When Fernando Llorente joined Tottenham Hotspur from Swansea City on deadline day, fans of the latter dreaded the worst. Just days earlier, their most creative midfielder from last season, Gylfi Sigurdsson, had been sold to Everton. And now, their star striker was gone.
Last year, Swansea survived in the Premier League by the skin of their teeth. They were rooted to the bottom of the table at the turn of the year when Paul Clement took charge and oversaw a remarkable recovery. Ultimately, the Welsh side finished in 15th place. This was thanks in no small part to Sigurdsson and Llorente, who together scored 25 of the 45 goals Swansea netted in the Premier League last season. It would be safe to say that without them, the team would have stood absolutely no chance of surviving. So now with both these stalwarts gone, surely Swansea are in deep, deep trouble?
At this point, it looks hard to call either way. Along with Llorente and Sigurdsson, they also lost Jack Cork and BafetimbiGomis in the summer. Clement though, made some very shrewd signings to shore things up. In came midfielder Roque Mesa from Las Palmas for 11 million pounds, while Sam Clucas was snapped up from Hull City. Striker Wilfried Bony also re-joined the Swans from Manchester City, two years after making the big move from the Liberty Stadium. Clement used his contacts at two European giants to bring in a couple of very exciting prospects on loan – striker Tammy Abraham from Chelsea and midfielder Renato Sanches from Bayern Munich.
Now, the team is starting to take shape. At the weekend, Swansea earned a hard-fought 0-0 draw away at Tottenham. There were several bright sparks, including Captain Federico Fernandez, who was an absolute rock in the heart of the defense. Lukas Fabianski put in a blinder of a performance in goal, while Abraham played very well as a target man. Up against Toby Alderweireld, one of the best defenders in the league, the Chelsea man held his own, winning long balls at regular intervals and drawing fouls time and time again from his Belgian opponent. There are signs that the 19 year-old is certainly one to watch out for in the future.
There is obviously a lack of creativity with the absence of Sigurdsson. The Icelandic midfielder is one of the best playmakers in the league, bar none. Goals have been very hard to come by. Swansea have only scored 2 goals in 5 games, both in the same match away to Crystal Palace. They’ve lost both their home games without scoring. Only Palace and Everton have worse offensive records.
The defense is holding firm, on the other hand. They have now kept three consecutive clean sheets away from home in the Premier League. Last night, they made that four in all competitions, with a 2-0 win at Reading in the League Cup. Clement’s well-drilled backline is hard to penetrate. If Swansea’s strikers can start firing goals on a regular basis, they should be able to pick up points at regular intervals and avoid too much danger. Jordan Ayew and Abraham have dove-tailed well thus far, but are not looking like 15-20 goal strikers right now. Once Bony gets back into the fray, things could be very different.
It’s going to be a difficult road to survival for Swansea City, but under a tactically shrewd manager with some determined and gutsy individuals, they do have a chance to avoid the drop again.