I’m over the moon Swansea City have managed to secure another campaign of Premier League football and full credit to Paul Clement for rescuing us. We looked dead and buried at the turn of the year with an embarrassing twelve points at the halfway stage of the season, so finishing 15th is an excellent return.
But don’t let that fool you into believing this has been a successful season, it’s been far from that. We have survived in spite of all the off-field goings on at the club – not because we are still that model club that many others aspire to be.
While our work in the January transfer market was good, for several transfer windows previous it had been very poor, and that simply cannot continue this summer. Huw Jenkins’ comments about the squad not needing an overhaul are not exactly encouraging, although he did at least say the players that come in need to be first teamers rather than squad players which I 100% agree with.
We needed an overhaul last summer and the result of us not having one was a relegation battle that not many of us were too surprised at. There’s not much point in staying up if we then don’t learn our lessons from this season. If not we will just turn into Sunderland and eventually we’ll go down anyway.
Throughout our success over the last dozen or so years we’ve always put the first team squad at the top of the priority list, and moving away from that has caused us to slide down the table. The previous regimes desire to cash in on their shares and put everything else on the backburner until it was sorted hurt our plans for 2016/17 and we now have to hope this debacle is firmly behind us. Spending money on the training ground probably didn’t aid our cause either but it’s difficult to be too critical of that as we badly needed to upgrade our facilities and in the long run it will undoubtedly help us.
One thing I will be critical of however is some of the new contracts we dished out. A four-year deal for Nathan Dyer who was sent out on loan the year before was baffling, as was the same contract being given to Jefferson Montero when he couldn’t get a game and when he did it was obvious he wasn’t giving his all. A one-year extension for 32 year old Wayne Routledge who then had 18 months to run was another poor decision. Rather than push the boat out to buy better players we seemed to have taken the attitude that ‘these players will do’. As this term has proved, they will not ‘do’ and the same goes for many others in the squad.
We owe a huge amount of gratitude to Lukasz Fabianski, Fernando Llorente and especially Gylfi Sigurdsson. Others have played their part including Martin Olsson, Tom Carroll, Alfie Mawson and of course Leon Britton, but those three in particular have contributed enormously to our survival – we would have been down a long time ago without them and it’s vital we keep all three. It may not be possible though and if it’s not we need to make sure we get top dollar. Sigurdsson should not leave this club for less than £35million – anything less is derisory. How would we replace him? Plus look at the likes of Moussa Sissoko joining Spurs for £30 million last summer, he’s not fit to lace the Iceman’s boots!
Too often in recent years we have sold our prized assets for lower fees than their value. Wilfried Bony and Andre Ayew are two examples as both went for less money than similar players around the same time, it’s as if we always sell to the first buyer with the first bid. If you’ve got an asset that others want then never accept the first offer, you’ll nearly always get another offer at a higher price. We need to dig our heals in and say no if we receive bids for Sigurdsson and only accept an offer that reflects his value to us and the same goes for any of our best players.
From our best players to the ones we don’t want ; we need a substantial clear out over the next few weeks. Before I even start with the players here now we have Bafetimbi Gomis, Franck Tabanou, Matt Grimes, Kyle Bartley and Mo Barrow all out on loan and all are surplus to requirements. Some might say Gomis has excelled in France – which is true – but his attitude and application whilst here was appalling and that is the type of mentality we need to rid ourselves of.
Others I’d show the door to include Kyle Naughton who isn’t good enough to be our first choice right back; Mike Van Der Hoorn who neither suits our style or is up to this level; Ki Sung Yeung who doesn’t turn it on often enough, and Jay Fulton who at 23 now needs to be playing regular first team football and it’s not going to happen at the Liberty. I’ve already spoken about the ludicrous decisions to offer Montero and Dyer new deals and this may make both players hard to sell, but either way they are both surplus to requirements.
Borja Baston is the only player I’m undecided on. He obviously has ability as his prolific scoring record for Eibar in La Liga in 2015/16 shows, but we’ve seen no real signs it will happen for him here. Do we look to give him a full pre-season to get him fully fit or sell him at a big loss or loan him out hoping he regains some form and then reassess in a years’ time? I think the latter might be the best option here but I’m not entirely convinced.
So that leads me to the positions that need strengthening. A new right back is one of our priorities, we need someone to take the place of Naughton. A central defender is also on my shopping list, preferably one that will slot in alongside Mawson as first choice. A central midfield player, a box to box one would be ideal as other than Llorente and Sigurdsson we’ve really struggled to score, so adding a player who could get five or six goals from midfield would be most welcome.
Out wide we’ve gone from average to very poor in recent years and we need to change that urgently. The main reason I was in favour of a diamond formation recently was because I didn’t trust our wingers and for that to change we need two new additions. It might be nice to have one that’s left footed for a change, and again both of these players need to be first choice rather than back up. The only position where a backup may be needed is up front. Llorente is comfortably first choice here but with Ayew not scoring often and Baston’s future up in the air we need another player in this position.
So all in all we need six players and at least five of them need to be first choice. Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan need to make sufficient funds available to Clement who deserves to mould the side into his own.
Meanwhile Huw Jenkins hopefully thinks six new players doesn’t count as an overhaul. If he does think that I see the same problems rearing their ugly head over the next few months as we prepare for our seventh Premier League season.