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Swansea Accomplishing So Much With Small Budget, Few Resources And Players With Plenty To Prove

Sunday’s match between Swansea and Arsenal was an eyeopening account that laid bare the strengths and weaknesses of both sides, especially the gulf in talent and confidence between Swansea’s Premier League footballers and the poor confidence and technical inefficiencies of some of Arsenal’s veteran players. Matched up against each other on the same pitch, it was plain to see how Swansea’s wingers Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair were far more productive than Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin (despite Walcott’s wonderfully taken goal). Swansea’s on loan centre half Steven Caulker was more reliable than Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, while Swansea’s new signing Gylfi Sigurdsson was far more productive than Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey.

Of course, over the course of a season the form of Arsenal’s players may improve significantly. But based on Sunday’s thrilling 3-2 win by Swansea, Arsene Wenger must have a lot to consider given how well Swansea’s Neil Taylor played at left back (in a position where Arsenal have been riddled with injuries; Taylor, by the way, was signed by Swansea for just £150,000) and how inconsistent Walcott and Arshavin are. How many times do we have to see Walcott’s promising runs result in a poor cross or having the ball picked away by a defender? And the less said about Arshavin, the better.

It’s remarkable to consider that Swansea spent just £8,750,000 in the August transfer window, just a little more than what Arsenal spent to sign Andre Santos (£6,200,000). For that £8,750,000, Swansea picked up four players — Michel Vorm, Danny Graham, Wayne Routledge and Leroy Lita. The money spent is even more impressive when you consider that strugglers Queens Park Rangers spent more than £10million last summer (including £6,500,000 for one player — the ineffective and dismally disappointing Shaun Wright-Phillips).

With Swansea’s January transfer window captures of Sigurdsson and Josh McEachran, on loan from Chelsea, the Welsh side has significantly strengthened its midfield and chosen two players who will not only add depth but will also add more creativity in midfield to help create chances for Danny Graham and company.

Looking at the Swansea team, it’s a mixture of many shrewd acquisitions who have been overlooked and discarded by other teams. Steve McClaren offloaded Danny Graham to Carlisle while the former England manager was at Middlesbrough. Southampton farmed Nathan Dyer out to Swansea for a transfer fee of just £400,000. Chelsea couldn’t find room for Scott Sinclair and sold him to the Swans for £500,000. Leon Britton was released by West Ham. Journeyman Wayne Routledge has finally found his feet after failing at several other clubs. And just over a year ago, Neil Taylor was playing non-league football. The list goes on and on with similar stories for each squad member. Swansea have taken several outcasts, who are hungry to prove themselves, and put them together to play in a system that emphasizes possession, passing and pressing — much like Real Madrid and Barcelona. It’s the type of system at Swansea that adapts well even when players are rotated in and out of the squad. The system remains the same.

Let’s be clear. Swansea’s convincing win against Arsenal was not an aberration. The turning point in the season came in mid-December when Swansea overcame Fulham. Since that victory, Swansea gained the confidence to grab a point at St. James’s Park, as well as picking up hard fought draws against QPR and Spurs, and much-needed away victories against Aston Villa and Barnsley. The only blip between that win against Fulham and Sunday’s victory against Arsenal was a one-nil loss on the road against Everton in a game where Rodgers, for once, got his tactics wrong.

Swansea’s triumph against Arsenal on Sunday will have convinced a lot of naysayers who were down on Swansea to start believing in what the Welsh club is trying to accomplish. On a tiny budget, with no training ground of their own, the players are fighting for survival in the Premier League, but by doing it the right way (i.e. playing attractive, entertaining football). On Sunday, The Swans proved that their hard work ethic and team spirit can overcome even some of the richest teams in the league. It’s just one win in a season, and the Swans will realize there’s still a distance to go, but hopefully they’ll get a chance to cherish the victory as they prepare for the long road ahead.

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  1. RVPFan

    January 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Swansea played very well to beat Arsenal. It was a comprehensive defeat, not a thriller, in my opinion. Thriller is when both teams share goals and possessions and it goes down to the wire. Swansea controlled possession beautifully, by playing attractively, and passing it around with pace. Let’s be honest, Arsenal were chasing for most of 90 minutes.

    I remember last season when West Brom beat Arsenal playing similar style as Swansea demonstrated. It was, for me, almost as if watching the re-run of that game. I used to be surprised when teams passed around like that against Arsenal, not anymore after watching the West Brom game and now again this one. The surprising part is, I don’t know why teams like Chelsea, Man City, Man Utd or Spurs don’t dominate us like that. They always seems to sit back and let us attack. Wake up top 4 teams, it’s the past. If Swansea and West Brom showed you something, it is that if you pass around like that, you will find that we are much easier to beat and there are wide open spaces all over the field.

    This is what happens when you get middle of the pack, wannabes who think they are superior to others. The mentality with which Wenger complains and says his stars are better than anyone else is the root of the problem. Always this constant moaning and complaining and making 4th officials deaf is not going to solve Arsene’s problem. Stop it just stop it.

    • The Gaffer

      January 17, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      RVP, I disagree. It wasn’t a comprehensive defeat. It was a back-and-forth game with the lead changing hands a couple of times. Plus when I say thrilling, I mean entertaining. Five goals in one match is a thrilling game to me.

      While Swansea won, Arsenal could have easily won too especially if Robin van Persie had put away that one-on-one opportunity.

      The Gaffer

  2. Guy

    January 17, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Absolutely. Sky reported today that four top clubs are after Vorm. Losing him would be the kiss of death for the Swans’ chances of staying up.

