Swansea City will need to improve their performances in the coming months, but can they pull it off?
To say that Swansea City have started the season off on the wrong foot would be an understatement. The Welsh side have been in turmoil for almost a year now and this season they have picked up a paltry five points in 12 league matches. An inability to muster any sort of consistency in the early games of the season leaves them well off the pace in the battle to stay in the Premier League.
While much of the blame is being placed on Bob Bradley, it’s not entirely his fault. In the past year, the club has been through three coaches, an ownership change, and sold captain Ashley Williams. The downward spiral began when Garry Monk was sacked in December of last year due to poor performances. Then Francesco Guidolin was brought in to steady the ship, which he did last season, leading the team to a 12th place finish.
Over the summer, Swansea sold controlling interest to an American ownership group led by Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan. While they kept Huw Jenkins as chairman, it was clear that they had a different vision for the future of the club in mind. Guidolin was kept as manager but since he wasn’t the new ownership group’s “guy” he began the season on thin ice.
It didn’t help that during the summer, Ashley Williams and André Ayew were sold. Williams was their skipper and the soul of the defence for the team. His aggressiveness and defensive positioning hasn’t been replaced in the squad. Ayew was Swansea’s leading goal scorer last year, netting 12 goals for the team. It should’ve been expected that the team would struggle in the early goings of the season, but when they did, Swansea decided to sack Guidolin, giving Bob Bradley his chance eight games into the season.
The Bob Bradley Era
The appointment of the American, the first ever American manager in Premier League history, made some waves. The appointment caused unrest because of the fact that the Swansea Supporters’ Trust wasn’t consulted prior to his joining the club.
The supporters’ trust has a 20% stake in the club and they are supposed to be consulted prior to any large moves being made. It’s safe to say that hiring a new manager qualifies as a “large move”. It has turned relationships sour at the club between supporters and the front office.
During the team’s 3-1 loss to Manchester United, the supporters’ frustrations came to a head. “We want our club back,” the first chorus went. The second demanded that “greedy” members of the board leave the club. A third suggested an explicit use for “dollars,” an allusion to the recent American takeover of the team.
Since taking over, Bradley has taken two out of a possible 15 points thanks to draws against Watford and Everton. With the revitalization of Sunderland, that leaves Swansea alone at the bottom of the table on six points and a minus 11 goal difference.
They have had a tough beginning to the season but over the Christmas period, Swansea will have a slightly easier fixture list. Until the New Year, they only have to play one of last year’s top six—Tottenham—and it will be crucial to pick up plenty of points in this time if they are to stay up this season.
What needs to change?
Bob Bradley was hailed for his attention to detail when he was brought in, but that could also be his undoing. Bradley rotates his centre-backs based on who the opposing forwards and whilst that seems sensible, it has done more harm than good. For example, 22-year-old Alfie Mawson was given his debut earlier on in the season, but he was certainly thrown in the deep end and struggled early on.
The constant rotation also affects team chemistry. For any defence, chemistry is key and if the same central partnerships aren’t playing on a weekly basis, it can lead to defensive breakdowns. It can be seen watching Swansea because, at times, their defenders operate as individuals rather than a complete unit. This leaves Lukasz Fabianski out to dry.
Settling on a central partnership and sticking with it could do wonders for Swansea’s leaky defence. Familiarity would mean that defenders would know what to expect and would be able to adjust to each other.
Ineffective Up Front
Borja Baston and Fernando Llorente have been disappointing since they came to the club. The two forwards were brought in to replace Ayew and neither has been able to find form in the Premier League. A team flirting with relegation needs goals from wherever they can get them, and the two must improve soon.
If Baston and Llorente can’t find their scoring boots, Bradley may have to look for a proven Premier League goalscorer in the January transfer window. Swansea have only scored 11 goals this season; the joint-third worst in the league.
The most important thing for a struggling side is confidence. Bradley will need to inspire his team or risk falling into a slump like the one Aston Villa suffered last season. A confident side will be able to snatch points from difficult positions which could help them stave off the drop.
It is still too early to judge Bob Bradley, but the voices of dissent will only get louder as the pressure to deliver results increases. He should be given time to put his stamp on the club but the longer results stay the same, the harder it will be for the powers that be to back him.