In Toon Today: Will Heaven Be Like Swansea?
Newcastle v Swansea
Who Manages Them:
Like the final episode of any series of Last of the Summer Wine, Italian Francesco Guidolin and one Welsh Alan Curtis on the Swansea bench, look like they would be more at home throwing bread to the ducks, than throwing Swans into a football match. Not that they haven’t done a decent job in South Wales since taking over from Garry Monk a few months ago.
A mid-January 1-0 victory over Watford took Swansea out of the relegation zone, moving them one point and one place above us, now they are 15 points ahead of us, another reason to wonder why the knackers running our club waited so long to oust Steve McClaren. Guidolin and Curtis are not a true double act though, Curtis has already made clear that he is the wing man and Guidolin makes the decisions, despite his ill-health and lack of English.
Ashley Williams commenting that:
“Francesco does not speak English so well but he is making the effort, which is nice to see. Most of the time, even when he speaks Italian you know what he is saying anyway – because of his arm gestures, you kind of grasp what he is trying to get across.”
Our last manager could speak English but the players couldn’t grasp what he was trying to get across, perhaps McClaren should have used hand gestures, I can think of a couple I could use to Newcastle’s players to get my message across.
Although a lack of English could have hampered the Italian’s efforts to improve the Swansea team, he’s an experienced campaigner having managed Monaco and loads of clubs in Italy since the late 80s, including Palermo and Parma, both of those were promoted to Serie A under his guidance as well as the latter winning the 1997 Coppa Italia.
He’s probably best known for his time at Udinese over two spells, first in the late 1990s and then a stint from 2010 to 2014 during which Udine finished third in Serie, equalling the club’s best season in the top flight.
Since then he has become some sort of Yoda figure as a ‘technical director’ at the footballing stable which includes Watford, Udinese and Granada before getting the job at Swansea.
On appointment Swansea Chairman Jenkins said about Guidolin:
“He has an excellent record, especially with Udinese over the last few years. He created a Udinese side from a relatively small budget – compared to the rest of the league – that competed with the big teams in Serie A.”
Which is the exact opposite of our last manager who created a Newcastle side from a massive budget, which can’t even compete with the small teams in the Premier League.
It may be a temporary relationship though, with doubts about the Italian’s long-term health outside of the Mediterranean climate and the Swans creeping closer to a takeover which may bring Brendan Rodgers back to the club. For his part, Guidolin has said this week that he’d like to stay, despite being linked to the Italy job after present boss Antonio Conte leaves for Chelsea after Euro 2016.
Swansea Chairman Huw Jenkins has said that “all options are open” as the club look to the future, with discussions likely to take place soon now that Swansea have avoided the drop.
If we were hoping that all of this takes the emphasis away from Swansea’s last few games of the season then it is a false hope. Guidolin has a performance related payment package which means the more points he gets the more money he makes, which means that he’ll be wanting Swansea to get all three today. Hopefully Rafa hasn’t got a similar deal at SJP. If he has, so far he’ll have been paid £8.99.
Who Have They Signed:
Goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeld, in defence Franck Tabanou from St Etienne, midfielder Leroy Fer and attackers Andre Ayew, Eder and Alberto Paloschi.
Tabanou and Eder won’t be involved today, both the £3.5 and £5 million signings respectively have been loaned out after failing to hold down a place in their first few months in Wales, while ex-Heerenveen stopper Nordfeld should be on the bench.
Leroy Fer was brought in on loan in January from Championship club QPR but he’s a premier league player in every respect, he doesn’t play to his potential all of the time, but when he does he’s good enough for any team. Playing alongside Cork as part of a ‘2’ in a 4-2-3-1 is probably his best position, something else the new management team have brought to Swansea, controversially playing their best players in their best positions.
‘Leroy Fer: The Dutch, lovely people, terrible clothes.’
