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What I Learned About Your Premier League Club This Season

liberty stadium What I Learned About Your Premier League Club This Season

In the 20 years that I’ve followed the Premier League, this season has been the most unique for me. In previous years, I watched the league with an unbiased lens, able to dish out criticism and laud players and teams with praise without letting club bias get in the way. But this year has been different for me because my team, Swansea City, are in the top league.

It’s completely changed the way I go into a Premier League weekend. I still try to watch as many games as I can, almost all of them live, but my weekend schedule now revolves around when Swansea City kicks off their weekly match.

The other thing it’s changed is that it has given me a unique perspective regarding which teams are the best and worst in the league. The easy way to find this out is by looking at the league table, but that’s not always a good barometer of how good a team is, or whether they’re punching above or below their weight. For example, I’ve had the chance to watch every single club in the Premier League play Swansea this season. Based on those performances, it has given me a different perspective on each team that I wouldn’t have had in previous seasons. Previously, I would seen one team against another, but it would have been more at random. With Swansea, I’ve had a chance to see each opponent play against a level playing field, i.e. the Swans.

So what have I learned by watching each team?

Arsenal: Arsene Wenger’s side has faced Swansea twice this season and, not surprisingly, they’ve been a Jekyll and Hyde team in both games. In January, Swansea beat them 3-2 at the Liberty Stadium, but Arsenal showed flashes of brilliance, particularly from Robin van Persie. When the teams played in September, Arsenal was again inconsistent in the 90 minutes, flattering to deceive at times and only winning 1-0 after a mistake from Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm. But there were moments in that match where Arsenal was in total control. Arsenal is too inconsistent throughout seasons, and even in matches.

Aston Villa: Ugly, too defensive, lacking creativity and a dire side to watch. And that’s the positives for Aston Villa. Defender Alan Hutton is an animal who shouldn’t be playing at this level, while the sooner Alex McLeish gets the sack, the better it’ll be for Villa fans. Swansea drew Villa earlier in the season 0-0 in a game that no one wanted to play. At Villa Park, Swansea comfortably beat Aston Villa 2-0 in January at Villa Park.

Blackburn: Just like Arsenal, Blackburn is far too inconsistent. At times they look like they’re relegated. But there have been flashes of brilliance throughout the season such as their 4-2 win over Swansea in December. Personally, I think Rovers have pretty much given up but maybe it’s that inconsistency that’s just plaguing them now.

Bolton: Without a shadow of a doubt, Bolton has been the worst team that Swansea has faced all season. They were absolutely pathetic when they lost 3-1 against Swansea in October. And I haven’t seen much reason to believe in Bolton since then. I would be very shocked if the Trotters find a way to stay up this season. How Owen Coyle still has a job, I do not know.

Chelsea: Swansea have played Chelsea home and away this season, and the games against the Blues give a good indication of the club’s status. Earlier in the season, Chelsea was unstoppable when they beat Swansea 4-1 in September. Torres scored, and Villas-Boas side were purring. But when Chelsea came to South Wales in January, the Blues were awful. Nathan Dyer made Ashley Cole look mediocre, and Chelsea was very fortunate to get a 1-1 draw after an injury time own goal rescued a point for Chelsea.

Everton: Swansea changed tactics and played a very defensive game against Everton at Goodison Park in December. The strategy backfired when Everton scored to make it 1-0, and Swansea then were unable to break down this physically and mentally tough Everton side.

Fulham: Out of all of the teams that Swansea has played this season, the toughest opponent has been Fulham. Even though Swansea beat the Cottagers 2-0 in Wales, it was a closely fought match that Fulham could have easily won. I’m not looking forward to Swansea’s visit to Craven Cottage next week.

Liverpool: The biggest observation for me from this 0-0 game was the way that Swansea often outplayed Liverpool in their passing game. Liverpool has a strong team of excellent footballers, but they don’t play that well together as a team. They’re definitely the unfinished article.

Manchester City: The sheer depth of Manchester City’s squad is something that is awesome. Against Manchester City in August, Swansea gave an excellent account of themselves in the first 20 minutes. But when City brought Sergio Aguero on in the second half, that automatically raised City several different levels above Swansea — to a level that is completely out of reach for even the hardest working side. That was a clear indication to me that the Premier League is really two leagues in one.

Manchester United: This is one of the weakest Manchester United side in several seasons, but give them half a chance and they’re absolutely clinical in front of goal. This is the type of United side who continue to patiently wait for their opponents to make mistakes, and soon as they do, they pounce on the weaknesses. Not surprisingly, United beat Swansea 1-0 in September after a rare mistake at the back by Brendan Rodgers’s team.

