My thoughts ahead of Swansea City’s fifth Premier League season…
As part of the Observer`s fans` verdict feature, I have given my views and thoughts ahead of what will be Swansea City`s fifth season in the Premier League.
I`ve done these “fans` verdicts” for a number of seasons now, even straight after games when we were in the Championship, but now and again they`ve had to condense my (long) answers which often lacks an explanation and reasoning for my opinions on a particular topic.
I and many others I`m sure are often optimistic ahead of a new season, it`s exciting – we can`t wait for the season to start, and apart from maybe the first season or two in the Premier League, it`s been a while (more than 10 years) since we wondered whether or not we might suffer relegation come the following May.
Confidence and expectation is probably the highest it`s ever been in our entire history. Garry Monk has already given his side confidence by saying that he believes that his current squad of players is the best the club has ever had, but you can argue that it also adds some pressure as they`ll be expected to deliver following a bold statement from the manager.
I think it is our best ever squad though. Last year, we lacked some strength in depth at left back, right back improved in the second half of the season and one side of our wing has needed improvement (Dyer`s side). The thought of Montero on one flank and Ayew on the other is a frightening thought for Premier League full backs.
Monk has added much needed strength in depth in these positions, and you`d have to say that the squad is more equally balanced across the different positions compared to last year.
After finishing 8th last year, some of the players – particularly some of the new signings – have already told the media that they`ll be aiming to finish in a Europa League qualification place next season, and with the squad improving – that`s likely to be the target amongst the players and managerial staff – Monk is never one to lack ambition. However, like last year, I doubt he`ll be looking towards 7th or above until they`ve settled into a good run of form early on and got a decent points tally on board first.
But while there`s talk and aims of finishing top of the “best of the rest” league as it were, us fans will mostly settle for another solid season in and around mid-table. 12th would hardly be a disaster – just a little deflating – as restoring our top flight status is always the initial aim – especially now considering the ever-increasing money available from TV funding.
My prediction is 8th position once again and personally I`ll be delighted with that. How could you not be really? The squad has improved, but so too has the competition, and as chairman Huw Jenkins has said earlier this Summer, consolidating this year can be seen as progress.
A question that always gets asked in pre-season is regarding our weaknesses. It`s a difficult one to answer in pre-season when the squad has changed and friendly matches never offer a fair gauge as to how well we`re performing.
If last season is anything to go by, then we`ll need to continue to improve our game management, and “seeing out games”. At the start of the season in particular, we would always start matches well, gain a narrow lead but we gained a reputation of always giving the opposition the chance to get back level in the second half.
We struggled to cope when teams upped their performance level as they looked for an equaliser, the pressure seemed to much for us to cope with, and we`ll need to be stronger in this department.
In fairness to Monk though, he inspired an improvement in this department in the second half of the season. The 4-4-2 diamond contributing to that, making us more robust and solid, but at the same time, we were often chasing games or hoping to win games by the odd goal. A switch to the 4-2-3-1 system was often needed to get us an equaliser or a winner in games.
But the Swans start off afresh again in August, and he`ll have to ensure that the team doesn`t revert back to old habits of failing to control a match over the full 90 minutes.
That second half of the season turnaround showed Monk`s true qualities as a manager, and how he was able to fix a number of problems during the year. A fine example of this was the miraculous improvement of Shelvey`s game after a poor start to the campaign.
You could also argue that failure to take our chances has been a weakness of ours for a number of years, but I would imagine our stats in away matches in particular would argue that that isn`t the case. Our biggest away wins last season saw us create only a handful of chances but crucially scoring one and remaining solid at the other end to take the 3 points.
Check out the Vital Swansea website on Sunday for our full question and answers plus a link to the Observer`s condensed version!
Do you agree or disagree with the views above? How are you feeling about the Summer and the season ahead? Can we beat last year`s 8th place finish?