jump to navigation

Season Preview 2022 – Part 6 29/07/2022

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
trackback

SWANSEA CITY

INS: Harry Darling (Milton Keynes Dons, Undisclosed), Matthew Sorinola (Union SG, Undisclosed), Nathan Wood (Middlesbrough, Undisclosed), Joe Allen (Stoke City, Free), Archie Matthews (Birmingham City, Free)

OUTS: Flynn Downes (West Ham United, £12,000,000), Yan Dhanda (Ross County, Free), Ben Hamer (Watford, Free), Jacob Jones (Forest Green Rovers, Free), Jamie Searle (Barnsley, Free), Korey Smith (Derby County, Free), Morgan Whittaker (Plymouth Argyle, Season Loan), Nico Defreitas-Hansen, Josh Gould, Finley Burns (Manchester City, End of Loan), Cyrus Christie (Fulham, End of Loan), Rhys Williams (Liverpool, End of Loan), Hannes Wolf (Borussia Mönchengladbach, End of Loan)

OUR EX-SWANS: Ben Hamer

THEIR EX-ORNS: Julian Winter (Chief Executive)

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2020-21 2-0 1-2
2017-18 1-2
2016-17 1-0 0-0
2015-16 1-0
2010-11 2-3
2009-10 0-1
2008-09 2-0

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Fisher
    Cabango         Bennett            Darling
Naughton               Grimes         Allen             Manning
Piroe            Paterson

Obafemi

BLUFFER’S GUIDE: Scouring the Championship’s messageboards, a tangential comment that has often popped up this summer is that “Swansea might do a bit better next year”.  The wisdom of those who are more familiar with the Championship than we are is not to be sniffed at… against which a similar consensus view was offered on Stoke City when we were relegated in 2020 (Stoke had just finished 15th and would finish 14th in each of the two subsequent seasons so “a bit better” is technically true I guess).

In any event, unbridled optimism is in short supply on Swans messageboards.  A “how will we do” poll is predicting “a bit better than last year” in as much as there’s any consensus but this has to be assessed in the context of supporters generally yielding an over-favourable assessment of their teams prospects.  Back in the days of BSaD pre-season surveys (like this one) we used to see average predictions across all clubs falling somewhere between 8th and 10th (and dragged downwards by high levels of response from Watford fans in an era or relatively moderate expectations) with anything up to 18 clubs predicting a top half finish.

Swansea do have quality, particularly up front where Joël Piroe has been attracting attention after an impressive first season in Wales.  We were linked with him ourselves in what feels like a rather ambitious reach if genuine;  he’s tended to play behind poacher Michael Obafemi (another linked with the Hornets earlier in the year) with some decent looking midfield options including yet another former Watford target, Matt Grimes.  The problems have been defensively;  Russell Martin’s possession game can look extremely ponderous when executed ineffectively, City’s defence has been overexposed and looks flaky.  Swansea feel as if they’re at a tipping point;  how this season goes will determine whether Martin’s first year is regarded in hindsight as a stepping stone to greater things.  He has done well to bring in quality from lower divisions for relatively moderate fees, but there is a lack of momentum about the whole thing which will get a whole lot worse if Piroe follows Flynn Downes, on whom City made a rapid profit, out of the door.

It could go either way, but given that the Swans finished fifteenth last year and have since signed Joe Allen, a cornerstone of the team that was “destined for better things” last time we were down I’m going to stick my neck out and say fourteenth.

WEST BROMWICH ALBION

INS: Jayson Molumby (Brighton, Free), John Swift (Reading, Free), Jed Wallace (Millwall, Free), Okay Yukuşlu (Celta Vigo, Free)

OUTS: Callum Morton (Fleetwood Town, Undisclosed), Zak Delaney (Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Free), Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace, Free), MacKenzie Lamb (Peterborough United, Free), Romaine Sawyers (Cardiff City, Free), Quevin Castro (Burton Albion, Season Loan), Josh Griffiths (Portsmouth, Season Loan), Cedric Kipré (Cardiff City, Season Loan), Caleb Taylor (Cheltenham Town, Season Loan), Andy Carroll, Mark Chidi, Kevin Joshua, Leon MacHisa, Daniel Ngoma, Jamie Soule, Aurio Teixeira, Owen Windsor, Matthew Clarke (Brighton, End of Loan)