  3. Smiley

    January 17, 2012 at 10:56 am

    To finish my post:

    For Swansea to stay up they need to keep their squad intact because it always takes time for new players to learn a new system.

  4. Smiley

    January 17, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Rumour in the english press has Liverpool raiding Swansea for a couple of their players, Sinclair and Allen. Both these players have been very important to the Swans and unless they hold on to all their star players it will make it difficult to continue their present form. We are moving into the tough stretch of the season where picking up points is going to become more difficult especially against the bottom-tier teams who will be desperate to avoid relegation.

    For Swasea to stay up they need to keep their s

  5. Guy

    January 17, 2012 at 9:28 am

    They showed a stat that Swansea had the 6th best pass completion rate in in all of Europe. That is amazing. Of course, you need for all those passes to get you goals, so the Swans definitely have room for improvement, but still….

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think there is any “right” way to play football. You play to win…whatever that takes. For each club, player personnel and management philosophy determine what that is. That said, the Swans are definitely fun to watch. 🙂

  6. Thomas

    January 17, 2012 at 1:18 am

    Swansea have definitely been a team I’ve enjoyed watching this season. Another example of a team showing that building on a philosophy rather than reckelssly spending can pay dividends. Rodgers is doing a great job, and I really hope they continue their good run of form.

  7. Morgan - Arsenal Fan

    January 16, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Well done to Swansea, attractive football and the positive result to boot (no pun intended). As an Arsenal fan, I’m a Wenger supporter, but I think I’ve seen enough. The deja vu of having to thin a squad is showing through again this year. When is this guy going to learn?

    • Jack Tomczuk

      January 17, 2012 at 12:05 am

      Thin squad! How many full-backs does Wenger need to buy? Sagna, Gibbs, Santos, and Jenkinson are all injured. Francis Coquelin (midfielder who can also play as a full-back) and Vermaelen (who can play left-back) are also injured. Obviously the options will be extremely limited when six defenders are out.

      Swansea’s victory over Arsenal was not an aberration, as the Swans have proven to be an extremely tough opponent especially at Liberty Stadium. Also, Arsenal have demonstrated that this is not an aberration on their end either, as defensive collapses led to defeats away from home against Fulham and Blackburn.

      While Swansea and Brendan Rodgers have done remarklable things on a very limited budget, their net spend is still way above Arsenal in the last five years, who have had to deal with selling top players. I wonder if the extra attention now paid to Swansea will lead to wealthier clubs coming in for their top players. For your sake Gaffer, I hope not, but I fear it will happen.

      • The Gaffer

        January 17, 2012 at 7:35 am

        Jack, it’s unfair to compare Arsenal’s net spend to Swansea. Five years ago, Swansea was in the third tier of English football, so there’s no way they were going to be able to sell the million pound dollars that Arsenal have done.

        It’s inevitable that Swansea will lose most of their best players. But the philosophy that the club has on playing a certain system won’t change. We’ll see new faces in who will adapt, and we will persevere.

        The Gaffer

        • Jack Tomczuk

          January 17, 2012 at 11:42 am

          That will be the real test for Brendan Rodgers. He has proved to be fantastic so far, but how will he deal with losing his best players? It’s great to have a system in place but it is tougher to execute with an ever-changing squad. For example, look at Wigan. Each year they have stayed up and under Martinez they have had a system of positive football in place, but almost every summer one or more of their best players is cherry-picked by a “bigger” club.

          The assumption that all players brought in will be able adapt to the system and adequately replace the departed stars is misguided. Teams are not machines, where if one part breaks, it can easily be replaced using the exact same part. Star players cannot be replaced by just simply plugging in another player, as the replacement player isn’t a duplicate.

          • The Gaffer

            January 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm

            True, but players come and go. Swansea have lost several of their key players in the past 2 years but have still gone on and acquired even better players.

            Some of the players that have left the club because they considered it a bigger and better move to leave Swansea include:

            Jordi Gomez (Wigan)
            Dorus de Vries (Wolves)
            Darren Pratley (Bolton)
            Jason Scotland (Wigan)
            Andy Robinson (Leeds)

            Plus we lost manager Roberto Martinez to Wigan, but Swansea moved on and hired a manager who has the same philosophy as Swansea of how to play football.

            The Gaffer

        • morgan

          January 20, 2012 at 9:13 pm

          Gibbs had proven to be injury prone in previous seasons, so count him as a reliable starter is poor judgement on the manager’s part. Jenkinson? No more needs to be said there. Not thin? They lost two superb midfielders which they replaced with Arteta and Benayoun. Plus as usual Diaby is never consistently fit. Not enough contributing strikers for a big club. So yes, thin, not up to par, but more so an err in judgement on Wenger’s part. Jack, you sound like you’ve been drinking the Wenger kool aid to me pal. “How many fullbacks can he buy?” I recall Wenger using that excuse a week or two back when the usual suspects were hitting injury table.

  8. Josh McClain

    January 16, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Just to take the counter point, couldn’t you have typed up the same article and replaced the details w/ Blackpool last year? Or Hull City a couple of years ago? Blackpool had some great moments last year. Still ended up back in the Championship.

    • The Gaffer

      January 17, 2012 at 6:33 am

      Swansea is very different to Blackpool and Hull City. Blackpool was very poor defensively. Plus neither Blackpool or Hull City had a system in which they played. Especially with Hull, it was more of a haphazard style of play.

      The Gaffer

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