If you have come here expecting to see Pete Sixsmith’s report, you will have to be patient. That will appear tomorrow. First, let’s hear from another Pete – Peter Thomas, Swansea supporter and writer of the estimable Pierre91 in a Day blog. This is how he saw it; a fair, greatly detailed analysis from a Swansea perspective …
When one is doing the prep work for an upcoming fixture prior to that game being played, there always comes a time when you go to save what you’ve written, and, of course, the laptop asks you for a name.
It’s always tempting to give it something that’s reflects your current successful streak – always knowing that this could come back to splat you with a great big dollop of mud in your eye or, worse still, a great big Omelette’s worth of egg on your face.
Such was the case on Saturday, when BR took the flying Swans to a fixture at Sunderland’s resurgent Estadio da Luiz, albeit the North East version, not its Potugeezer equivalent. The upturn in spirit and hope at SAFC’s home has mirrored our own good results of late, and had led us to expect no more than what we got – a bruising, difficult encounter against an established Premier League side.
That the result turned out as it did will have given both sets of fans a glimpse of what’s likely to be the case for the rest of the season, if both squads stay much as they are. So, as I put this little piece of prep to bed on Friday evening, the butterflies in my stomach dictated that I was far from confident of any outcome other than that the game had always promised to be competitive, if nothing else. Which is as it should be.
The truth, of course, is that even if some of this report was thought about before hand, it’s only now, after the game, that it’s getting written down. It was certainly a game to fascinate. As it turned out, both managers selected what could be argued were their full strength sides, with MoN able to select the first choice FB’s in Bardsley and Richardson, and BR staying with last week’s second half lineup v Arsenal, with Sigurdsson retaining his place above Agustien in the middle.
All prior debates to one side, the teams lined up as follows………
Swansea City: Vorm, Rangel, Caulker, Taylor, Williams, Dyer, Sinclair, Britton, Allen, Sigurdsson, Graham Swans bench: Tremmel, Monk, Richards, Agustien, McEachran, Routledge, Moore.
Sunderland AFC: Mignolet, Bardsley, O’Shea, Brown, Richardson, Larsson, Cattermole, Vaughan, McClean, Sessegnon, Bendtner Sunderland bench: Westwood, Meyler, El Mohamady, Ji, Wickham, Turner, Gardner
The game opened as it was destined to proceed –
Swansea got the bulk of possession and thus control, but Sunderland are an experienced and cute PL side who’ve been around for a while – and thus they were happy to concede on that basis, as long as they didn’t concede the ultimate embarrassment, that of a goal.
When we look back on both the chances created and the flow of the game overall, this was, without a doubt, a really painful lesson. The trick will come when we look back and consider “did we learn from it?”.
Only time will tell, but we’ll get to see it. Back to the game. Let’s just go progressively through the opportunities that gave the impression that the Swans would come out better than they did. There were, in fact I’d suggest, two key moments when the game shifted on its axis and the result was shaped to be what it was, as opposed to what it could have been. That both involved the same player will be highlighted no doubt, but as BR will point out- hey, we’re ALL in this , together.
Early on, Sigurdsson played Dyer free, advancing into the box, but from a brave last gasp Brown tackle, the threat was blocked. When Sunderland went forward, McClean put in a great cross that Larsson volleyed onto the base of the post and out. In the 10th minute, Nicklas Bendtner got an accidental foot to the face in a challenge, and was unfortunate enough to be unable to continue, being replaced by Connor Wickham, and this immediately presaged an influential passage of play, as hinted.
The first of those two key moments came when Sigurdsson again played Dyer free on the right, and his excellent cross was deflected across goal to arrive at Scott Sinclair’s feet some four yards out and with the only decision to be made whether he should go right or left foot, to score. He went left (yes, I know, he should probably have gone right in retrospect). And ballooned his strike over the bar. Ouch, it hurt us all, Scott included, and you KNOW what happened next, because it does, regularly in football.
Sunderland immediately attacked down the left and from a neat one two between McClean and Sessegnon, got the Benin man free in the box approaching goal from some eight yards out. His exquisite first time finish into the top opposite corner of Vorm’s net was a worthy contender for goal of the day thus far.
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Gardener, later in the game, may have something to say about that. 1-0, and somewhat stunned, the whole first half continued to unfold as had this early period – Swansea, from comfortable control of the ball, were excellent up until the final third, but were repeatedly denied by SAFC’s dogged and determined repelling of these attacks, coupled with their willingness to break forward when they could.
It had that familiar fear for us Swans when you know you’re on top, but don’t know quite enough whether you’ll get the reward you feel you deserve, ie, a goal back. There’s a point to be made here. I write this blog as a Swansea City fan, so my bias is always going to be prominent, but let’s also be realistic.
