Swansea City v SAFC: ‘think Sess, think Eden Hazard’ (a Swans view)

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Peter Thomas was our Swansea City ‘Who are You?’ interviewee – click here – and has a Swans-themed blog Pierre91 in a Day. He offered this preview of tomorrow’s game, when SAFC will be trying their hardest to stop the buoyant home team improving on a start that reads P2 W2 D0 L0 F8 A0 Pts6 ..

The North East comes South West – hopefully to better weather

In this, our second, season in the Premier League, it does well to cast our minds back just a year ago, when, early in the season, the Geordie Martyr (as they know Steve Bruce up in Wearside), brought his team to work out a 0-0 draw. Not long after, they’d had enough, and Bruce left the club.

By the time of our return visit, SB’s departure had seen him replaced by Martin O’Neill, and his experienced stewardship saw the Black Cats dominate the return fixture, despite our sweet possession for much of the game, and on a wild and windy afternoon beside the North Sea, two Worldys by Sessegnon and Gardner were good enough to see us off. Ouch.

So now we welcome back the marauders from the North East, and we welcome a club that’s in as much of a process of change as we are, albeit in a slightly more advanced and moneyed stage. I’ve written previously of SAFC’s benevolent ownership structure under the Yank Billionaire Ellis Short, but that shouldn’t detract from the basic truth – this is still a hugely (justifiably) proud club that still connects and resonates with its essentially proud working class support. In that sense, if that alone, we are not so very different.

Guess the score of the Swansea City v Sunderland match and win a life-changing, er, coffee mug: https://safc.blog/2012/08/guess-the-score-at-swansea-and-win-a-life-changing-prize/

MoN has been busy (when was he ever otherwise?) and the playing staff have been added to and trimmed, much as has our own, and the current squad list reads thus……..

22 Simon Mignolet, 20 Keiren Westwood, 13 Jordan Pickford

2 Phil Bardsley, 24 Carlos Cuellar, 5 Wes Brown, 11 Kieran Richardson, 12 Matt Kilgallon, 16 John O’Shea, 19 Titus Bramble, 34 Blair Adams, 42 John Egan

6 Lee Cattermole, 7 Sebastian Larsson, 8 Craig Gardner, 14 Jack Colback, 15 David Vaughan, 18 David Meyler, 21 Adam Johnson, 23 James McClean, 28 Stephane Sessegnon

26 Steven Fletcher, 9 Fraizer Campbell, 25 Louis Saha, 10 Connor Wickham, 17 Ji Dong-won, 33 Ryan Noble

We’ll look at that squad in more detail, but just as we saw a 2 goal victory in this week’s COC Tie against Barnsley to come out 3-1 victors, Sunderland, similarly, saw off Morecambe 2-0 too, with the impressive James McClean getting both goals. For that tie they lined up as follows………..

20 Westwood, 16 O’Shea, 19 Bramble, 06 Cattermole Booked (Meyler – 78′ ), 07 Larsson, 08 Gardner, 14 Colback, 21 Johnson, 23 McClean Booked (Campbell – 73′ ), 28 Sessegnon, 26 Fletcher (Saha – 66′ )
22 Mignolet, 12 Kilgallon, 24 Cuellar, 18 Meyler, 27 Elmohamady, 09 Campbell, 25 Saha

Peter Thomas

For this tie, there are several points to be made.

Keiren Westwood, the reserve keeper, had a comfortable game as the ex-Coventry stopper saw little action. Titus Bramble and John O’Shea, experienced CBs both, held the middle comfortably. At FB, Craig Gardner played on the right and Jack Colback on the left, but both are primarily MF’ers, so to see both there on Saturday would be a surprise.

That back 4 had a protection from Lee Cattermole, the bruising MF’er, but it allowed a flexibility in front from Adam Johnson vaguely right (with licence to roam), Seb Larsson and McClean (generally left) supporting Sessegnon and Fletcher up top. An original and attacking set up that ensured their lower league opponents were outmatched.