Wide as part of the ‘3’ will be Andre Ayew, signed on a free from Marseille. This week his brother has been speaking about our own failed attempts to buy the player, first refusing a £5million price tag in order to buy Remy Cabella, then offering less wages than Swansea while Ayew was available on a free and deciding to punt another £13million on Thauvin:
“When they were going to the Premiership, especially Andre, there was even a point where he was up for only £5 million but no one was really willing to pay that. The likes of Newcastle and Liverpool all pulled back but today if you’re coming for Andre, you’ll have to pay not less than £30million.”
£30million for a winger from Marseille? Now you are talking, someone give Graham Carr a ring. Still, it is a bit of a theme of our recruitment policy over the last couple of years. It seems that every week we play a team who have signed some world beater from Marseille who ends up being great, while the ones we buy end up going back to France 6 months later for half the money.
That alongside every left winger we buy from France is hopeless except the one we let go back there for nothing. Funny old game isn’t it.
Perhaps the surprise of their team is that striker Alberto Paloschi was bought in January from Verona for over £7million. With Gomis and Ayew both playing their part for Swansea up front this season, it was surprising that the Swans wanted another striker but the Italian was obviously someone who Guidolin liked, with more than 200 Serie A performances and over 60 goals the striker is an experienced player at the highest level, well Serie A anyway. He’s scored a couple of goals up front since moving and runs the line well, always busy and closing down defenders, he creates a lot of space for the Swans attacking ‘3’ to move into so even when he’s not scoring he looks like a good, team player. The closest thing we have to one of those this season is getting to watch him.
Who Have We Seen Before:
Wayne Routledge used to play for us. He was fast, so fast I hardly even saw him play. Much like Franz Carr before him and Gabby Obertan now, we were forced to watch a player where speed has been mistaken for skill. One minute Wayne had the ball on the wing, the next minute it was a goal kick. He stayed for a year, a cheap buy from QPR and a cheap sale to Swansea after a short loan spell at QPR. He’s done ok since, 21 appearances in the league this season, 1 goal. With those sort of stats he’ll be back at SJP next season.
A Special Mention For:
Jefferson Montero, so good against us at the Liberty stadium in August that Daryl Janmaat gave away a goal, faked injury and then broke his fingers last weekend to make sure he didn’t have to turn out today.
‘Jefferson Montero: Scary. Just ask Daryl Janmaat.’
Are We Going To Win?
We have to, simple as that.
Much has been made of the Norwich game kicking off earlier, but that doesn’t matter.
If we don’t win today, no matter what the score in East Anglia, it is over for us. In those circumstances playing a mid-table team with seemingly nothing to play for is a great fixture on paper but we shouldn’t take Swansea lightly. They are a well organised, hard-working team with good players in attacking positions, clever goal-scoring players in midfield and resolute defenders behind them. And they don’t look like a team that has their speedos on for the summer yet either.
But if we have to beat them then the best way to do it is probably to attack them from the off. The few games that I have seen this season, Swansea seem to grow into games and start cold, defensively they can be all over the shop early on and can’t keep anything like a line until they find their feet, Fabianski likewise punches rather than catches and never looks comfortable doing it.
All of which means we have to score first, and early, so it might be worth Rafa playing two up front today using strikers Cisse and Mitrovic and chucking some balls in the box with the likes of Wijnaldum coming late to get any loose balls bouncing around, we might just catch them off guard.
It also may be worth getting Townsend and Sissoko to swap wings so they don’t have to come inside, going down the line instead to put some crosses in. At the back, with the news that Coloccini has had a recurrence of a calf strain and joins Steven Taylor on the sidelines, means that neither have of them have the ignominy of being told they weren’t playing anyway and we can only hope that whoever plays in the full back positions is better than what has gone before this season.
Not that I think it really matters, the form of the two respective teams, we’re going to have to outscore them rather than hope to score and hold out.
If we do, heaven will be like Swansea.
Howay The Lads.
Anita, Lascelles, Mbemba, Dummett
Sissoko, Wijnaldum, Shelvey, Townsend