Swansea City boss Graham Potter has established some consistency and momentum since the turn of the year, losing just once in 2019 before Wednesday night’s trip to promotion-chasing Leeds United.
The Swansea manager said himself that he was looking to build momentum with a settled side and so supporters were left baffled when he decided to move Matt Grimes into left-back, despite proving to be one of our key players in our upturn in form this calendar year.
Having shown improvement in the last fortnight or so, Declan John’s absence was unfortunate but even so, he still had two fullbacks fit and available in Kyle Naughton and Connor Roberts – both of which started at Elland Road.
Potter has played one of them on their weaker side in recent months but he decided against that away at one of the best sides in the division.
The other decision that left fans frustrated and confused was our lack of an out and out striker as Graham Potter left both Oli McBurnie and Courtney Baker-Richardson on the bench. McBurnie wasn’t expected to start following another bout of illness but you wonder if Baker-Richardson was carrying a knock or simply not chosen to play.
With Celina playing through the middle initially and Barrie McKay and Dan James playing either side of him, the Swans just had no way of getting the ball to stick in the opposition’s half. Dan James had opportunities here and there to chase long balls down the wing but Leeds were too streetwise to allow him too much space in behind.
With Leeds pressing high, this allowed no chances for Swansea City to get the ball forward and our front three never stood a chance against Leeds’ strong defensive unit. Given that, it became all the more frustrating to see us struggling whilst we had two strikers watching on from the bench.
With no Leroy Fer to add some physicality in the midfield and Grimes to provide some means of control, George Byers and Jay Fulton struggled through the middle.
Despite a lack of a press from the Swans, Leeds were still happy to hit long balls and go direct. If balls were lost, they were rapidly looking to win it back in our own half and this caused us all sorts of problems. We were hoping we could release quick balls on the counter for Dan James to chase but their intense press meant there were few opportunities to aim long.
Given Potter’s team selection, it felt like a performance from the early part of the season, when Potter was still trying to work out his best team and gain valuable information on his players. The likes of McKay, Asoro and surprisingly Narsingh all got game time and McKay especially, you have to wonder how he manages to get into the starting eleven. Asoro did better than expected but Narsingh was quiet on the right flank.
Not only the team selection, but it was also baffling how Potter went back to his previous ways of getting his starting eleven wrong, so much so that we had to play catch-up in the second half, with a 2-0 deficit to chase with little success. He moved Grimes into midfield and that was something that looked obvious from kick-off.
It was McBurnie who helped change the dynamic for us. Finally we had a player on the pitch who could hold the ball up and make things happen for us beyond the halfway line. His penalty conversion proved to be a consolation just five minutes from time but in some ways you wondered what could have been a more competitive match if we were could have fielded a stronger and more balanced side.