Swansea City’s first season in the Championship since 2011 has seen change both on the pitch and off it. What have you made of the campaign so far?
It’s been quite encouraging. The money the club invested in its academy facilities while in the Premier League is paying off; a number of young players have come through to the First Team and performed well. Joe Rodon, the 20-year-old centre-half, has been excellent, as have Connor Roberts and Daniel James.
Graham Potter has looked to bring back a recognisable style of player. Swansea have always been known as a passing, attacking side but they’d almost lost their identity during their latter years in the top flight.
They aren’t perfect, a young side will inevitably make mistakes and they aren’t as streetwise as some of their opponents, but overall Swansea are heading in a better direction.
How has Graham Potter fared in his first management role in the UK?
Potter came into the club at a time when there was so much discontent on and off the field – there was a huge turnover of players in the summer and he looked to have been left with a pretty impossible task given the age profile of a lot of the players and their relative lack of experience.
He’s taken his time to figure things out, but we’ve started to see the selection settle down a little bit during the last month or so. The defeats to Norwich City and West Brom came as a bit of a blow because there was a sense that The Swans could be promotion challengers. Losing two home games to sides above them has tempered that a bit.
On the whole, he’s done a pretty good job. This is still very much the start of the re-building job that he’s got to do, but the initial signs are encouraging. Potter was at Östersunds for seven years and helped them to gradually improve – I think he’s going to do something similar at Swansea.
It’s been a mixed bag in terms of results, yet the club is ticking along nicely just outside the Play-Off places. Would consolidation be considered as success this season?
At the start of the season, I think most supporters would’ve said a mid-table finish would be fair enough. I still think that’s still the case but, with these decent little runs of form, I think there’s a sense that they aren’t far away from being in the conversation about the top six.
The manner of the defeats to Norwich and West Brom were a reminder that this is going to be a long job. The cliché is that Rome wasn’t built in a day and I think that applies to Swansea; if they were to finish in the top half, not too far off the Play-Offs, that would be perfectly respectable season. A lot will depend on how January goes but there’s potential for them to be in the higher reaches if they can string a run of results together.
How did the fans react to losing so many high-profile players in the summer?
There was general acceptance that certain players would leave. Łukasz Fabiański is far too good a goalkeeper to be playing in the Championship, Alfie Mawson has England aspirations and I think there was always an understanding that the Ayew brothers would leave.
There was disappointment over some of the departures, particularly when Kyle Bartley left for West Brom and Federico Fernández and Jordi Amat were sold right at the end of the transfer window. It was the timing that really angered supporters; they felt the cost-cutting element had been done already and then, all of a sudden, another spree of players went out late in the window.
There was quite a lot of anger over that, particularly as it left Swansea really short in some positions. At the time they only had one fit senior centre-half in Mike van Der Hoorn, and until Wilfried Bony returned from injury recently, Oli McBurnie had been their only striking option.
The way a lot of the younger players have stepped up, given that a few of them are local lads too, has given supporters something to rally behind. I don’t think there’s universal optimism or happiness, but the supporters have been pretty good so far. They understand that this is a young side and you have to allow for ups and downs as they learn on the job.
How is Potter likely to set up at Griffin Park?
He tends to favour a 4-2-3-1, which has been Swansea’s traditional formation over the last decade. He opted for a 3-4-3 against West Brom, although it sounded like that was a specific selection for that game.
Typically, it’s been van der Hoorn and Rodon as centre-halves, McBurnie up front and Bersant Celina as the number ten. Dan James and Connor Roberts are the usual wingers, Kyle Naughton and Martin Olsson play either side of the back four and Matt Grimes and Leroy Fer sit in central midfield. In goal, Potter’s gone backwards and forwards a bit, but Erwin Mulder is the man between the sticks at the moment.
What’s your score prediction for Saturday’s game? It’s the first league meeting between the two sides since New Year’s Day 2007…
I’ll go for a 2-1 Swansea win.
For the full chat with Andrew, pick up a copy of BEES matchday programme on Saturday for just £3.50.
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