Newcastle United: When Swansea went up to St James’s Park to grab a 0-0 draw against Newcastle in December, it was an indication that any side, including Newcastle, can have a bad day at “the office” every once in a while. Newcastle lacked that bite in front of goal in a game where Swansea went for the nil-nil draw and achieved their goal.

Norwich City: The home and away victories by Norwich against Swansea this season illustrate how hard the Canaries work under manager Paul Lambert. The side absolutely did their homework before both matches to isolate Swansea’s weaknesses, and then executed their plans to perfection. Norwich is the side that I wish Swansea was more like especially the way they have more than one way of playing depending on who the opposition is (Swansea plays one style, and only one style).

QPR: Swansea played Queens Park Rangers in December when Neil Warnock was still in charge, and I wasn’t impressed. I’m still convinced the only reason the match ended 1-1 was because of Warnock’s constant bickering at the referee, which — perhaps — was the reason the ref didn’t award Swansea a penalty later in the game after QPR blatantly fouled Danny Graham in the box. I wasn’t impressed by QPR that day, and I’m still not.

Stoke City: Stoke City is the type of team that Swansea does not like playing against. The 2-0 win for the Potters in February was a result of hard work, discipline and punishing Swansea’s weaknesses. No matter whether you like Stoke’s style or not, it can work. Instead of playing their own way, they tend to nullify opposition teams and eke out wins. It reminds me of the Bolton of old under Sam Allardyce. Not pretty, but effective.

Sunderland: A tale of two teams. Earlier in the season under Steve Bruce, Swansea should have beaten the Black Cats but the Swans were going through their stage of not being able to score. Thus, the match ended nil-nil. When Swansea traveled to play against Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland in January, Swansea was again the better side but tactically Sunderland played much more wisely under O’Neill and scored two incredible goals to win 2-0.

Swansea City: Obviously we haven’t played ourselves, but the Swans have given an extremely good account of themselves throughout the season. They’ve learnt a lot, and the best indication of that may be this Sunday when they play Manchester City at the Liberty Stadium. As you may recall, Manchester City were Swansea’s first opponents in the league this season. Let’s see how they’ve progressed since that 4-0 demolition.

Tottenham Hotspur: Swansea had to work incredibly hard to earn a 1-1 draw in December against a Tottenham side that has talent shining throughout the pitch. I, for one, am not looking forward to the return leg at White Hart Lane in April!

West Brom: Roy Hodgson’s side is another hard working team, although they do have their weaknesses. WBA is one of the few teams this season that Swansea was able to do the double against, winning 2-1 and 3-0. But West Brom is the type of team that Swansea loves to play against — a team that likes to play football and isn’t negative. Perhaps the Baggies need to develop a tougher side to their team, just as Swansea does?

Wigan Athletic: Roberto Martinez’s side is not as bad as their league table position implies. In both games against Swansea this season, Wigan has given a good account of themselves. In August, Swansea was lucky to draw 0-0 after Vorm saved a penalty. Last week, Wigan had a couple of golden chances to score but failed to beat Vorm. Overall, what Wigan lacks is that killer instinct in the last third of the field.

Wolves: I’m really looking forward to playing Wolves at the Liberty Stadium later this season for a little bit of payback after the way that Swansea capitulated against Wolves earlier in the season during the 2-2 draw. Wolves is a side that can’t play football well, but they have a few players who can turn nothing into something. Footballers such as Kevin Doyle, Steven Fletcher and Jamie O’Hara. They have a few of the right players in place, but need a complete overhaul in the summer and a new footballing philosophy in terms of how they play. That is, if they avoid relegation.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013. View all posts by Christopher Harris →

11 Responses to What I Learned About Your Premier League Club This Season

  1. Mufc77 says:

    I must admit gaffer I was sceptical about your pre season claims of Swansea playing good football. I’ve been surprised how good they have turned out to be. I think the first game I watched was against City and even when they fell behind they still tried to play the ball around on the ground and find a way back into the game, a lot of newly promoted teams would have lost their shape and resorted to the long ball game.

    Another good season in the top flight next year and they could find some of the bigger clubs eyeing up the manager. If Harry gets the England job and Moyes moves to spurs I might even be a little worried for next year if I was a Swansea fan. Hopefully they stick around the Epl for years because they have been entertaining to watch this year.

