Sometimes in football, you have to witness something with your own eyes just to assure yourself that what you just saw actually did happen. I refer of course to Swansea City’s complete demolition of a streetwise and experienced Barclays Premier side in the shape of Fulham, who entered yesterday’s game at Craven Cottage having won six out of their previous eight home matches in the League, scoring an impressive 21 goals in the process, suggesting that Martin Jol had turned his particular home in west London into the type of fortress that all managers dream of.
When I arrived at the ground I was asked my prediction for the game ahead by a travelling fan from South Wales, “Swansea win” was my instant reply. My response was a little bullish based on their excellent win the week before against the big spending Manchester City, which followed hot on the heals of a very solid performance in a victory at Wigan, but in reality, I actually felt that leaving Craven Cottage with a point would be an excellent result for Brendan Rodgers’s travelling Swans, such was the Cottagers strength at home.
But just as I was taking my seat to consider the afternoon’s prospects, I learned of the news that Swansea’s star performer against Manchester City, and a player who has been the very bedrock of Swansea’s courageous assault on the Premier League this season, Ashley Williams, would be absent with a virus. My optimism changed instantly, and I have to confess, I then feared even a draw might have been out of reach for Swansea.
I thought that, not because Williams’ replacement, Gary Monk, would let Swansea City down – far from it, he never has – but I was far more concerned by the fact that Monk and his young defensive partner, Steven Caulker, had never shared central defensive duties in a Premier League game. This untried partnership would now have to deal with the threat offered by the new Russian sensation, Pavel Pogrebnyak, who in his first five matches since signing from Stuttgart had scored five goals from his ten shots, and that of his experienced strike partner, the dynamic Andrew Johnson. Communication and understanding is paramount in any defensive partnership and my pre-match fear was that those particular attributes would not necessarily be as strong as they usually are when Williams and Caulker line up together.
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