The inside track on Swansea...
02 December 2016|Tottenham Hotspur
Chris Wathan knows Welsh football inside-out, has written a book on Wales' incredible run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 and now gives us the benefit of his knowledge on Swansea ahead of Saturday's clash at the Lane...
Chief Football Writer, Media Wales
First thing’s first Chris - what was it like to (a) be at and (b) to report on Swansea's 5-4 win against Palace on Saturday?
Chris: "In a word, crazy. Most of us have been at games where there's been a either a hatful of goals, an injury-time winner or a comeback, but to have all three in the same game was something else. Add in the significance, certainly for Swansea, and it was an emotionally exhausting afternoon for even the neutrals. I think many were aware of the importance of Swansea getting a victory and it's fair to say there were many fearing the worst for the weeks and months ahead had they lost the game in that manner having been ahead, so the relief and the joy was obvious everywhere. It was a job to keep up and there were seasoned hacks having to double check their descriptions of the goals as there had been so many in such a short space of time. There was little doubt it would be the most-watched game of the weekend so there was a pressure to get it right!"
Below: Fernando Llorente and Leroy Fer celebrate against Palace
Before that win, Swansea had gone 11 games without victory in the Premier League, but by the look of the scorelines (draw against Chelsea, single-goal losses v Arsenal and Liverpool), the matches had been close. How have the team actually played this season?
Chris: "Not particularly well and not of the standard Swansea have set since promotion in 2011, certainly not the way in which they have played. They have pieced together some good periods within games - including in the ones mentioned - but there have been too many mistakes to undermine it all. There has been some bad luck and they had a tough start to the season in terms of fixtures, but the loss of confidence as part of that winless streak has compounded some of the problems. The hope has to be that some of that belief starts to return after the Palace win and it comes out in performances and, in turn, results."
Below: Bob Bradley
Bob Bradley took over in early October, what impact has he made in his six weeks or so?
Chris: "He didn't enjoy much of a bounce given it took him six games to register a first win. There has been plenty of positive feedback with regards to his coaching and impression on the training ground, which both Swansea and Spurs know well can be the key to developing successful teams. He's an impressive, strong character if you look beyond some of the lazy cynicism due to his nationality, and he's the type who has been the first into work and the last out so nothing's been for a lack of effort. His problem has been is that hasn't transferred to the pitch often enough, in part because of that lack of confidence and in part because of players' own form being so erratic. He's had issues finding a settled side and it's clear improvements are needed in January, but there's been slow steps taken forward and there are plenty who hope they continue."
Below: Gylfi Sigurdsson
Which players are in form at the moment? Any players Spurs fans should keep a look out for? Any of the summer arrivals caught the eye?
Chris: "The obvious one is a player who Tottenham will know well in Gylfi Sigurdsson who has carried on where he left off last year. He's a far more complete player than the one who was at Spurs and is showing he is best in more of a central role. His set-pieces have been superb and his performances have been a real beacon of hope. Leroy Fer, who signed permanently this summer, has been criticised for some of the defensive aspects of his game but, with six goals, has shown his worth to the team while Fernando Llorente suggested he could be ready to start delivering after a slow start affected by some fitness problems. Watch out for Modou Barrow too who has electrifying pace and has given a few full-backs some problems this term."
Below: Fer slots home against Palace
How do you think Swansea will line up on Saturday? Any players definitely missing?
Chris: "Ki Sung-Yueng is likely to be missing with a broken toe but Nathan Dyer - who missed a few months with an ankle problem - should be fit to start after some appearances off the bench, while Jefferson Montero is in contention to play with a cast after breaking his wrist. Bradley has played with two defensive midfielders in Jack Cork and Jay Fulton behind Fer and Sigurdsson operating as a false nine; the decision he's got is whether to bring in a true striker in Llorente, but you'd imagine away from home they'd stick pretty much with the same side that started the last two games."
Below: 90-second highlights of last season's 2-1 win at the Lane
Finally, how do you think it will go at the Lane?
Chris: "Swansea haven't got the best of records against Tottenham full-stop, but it's very poor at the Lane. There's been some close encounters and you just wonder if Swansea's luck may have turned after last weekend. Perhaps going to Spurs when they're in need of a win to settle things down is not the best timing though, and Swansea will certainly have to defend better in key moments than they did against Palace if they are to grab an unlikely point."