Swansea are in the midst of a challenging run in the Championship at present, having lost six of their last eight games, as well as losing a thrilling FA Cup quarter-final with Manchester City inside the last few weeks. How have the last few months been at the Liberty Stadium?
It’s been really weird because results haven’t gone their way, but in this run, they’ve produced some of the best performances. For example, in the Man City game, they were absolutely brilliant and some poor decisions from officials contributed to what was them getting knocked out in the end. If you didn’t watch the West Brom game – where they lost 3-0 at The Hawthorns – you’d think they’d been rightly thumped by a team going for promotion, but, in truth, Swansea had a lot of the ball and had some really glaring chances, but they just could not finish, so were undone by some poor defending. It was the same against Norwich, where they played brilliantly in the first half and couldn’t score, and also at Forest at the weekend, where they dominated the game, eventually went 1-0 up and then, again, they were undone by two set-pieces and lose the game. It’s frustrating because they’ve played so well in those games, but they are getting beaten week in, week out at the moment.
Last time you spoke to us – prior to the Swans’ 4-1 FA Cup victory in February, you said that though it was a real outside chance, there a belief remained that Swansea could sneak into the play-off places. They still have two games in hand, but has that hope faded now?
I have to say so, yes. I think, for the first time this season, though I’m not 100 per cent certain, it’s the first time Swansea have been closer to the bottom three than the top six in terms of points – it’s 11 points off the top six and 10 off the bottom three now. Even though they have a couple of games in hand, I think it would take a miraculous run for them to get there and they’d probably have to win eight or nine of the last nine games. It’s a long gone target for this season and now it’s just about building for the future, really.
With the reasonable target of consolidation now at the forefront of their minds, which areas do you think they need to strengthen in the summer to become capable of mounting a promotion charge next season?
That’s the concern, really, because it’s blindingly obvious that they need to strengthen and that’s been their Achilles heel this season. If you look at the bench, on numerous occasions, there’s not been enough good quality to come on and change games or help see games out and it has cost them points, quite often as well. There are a few areas they need to strengthen, but it’s just a case of whether or not they will get the backing from the owners. Graham Potter has had two transfer windows since he’s been at the club and they’ve mainly been about recouping money to consolidate last season’s relegation. It’s been two horrific windows for the fans and it’s been tough for Graham Potter as well, who has had to rely on players that have come from the academy. Strengthening is needed but it’s more of a question of whether he’ll get the backing rather than where he needs to strengthen. They are going to be fighting to keep hold of players this summer, particularly Daniel James, so that’s the priority at the moment and if there’s anything left over, fingers crossed he will get to spend.
As you say, Daniel James has emerged as one of Swansea’s shining lights this season, while Oli McBurnie was your pick last time out, so which player should Brentford be keeping a close eye on this week?
For me, it goes without saying that it’s Daniel James because he’s really stepped up to the plate. Oli McBurnie has had an illness that has caused him to miss a lot of games in this calendar year and he’s just not been able to get back up and running in that good run of goalscoring form as yet, which can’t be helped. But Daniel James, obviously with that failed move to Leeds on deadline day, has come back and has been phenomenal – he’s been just a professional and has been delivering high-level performances week in, week out. I’d certainly say he’s one to watch because his work-rate is admirable and on top of that, his pace is frightening, as Man City found out as well.
With the fact Brentford haven’t won a league game away at Swansea since February 1995 in mind, what’s your score prediction for Tuesday night’s game?
I think, if Swansea can keep playing as they have done, they’ll finally get a win because their home record has been very good. They’ve not lost at home in the league since Boxing Day, so it’s the away form that has been the problem, really. Brentford pushed them all the way in that FA Cup game and then a brilliant second half performance eventually saw them through. At home I do fancy Swansea, so I’ll back them for a 2-1 win.
How might the hosts line-up tonight?
(4-2-3-1) - Nordfeldt; Roberts, van der Hoorn (C), Carter-Vickers, Naughton; Byers, Grimes; James, Celina, Routledge; McBurnie.