If yesterday’s performance at Stamford Bridge was anything to go by, Swansea City fans can expect a successful Premier League campaign.
Gary Monk must take praise for the positive manner in which he set up his team, while his players must also be recognised for the confidence and attacking intent they played with. There were no signs to suggest the Welsh side were going to shy away against the Champions and all football fans will hope they play with such a mentality throughout the whole season.
Swansea were a match for Chelsea in every area of the pitch, even before Jose Mourinho’s men were reduced to ten players. At times, the Swansea players dominated their opponents in both attack and defence; they were visibly fitter than the home side and appeared to have a greater understanding as to what they were required to achieve tactically. All that was missing from their game was more conviction in front of goal.
Ashley Williams and Federico Fernandez looked a solid outfit at centre back for Swansea, keeping Chelsea’s Diego Costa relatively quiet all game, apart from the odd outburst from the frustrated Spaniard. The pair look as though they can build a strong partnership together with both displaying their ability to pass out from the back as well as their strength against one of the toughest strikers in the league.
Both were consistent in the speed at which they closed down the ball and stopped the opposition in their stride. They achieved everything Gary Monk could have asked from them and were only beaten by a looping deflection from a Willian cross and an Oscar free kick that appeared to miss everyone to find the bottom corner of Fabianski’s goal.
Monk looks to have found a winning solution with his centre back pairing which will be vital in their task of bettering their 8th place finish in the 2014/2015 season.
On either side of the centre backs, Kyle Naughton and Neil Taylor handled Eden Hazard and Willian well, while also proving to be capable of supporting their side in attack. Defensively, Swansea were sound for much of the game and combated the ball carrying and counter attacking style of Chelsea well.
The added presence of Jack Cork and Jonjo Shelvey in midfield offered greater stability, forcing Hazard and Willian to work harder to find enough space to influence the play. The work rate of Gary Monk’s midfield and defence exposed Cesc Fabregas, who looked out of touch and tired compared to some of his Chelsea compatriots.
While Cork patrolled the holding role, Shelvey found himself with more opportunities to play balls over the top and through to his wingers, proving to be key in stretching Chelsea. Gary Monk has options with Ki Sung-yueng, Jonjo Shelvey and Jack Cork all posing as strong contenders for the central midfield role.
The ability to rotate between the trio will be useful throughout the season. All three are clever on the ball and fit Monk’s passing style of play with the added bonus that they are prepared to carry out their defensive responsibilities.
Saturday’s game was also a good opportunity for Bafetimbi Gomis. The Frenchman impressed with his strong hold up play against John Terry in addition to his power in the air. Besides this, he too presented his ability to run beyond the opposition defence as evidenced by his run onto Jonjo Shelvey’s lofted pass that resulted in the striker winning a penalty for his side, before taking it himself to level the game at 2-2.
He hasn’t been talked about much in pre-season but he already looks a perfect fit. Gylfi Sigurdsson will be key to his side’s chances this season and will be expected to bring the best out of Gomis.
Gary Monk looks likely to opt for a system that features a number ten in front of two central midfielders. The ability for both Shelvey and Sigurdsson to occupy the number ten role as well as the holding role means the two can interchange throughout games as well as being able to both go forward at times.
With Andre Ayew and Jefferson Montero also on both wings, this current Swansea side can hurt a team from all angles. The squad seems to consist of players who are both technically gifted as well as athletic and intelligent.
One man who stood out against Chelsea was Ecuadorian winger Jefferson Montero, who caused Branislav Ivanovic problems all afternoon. He had a positive impact on the game every time he had the ball at his feet, always looking to beat his man and doing so on many occasions.
His pace, tenacity and directness when on the ball put his side on the front foot in a split second, while he showcased his confidence to cut inside on his right foot as well as running wide before putting in a cross. Like Gomis, he hasn’t been on the radar but truly looks the real deal. He could well take Swansea to a Europa League place if he can enjoy an injury-free run in the side.
This Premier League season can, undoubtedly, be the most competitive yet. I’m excited to see how it pans out and how far Swansea can go. They have the attackers at their disposal to trouble any team while there is an impressive understanding amongst the players regarding their tactical discipline and positional responsibilities.