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Analysis: Terry Gibson on Llorente and Clement at Swansea

Posted on 4 April 2017  - 16:03

Ex-Spur and present-day Spanish football expert Terry Gibson believes striker Fernando Llorente has gone from being ‘plan B’ in Spain to ‘plan A’ at Swansea – and he’s not surprised to see the former Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla man flourishing in South Wales.

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The decorated front man, a World Cup winner and European Champion with his country, joined our midweek opponents last summer after tasting Europa League glory with Sevilla, in addition to lifting countless trophies with Juventus during a two-year spell in Italy between 2013 and 2015.

However, it wasn’t until current Swansea City chief Paul Clement took the helm at the Liberty Stadium at the turn of the year that the powerful forward really hit form in the Premier League and, although he remains an injury doubt for Wednesday’s clash after missing the weekend’s goalless draw with Middlesbrough, Terry – a regular voice on Sky Sports’ coverage of La Liga – says he’ll always be one to keep an eye on.

Llorente’s early days

Terry: “I’ve known him since he made his debut for Athletic Bilbao and I always imagined that one day he’d be absolutely perfect for the Premier League because of the type of player he is. It’s a must for Bilbao to have a big centre-forward and they’re only allowed to play Basque players, so the whole Basque region is always on the lookout for a big number nine. It’s a real privilege to be that player, the big centre-forward, for Athletic Bilbao and he fitted that bill perfectly. I’m surprised he didn’t come to the Premier League earlier. When I first saw him he was very young and getting a few appearances from the bench because there was a previous big number nine that was playing before him, but I always thought he had a good height about him, looked good in the air and had a good touch.”

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Above: Fernando Llorente celebrates a goal for Athletic Bilbao.

Back to Spain with Sevilla after Juve success

Terry: “He’s a big loss at Sevilla. He was mostly a back-up to Kevin Gameiro, who is now at Atletico Madrid. The coach preferred to play with one up front so Llorente was ‘plan B’ from the bench if Sevilla weren’t able to find a way through to goal playing their usual style. Llorente came on to good effect and, to be honest, he’s far better than what they’ve got this season up front and if he’d have been there this year he’d have been an obvious first-choice player.”

‘Plan B’ to ‘plan A’

Terry: “At Sevilla he was ‘plan B’ but he’s a really good player and has a good background as well with the national team. Again, he was probably ‘plan B’ for Spain because if there was something that wasn’t working with David Villa, if he needed a strike partner or if Fernando Torres wasn’t available, he’d come in. When Spain were winning trophies he was always in and around the squad so he’s got the caps, he’s won things and he’s a real handful – a good player.”

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Above: Llorente celebrates Europa League success with Sevilla last season.

Current Swansea fortunes

Terry: “One big thing that Paul Clement has done at Swansea has been to play him on a regular basis and to get him the service that he needs – that’s playing with wide players with pace who get the ball into the box as soon as they can with quality. He’s got a good touch, good movement and knows his limitations. He’s an intelligent player but a player that I’ve always liked and he will be a real handful for any central defender.”

Swansea boss Clement also had a successful spell in Spain as a coach. He worked as Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant manager at Real Madrid between 2013 and 2015 and Terry believes that stint has given him a solid grounding upon which to implement his ideas at the Liberty Stadium.

Clement’s tactics

Terry: “It’s hard to get an impression of an assistant manager but in terms of his grounding – to have worked with Ancelotti and also alongside Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, it doesn’t get much better than that in all honesty. With the calibre of players they have at Real, a job like that brings its different challenges. You’re dealing with players on a daily basis that need to be challenged so if you’re coaching at that level, it’s no good putting on a basic system that’s too easy for them. I would imagine working with players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, you’re constantly having to challenge yourself to come up with new stuff and stuff that will interest them.”

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Above: Paul Clement coaching at Real Madrid.

Impressions of Clement at Swansea

Terry: “I met him briefly once at Sky when he came in as one of our studio guests for Revista de la Liga and it’s interesting because while new managers have come in and got a lot of credit for doing a good job, you also have to mention the fact – and not a lot of people have – that they’ve signed new, good players since they’ve taken over. Hull City, for instance, signed six or seven really good players that have all gone into the first team and made an impact and you could argue the same with Swansea. Bob Bradley left and they brought in Tom Carroll, Luciano Narsingh, Martin Olsson and Jordan Ayew – players that have gone straight in and made an impact. Obviously some of it has to go down to the manager but it’s no secret that if you buy better players you will become a better team. Credit to Paul Clement though – he’s come in and made the team better, he’s changed things around, some of the players that weren’t featuring under Bob Bradley have come into the team and they look as if they’ve got a real chance of staying in the Premier League now.”