Despite sitting in a respectable 10th position in the Premier League, Swansea’s Europa League involvement has somewhat dented the quality of their domestic performances. They are only five points above the relegation zone and play Manchester City, in-form Newcastle, Everton and Chelsea in their next six games. If they fail to take points at home to Hull and at Norwich, they could find themselves in trouble by the end of that period. With Michu currently on the sidelines, the last thing they needed was an injury to top-scorer Wilfried Bony. On the basis of tonight’s performance, you wonder where their goal threat will come from with that pair absent and they showed few signs of making any inroads into a Valencia back-line that has been unstable in La Liga. This would all seem more worthwhile if they were excelling in Europe but a winless run of three Group A games means that although qualification is still probable, they have to get something from a tricky-looking match at St Gallen to confirm progression. By finishing second, they could land themselves a knockout game against one of the sides eliminated from the Champions League. If they play like this they will not progress beyond that stage. This was supposed to be a season where they pushed on to make more club history but they now face a real scrap to stop it being a disappointment.
Michael Laudrup has a very specific way of playing. He has built on the foundations laid by Brendan Rogers and made Swansea a better team, bringing them their first major trophy in the process. He achieved this by sticking to the philosophy of possession football and the belief that the other team cannot score if they do not have the ball. This is extremely effective when they are winning – and high-flying Liverpool are the only team to claw back a lead against the Swans and earn a point. However, when they concede first, their slow tempo often makes it easy for teams to get players behind the ball and make it hard for them to create chances. They have front men such as Bony and Michu who are more than capable in the air and the likes of Jonjo Shelvey to deliver decent service, so a direct style should not be too hard for them to adapt to. If Laudrup was less stubborn with his tactics then they may improve on their ability to pick up invaluable points from losing positions.
Usually when teams come to the Liberty, they know that they are going to be in for a tough afternoon, particularly in midfield. Although they shaded the possession statistics, 53 per cent represents a fairly low return by Swansea’s standards and a Shelvey volley was their only meaningful chance. One of the major reasons for their lack of creativity in the middle was the work done by Chelsea loanee Oriel Romeu. He worked tirelessly off the ball to frustrate the energetic Alejandro Pozuelo. His tackling was reliable and he showed a good range of passing. Jose Mourinho likes playing with out-and-out holding midfielder and at present he does not see that as David Luiz’s job, John Obi Mikel is inconsistent and Ramires too forward thinking. The Portuguese is still searching for someone who can undertake the role Claude Makalele did so well for him in his first spell, allowing Frank Lampard to get forward as he did to devastating effect against West Ham on Saturday. With performances like this there is no reason why that cannot be Romeu.
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