the trio of Özil, Lacazette, and Sanchez, almost in a warning. It isn’t just down to them, but “the speed of our passing will be absolutely important”. No sideways balls across the width of the pitch while the visitors assemble in almost impenetrable massed ranks.

Adding emphasis, he highlighted that it is not just down to them to fashion opportunities. “I believe as well that up front you depend a lot on the quality of the build-up at the back,” as if to let the rest of the team know they are the keys to unlocking defences.

Everton were undone by pace, an easy attribute to exploit on the counter-attack. At home we need to add more guile so we don’t fall back into possession for possession’s sake. In the modern game, eyebrows are raised when you win with 73% possession stats, almost as if holding onto the ball is an anathema. We see enough of the ball in every game to win but ruthlessness is frequently our downfall. Or a lack of it.

Last weekend, we were ruthless. Repeat that and this is three comfortable points for the taking.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

117 thoughts on “Swansea City Preview: The Only Now Today Is Three Points

  1. I just checked on Wikipedia and Fabregas had 57 goals in his 8 years. Neither Cesc or Ramsey had much chance to pad their stats against weak opponents since they did not play very much in league cup or early round FA cup games.

  2. I have always thought that the technical skill advantage for the continental international teams such as Spain is over rated. Things like this go in cycles and there is not always a reason for why a club hits a down cycle. I think the real reason England has struggled for a long time is because they just have not been able to find many game changing impact forwards. In this century, Wayne Rooney is the best they have been able to muster. USA USA USA has the same problem. When you don’t have impact forwards and you are chronically short of firepower you have to build your strategy around grit and blood and guts defense because that is the only way you can win.

  3. Bill,

    Central midfielders have only been around for a relatively short time. Historically we have had goalkeepers, full backs, centre halves, halfback left and right, wingers left and right, inside right, inside left and centre forwards.

  4. Orson Kaert,

    England have for too long invested in players like Rooney, good but would he have made it at Barcelona or Real Madrid? Even when these players start to fade, managers are too weak to call time on them.

    At last there appear to be players coming through the system who are technically as adept as their opponents in Spain, France, Germany and even, dare I say it, Brazil.

    Today,s U17 World Cup win showed that England players have the ability and mental strength to fight from first to last for their country and teammates and prevail over a team deemed to be their betters in technical ability.

  5. International managers have a completely different set of problems to deal with compared with club managers. Most important is international managers are stuck with the players they have. The England manager can’t go to the transfer market and buy the impact player he needs.

  6. Orson @ 7:29

    I didn’t know that. I started following European football in earnest when fox soccer channel came on line around 2000 . Before that there was no easy way to follow the sport other then the USA team in World Cup years.

  7. Bill,

    Yes International managers are restricted as to where they can look for players, but at long last the FA are addressing that problem. The St Georges Park National Football Centre is starting to produce the quality player we need. They may not be “fit for for purpose” as far as diversity and other PC bull shit is concerned, but when it comes to identifying and coaching the best young players, regardless of race sexual orientation or religion, from around the country they’re doing a fine job.

  8. Everything goes in cycles and I think England has been in long term down cycle as far as developing impact players and I don’t really think that has as much to do with poor coaching as pure chance. No coach is going to take a player who looks like he has the ability to be an impact player and try to turn him into an agricultural football thug. Unfortunately England has not had any forwards better then Rooney in this century and you can only work with what you are given. Hopefully the cycle has turned and a better generation of players is moving up the ranks.

  9. Brian Talbot scored a fair few from midfield, Michael Thomas, Ray Parlour.
    Going back in the mists of time I guess Bob John knocked in a few, Jack Crayston…

  10. Allezkev

    Ramsey’s ability to score the occasional goal is the upside that none of our other central midfielders bring to the game.

  11. Kolasinac has been a great addition. So far he has been close to or arguably more influential then Lacazette. LWB is clearly his best position. He is probably overly aggressive to be the left fullback in a flat back 4

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