The sight of Shelvey, Cañas and De Guzmán pinging the ball around in ever-expanding triangles on Sunday was quite a sight to behold – for the neutrals at least – and confirmed that, despite their forays in the Europa League, Swansea have lost none of their onfield swagger.
I wrote last week of how they are perceived by many as the barometer by which we should be judging ourselves but came to the conclusion that, a Capital One Cup and a resultant European foray aside, there remains only a Rizla paper between the clubs in terms of overall progress. And while nothing I witnessed at the weekend has convinced me otherwise I still have to confess to feeling a tad envious.
Not big or clever… but true.
The ease with which said trio and their team-mates knocked the ball around in pretty patterns was a joy to watch and – as hard as it was to take at times from a City perspective – was a classic example of how the game should be played.
Of course, the fact they’re able to shift the ball around with such comfort doesn’t suddenly make them Barcelona – despite the media love-in – and taking Sunday’s game as a perfect example they really don’t create many goalscoring opportunities.
This is helped of course when it’s one of those days when Michu, as opposed to doing a ‘good Berbatov’ impersonation, decides to do the sulky one (as highlighted by his ‘solo’ half-time pep talk on the club’s official tunnel cam).
It also helps when you play a virtual six-man midfield, with said Spaniard dropping off so deep the only decision for Seb Bassong and Michael Turner to make was whether or not to track him back into his own midfield.
So, with a heavily loaded midfield – awash with good technicians – and a back-four who are all comfortable with the ball at their feet, you have a perfect recipe for playing keep-ball – but not necessarily one that is going to carve out a plethora of chances in front of goal.
What would we prefer?
I can only imagine the mood of the place if Chris Hughton decided to go with one striker, but who would still be asked to drop off and make a midfield six at times. The bloke who sat a few feet behind me on Sunday certainly wouldn’t have approved… route-one apparently being the answer.
One thing is for sure, in terms of artistic impression few in the Premier League – even in the top six – can match them. But does that mean I’d swap a Howson for a Shelvey or even a Hooper for a Michu?
Not a chance. In terms of footballing sophistication they may be a league or two ahead of us right now, but in terms of who’s the better side I’m sticking with the Rizla paper.
Despite hammering the first nail into Steve Clarke’s managerial coffin at The Hawthorns I can’t pretend City’s trip to the Stadium of Light on Saturday is one that sets the pulse racing. It’s been said many times… we don’t really ‘do’ the North-East, as typified by the recent visit to St James’ Park.
Throw into the mix a rejuvenated Sunderland side who, despite being outplayed by Chelsea on Tuesday night, managed somehow to squirm their way into the Capital One Cup semi-finals and you have – and I hesitate to say it – a recipe for a long afternoon.
I hope I’m wrong of course, and it goes without saying we desperately want the West Brom game to be a turning point on the road, but I’d have been more confident if it was an excitable Italian prowling the Sunderland technical area than I am now the prowling and yelling is being done by an excitable Uruguayan.
The Mackems, much like City, have been goal-shy this season but as always when Norwich come to town will fancy their chances of notching just their third win of the season. And in truth, if I were them I’d probably feel the same. We do have a horrible knack of being the ones to end other teams’ barren runs. At least that’s how it feels. Perhaps supporters of most teams feel the same way?
On a positive note, Hughton confirmed at this afternoon’s press conference that Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Robert Snodgrass are both in the squad for Saturday’s game.
Either way, it’s going to be a tough one; one that will require all and sundry to stand up and be counted in the face of a raucous ‘Roker roar’. If they can do that and draw on the ‘spirit of The Hawthorns’ anything is possible. Sunderland are bottom of the table on nine points for a reason.
The news that Bassong and Howson have signed extended contracts can only be a good thing. Howson, in particular, has been at the very top of his game of late.
I read some interesting comments earlier around the whole ‘not worth the paper they’re written on’ theme but can’t agree. While both will undoubtedly have benefited from a Premier League’esque wage rise so the club benefits from having tied down two of its best players for the forseeable…
One assumes the contracts were signed on the basis of neither having a problem with the training methods, the management team, their team-mates or the club in general.
With the prospect of Premier League football elsewhere probably available to both players, for them to put pen to paper suggests a genuine belief in the club’s continued forward momentum… which can only be positive.
It also confirms that behind the doors of Colney there is plenty going on. One suspects it also involves a scrap or two of paper with some barely decipherable names on them.
With the transfer window opening in just thirteen days time I expect there to be one busy chief executive once the turkey has been digested.
Good luck David… don’t over indulge now.
David Bowen says
Thanks Gary, I always know I’m going to be entertained when I see your name at the top of the article! I have friends in Sunderland from the old BBC606 days, I’m staying with them this weekend with a seat in the Mackem end so I’ll have to behave if we do the unthinkable.
They are a bit more confident after Tuesday but still not expecting an easy ride! All I hope is that the WBA team turn up for us rather than the Citeh, or Liverpool one! So long as we give it a go, I’ll be happy!
Rick Lime says
*A Chrissy Wish*
All calendar year Chris Hughton has taken the flack,
“No idea,” they cried, “too boring, give him the sack,”
But he’s outlasted AVB and Clark,
Despite the outers and doubters bark,
In a Sunder-winter wonderland, let’s press and attack.
Derek O'Brien says
Nice article Gary, lot of fair points.
As a proud Jack I admit we are not firing on all cylinders at the moment and I am not going to blame that on the Europa League. Quite simply, our strikers are not scoring at the moment, both have been injured it’s true but honestly Michu had a shocker against you on Sunday.
However despite this we are in fact the seventh highest scorers in the league and enjoy the highest % possession and alongside Man C the highest pass rate.
It’s the Swansea way and it’s in our DNA. Good luck for rest of season, CH is such a nice bloke.
Hughton go with just one up front … asking said person to drop back … nah, can’t envisage it, but maybe Holty can??
Russell S. says
Style over substance? For all the Swans pretty passing patterns, their goal (and pretty much only effort on goal) came from a hopeful punt from the back which Bassong got wrong. They are still yet to beat us in the PL after 5 attempts.
When you look back at the records in years to come, it’s the results that matter, not the possession stats or the passing stats.
Of course we all like a bit of stardust sprinkled on us now and again but with the winter’s worst to come, give me solid stodgy buns over fancy fondants anytime…and besides, Hooper’s goal was worth the money surely?
Sunderland will be tough – a point will be welcome there. Just hope we don’t get any dodgy ref decisions like last visit.