We speak to Cherry Chimes’ Peter Bell ahead of another big game for the Swans this weekend, this time away at AFC Bournemouth…
How’s your season been so far?
I suppose you can split it into two halves. We started quite well and started to play some really good stuff around November and December when we had Nathan Aké fitted nicely into the team at centre-back. Then January came – Aké was recalled and Callum Wilson did his cruciate again (different leg from last season).
Then we couldn’t buy a win and with one win in 2017 there has been a fair amount of discussion shall we say about who has been under performing. Still, AFC Bournemouth have kept themselves out of the bottom three and for the second season in the Premier League it has been fairly enjoyable.
Your win last week against West Ham was your first since your Liberty win on New Year’s Eve, were you getting worried?
As mentioned above, it was kind of a welcome relief to finally get three points again. The only big disappointments in the run really though were the 3-1 defat at Hull when we had scored first and the 0-2 home defeat to a revitalised Crystal Palace ( well revitalised just for our game!) While the big 6-3 defeat at Everton was another tough result, we could see that the team was fighting hard again and that has culminated in four points from six in the last two games.
You lost Nathan Ake in the transfer window, has that contributed to your poor form?
Yes, as I said earlier. Nathan Aké took a while to break into the starting 11. Eddie Howe did not want to break up the Steve Cook and Simon Francis partnership I guess, but it became rather obvious that the defence was looking much more solid whenever Nathan was playing. He started to score some goals as well against Stoke City and Liverpool. He probably did too well, as Chelsea decided enough was enough – he’d look better sitting on their bench!
To be fair though we have had an unsettled back four for much of the season with injuries to Charlie Daniels and Simon Francis and Adam Smith served a suspension for his five yellow cards. Steve Cook has played in all the games, but he’s the only one. Even Artur Boruc has missed some games, which doesn’t help. But individual errors have really seen the goals against column go up rather more than it should have.
There were no significant arrivals in Ja hart despite you being linked with many players. Which positions needed strengthening?
Well, all the fans would have liked Natahn Aké to stay so a centre-back would have been helpful in January, instead we sold one – Marc Wilson to WBA. I had expected Lewis Cook and Dan Gosling to play more games, as Surman and Arter have done a lot of work in central midfield. So we have had cover there but it has not always been used – like Emerson Hyndman who was sent out on loan to Rangers.
Up front, we could really have done with another striker but who would know that Callum Wilson would get injured just as the window closed. We had even sent Lewis Grabban out to Reading and Glenn Murray is on a season long loan to Brighton & Hove Albion. So perhaps some decisions have not been great, but Eddie Howe says he believes in the players he has so as long as the club stays up they will strengthen in the summer.
How do you see the relegation battle and how many points do you think are needed for survival?
It is going to be very tight between clubs. But the run in that some teams have are much harder than others. I don’t like Middlesbrough’s run of fixtures and Sunderland are up against it as well. I reckon 36 points will keep teams up, but think there will be may be six teams that don’t get to 40 points.
What do you make of Swansea and which players if any do you fear?
Paul Clement has done a good job and has given Swansea City a good chance of beating the drop which was looking unlikely the other side of Christmas. They have beaten some good sides of late and in Fernando Llorente, Clement has certainly found a powerful goal scorer – where had he been hiding? We all know Sigurdsson is something special and he will be the player that is probably talked most about and how to stop him. Tom Carroll is also decent midfielder that would fit in at many clubs and yet I don’t think opposition fans always recognise how good he can be for Swansea.
Saturday’s game brings together two sides who struggle defensively but excel going forward. Do you think we can expect a high scoring game?
It would not be a bad game to go to the bookies with a bet for both teams to score. Yet, if Llorente is unavailable and you have Jordan Ayew leading the Iine, I have to hope that he is a bit rusty having not played as much. AFC Bournemouth are due a clean sheet soon as well, so who knows if there will be goals?
Predict the score, where both teams will finish and who will be relegated?
I am going to be confident and guess a 2-0 home win. I think the Cherries have turned the corner as people say. I am not expecting Swansea to be relegated though even though the injuries to Rangel and Llorente won’t make it easy for you.
I started the season saying Bournemouth would finish 14th and while I hoped they might climb to 12th at one point, 14th seems to be where they are most settled. Swansea will have Hull and Palace chasing them right to the finish, but I predict Swansea will finish 16th. That is bad news for Sunderland (20th), Middlesbrough (19th) and wait for it – (Crystal Palace 18th). I had put Hull in my bottom three pre-season, but I reckon they have enough to scramble up to 17th.