  2. Ivan says:

    The title contender in England is outplayed and taught a lesson in football by Athletic Bilbao at Old Trafford; United lucky to be tied at 1 at the half.

    The fifth place team in Spain outplaying the 2nd place team in England. Not sure how this will end, but it’s sad when United ‘s best played is the 83 year old Giggs.

    What does that tell you about the quality of the Premier League (and the fact that England is not too far from having 0/zero/ teams in Europe come the draw for the 14 finals)?

    Thoughts?

  3. Ivan says:

    Wow…United lucky to lose 2:3…they were outplayed throughout…I posted this one a few weeks ago, and since this is a Prem League blog promoting the Prem League, I am sure people will jump left and right against this, but the quality of the Premier League is attrocious at the moment. The close race between the 2 Manchester teams cannot mask the utter lack of talent in the league (sans Van Persie, Silva and Aguerro)…
    Please do tell about playing at Stoke City on a windy cold Tuesday night and about their “honest” footballers…and you wonder why England hasn’t won anything ever in modern football…reality check much?
    Oh, and please do tell about how bad La Liga is, a two team league…This Bilbao side ran circles around Manchester United at Old Trafford tonight…United has never been farther away from catching up the best team to ever play football, Barcelona…Messi’s performance last night defies human explanation…Messi is football!

    • Lyle says:

      Knockout tournament games on any given night don’t really tell us anything about league parity across Europe. You have to look at it over the course of several or more seasons.

      The UEFA coefficients are probably the best marker to say which league is “better”. The truth is that the EPL, La Liga, Serie A, and the Bundesliga are all world class leagues. I personally think the EPL is top to the bottom the most talented, but that has more to do with the teams not playing in Europe than those that are… and how do you test that out?

    • Dust says:

      It was one game, thats all, one game. Athletico won deservedly, but seriously, we will see what happens in the 2nd leg.

      Real & Barca are the top 2 clubs in La Liga and everyone else a huge distance behind. This is mainly because La Liga doesn’t revenue share, this leaves other clubs as financial fodder and with comparably very limited resources. This is echoed in european competition.

      Only 2 clubs from Spain have won the champions league, would you like to guess who? hmmm i wonder? (real have doubled barca’s win amount also, 1 club accounts for 9 championships)

      EPL clubs the have won? 4 (twice as many–just to help out,)
      oh and that is with english clubs being banned from european competition for 5 years between 85 and 90 all of england banned because of liverpool.

      La Liga non winning finalists not named Real Madrid or Barca? 2. Valencia and Athletico Madrid are the only other spanish clubs to even reach the find Valencia lost twice and Athletic Madrid once

      EPL runners up 3 (leeds, arsenal and chelsea)

      You know what just go here

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Cup_and_UEFA_Champions_League_records_and_statistics

  4. IanCransonsKnees says:

    Yes of course, it’s our fault the top 6 are wank and can’t compete with the best that the rest of Europe has to offer. Banish Stoke and English teams will be champions of Europe again. I mean they’ve only had 20+years between them to cream the Premier League millions and develop far beyond us, we’re not worthy to compete with them after only 4 years on the gravy train.

    The best of it is Utd and City only ‘qualified’ for that competition by getting knocked out of another one! They shouldn’t even be in it!

  5. Mufc77 says:

    Out played in the middle of the park once again. Giggs as good as he has been simply doesn’t have the legs for a end to end game like tonight. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again when it comes to tactics and formations in big games SAF isn’t very good in my opinion. It doesn’t help having a yes man ad his number two.

    We are still capable of going through but it all depends on who starts in the middle next game, hopefully it’s carrick/cleverly or carrick/Anderson

  6. Ben says:

    weakest Manchester United side in several seasons, are you kidding me? This is one of the best MU I have seen in years, they are playing like a real team.

  7. Have to say your right about United Gaffer and I speak as a fan. We are fortunate to be in a league where other sides are also regressing at the moment. Performances in Europe v Benfica, Basle, Ajax and Bilbao (teams that United would dispatch without any problems in recent seasons) are testament to that.

    What I would not discount is United’s resilience and the experience of the likes of rooney, ferdinand, evra, scholes, giggs etc to pull them over the line.

  8. Joe956 says:

    I love the Premier League and watch it every weekend here in the USA, but, my Lord, there are too many international, champions, FA, etc competitions all the time. This is too much for the players and have you noticed how many lads get injured in these competitions. Why can’t the leagues get together and limit these events?

  9. Gary says:

    Liverpool and excellent footballers is an oxymoron.

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