The powerful McClean, nowadays an RoI regular, scored both goals, and Johnson was key twice.

These seem to me to be two of the better signings we’ve seen in this window. Johnson, the England International winger always has the capability to change games, and we Swans will remember Steven Fletcher well from the crazy 4-4 draw against Wolves at the Lib last season, when he and Matt Jarvis gave us a hard time.

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Back to the squad.

The first choice keeper remains Simon Mignolet, and the young Belgian no 1 is still improving. At FB, Phil Bardsley is the putative RB,and the ex Man U player retains a fearsome shot. Kieran Richardson (again ex Man Utd, there are a lot of them in the squad) has often played at LB. Both are equally capable, and raid forward at will along with their defensive duties (NB PB is injured and KR will probably have left the club – ed).

Centrally at the back, challengers to Tuesday’s team are Wes Brown, Matt Killgallon, and the Spaniard acquired from Villa, the reliable Carlos Cuellar. Killgallon is ex Leeds and a fierce competitor, and Brown, if fit, is still a decent defender who gives his all. I’ve seen some suggestions in the press that Cuellar was an “odd” signing, but it seems to me that if MoN trusts him, as he obviousy does after his days at Villa, then we as spectators can only make that assertion after a season’s viewing. Let’s wait and see, shall we? Further depth is provided by youngsters Blair Adams and John Egan, both Academy graduates who cover FB and CB.

Cover in the middle is provided by Welsh International David Vaughan, as we know a tricky footballer, and Ahmed Elmohamady, the Egyptian International wide man, with both pace and trickery. Not always a home crowd favourite, he remains dangerous. Vaughan in the meantime had a great spell at Blackpool prior to relocating to the North East, and has never let them down, scoring some key goals along the way.

Up front they will choose from the not only recently signed Steven Fletcher, but the equally experienced and again recently signed Louis Saha, and we all know that if he weren’t so often “broken”, this is a hell of a player. His spells in British football at Newcastle, Fulham, Man U, Everton, Tottenham et al have always seen him thrive when fit, and we shouldn’t forget that the French have always rated his innate talent as being on a level with Thierry Henry’s. You can only wish such a talented footballer blighted by injuries better health – although I wouldn’t mind him waiting till next week to find his form.

England International Fraizer Campbell and England youngster Connor Wickham will also challenge for places, and the squad includes South Korea’s Ji Dong Wong, sccorer of that remarkable winner against Citeh, and the Academy graduate Ryan Noble, who has had spells out on loan at Derby, Watford and Everton, and he’s been a prolific scorer at reserve level. Wickham cost £10m + from Ipswich, and is young enough to kick on from a slightly stalled progression, and Campbell too has had his share of unfortunate injury. He also will want to see a greater contribution this season.

It strikes me that whilst I’ve named him earlier, I’ve not described the extraordinary Stephane Sessegnon. This classy footballer, with a dangerous low centre of gravity, (think Eden Hazard, Juan Mata etc ) turned us inside out last year (and a great many others teams beside), and as well as scoring that first worldy against us at the Stadium of Light, had several other half chances, and he remains the one player in the opposition this week I genuinely fear. A top class, usually top performing forward who makes you glad you’ve paid money to get in. Let’s hope we can keep tabs on him.

All in all this is a sound, serious balanced Premier League team. Martin O’Neill, recruited part way through last season, will this year have time to stamp his mark on the club. His reputation, and record, suggests he’s more likely to be successful than not, so despite our rampart start, this is exactly the sort of game that we should heed ML’s stipulations that there will be bad days to go along with the good, and thus it would be more than foolish to be complacent and to assume that we only have to perform half decently to win.

MoN has not got, I would suggest, a signature style – he remains flexible about formations – but one thing we can be assured of: he insists on every player contributing. There will be none of the opposition this weekend able to “hide” behind a second rate game – all of his players will contribute one way or another.

