The apparent training ground bust up between Chico-Flores and Gary Monk aptly summarised Swansea’s season so far. The 3-0 win against Newcastle in early December was their last victory, meaning that they have failed to win in their last eight games, albeit five of those teams sit in the top seven places in the league. Failing to rekindle the consistency of results as well as their performances they produced in their first two seasons after being promoted, it will be worrying for the fans to see their team slump in such a manner. Around this time last year, Swansea were on top of the moon after collecting the Capital One Cup, the first major trophy in their history, with manager Michael Laudrup taking much of the credit. However, fast forward one year and things are very different at the Liberty Stadium.
Swansea currently sit in 15th place in the table, hovering dangerously above the relegation zone with three points separating them and all of the bottom three teams who are on 18 points. In a fascinating season so far, just six points separate Aston Villa in 10th place and Cardiff who are bottom at the moment on goal difference.
With it being so tight at the bottom, a run of good results for any team in the bottom half will propel them into a position of comfort in the short term. That being said, if Swansea were to have picked up a few extra points in the last few months, they could’ve seen themselves in the top half of the table. Instead, after a disastrous Christmas and New Year period for The Swans, they are now battling for safety in a campaign which could see any of the current bottom 11 teams suffer the heartbreak of relegation.
The worrying fact with this situation is that the slump in form had begun just after the cup triumph. A 1-0 win against Newcastle followed the victory at Wembley but since then, they have won just 6 out of their last 32 matches in the league, a staggering statistic which has gone slightly under the radar.
Michael Laudrup must be one of the calmest managers in the Premier Leagues and rarely shows too much emotion. Although he has admitted that his team have under-performed and face a tough final third of the season, he does feel that his side are more than capable of brushing off any fears of relegation with good results in key clashes with rivals in the coming weeks.
“Last season we had three defeats at the beginning and then we lost some more games at the end, but by then we were safe and we had a trophy in the closet.”
“We have to look and say there are a lot of teams in our situation and if we can win one or two games, things will change.”
“It will change the number of points we have, it will change the table and it will give the whole team that confidence you need.” Michael Laudrup speaking after the match vs. Spurs.
For the past two seasons, The Liberty Stadium has been one of the toughest grounds to visit as an away side with victories against Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City. With the slick passing and intricate movement between players introduced by now Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, Swansea flourished at home and struck fear into any opponents coming their way. However this season, it has been a very different scenario. Swansea have already lost five games at home this season, that’s more than the entire 2011-2012 season and joint with that of the 2012-2013 campaign. However, the most frustrating statistic for the fans would be that the team have only won 2 out of 11 games this season. Having collected 10 points so far, Swansea average less than a point every home game this season. They have scored a respectable 19 goals but have conceded 20, nearly an average of 2 every home game and is more than the total home goals conceded in the 2011-2012 season.
“This is a new experience for us, but we need to stay together — the players, the coaching staff and the fans — and make sure we get out of it.” Leon Britton issues a rallying cry.
Swansea have been decimated with injuries to key players so far this season. With important players such as Dyer, Hernandez, Canas and Vorm sidelined, as well as the star performers of last year Michu and De Guzman. After the 3-1 loss to Swansea, Jonjo Shelvey also joined the ever growing injury list which has meant that the manager has had to throw his fringe players into the deep end. Playing in an extra cup competition in the form of the Europa League, it has meant that the most of the players are playing around two games a week which has taken its toll on some of them, resulting in lacklustre performances. Michu was an instrumental player in the league and their cup triumph last season and scored 22 goals. His presence up front has been clearly missed as well as his link up play with the midfield which has been just one of the reasons for Swansea poor form.
Swansea can pride in the fact that they beat Spanish giants Valencia 3-0, a victory which will live long in the memory in the debut season in Europe. However, the results following the Europa League games haven’t been kind to them and that coupled with the busy period of Premier League matches, it has definitely taken its toll on the team. The six games after Europa League matches have yielded only 6 points, including draws against Stoke, Norwich and West Ham.
In the past years, Swansea have based their football on high amounts of possession, similar to how Arsenal go about their business. It has been no different this year but the results have been less positive than previously.
In all of the against West Ham, Stoke City, Hull City, Norwich City and Aston Villa this season, Swansea had possession stats ranging between 63% to 73%. In addition to this, their conversion clinicalness in front of goal has also suffered. With a conversion rate of only 7.6%, this is the fifth worst in the league. Wilfred Bony has been a revelation this season with 14 goals so far in all competitions and 7 in the league so far. However there are only 3 players, including Bony, who have scored more than 2 goals, something the team will have to improve upon going into the crucial upcoming league and European games.
Change in Fortune?
Laudrup’s men now have a chance to show what they are made of with bottom half clashes against Fulham, West Ham and Stoke. Sandwiched in between those games is the massive derby with Cardiff on the 8th February in a game where Swansea will want to gain revenge for the defeat in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. The Swans also face a tough tie against Rafael Benitez’s side Napoli in the Europa League which will test the character of the side to its highest degree.
Swansea fans will hope that Bony can continue his good form until the end of the season and with Michu returning soon as well as other key members of the side, there is good chance of a change of fortune in terms of results and performances.
If The Swans are able to rekindle some of the form which saw them gain huge plaudits from many people in previous years, then I feel they will be able to avoid relegation comfortably. However, this by no means, will be an easy task.