When Swansea City became the first Welsh club to reach the Premier League, only a few eyebrows were raised. Oh well, we thought, they’ll be back down again next year. Whilst this is still a possibility, Brendan Rodgers’s boys in white have worked wonders so far this season. Despite defeat to Sunderland, they lie 13th in the table and have been praised for their performances by all and sundry this year, indeed they even outpassed Arsenal during their 3-2 victory at the Liberty Stadium last weekend.
Much has been made of Swansea’s footballing style. Playing a brand of attractive pass and move football has won many admiring glances from neutrals and rivals alike and believe it or not, Swansea boast the 6th best passing accuracy in Europe, with a percentage of 85.2 that lifts them above many European giants. When a brand of football is executed in this manner, it is unsurprising results have been good so far. Ian Hollaway’s Blackpool were remarkable to watch last year, centred around Charlie Adam’s quarter-back like role in midfield, but they were still relegated. Why? Inability to defend. Time and time again, Blackpool were ripped apart through the middle after players poured forward, leaving them exposed at the back, but this hasn’t happen to Swansea. Rodgers has combined flowing football with a rigid structure and therefore his side have only conceded 6 goals at home all season. Perhaps Rodgers learnt a lesson from Hollaway and the Tangerines, but the absence of the all out, gung-ho approach has served them well. It was a massive compliment to the way Swansea have played this season that Josh McEachran chose them as his loan destination from Chelsea this January, despite bigger clubs in the picture. The England U21 midfielder said “I know Brendan and the style of football Swansea play, so I am really excited to be here. I watched the Arsenal game, and their passing – the way they play football – it is just like watching Barcelona, really.” Some praise!
In regards to the players performing to such high standards, one of them can accurately say he is better than the best Barcelona has to offer. Although no one genuinely believes Leon Britton is good enough for the Spanish giants, he does boast the best passing accuracy across the whole of Europe, spraying 1127 passes at an accuracy of 93.3%. That is 0.3% better than the world’s best central midfielder Xavi, whilst the second best, Andres Iniesta, is nowhere to be seen. Teammate Joe Allen is however, 6th on the list though. Allen is a current Wales international and has caught the eye again this season, putting him in prime contention for a spot in the Great Britain Olympic side given his tender age of 21. Britton is no spring chicken however and at 29, he has been around the block a bit, spending the majority of his career at the Swans. However, it is only under Brendan Rodgers’ regime that he has really come to fruition and there is talk of Fabio Capello casting an eye over him with Euro 2012 in mind, though the good run of form may have come too late.
Despite their location over the Severn, Swansea do have a raft of English stars, including 7 goal striker Danny Graham, who at £3.5million, became the Swans’ record signing in the summer from Watford. That move has paid off handsomely, but the rangy striker wouldn’t be anywhere near that number if not for pacy wingers Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer. Sinclair has been hot property for some time, despite failing to make the grade for Chelsea as a youngster and he lit up the Chmapionship last year with some dazzling performances and 27 goals in all competitions. Dyer though, is another who has burst into the public limelight just this season with some superb displays and maybe Theo Walcott should take note on some of his wing play. On-loan defender Steven Caulker deserves an honourable mention, though he will return to Spurs in the summer where he is likely to get an extended first team run. Another key name this year has been new goalkeeper Michel Vorm, signed from Utrecht in the summer for just £1.5million. His form between the sticks has been so impressive, the rumour mill is already linking him with Manchester United and Arsenal, though the Swans would loathe to lose him as Vorm has made previous keeper Dorus De Vries a distant memory.
While Swansea deserve the plaudits afforded to them by those in the footballing world, they cannot afford to rest on their laurels as the battle for Premiership survival heats up. Fellow promoted side Norwich have also been superb, stuffing the doubters’ words down their throats with a series of superb results. QPR look set to spend big as owner Tony Fernandes looks to secure another year in the top flight and teams like Everton and Fulham who are currently below them have too much about them to go down. Swansea need to ensure their attractive style doesn’t see them dragged into a dogfight come what May and therefore they need to keep up the excellent defence that has seen them become so difficult to beat at the Liberty Stadium. The away form needs to improve and Rodgers has been busy in January already, securing the highly-sought signature of young Northern Irish striker Rory Donnelly from Cliftonville, whilst also bringing in former Reading front man Gylfi Sigurdsson on loan from Hoffenheim. Securing business early in the window is a positive sign from the Swansea boss, as he clearly realises the job is far from over and that his side need that little bit extra to ensure Premier League football remains in Wales next year too.