Both managers, going in at half time to address their teams will have said no different than what we ALL saw. Swansea had been predominantly on top throughout, and had they turned that superiority into an end result, would have been in front.
That this was confirmed by various Sky Sports and radio pundits was just affirmation of the reality. The second half, wouldn’t you just know, was not so very different. It confirmed what we’d seen before half time.
Although City were again dominant, MoN had briefed his team to be both resilient and effective, which is what they were. Gylfi Sigurdsson had provided many moments of promise, and his free kicks were getting nearer, particularly one where Mignolet beat away a direct hit and where a follow up might have payed dividends. The continuing feeling about the half was the home crowd’s almost incessant urging of their team to compete more, which reflected City’s almost constant pressing, passing and possession, all done urgently, with not quite the finishing etiquette that their on-top demeanor deserved.
Whilst Swansea pressed forward it was no surprise that they would sometimes be under pressure to concede on a break. Sunderland created some chances thus, and Sessegnon headed wide, and was also frustrated from his flick on to Wickham, denied by Vorm.
Their clearest chance though fell to Wickham, who, from a challenging duel with Williams and Caulker, slashed a shot wide when easier to score. So, let’s go to the other key moment. Again, as is the case when you think about fate, it involved Scott Sinclair. Having been shifted inside by BR when Josh McEachran made his debut in replacement of Gylfi Sigurdsson, and Wayne Routledge’s introduction on the left for Britton, he made great progress when played free, and advanced in the inside right channel to hit a screamer that just curved from his cut across the ball to fizz just a yard wide with Mignolet beaten.
Think back to the first half, when from SS’s near miss, Sunderland broke away to take the lead. Oh my word, as Ray Wilkins is wont to say, they did it again.
From an attack down the left, the influential Sessegnon turned it inside across field to Craig Gardener, on as a sub for Vaughn. He took one touch, chested, and hit a dipping rasper from 30yds that gave Vorm no chance. Another bloody “worldy”. Hoo, hah, 2-0.
That he kept such good control over the swirling wind was evidenced by the blowing of chip wrappers and other detritus around the players in the build up, and the shot curved and swerved over our blameless keeper to leave him helpless. With just five minutes to go, it put the cap on a rewarding performance for the Mackems, and an ultimately hugely frustrating one for us.That, sometimes, is football all over. Ouch.
So, where do we go from here? This, for what it’s worth, is my assessment. # spoiler alert #……… this is a glass half-full leaning. I don’t intend to ignore the side when the performance has been poor and they’ve struggled through no fault other than their own.
When an outcome is the blatant fault of nobody but ourselves, we can have a case for admonishment. However, nor do I intend to ignore the side when they’ve played well, as today, and struggled for a variety of reasons. There was effort, skill and competitive endeavor throughout.
There was admirable pride in performance as well, and it’s not just blind loyalty that leads me to say this. Talk to many Sunderland supporters, which I have, and neutrals as well, which I’m currently doing, and both will confirm we were one of the better sides seen at their home venue this year.
The Premier League season is played over 38 games and any team’s final position is likely to be an accurate reflection of it’s performances over that whole rather than specific games, whether they’ve been of the “one off brilliant” type, or the “we are doomed” viewpoint.
Hold fast, me hearties. Perspective, as I’ve said before, is all. This was a performance where the sum of the parts didn’t quite give us the whole. Despite a possession stat of 67% to 33% away from home, we didn’t do anything, results wise, but get beat, and thus statistically at least, we got nothing.
However,consider this The Analysis carried out this week will also show some telling factors, and this is where the learning we’ve seen from games like Wolves away, and Tottenham and Arsenal at home will hopefully again bear fruit . All those examples show that we do bounce back from frustrations and disappointments to decent effect. Yesterday, we were playing a side that’s a PL resident, with a recently appointed top-flight manager who has dragged their recent performances to something approaching NE satisfaction. We lost to a side who scored two “worldies”.
We introduced for his first full start Gylfi Sigurdsson, an £8m creative midfielder, and Josh McEachran, a priceless gem of the English game. The guy copping the flak for “misses” is the same guy whose 27 goals and play off hat-trick took us to this division – Scott Sinclair. Cut him some slack you mindless Internet twonks. We are managed by one of the brightest young Managers in the British game. Have a listen. Despite an abundance of possession, two top class finishes saw us off, and in the end it turned out to be a decent test at a decent club, albeit it one we couldn’t quite meet.
We are at home, to Chelsea, next, and then have another sixteen games to confirm our position in the hardest League in the world. Coupled with that next Saturday we travel to Bolton to meet our fellow Premier League team in the 4th Round of the F.A. Cup. I don’t care what anybody says, if we can’t enjoy THAT, we really do deserve to cop all we get.