Soapbox: slick Swansea sent packing

Jake's adaptation of Salut's photo of Sixer

If Pete Sixsmith – now seen on too – sounds a lot jauntier than he did at half-time, it is fair to add that he was a very happy bunny by the end, full of praise for Sunderland’s discipline as well as the classy goals as we saw off the threat from a much-praised, confident and often elegant Swansea side …

There have been mumblings about Saturday’s win and not just from the depths of South Wales. Some of our fans seem to believe that because Swansea had much more of the ball, they were the better side and deserving of at least a point.

If that is your viewpoint, I am afraid you cannot have a real understanding of this great game of ours. The object of it is to threaten the opposition defence, force the goalkeeper to make saves and, ultimately, stick the ball into the net.

We did all of these things, while Swansea did two of them, but failed dismally on the third in that they could have played until St David’s Day and still would not have scored.

That we did is down to the difference in quality between an established Premier League side and one that is finding its feet and hoping to claim a second season at that level. Sessegnon, O’Shea, Cattermole were far more effective than Sinclair, Williams and Britton; they showed themselves to be experienced players with a touch of class. Swansea, for all the pretty passing, did not have the experience or, yet, quite the class.

Sessegnon celebrated his first year on Wearside with a performance of such quality that we should be offering our first born to Steve Bruce and Eric Black for finding him – and our second born to Martin O’Neill and Steve Walford for finally working out how to properly utilise him.

His goal was a touch of genius. The initial ball to McClean was good and the return was very good, but the finish was exquisite – steered so accurately past the most impressive goalkeeper in the Premier League this season. The ball was caressed across him and into the net and set the team very well for the rest of the game.

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Sess was always a problem for the Swans, who were never quite sure where he was going to turn up. He ran at them and often had three players near him as he wriggled through. His back heel to almost set up Wickham was sublime.

John O’Shea was massive and ran the back four. He had three willing comrades in his former Old Trafford colleagues Brown, Bardsley and Richardson. The latter stuck really well to the dangerous Dyer and even elicited praise from Pete Horan, who usually sees Kieran as Elton John sees Madonna.

Lee Cattermole was the dominant figure in midfield. He broke up Swansea’s attacks, pushed forward whenever he had the chance (even managing a shot or two) and behaved like a captain in that he was always encouraging his colleagues. No silly tackles, no bookings and he is rapidly earning the respect of the support. He must be looking forward to the visit of Boro next Sunday.

Credit should be given to all 14 who turned out. Vaughan and Larsson worked hard with a capital H. McClean, although looking a bit leggy, was always involved and Connor Wickham sought to be so, too. Bendtner took an awful bang in the face and was missed; I think the intention was that he would pull the Swansea defence out of position and allow Sess and the midfield to break through.

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Once again, Gardner showed his value to the team by coming off the bench for a tiring Vaughan and by stroking in a wonderful goal, reminiscent of the one scored by Kevin Phillips against Chelsea all those years ago.

But the real star of the game was Martin O’Neill. He, and his coaches, had clearly done their homework and told the players to stick to their positions, not to jump in with tackles and make it difficult for them to play the kind of killer passes that did for Arsenal last week.

The difference between MON and the Brucester is that the roles were very clearly defined and the players involved knew exactly what to do – and they are probably more respectful of the Northern Irishman than the Wallsend lad. He is a manager who has been there, seen it and done it, while his predecessor is a nearly man.

Swansea wove pretty patterns and looked good – until they got into the final third, where their lack of quality showed. Danny Graham (who I remember playing for Darlington), ran and ran, desperately looking for a gap he could get into, but Brown and O’Shea made sure there was no space for him. Joe Allan looks a good player as does Sigurdsson, but, on this showing, they lacked the nous to break down a well organised and well drilled Premier League side.

And could we have said that two months ago???

9 thoughts on “Soapbox: slick Swansea sent packing”

  1. It was a very odd game,not at all what I am used to seeing at SOL.Even the likes of Man U and Chelsea probably never had possession stats like Swansea did on Saturday. I would give them credit for passing so well in windy conditions,it should have paid divididends but as already mentioned they were woeful up front.

    Our back four hardly put a foot wrong,fullbacks especially did well,Richardson is turning into a proper left back too.,something I never thought I would ever say.

    Losing Bentdtner early doors cannot have helped,but we overcame it, very professional, though a tad frustrating to watch us give the ball away too often(minor criticism)

    Remeber talking to some Villa fans a few years back and they said they played that way often……..not wanting possession of the ball but hitting fast on the break,Seems MON is adapting what he has to do just that here.

    So we had better get our heads around it and enjoy the wins.