OUR EX-BAGGIES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2021-22 0-0
2017-18 1-0 2-2
2016-17 2-0 1-3
2015-16 1-0
2009-10 1-1
2007-08 0-3 1-1
2003-04 0-1 1-3
2002-03 1-0
2001-02 1-2 1-1
2000-01 3-3 0-3
1998-99 0-2 1-4
1995-96 4-4

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Button
Furlong            Ajayi           O’Shea       Townsend
Yukuşlu        Mowatt
Wallace        Swift        Grant
Dike

BLUFFER’S GUIDE: Whilst the Baggies didn’t quite manage however-many-months-it’s-been without a competitive home win last season, there are similarities with ourselves borne of the frustrations of watching a side delivering comprehensively less than the sum of its constituent parts suggests ought to be feasible.  Add to that a rapid changeover of managers – four within the last eighteen months – and you get a mix of frustration and disconnect that is all too familiar.

The most recent managerial switch came in February, when Valérien Ismaël’s brief tenure was concluded and Steve Bruce took over for what turned out to be his first spell at West Brom.  Much as Vladimir Ivić’s Watford side had that “on the slide” feel about it before his departure, so Albion’s tumble from play-off contention to mid-table also rans isn’t deemed to be entirely down to the new incumbent.  Nonetheless Bruce hasn’t won many doubters over.

This is Albion’s second consecutive season in the Championship, but their fourth in the last five meaning that we’ve not faced each other competitively since March 2018.  The trip to the Hawthorns will be our first of the season, the second of four evening kick offs (five including the League Cup) to open the campaign.  Their squad looks strong despite last season’s struggles, and a solid enough defence is now fronted by a midfield fortified with the impressive grabs of John Swift and Jed Wallace.  There’s a reliance on Daryl Dike, injured for the start of the season and much of last, reproducing his Barnsley form more successfully than his former boss managed, but if he does Albion should be contenders for the top two slots.

WIGAN ATHLETIC

INS: Luke Brennan (Blackburn Rovers, Free), Ryan Nyambe (Blackburn Rovers, Free)

OUTS: Adam Long (Doncaster Rovers, Undisclosed), Gavin Massey (Port Vale, Free), Jordan Jones (Kilmarnock, Season Loan), Liam Robinson (Tranmere Rovers, Season Loan), Tom Bayliss (Preston, End of Loan), Kell Watts (Newcastle, End of Loan)

OUR EX-LATICS: Tom Cleverley

THEIR EX-ORNS: Rob Kelly (Assistant Manager)

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2014-15 2-1 2-0
2013-14 1-0
2004-05 0-0 2-2
2003-04 1-1 0-1
1999-00 2-0/1-3
1997-98 2-1 2-3

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Amos
Kerr               Whatmough         Bennett
Nyambe     Power      Naylor   Cousins      McClean
Lang               Keane

BLUFFER’S GUIDE: The whole “yo-yo club” thing is something we’re increasingly familiar with.  There’s little mystery to it, nor to why it’s becoming more pronounced as clubs bounce between the top two divisions with increasing reliability.  More hugely monied clubs in the Premier League means less space for everyone else;  it’s not inconceivable that a Newcastle, say, or a Villa gets sucked downwards but they have a hell of a head start.  Which means that a less monied but well run club can no longer bank on a 15th place finish, say, and will know the score going into the season.  This makes them less likely to gamble on survival and more likely to use parachute payments to help them build more gradually.  That the clubs themselves are blamed for adapting to the new reality is a little bit harsh to my mind, but then boredom at Norwich or Fulham going up and down again is clearly a bigger issue than sportswashing.

There are a growing number of long-term yo-yo clubs between tiers two and three also;  the difference in revenues between divisions is smaller in absolute terms, but just as much a barrier as a percentage of income. Rotherham are embarking on their seventh consecutive season in a new division but Wigan, too fall into this box having won League One last season for the third time in the same seven year window.

Wigan’s situation is a little more complicated of course. In June 2020 a criminally catastrophic takeover saw the club, comfortably fourteenth in the delayed Championship season and financially stable, plunged into chaos as the new owners put the Latics into administration a month later.  Relegation by a narrow margin – following a twelve point penalty – saw the Latics drop back into League One and finish the following season just clear of a second successive relegation but, finally, with new owners.

