When the transfer window opened at the beginning of last month, the Swans didn’t look like a side that needed to do much business. A striker seemed to be the biggest priority, but other than that the squad looked to be in rude health.
But this was a January like no other, very few clubs made signings, most seemed reluctant to allow players to leave and others recalled loan players to give themselves more squad depth.
The latter was something that caused us problems. Kasey Palmer, Morgan Gibbs-White and Victor Gyokeres were all recalled by their parents clubs, and that coupled with the long-term injuries to Steven Benda, Wayne Routledge and Liam Cullen gave Steve Cooper major issues in terms of squad depth.
If injuries, suspensions or illness started to bite, then it could have had a huge impact on the squad, so the news that six new players have moved to SA1 in the last few weeks is most welcome.
There can be little doubt that the standout acquisition of the month would have to be Conor Hourihane on loan from Aston Villa. Gibbs-White’s return to Wolves was a tough blow with him having just regained fitness, but this signing makes up for it. Hourihane netted 19 goals in 101 appearances for Villa whilst they were in the Championship, and he’s already started superbly by scoring in each of his two league appearances so far.
His set piece and goal threat will be invaluable for the remainder of this campaign, which is something that we don’t have from any other midfielders at the club and it’s hard to argue that it’s not the best signing by any club in our division during the entire window.
Another thing that made this window more challenging was Brexit. Now the UK was left the European Union, it’s far harder for clubs to get work permits for players. The Swans were therefore wise to look to the USA for new recruits if the British market proved to be unsatisfactory.
I can’t profess to know a great deal about Jordan Morris or Paul Arriola, but both come with pedigree. Morris has been linked with clubs in the top flight across Europe, so for him to rock up at the Liberty feels like a bit of a coup. Ten goals in 39 caps for his country is impressive for the striker/winger, and his arrival will hopefully provide much needed competition for Andre Ayew and Jamal Lowe. Both players have done well this season, but we definitely needed some good competition for them and Morris will be expected to challenge them both.
Arriola is an interesting one. DC United have described him as a “versatile midfielder” but he has also operated at a winger and a full back, so where he will fit in is tough to say. He netted twice for the USA in a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday and has done well to get over the cruciate knee ligament injury he sustained a year ago.
The signings of Ben Hamer, Kieron Freeman and Morgan Whittaker are more with backup and the future in mind. Hamer will provide senior over for Freddie Woodman after Steven Benda’s season ending injury. If Connor Roberts has an issue or needs resting then Freeman can deputise for him in the right wing back position, while Whittaker will fill in up front as and when required. He’s on a far longer contract than the other two so his arrival is with one eye on the future.
Having criticised the powers that be at the Liberty for their transfer dealings in recent years, it’s only right that I now give credit to them for backing Steve Cooper at a crucial time in the season.
We have managed to improve the starting eleven and increase our squad depth in one of the most challenging windows that I can remember.
Steve Cooper has done brilliantly to get us into a position to challenge for promotion back to the Premier League, and he has been rewarded accordingly.
Time will tell if our business this month will see us reap the ultimate reward in May.