After 15 games in the Premier League, Swansea sit in eleventh position. Their future in the top league is far from secure. But it’s safe to say they’ve given a good account of themselves thus far. Most importantly, they’ve shown that they have the potential to learn from their mistakes and continue a run up the league ladder.
Swansea’s 2-0 win against Fulham on Saturday was a good barometer of where this Swansea team sits. If you listen to the commentators roll the cliches off their tongue, this is a Swansea team who hadn’t won in five games and has the worst away record in the league. But it’s only fair to consider who the Swans have played so far this season. Their only losses (all away, except for the home loss against United) have come against Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Norwich and Blackburn. The Canaries and Rovers were perhaps two teams you would think the Swans should beat, but in both of those games Norwich and Blackburn gave some of their best performances this season.
Swansea has nothing to be ashamed of regarding their league form so far this season. In fact, I believe the win against Fulham was a turning point in the season. A lot of that credit is due to the herculean performance by Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm who saved a penalty and made several other key saves against the Cottagers.
There were plenty of other positive signs from Brendan Rodgers’s team on Saturday. Most importantly, it was the more direct attacking approach thanks to the inclusion of Luke Moore, Wayne Routledge and Leroy Lita. These three Premier League veterans, best known for their days at West Brom, Newcastle and Reading respectively, add a different dimension when Swansea move forward. They don’t rely as much on Scott Sinclair, down the left wing, to be the main attacking impetus. Instead they prefer to play the ball either down the middle or to the right wing where Routledge shines.
While they’ve been brilliant this season, one of the criticisms I have had about midfielders Joe Allen and Nathan Dyer is that they’ve been too predictable when moving the ball forward. Oftentimes when Swansea is on the counter attack and a direct ball from Allen down the middle to the forward seems like the best option, Allen will pass the ball to Dyer on the right wing, thereby slowing down the attack and waiting for Dyer to cross the ball into the box. With Moore, Routledge and Lita, however, Routledge will oftentimes run directly at defenders, or will pass the ball to Moore, with his back to goal, and make a key pass or will twist and turn to shoot at goal. Lita, meanwhile, is dangerous in front of goal either with the ball at his feet or when he heads the ball from a cross or set play.
Moore has played two games in a row now. While he isn’t the finished article, he’s shown enough promise to be given more opportunities to find his way into this Swansea side. Lita will always be a threat whether he starts or comes on as a substitute. And as for Routledge, his best position is on the wing. If I was Rodgers, I would have Routledge start on either the left or right wing, to replace either Sinclair or Dyer (depending on their form and how well or not they’re doing in training).
At the end of the day, the performances by Lita, Moore and Routledge have been a welcome bonus to add depth to this Swansea side. Their performances has given Rodgers more options to consider, and will help create a healthy situation at the club where several players are competing for starting places. While Vorm gets most of the plaudits this week, deservedly so, this is a Swansea team that is firing on all cylinders and is playing tremendously well as a team.
The club has already knocked off Stoke City, West Brom, Fulham and Bolton, and has picked up draws against Liverpool, Wolves, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Wigan. Coming up next are Newcastle (away), Everton (away), QPR (home), Tottenham (home) and Aston Villa (away). The Swans will take each game as it comes and will hope for some additional depth to be added in January to help stabilize the team and then to help them push on for a finish in the top twelve. Given how they’re playing so far, that is entirely possible.