  2. The statistics on possession are interesting, but misleading. At one point the stats for the last five minutes appeared indicating Swansea’s apparent “superiority.” They had something like 65% + of the ball. However, for the previous ten minutes they had barely reached the half way line.

    It was a most peculiar game which reminded me (strangely I know) of the infamous world title fight between Sheffield’s Johnny Nelson and Carlos de Leon. in which twelve rounds were completed without a meaningful punch being thrown, and which was more reminiscent of 36 minnutes of disco dancing, than anything which should be witnessed inside a boxing ring. More than ever from Saturday’s game were the limitations of Swansea’s approach revealed. You can’t win many games by trying to pass the ball into the opponent’s goal. They simply weren’t dangerous, and the lack of service to Danny Graham must frustrate him.
    Some of the eulogising about Swansea’s style of play has been over the top for me.

    Rogers has done a fantastic job with the resources made available to him, but in some respects the accolades detract from what they need to stay competitive at this level. That is not just a striker but a more agggressive and direct way of doing things in and around the penalty area.

  3. SAFC supporters are going to have to become accustomed to us surrendering possession, until it becomes threatening, and look at games in a new way.

    That is the way that MO’N sets his teams up – they are designed to soak up pressure and then hit on the counter attack!

    Home or away, the system doesn’t, normally, change that much.

    I can, also, remember a game when Cloughie did, exactly, that against Hamburg (with MO’N in the team) and won the European Cup.

    As Bruce Forsythe might say “Points win prizes”!

  4. I see on the BBC site Garth Crooks has Sessegnon up front in his team of the week:
    “What an exciting player. He impressed me under Steve Bruce and he’s looking even better under Martin O’Neill. Only players who are technically gifted can score a goal like the one that left Newcastle’s goalkeeper Tim Krul completely stranded.

    “Did you know? Only three players – David Silva, Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey – have created more chances from open play in the Premier League this season than Sessegnon with 45.”

  5. I’ve already promised my first-born to MON and I’d be reluctant to give the second-born to Bruce and Black — they’d just play him out of position. How about I just buy them a take-out order of sushi or a go on the go-karts?
    The change in Cattermole is indicative of the overall and quite fundamental change O’Neill is bringing to the squad. It’s why, like Malcolm, I still have hopes for Bendtner. He came in for a bit of stick on here for his performance against Chelsea but I thought he was working hard and could just as easily have come off the field a hero. I’m certainly not ready to write him off.
    Tactically, MON and Bruce are in different worlds. Swansea’s possession of the ball would have panicked SB into his default position — don’t worry about scoring, just keep them out. But it was all smoke and very little fire and O’Neill saw that.
    I’m not so sure about Pete’s new picture; it smacks a little of those visions of the Blessed Virgin, or maybe even Princess Di who I believe some Japanese tourists saw in a Scottish church window the other day.
    Oh, and don’t get me started about pedants and commas…

  6. For my 2pennorth , I’d say : Swansea never really bothered us in the final third after the 1st 10 mins . Both of our fullbacks were immense – how they only managed ‘6’ ratings in the Sunday rags is beyond me , Wickam is not quite ready to lead the line , it took him 50 minutes to realise he can boss defenders and push them about a bit , saying that it was a thankless job chasing being a lone striker chasing down the ball in susch windy conditions . We always looked dangerous on the break , and Sess can worry any defense in the league . But most praise to Cattermole who has become a stalwart under MON , he’s really looking the part of midfield general . Long may it continue

  7. Bring on the edit button M. Salut. That should read “but I enjoyed the match, unusually for me confident that we would get the three points, off a side…”

    The commas are all important to a pedant …oh and delete “when” from in front of players who are not!

    Then you can delete this comment!

  8. Accurate summing up for me. I have said elsewhere that whilst Swansea had a lot of possession I was never fearful that we would do anything other than win. The forwards and midfield harried and hassled high up the pitch but when the Swans got into our half, the defence always looked on top (Brown’s two wayward passes apart).

    Since MON’s arrival we look like a team who can score. There are always players seeking an opportunity, there is movement, and when players who are not frightened to have a go rather than look to pass on the responsibility.

    I have also fought Bendtner’s corner and will do so again. Whilst the Dane may not be the ideal player, he is in our squad and does a decent job. I thought Wickham did well when he replaced Bendtner, but in his brief time on the pitch I thought the Arsenal loan player showed his worth. He is not an out and out goalscorer, but his positional play and ability to hold the ball creates openings for others.

    It may not have been a classic in terms of quality but I enjoyed the match, unusually for me, confident that we would get the three points off a useful side who I expect to see return to the Stadium next season.

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