Funny how it’s always much easier to write about a defeat than a victory. Maybe it’s because criticism is more fun to read than praise (it’s definitely more fun to write), and while criticism of a losing team seems deserved, it looks like nit-picking when it’s directed at a winning one.
I don’t actually have much criticism of Swansea for last Saturday’s 2-0 win over Huddersfield anyway, other than to note that Huddersfield are arguably one of this season’s weakest sides and were without their best player for 45 minutes. Beating them at home should be more a formality than an achievement, but this Swans side needed some confidence and now they’ve (hopefully) got it.
I loved Leroy Fer’s yellow card. The spit hadn’t dried on the ref’s whistle from kick-off before Fer clotheslined ‘keeper Jonas Lossl with his entire body and then rolled the ball into the net as though to remind Swans fans what that actually looks like. It’s not often a great idea to pick up a booking right at the start of the game, and I’d have put money on Fer getting sent off later, but on Saturday it was a game-defining moment.
Pundits have applauded Tammy Abraham for starting the game with great intent and setting the tone, but make no mistake — they were only saying that because it’s poor form to commend reckless aggression in front of the kids watching at home. It was Fer who set the tone, with that beautiful sudden flash of “fuck you” attitude which has been sorely missing from Swansea this season.
That’s not to say Abraham wasn’t as determined. His two goals showed a new commitment to attack the 6 yard box, to unsettle defenders and look all sharp and hungry and number niney. He made a ton of effort up front as Swansea switched to an effective high press for the first time in a while, and along with Jordan Ayew and Luciano Narsingh formed a Swans front three that looked genuinely useful for once.
Ayew was his usual self, once again doing the kind of hard work that doesn’t show up on the scoresheet; Swansea’s second was almost his before Abraham made sure, and while Lossl has subsequently been singled out for blame having made the blunder which led to Swansea’s first, nobody is saying very much about the Swans player who was putting the ‘keeper under enough pressure to make that mistake to begin with — Ayew.
Narsingh offered some invention, his inclusion seeming almost like a concession from Paul Clement to the fanbase — you want width, you’ve got it. Clement also started Leon Britton and fielded a back four in a fairly fluid shape that looked equal parts 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 at different times.
It’s almost as though the manager is finally giving the fans what they want, perhaps to escape further criticism (if the fans dream team fails, who is left to blame?), but the disappearance of Roque Mesa from the match day squad still engendered sufficient fury from social media to suggest that some people just ain’t happy unless they’re complaining.
Turns out Mesa might have been involved in an off-field incident involving one or more emergency services, but this is all hearsay and he’s been training with the squad this week so hopefully nothing too serious happened. I was hoping for a “Mario Balotelli setting fireworks off in his bathroom” type of story. I guess we’ll see, but Mesa will have to go some distance to better Chico Flores threatening Garry Monk with a brick. That happened, right?
Leicester are next, and while teams generally play well the first few games under a new manager, Leicester haven’t got one yet, so I expect them to look completely lost following Craig Shakespeare’s sacking this week.
It’s almost perfect timing — any earlier, and Shakespeare is still in situ and Leicester might be settled enough to get a result. Any later, and they’ll be enjoying the fabled new manager bounce. Right now, they’re in no-man’s land and another Swansea performance like Saturday’s — particularly from the forwards — should see a good result.
Still, might not be a bad idea to starve Leroy for a day or two and give him the scent of Schmeichel’s shirt two seconds before kick off, eh?