Swansea City: The Welsh Barcelona of the Premier League
“Y gem brydferth” — that’s Welsh for the beautiful game. Now I don’t know how many of Swansea’s players can speak their native tongue, but their fluency in the language of football was evident for all to see at Anfield this past Saturday. Approximately 650,000 people on earth speak Welsh (of which approximately 25,000 hail from the Chubut Province in Argentina, go figure). I would hazard a guess and say that far fewer than that can play football like the Swans of South Wales.
In the beginning of the season we saw glimpses of their easy-on-the-eye football, but they suffered a few lessons of humility on the road to some of the country’s best sides. They struggled to convert superior possession into goals. Once Danny Graham started finding the net, the pressure had eased somewhat. But even though they were seemingly turning a corner, doubts were still there. It was not so much the lack of goals as the primary criticism. Complaints were more heavily directed at Swansea’s conservatism around the half way line as they were often content to pass the ball backwards and sideways instead of taking risks with more threatening passes into the opposition’s final third.
At Anfield, commentators were slinging these same accusations in the early stages of the first half, before Swansea started to turn on the style and what transpired was a breathtaking display. Ironically, the game finished 0-0. But this was a classic example of the game’s potential to awe the spectator watching as the game unfolds, enjoying the build-up as it is often the events leading up to goals that involve the most magic rather than the goals themselves. This was not a vintage display from Dalglish’s Reds, but they still had opportunities to win the match. I doubt the Kop would have begrudged Swansea coming away with all three points as they were arguably the better side. It is rare for any team to come to Anfield and give them such a game, particularly a recently promoted side.
These are the heights of the Swans’ midfielders Joe Allen, Nathan Dyer, Leon Britton, and Wayne Routledge respectively. But their speed was something to behold, and it caused real problems for Liverpool’s midfield. This was not only evident in attack but defensively as well. At moments it was like watching ‘Children of the Corn’ on the pitch: these little spritely figures darting around nicking red pockets.
A couple of times Luis Suarez dropped deep to pick up the ball only to be dispossessed by diminutive midfielders with far superior quickness. That is saying something because we all know how adept Suarez can be with ball at his feet. They applied considerable pressure when they did not have possession and passed the ball with Catalan ease. Swansea may not have scored on Saturday, but I believe they are getting closer to being a true threat in the Premier League. But unlike the swashbuckling football of Blackpool last season, Swansea have patience which will lead to fewer mistakes. An interesting statistic is the fact that Swansea have the best defensive record at home in the Premier League. They have only conceded one goal at home (and that was an own goal by Danny Graham). If the opposition can’t get the ball off you, they can’t score.
Long live the Welsh Barcelona! And perhaps the leaky defenses near the top of the table should take a leaf out of the Swansea playbook?