The current squad was largely assembled last summer and moulded by head coach Leam Richardson into a side that would win a reportedly unimpressive division to return Wigan to the Championship, a promotion that few would begrudge them.  But rather than a wave of optimism, there are concerns at the total lack of squad strengthening – indeed at the time of writing, two weeks before the season, the squad is four men down having lost three loanees and former Hornet Gavin Massey without a new face coming in.  There are murmurs of financial issues and stories of delayed payment to players which, whilst calmly explained away by the club, won’t be making anyone feel any more confident.  The team is physical and experienced but short on pace and on surefire gold dust – it is recognised that the totemic James McClean will struggle to meet the athletic requirements of a Championship wing back at the age of 33 and whilst Will Keane, twin brother of Everton’s Michael, managed 26 goals last season this constitutes more than half of his career total at the age of 29 – five previous seasons at this level have yielded eight goals between them.

Wigan may be planning to harvest the many out of contract players and potential loanees at the end of the window when wage demands recede in panic.  As it stands now, you’ve got to expect a struggle.

WATFORD

INS: Vakoun Bayo (Charleroi, Undisclosed), Rey Manaj (Barcelona, Undisclosed), Luigi Gaspar (Arsenal, Free), Ben Hamer (Swansea City, Free)

OUTS: Moussa Sissoko (Nantes, £1,800,000), Tiago Çukur (Fenerbahçe, Undisclosed), Kiko Femeníá (Villarreal, Undisclosed), Cucho Hernández (Columbus Crew, Undisclosed), Adam Masina (Udinese, Undisclosed), Philip Zinckernagel (Olympiacos, Undisclosed), Derek Agyakwa (Port Vale, Free), Andre Gray (Aris, Free), Dominic Hutchinson (Wealdstone, Free), Joshua King (Fenerbahçe, Free), George Langston (Eastleigh, Free), Maurizio Pochettino (Gimnastic, Free), Rob Elliot, Ben Foster, Nicolas Nkoulou, Peter Etebo (Stoke City, End of Loan), Juraj Kucka (Parma, End of Loan)

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Bachmann
Kabasele            Sierralta             Cathcart
Ngakia                    Louza                 Kayembe             Kamara
Cleverley
João Pedro         Bayo

VERDICT: You can imagine that if we start well on Monday, as in start the game well, maybe nick an early goal then the relief, the catharsis in the home stands might propel us onwards and flatten Sheffield United.  It’s been so long, so long, since we even looked like winning a game at home, the relief would be irrepressible.

That would only last so long though.  We kind of had that sort of situation at the start of last season when the fortune of a home game on the opening day, the first game with a proper crowd post-pandemic saw us flatten Villa in the sunshine but even then we managed to let a fully merited and glorious 3-0 lead slip to 3-2.  A week later we were bullied and well beaten at Brighton.  Cucho’s goal was the happiest point of the season, less than ninety minutes into it.

Ultimately it will boil down to how good we are.  How effective the latest “reset” has been.  There’s been so much talk about the need for stability… but the “how” has only been in focus because the “what” has been rubbish.  Changing managers every five minutes wasn’t a problem when we were getting promoted, or finishing mid-table in the Premier League. Everyone wants stability, but nobody would have chosen to keep Roy on.  Or Claudio.  Or Xisco.  It’s bad appointments as much as quick sackings that have got us here.

That’s a slightly facetious point of course.  The “how” begets the “what” in the end.  Our impatient approach breeds a reactive hiring strategy on the one hand and a mentality in the management on the other and when things go badly, which they’re always going to do for a Watford in the Premier League at some point, you find you have little that you believe in to hang onto.  Roy Hodgson’s conduct at Selhurst Park was pathetic, but he doesn’t do that if he has respect for or feels cherished by the club, the people that employ him.

So… we’ve got as high as we’ve got because of AND despite our strategy.  And now we profess to be trying something different.  Something longer term, something more stable.  Well, hurrah.  The onus falls on all of us though… the club, the support, the team.  Most obviously, “what is Gino going to do if we’re twelfth in October”.  Just as significantly… if we’re going to actually build something, young players and that, it’s going to take longer and there’ll be bumps in the road and so you can’t have your cake and eat it, the support needs to be tolerant.  You can’t demand we build something patiently AND demand instant success.