We will have to perform a great deal better than that “half decent” suggestion – we will need to be equally as good as we were against QPR and WHU. Against Barnsley mid week, a slightly rested team was good enough to get us through the tie. This is different – this is the Premier League – and nothing, nothing comes easy.

Having said that, I find it hard to criticise any aspect of our performances to date. We have been both incisive and committed. ML seems to have a handle on keeping the team able to perform to its capabilities, and the squad to its ever expanding depth. Ki, after all, looked a class act midweek.

Mind you, I’ll be bloody glad to see the close of this ridiculous “Transfer Window ” this Friday. Whether SS goes, Pablo, Miku, Alvarez and all and sundry we’ve been linked with come/s in. Oh for a quiet period when we can get on with what we’ve got and try to make these players play to their potential and capacity.

That scenario leads me to believe we can do ourselves justice. Starting this Saturday, against the dangerous Sunderland.

Last year, the admirable Salut! Sunderland website did a Q+A with our very own Jim White. This year, it’s curator, the egregious Colin Randall asked me if I’d do the same, and I was proud to continue to fight the good fight. You can read it by clicking here.

The Liberty has been rocking for the league games. I’ve heard a suggestion that the cup tie against Barnsley was less frenetic (and I was there), but when you think that we were, unsurprisingly, and like most others, at half capacity, it’s really not that surprising, surely.

Be assured that on Saturday it’ll be different. We’re back to our bread and butter. We’re back to the Premier League. WooHoo.

Welcome to the Lib all you visitors. Welcome back to the Lib all you regulars.

Onward, Swansea City.

2 thoughts on “Swansea City v SAFC: ‘think Sess, think Eden Hazard’ (a Swans view)”

  1. Bruce obviously sees qualities in Elmo that most of us don’t. I concede he is hard working but despite being a virtual ever present before MON I struggle to think of any real quality attacking options he brought to the team, unlike McClean who Bruce seemingly had no time for. Similarly Wickham and Ji have proved expensive back ups who may come good in the future but I can’t help thinking of Anthony Stokes, Darryl Murphy, Carsten Fredgaard, David Bellion etc. Loaning them out to Championship or League 1 clubs may help them develop as players.

    The squad has a much better balance now than it had going into the Arsenal game, not just because of the new signings, but because it allows the luxury of using other players in a variety of roles. Johnson and Saha give the manager the option of using Sess and Larsson in central midfield. That in turn means that if Colback or Gardner need to fill in at full back there is still strength and creativity in front of them.

    That in turn means O’Shea doesn’t have to play at full back but can stay in the middle of the back four. My main concern at the moment is that we seem to have injury prone centre backs and I hope Brown and Bramble are going to spend more time out of the treatment room than in it and that Kilgallon, when needed does as good a job as he did immediately after MON’s arrival.

    Campbell has a lot to prove but has ability. The question is, does he have the determination, confidence and patience to succeed as he should be ahead of Wickham and Ji in the pecking order.

    As for the tea ladies, I hope what they serve in the boardroom is better than what we get on the concourse.

  2. An e-mail from a Hull-supporting friend, received earlier today:

    Last day of window fever here. We have got your Irish winger Elm O’Hamady for a season I don’t know much about him except he seems very unpopular in Sunderland. Rumours also of a loan for Connor Wickham or that little t**d Campbell and also Meyler tho’ the Meyler thing will not go down today so it will be a post- window thing. Anyone else you don’t want?????? Tea ladies? I hear you have some great programme sellers!

    My response: Elm O’Hamady – love it! he is very skilful and has good hair. I can see how tempting it is for Bruce to sign his ex-Sunderland stars.

    I think it would actually benefit Connor Wickham to go out on loan, as he is just 19, and it was Bruce who paid £8M for him, it was an expensive goal he scored last season against Villa.

    Meyler has already played under martin O’Neill this season, but if I was the manager I would let him go as long as he could be recalled at a few days’ notice.

    Campbell is an England International – would the Hull fans ever want him back?

    You have our coaching staff, don’t know about tea ladies! I think we kept Pop Robson, though…

    Cheers, Lars

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