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Analysing Swansea City’s season so far



After Michael Laudrup’s sacking from Swansea last season, few expected Garry Monk to do as well as he has done replacing him in South Wales. After surviving a relegation battle in his player-manager interim role, he was given the job full time in the summer. Since, Monk has lead Swansea into a regular top half position and has built a squad capable of challenging at the top of English football. They lie in 8th place in the Premier League, and have just reached the 40 mark point, achieving the famous ‘security’ milestone. Now, Monk wants to build on that and beat Brendan Rodgers’ Premier League record of 47 points with the Swans.

No one really expected Garry Monk to take over when he did, and when they were sucked into the relegation battle, many thought that the Swans’ stay in the Premier League was soon coming to an end. However, he managed to keep them up and vowed to build a team and improve on his performance that season. He kept to his word and made some very wise moves in the summer transfer window. Monk invested in Federico Fernandez, Jefferson Montero, Bafetimbi Gomis, Lukasz Fabianski and Gylfi Sigurdsson, for example, and the new-look Swansea team prepared for the 2014-15 season.

They started the season very impressively, winning their first three matches of the season, including an opening day victory at Old Trafford, to dampen Louis Van Gaal’s special occasion. After encountering a sticky run of form, Swansea started to prove themselves and settle as a mid-table Premier League side, playing attractive and open football. They’re style was coming into it’s own, with Montero settling into life in England and terrorising full backs, Siggurdson enjoying his return to Swansea and Wilfried Bony opening an impressive scoring record for the season.

Their midfield has been key for them throughout the season. Whether they have been playing a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3, the two holding midfielders, mainly Ki and Shelvey, have been incredibly impressive. Together they have been involved in 11 goals, nearly a third of their goals total. Both have also been integral to Swansea’s attacking play, as well as both tracking back and adding stability to their defensive work. Ki has been a rock in terms of defence for the Swans, playing a vital role in defence as well as attack. He has made an astounding 70 clearances throughout the season which results to just under three a game. Gylfi Sigurdsson has had an excellent season for the Swans, mainly proving to the world his set-piece prowess and ability. Not only this, but he has created double as many chances as any other Swansea player, with a total of 55. As well as this, he has also made an impressive 8 assists throughout the season.

By Christmas, Wilfried Bony was starting to come into his own, attracting obvious interest from bigger clubs as he prepared to jet off for the African Cup of Nations. He had put together a good run of goals, racking up an impressive tally of 9. For the first half of the season at the Liberty, he had been a fairly big player for Swansea, ending his time there as top-scorer and also becoming their all time top Premier League scorer. However, a fascinating stat regarding Bony and his time at Swansea is that he only scored in one of Swansea’s victory’s this season; a brace in a 2-0 win over Leicester. The rest of his goals came in losses and draws exclusively.

At the end of 2014, he was the top scorer in the Premier League for the calendar year, scoring 21 goals. Whilst he was on international duty with the Ivory Coast, it was announced that Manchester City had bought Bony for a fee of £28,000,000. Whoever at the Liberty Stadium managed to squeeze that figure out of the Striker needs a medal. Although he has had a fantastic stay in Wales with Swansea, I really don’t believe that he is worth that huge fee associated. I also think it is unlikely that he is going to rekindle his form he had with Swansea anytime soon. With added pressure on his back, I think it’s unlikely to see the Wilfried Bony we saw at Swansea for the remainder of this season. After coming on from the bench on three occasions for City, he has failed to make an impact at all in these brief appearances.

You would be forgiven for thinking that Swansea would lose their form and their style once Bony had left, after playing such a big role in their season. However, since his departure, Swansea have only lost two games. Albeit, one of those being the humiliating 5-0 thrashing they received from Chelsea at the Liberty. Since that day though, they have picked up their form and Bafetimbi Gomis has almost acted as a direct replacement for Bony, having opened his account for the season and netted twice since Bony has left.

Swansea, for me, are a typical mid-table side. They have had a good season, and have got a good number of points on the board. They are not a huge scoring side though, and have only scored 31 goals, the least in the top 10. However, it could be a really good consolidation season for the Swans. At the end of this season, Garry Monk could really push on and build a side well capable of challenging for Europe next season. With the money available from the Bony sale, who knows how far Swansea can go in the next few years?

A struggling QPR fan that still travels the country supporting the team, for some unknown reason.

FA Cup

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham – Lucas Moura shines despite disappointing day for Spurs

Jake Jackman




Tottenham are going to have to rely on a replay for the second successive round as they conceded a dramatic late equaliser to Rochdale. It was a reminder of the magic that the FA Cup still possesses and it will provide a useful cash injection for the League One club. Spurs opted to make several changes and rest key players, but they selected a team that should have progressed on the day.

Ian Henderson scored in the first-half to give Dale a first-half lead and it was deserved. Keith Hill’s team played good football and went toe-to-toe against their more illustrious opposition.

Lucas Moura and Harry Kane scored to put Tottenham into a 2-1 lead, but that wasn’t the end of the goal-scoring as Steve Davies scored to take the tie to a replay. Here are three talking points from Spotland:

Lucas Moura’s performance showed why Tottenham signed him

It was a signing that came out of left-field, as Tottenham prefer to do their transfer business in the summer. However, this opportunity was too good to turn down as they were given the chance to sign a proven Brazilian international. He had fallen on tough times at PSG and rarely featured this season, but he proved why the club signed him on Sunday.

The Brazilian wasn’t afraid of the fight and was up for the test offered by League One opposition. Every time he got on the ball, it looked like he could make something happen, as shown by his seven dribbles completed.

He had a touch of class that allowed him to stand out from the rest of the players on the pitch and if he can consistently perform at that level, he will turn out to be a great signing.

His movement was superb, as he regularly found pockets of space to exploit. Interestingly, he won five aerial duels and that shows that he has quickly adjusted to English football. It was Lucas that scored the equaliser mid-way through the second half with a confident finish. He will have played himself into Mauricio Pochettino’s plans for the coming weeks.

Rochdale impressed on their day in the spotlight

They were written off before a ball was kicked as they were facing one of the best teams in the country. Rochdale are currently rock-bottom of League One and 11 points from safety, albeit with four matches in hand. They laid a new pitch ahead of this match and the players adapted to it well, showing that they can play good football.

Callum Camps and Andrew Cannon impressed in the centre of the park, while their two wily experienced strikers got the goals. Ian Henderson was a tireless worker in the final third and put the Tottenham defenders under pressure.

He snatched at a couple of chances in the first-half, but he remained cool when another chance came his way and scored the opening goal.

It will be a tough ask for them to go to Wembley, but they can go there with no fear as they have nothing to lose. The tie will give them an injection of money that the club needs, especially if they are to suffer relegation this season.

Toby Alderweireld looks a long way from his best

The Tottenham defence didn’t look as assured as they usually do and both of their centre-backs struggled at times during the match.

Alderweireld was left out of the trip to Juventus and there were some supporters that questioned that decision. However, he looked short of match fitness against Rochdale and was arguably at fault for the late equaliser.

The Belgian international looked rusty and his decision making was not great. He picked up a yellow card for a rash tackle and that is one example of that. Juan Foyth played alongside Alderweireld and his inexperience showed when Rochdale did attack.

For Alderweireld, he wants to be back in the first-team and that is eventually where he will be, but he isn’t at the level required to be starting right now. Tottenham are fighting on multiple fronts and they can’t afford to have any players that aren’t at 100%. He is returning from a serious injury and he will need time to get back to his best.

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Roberto Firmino: His performances will shape the end to Liverpool’s season

Martyn Cooke



On Sunday afternoon at St Mary’s Stadium the returning Virgil Van Dijk took centre stage and assumed the role of pantomime villain for the day.

However, whilst much of the pre-game build up was centred on the former Southampton defender, who was making his first return to the club since signing for Liverpool in January, the post-match conversations were focused on the brilliance of the Dutchman’s attacking teammate.

Roberto Firmino is one of the most under-rated players in the Premier League and his performance last weekend reaffirmed that he is one of the most effective forward players in the top-flight of English football.

The Brazilian has rarely been the centre of attention since arriving at Anfield in the summer of 2015 for £29 million and the media have often overlooked his significant contributions on the pitch.

Roberto Firmino

At Liverpool he has been forced to be content playing in the shadow of Philippe Coutinho, prior to his move to Barcelona, and Mohamed Salah, who has been a revelation since joining the club in the summer.

But Firmino is now emerging as one of the most creative, innovative and exciting forwards in the Premier League and he is undoubtedly one of the most improved players of the season.

The 26-year-old is both a creator and a goal scorer, as Southampton discovered to their cost at the weekend, when he opened the scoring with a neat finish within the opening six minutes before providing the assist for Salah’s goal with an ingenious flick.

The goal was his 20th of the campaign, which was shortly followed by his 21st of the season against Porto in the Reds’ midweek Champions League fixture, and he is now only nine short of becoming the Premier League’s all-time highest Brazilian goal scorer.

Firmino is a unique mixture of technical brilliance, creativity, innovation and an intelligence that makes him unpredictable, difficult to mark and a constant threat, regardless of where he pops up on the pitch.

However, whilst his Brazilian flair may catch the eye it is his willingness to pressurise opponents and work hard off the ball that is genuinely impressive.

He is certainly a favourite of Jurgen Klopp, who admires his hard running, work rate and pressing that often sets the tone for the rest of the team.

The 26-year-old has still gone somewhat unnoticed this campaign despite his consistency and performances on the pitch and the fact that he has missed only one league game all season.

But that is set to change.

Firmino’s performances and form have proven that there is still a bright future at Anfield despite the departure of Coutinho in January.

Deployed as an unconventional number nine, the Brazilian is the centre of a dynamic attacking forward line that sees him flanked by Salah on one side and Sadio Mane on the other.

The trio possess the pace, intelligence and creativity to threaten any team in Europe, as demonstrated by the mid-week five-goal demolition of Porto in the Champions League, and central to their effectiveness is the link up play of Firmino.

Still only 26, the Brazilian is about to reach the peak of his prowess and his continued development under Klopp poses the exciting question of how much better the forward might become in the forthcoming two or three years.

He certainly possesses all of the characteristics to become a legend at the club, should he choose to remain at Anfield long term, and he now has the opportunity to step out of Coutinho’s shadow and enjoy the limelight for himself.

Liverpool supporters will be hoping that Firmino can maintain his current run of form over the coming months and his performances will shape the club’s season.

His creativity and knack for scoring goals will be an invaluable commodity as Klopp goes in search of a top four place and potential silverware.

Firmino my have been underrated in the past, but he is now taking centre stage as the focal point of Liverpool’s attack.

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Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield Town 0-2 Manchester United: Three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium as Manchester United overcame Huddersfield Town in their FA Cup 5th Round contest.

Rob Meech



Photo: Reuters

A brace from sharpshooter Romelu Lukaku fired Manchester United into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at the expense of Huddersfield Town.

Lukaku opened his account in the third minute before netting his second of the evening shortly after the second-half resumption.

Victory was not as straightforward as the scoreline suggested. However, as the Terriers produced a spirited display after the early setback.

There was also controversy involving the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.

Juan Mata saw an effort ruled out for offside after a review, but confusion abounded about whether it had been the correct decision.

Here are three talking points from an eventful encounter, as United set up a last-eight tie with Brighton & Hove Albion…

Lukaku’s goals are a fillip for Jose Mourinho

The Belgian has come in for criticism from some quarters for his goal return since last summer’s big-money transfer from Everton.

While he may not have reached the levels of Harry Kane or Mohamed Salah, Lukaku has now scored 21 times in all competitions for United this season.

That tally was boosted by his double against Huddersfield, which showed off his best attributes.

Lukaku was too strong and clever for Huddersfield’s defence as he latched on to Mata’s through ball for the first, before putting the finishing touch to an Alexis Sanchez pass for his second.

The former Chelsea man’s performance will be the biggest plus for United boss Jose Mourinho, who is relying on him to spearhead the attack for the remainder of the campaign.

Lukaku is a confidence player, so this was a timely boost ahead of a crucial run of fixtures both domestically and in Europe.

VAR under the microscope yet again

The introduction of technology to any sport usually results in teething problems.

It is fair to say VAR has experienced more than its fair share in football this season.

Employed in some FA and League Cup matches, controversy has never been far away. This was again the case at Huddersfield.

Mata appeared to have doubled United’s lead just before half-time, but referee Kevin Friend waited for confirmation from VAR that he had been onside.

After about a minute, Friend disallowed the goal when it was judged that Mata had been fractionally offside as the ball was played.

Contention emerged when viewers saw the incident on TV, where the guidelines were clearly not straight.

In fact, they were embarrassingly wonky.

Further replays suggested – with parallel lines correctly in place – that Mata’s knee had indeed been offside, but it was a very close call and certainly not an obvious mistake by the referee’s assistant.

These technical hitches will need to be ironed out before VAR is brought in universally.

Huddersfield can be positive despite FA Cup exit

With their Premier League status hanging in the balance, it would have been understandable if Huddersfield manager David Wagner had seen this fixture as an unwanted distraction.

But there was absolutely no suggestion that they were trying not to win the match, or prepared to exit the competition without a fight.

The Terriers, who famously beat United at home in the Premier League last October, carried on from where they left off last weekend in the impressive 4-1 victory over Bournemouth.

Conceding so early to United had not been in the script, but the hosts regrouped quickly and caused their opponents plenty of problems.

Ultimately, the difference between the two sides was the quality of finishing.

Whereas the visitors scored with their only two shots on target, Huddersfield wasted numerous openings as they slipped to defeat.

Nevertheless, attention can be turned back to their bid for survival, without their confidence dented.

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