In an interview with the Telegraph ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final home tie against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, Swansea City winger Dan James has spoken about a number of different topics and one of those was his future at the club.
Since his move to Leeds United fell through on deadline day of the January transfer window, James has said that he loves it at Swansea and happy to stay.
This week, James says that he “thinks negotiations are taking place” and that he’s hoping it “happens soon”:
“I think the negotiations are taking place now,” James says, rapping his knuckles on the table to ‘touch wood’. “I am just waiting on that, I’m happy with it and am letting my agent and the club deal with it and hopefully it happens soon… I want to get into the Premier League and I’d love to do it with Swansea. There may be a time (when I have to leave) but that’s in the future.”
Talking of that Leeds move, he also added that it wasn’t difficult to come back to Swansea despite the move falling through at the final hour:
“A lot of people ask me that,”
“But it wasn’t hard because I was coming back to a place that I love and where I was playing. It wasn’t like I was out of the team and I wanted to really leave. I think it’s in the past now, I am really happy here and looking forward to what will come.”
This has been James’ breakthrough season thanks to being given his first opportunity away at Birmingham City back in August 2018 by manager Graham Potter. It was a tough outing for the youngster but he has come on immensely ever since.
Before the season started, James wondered about a loan move to help him develop as League Two outfit Yeovil were interested but Potter believed that he could offer something in South Wales, and he wasn’t wrong.
“Last season I went to Shrewsbury and it didn’t really work out. I didn’t play and I was quite down on myself. My expectations were high on the back of a good season with the (Swansea) under-23s but I didn’t get a game at all and came back early. I grounded myself again.
“But after pre-season I hadn’t played loads and was thinking ‘maybe not now’. I knew Yeovil in League Two were interested and I said to the gaffer ‘what do you think of me going on loan there?’ and he just said ‘I feel you can be a player here, you can do something for the team’.
“At the time I thought ‘is he just saying that to keep me happy?’ But he chucked me in at Birmingham, first game, a tough game and I came on because he believed in me. Maybe people thought I wasn’t physical enough but I made my first start against Ipswich (last October) and that set me.”
What has been impressive with James this season has been his strength in possession, coping with the challenges of the Championship and his ability to keep hold of the ball under pressure. Because of that, Potter has had faith in playing him through the middle as a false nine in recent games, making use of his speed and ability to make diagonal runs in an effort to force opposition defenders out of position.
@Daniel_James_97 movement up top was excellent, constantly on the move and trying to find space. Diagonal runs here before receiving the ball in a wide right position, beating his man and getting a low cross in. pic.twitter.com/sj7qQvXGT4
— Swans Analytics (@SwansAnalytics) March 11, 2019
One area that he does need to improve in is his finishing though. It’s fair to say that he hasn’t been as clinical as he probably should be this season but that’s something he and the coaching staff can work on.
Raheem Sterling, a player he looks to style himself on, struggled in front of goal but that area of his game has improved immensely under Pep Guardiola.
“The way he [Raheem Sterling] plays is the way I want to be. He’s learned a lot since he went from Liverpool to Man City – the way he has added goals and assists. I think Pep (Guardiola) has been a massive influence.
“He’s a very, very quick player and just uses his pace in different ways, he’s brilliant at getting in behind and that’s something I want to be better at. I want to learn every day. I am always hungry for more. A lot of people say I’ve come a long way but it doesn’t matter whether it’s been six months or two years – I always want to be better.”
Jefferson Montero is another winger we’ve had this season who has the ability to change the game in an instant but those moments tend to be somewhat few and far between. He’s also one-dimensional and struggles against sides who double up on him out wide.
That’s where James has the edge on Montero. He can play through the middle, can hold on to the ball for longer and generally can be more involved in attacking build-up play.
Like he says, if he’s marked out of the game, he wants to help others:
“At the start I was a secret and people didn’t know much about me,”
“Now they double up on me or stay closer and sometimes I’ve got frustrated but it’s just about – if I am not getting the ball what can I do to get others on it?”
Given his rapid development in just under a season, you have to wonder how good he’ll be in another year or two.
Accurate Passes: 5️⃣0️⃣ (87.7%)
Key passes: 5️⃣
— Swans Analytics (@SwansAnalytics) March 2, 2019