And the team.   Maybe that’s the acid test.  If the team believe that this is a long-term gig they need to make it work.  They won’t be able to ride something out and wait for the next one.   To this end, without drawing too many conclusions about the players that have left and the players that will stay, you kinda hope that we’ve done a good job with the rooting out of the bad apples, because the attitude for much of last season stank long before Dan Gosling’s forthright interview with Andrew French.  We’ll be able to read so much into how they step up to the plate.

But here’s where we get positive.  Because I choose to believe that Rob Edwards is just as he appears.  An excellent man manager who is focused on making the most of the talent at his disposal, on making the most of ALL of the talent at his disposal.  He’s a young manager but it’s impossible not to warm to what you’ve seen so far.  And maybe the squad is short of this and that and maybe we’re not hard and fast favourites to go straight back up in the way that we were two years ago.  And maybe that’s not the priority just yet.

In the end, analysis of the “how” will only go so far.  I want to be able to believe and I want something to get behind.  I’m optimistic and I want to be convinced.  Jesus, I want to enjoy it again.  It’s bee a good three years since we were in the stadium supporting a winning team, we’ve watched consecutive relegations.

And my god I hope we win on Monday.

Yooorns.

Comments»

1. readwine - 29/07/2022

Matt, thanks once again for the hours trawling through message boards and social media to come up with a considered and thorough preview. I’m optimistic for the season ahead. We saw how the lack of team spirit sapped the performances last year. Hopefully the reset is real and positive team spirit will work in our favour this season. Tough opening 3 games, though.

Matt Rowson - 29/07/2022

cheers readwine

2. Paul T - 29/07/2022

Thanks Matt , really appreciate the considerable time, effort and insight put into all of these previews. Am struck with how unfamiliar most of the player names here are, which adds to a sense of having very little idea of how this season will pan out, which is quite exciting in itself.

Matt Rowson - 29/07/2022

agree Paul, thanks

3. Steve G - 29/07/2022

May I add my vote of thanks here, Matt – another splendid piece of work! I’ve been struck by how for almost all clubs the list of ‘outs’ is much larger than the list of ‘ins’. Is this usually the case at this stage (with ‘this stage’ being a week or so earlier this year, of course) or is there a particular issue, as you implied, with clubs being strapped for cash post-pandemic and not willing to risk paying ‘over the odds’?

I’m assuming that Sarr won’t be with us for the coming season, but the rumour mill has gone quiet. Does this reflect a bidding war behind the scenes, or the possibility that no-one will come in with a bid we’re prepared to accept?

Matt Rowson - 29/07/2022

On the first point it’s a combination of kids being released (I don’t include new scholars in the ins), loans heading back to clubs (I don’t include eg Mebude returning from Wimbledon in the ins) and, yes, a cautious market I think. On Sarr… it’s already been suggested that if nobody’s prepared to pay what we want now we’re ready to gamble on him having a good World Cup…

4. heftiehornet - 29/07/2022

Matt, echoing the thanks of others, your reasoned review of the division is most appreciated. Due to a combination of covid and health issues, Monday is my first game since god knows when and I am looking forward to positive performance and, maybe, even a win.

Matt Rowson - 29/07/2022

Cheers hector, fingers crossed

5. Lincoln 'Orn - 31/07/2022

So… we’ve got as high as we’ve got because of AND despite our strategy. And now we profess to be trying something different. Something longer term, something more stable. Well, hurrah. The onus falls on all of us though… the club, the support, the team. Most obviously, “what is Gino going to do if we’re twelfth in October”. Just as significantly… if we’re going to actually build something, young players and that, it’s going to take longer and there’ll be bumps in the road and so you can’t have your cake and eat it, the support needs to be tolerant. You can’t demand we build something patiently AND demand instant success.
Says it all for me!!

6. Stephen Gray - 31/07/2022

Hi Matt,

Trivial in the great scheme of things I know, but you might just want to know that ‘Part 6’ is attributed to 2020 rather than 2022.

And I’ve no idea if this will just disappear into the unmonitored depths of the internet.

All the best,

Steve

Matt Rowson - 31/07/2022

It’s a preview. Written a long time ago. Prescient. (Thx, will amend…)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: