Opposition view: Stoke City

Ahead of Monday night’s trip to Stoke, David Cowlishaw from the Wizards of Drivel podcast gives us the lowdown on Mark Hughes’ side.

How’s your season been so far?

Well for us, the season’s kind of only just started. After one point from our first five, I was really quite worried. It was a difficult start to the season, granted (we lost to Man City, Spurs and Everton), but the manner of those performances felt like a continuation of our poor form from the end of last season and we didn’t look like we could turn it around. The 4-1 defeat to Crystal Palace was simply appalling. Since then though, we’ve tightened up and there’s a definite return of the feel-good factor after a great point at Old Trafford was followed by two 2-0 wins. So, overall it’s been poor but its just starting to pick up. We’ve got a run of winnable games now that we really need to take advantage of.

Many Swansea fans were hoping the club would re-sign Joe Allen and Wilfried Bony during the summer. How have both players been getting on at your club?

Joe Allen has been utterly fantastic, our player of the season so far. I expected him to have a good work-rate given that he played for you and then Klopp’s Liverpool, but he’s added a real quality to our attacking play – something I wasn’t expecting. He’s been converted into an attacking midfielder and scored four goals for us, so it’s definitely an experiment that’s paid off. He’s kind of gained instant cult status, too.
Bony, the jury is still out on, but the fans are backing him at the moment. We had hoped he’d rediscover his Swansea form in a smaller pond than Manchester City, but it hasn’t happened for him in front of goal just yet – not that he’s loads of chances to miss. His hold up play has generally improved too.

What did you make of your transfer business in general?

Well we’ve made two permanent transfers and three loans. £13m for Joe Allen looks like a steal for us in today’s market, so we’ve definitely done well there. We also spent £5m on Egyptian wonderkid Ramadan Sobhi who’s featured in patches but not been in the squad the past few weeks. He’s definitley got real potential and looks threatening whenever he gets the ball, so I hope we see more of him. The three loan deals: Lee Grant, Bruno Martins Indi and Bony, have all improved the team. Grant was an unexpected one, I’d never heard his name mentioned before deadline day but it became clear that Shay Given wasn’t a great stand-in for Jack Butland, so we took a punt on Grant and it paid off in that game at Old Trafford. Martins Indi looks better every week, and as I said, we’re backing Bony to do well. Also, being a club our size, we didn’t have any of our best players leave, which is always a bonus. Marko Arnautovic signing a new contract could be the signing of the summer for us.

What are your expectations for this season?

Mid-table again. I would say a fourth successive season of finishing 9th, but that could be a bit harder this year. I’m personally gutted we couldn’t progress past Hull in the League Cup, as we really could do with a good cup run to liven everyone up. There’s always a lingering suspicion that, with the players we have, we could push past ninth and challenge for a Europa League spot, but when you see the likes of Palace throwing £30m on Benteke, you think that mid-table is going to be our level for some time.

If you could make one change at your club what would it be and why?

Well, I’d make a few, but my big bug-bear right now is fans being inconsistent with their criticism of players. ‘Old-school’ players like Charlie Adam and Jon Walters are allowed to get away with more stuff, it seems to me. If Adam misplaces a pass, it’s unfortunate. If someone like Giannelli Imbula misplaces a pass the crowd rounds on him and that’s really quite unpleasant.

What do you make of Swansea and which players if any do you fear?

I don’t think you’re quite the force you once were. I mean it takes some doing to be below us in the table at the moment, but I think you’ll stay up. For me, Sunderland and Hull are the worst teams in the league by far and they’ll both go down unless Allardyce comes back to Sunderland. I don’t think there’s much between you, Burnley and Middlesbrough for the other relegation spot, but if I had to call it right now I’d say you’ll survive because I rate Bob Bradley as a manager. As for Swansea players, I think the obvious one is Sigurdsson, who has a real quality on the ball and from set-pieces, something that could really hurt us on Monday night. You’ve also got Borja and Llorente, who I think have got quality in front of goal.

Predict the score and where both teams will finish?

I think we’ll win this 2-1, possibly quite late on. We’ll finish 11th, you’ll finish 16th.