Swansea City’s unlikely 3-2 win over Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday means that it is probably not too hyperbolic to describe their league form under new boss Paul Clement as being a new manager bounce. Two wins separated by a 4-0 home spearing by Arsenal contain enough green shoots to suggest to Tom Simmonds that the Swans might just get away with it this time. Tom outlines his four point plan for Swansea’s survival.
1. Six points in February enough for Swans
While they upset the odds on Merseyside at the weekend, to suggest that Swansea can do the same in their next two away games, at Manchester City and Chelsea, is fanciful. Their next two home games therefore need to yield a minimum of four points and, ideally, six. Fortunately, one of these is against Leicester, who remain winless on the road this season and have only scored eight times away from the King Power.
This gives Swansea a key opportunity that even their dodgy defence might be able to seize. The first of these home games, against Southampton next Tuesday, is a trickier proposition. The Saints are improving again after a recent dip but their away form is barely better than Leicester’s, having lost 6 of their 11 road games so far, scoring only 9 times. Clement won’t say it in public, but if you offered him 6 points from their next four games, he’d snap your hand off.
2. The More Unexciting The Better
A fairly obvious point to make about a team with a goal difference of -25 after 22 games, but it is one that Clement recognises he has to address. After all, even the best teams can’t expect to score three goals every time they ship two. He has the methods to do just that-he has spoken of his dislike of high scoring wins and his admiration for John Terry-style captains in his early interviews.
Let us not forget that this is a man who was sacked by Derby last season with them sitting fifth in the Championship due to perceptions that his football was too unexciting. Unexciting is what Swansea need at the minute and I suspect that the Liberty Stadium faithful will welcome no repeats of the ludicrous 5-4 win over Crystal Palace in January if a few hard-fought 1-0 wins appear in their place instead. To this end, signing a replacement for Ashley Williams is surely priority number one for Clement before January ends.
3. Four Big Games
The four matches which follow their visit to Stamford Bridge on 25 February will define Swansea’s season. These are home games against Burnley, the other Premier League side currently without an away win, and a Middlesbrough side fighting a losing battle against gravity plus trips to fellow strugglers Hull and to a Bournemouth side who should still be away from trouble.
Without wishing to invoke the ire of the footballing Gods, if Clement were to hand-pick a run of fixtures, it might look something like Swansea’s appointments in March. There’s already a strong whiff of now or never about these games.
4. Taking Advantage of ‘Boro
While the current bottom three are in deep troughs at the moment, it would be foolish to write off a Palace team piloted by master escapologist Sam Allardyce and a Hull side who have improved a little under managerial wild-card Marco Silva. Only having three teams below you doesn’t give you any margin for error.
Boro are on the slide, struggling for goals and fluency, are winless in five and surely need to beat West Brom at home on Tuesday to mask the stench of relegation that seems to be enveloping them at present.
The sooner Swansea can exploit their downturn and edge ahead of them, the sooner they can start looking to press home an advantage that their kind fixture list can give them if Clement plays his cards right.
Swansea fans, do you think the great escape is on?