To say it’s been an interesting summer in south Wales would be a bit of an understatement as Swansea City prepare for their 6th consecutive season of Premier League football. We’ve waved goodbye to a clutch of players, namely our legendary skipper, while we’ve welcomed some new faces including two new strikers, one of which for a record-breaking fee.
Whilst I am now relaxed about this area of the side (as I am with the goalkeeping situation as we have about 12 of them!) the same can’t be said about the back line. Ashley Williams may not have been at his best last term, but there’s no doubt we will be a poorer side without him and above all his leadership will be very hard to replace. While Jordi Amat never lets anyone down and Federico Fernandez can be excellent on his day, we definitely need to add another central defender before the transfer window shuts.
The £2m arrival of 23-year-old Ajax centre back Mike van der Hoorn is a typical Huw Jenkins signing, and one which might not see fruition for a few years given that even a Dutch football expert is doubting how this one might work out.
The full back areas are also areas for concern. At left back probably less so, because Stephen Kingsley might be the man who finally gives Neil Taylor some competition for his place, after two years of being an automatic choice. At right back though I’m not convinced by Kyle Naughton at all, and with Angel Rangel a fading force, I believe we should have considered moving Naughton on and signing someone to be first choice in this position.
The midfield is also an area where we are well stocked but whether it’s of sufficient quality is debatable once you look past Jack Cork and Gylfi Sigurdsson. Leroy Fer performed well during his loan spell from QPR, but will he now relax too much as he’s earned himself a permanent deal? It’s an accusation that’s been made at him before but I sincerely it doesn’t turn out like that. Leon Britton is Mr Reliable but isn’t a long term option while Ki was a shadow of his former self last term. You probably know what I’m going to say here and I make no apology for it, Ki should have been shipped out and the money received for him should have been put towards signing Joe Allen. That would have left me feeling considerably happier with this area of the pitch.
Moving onto the wingers and while we have enough players to fill the positions, there can be little doubt we are weaker here than in 2015/16. Andre Ayew may not have been the best fit for us but with twelve goals last term he was very effective. I can’t see Nathan Dyer, Wayne Routledge, Mo Barrow or Jefferson Montero scoring that many between them.
I was particularly surprised by Dyer’s new four-year deal. It seemed quite generous to me, with only a year left I would have seen what he could do for a few months before committing to anything like that. My main hope for the campaign though is that Mo Barrow finally becomes first choice, he was a real bright spark for us in the second half of last season and deserves much more game time this year. All four though must up their games and our crossing must improve, at 6ft 5in Fernando Llorente needs good balls into the box if he is to thrive.
And finally to Francesco Guidolin, a man who hasn’t really been mentioned much this summer. His results were good last term but some of the performances left a lot to be desired. I still have my doubts about him; I get the impression he’s a bit of a yes man and most of the important decisions appear to be out of his hands. He did at least appear to learn that the diamond didn’t work towards the end of last season, so hopefully 4-2-3-1 will be the preferred formation.
I have to admit I’m apprehensive. We are in better shape than a few weeks ago but as I’ve expressed above, we still have one or two weaknesses that I’d like to see eradicated. Getting off to a good start is always important but I feel it is more than ever this season, as our fixtures look very difficult after the trip to Burnley and home game with Hull.
Overall though I believe we are likely to finish lower than the 12th place we managed last season, but the goals of Baston will ensure that we remain a Premier League club in 2017/18.