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English Premier League

Swansea City 2015/16 Premier League Season Preview



Before looking at what Swansea can hope to achieve in what is set to be one of the most competitive Premier League seasons to date, it is important to first place into context the achievements of Swansea City in last year’s campaign under the ever-impressive tutelage of Gary Monk.

Story of Last Season

The Swans recorded a best ever finish of 8th in the Barclays Premier League last season, missing out on a place in the Europa League qualifying stages by a mere four points. They recorded 16 wins and a further 14 draws, meaning that only 8 occasions last term did the side fail to put points on the board by the end of the weekend. Even the transfer of Wilfried Bony to Manchester City proved to be a big positive, as the club added a welcome £26 million in transfer funds into an already debt-free bank balance, giving the club a stable foundation to head into this campaign with.

An opening day victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford certainly raised eyebrows as the Swans made the perfect start to the season, taking a further two wins over Burnley and West Brom en route to a perfect August. They would then record just two points until the last week of October when a barren run was ended with a home victory over then-struggling Leicester City. The rest of the campaign would be one of mixed results for Swansea, a brace of victories often being bookended by draws or losses, however fans were left delighted with completing the double over both United and Arsenal, demonstrating the progress that Swansea have made in the last few seasons in the top flight. On the domestic cup front, two disappointing runs were put to bed by Blackburn and Liverpool respectively, but the League form will have given Gary Monk and his coaching staff plenty of optimism heading into the new term.

Transfers In

In terms of transfers, the arrival of Marseille winger Andre Ayew is a statement of intent by the club as they look to break into European football and compliments the strong playing squad already at the club. He will be looking to replicate the 44 goals he netted in 160 appearances for the French side, and securing his services on a four-year deal could pay dividends for Swansea in the long run.

Also joining are forward Eder from Braga, defender Franck Tabanou and goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt from Heerenveen for a combined total of £9.1 million. All three have penned three year contracts at the Liberty Stadium and; with a wide range of domestic and international experience, they look to be further signs that Swansea have no intention of resting on their laurels following last year’s unqualified success. Tom Holland has also signed on a free from Manchester City, with young forward Oliver McBurnie also joining on a undisclosed fee from League One side, Bradford City. Clearly the focus on this summer’s signings has been to consolidate the high standard of football already in place at Swansea whilst also blooding the next generation of talent.

Key Players

Having started all but a single game last season, club captain Ashley Williams was an ever-present at the heart of Swansea’s defence, and the highest ranked Welsh side will need their skipper on top form again this campaign if they are to scale further up the table. The Welsh captain’s height at the back gives Swansea an added edge in the air, especially from set pieces and his consistency thus far in his Premier League career has been impressive. If he can start to score a few goals this season and firm up the defence in a team that conceeded more than it scored last year, he will yet again underline his valuability to Swansea City.

It seems hardly possible to discuss the strength Swansea have in their playing squad without pausing to reflect on Jonjo Shelvey‘s performances last season. The ex-Charlton and Liverpool midfielder netted just three times last season but proved to be a versatile and at times mesmerising playmaker for his team-mates. According to The Guardian, Shelvey has also hired a personal trainer in the off-season in order to keep his fitness levels high and ensure he returns ahead of this campaign in the best possible shape. It will be fascinating to see if this move correlates directly into even better form than he is already displaying. Regardless, Shelvey’s ability in the middle of the park will prove vital if Swansea are to improve their goal count this season.

Bafetimbi Gomis enjoyed some of the best form of his career at the back end of last season and could quickly develop a reputation as one of the league’s best strikers if he can continue that form through this season. Firmly stuck in the memory are his sublime brace against Hull City, his winner against Arsenal scarcely a minute after appearing as a substitute and again in a 1-0 reverse over the Gunners later that season. With Swansea boasting a selection of high quality strikers, the occasional French international will need to surpass the club’s top scorer from last season, Wilfried Bony, who netted 9 times before joining City, otherwise Swansea may yet again find themselves struggling in the goals department compared to their closest rivals.

Predicted Line-up
Swansea - Football tactics and formations


Quite simply, last season underlined Garry Monk’s credentials as one of the brightest new managers in the game. His methods have compliments spilling in from all corners of the footballing community and his work was best represented in that surprise 8th place finish last season. Whilst he himself has already admitted that performing beyond that marker with his current squad will prove a difficult challenge, his summer additions could be the boost that Swansea need to challenge for a Europa League spot. This demonstrates that; despite only having a relatively short period of time under his belt as a manager at the highest level, he clearly has a good concept of who and what he needs to take his team forward. Monk and Swansea have been a match made in heaven thus far; whether or not it will continue to the same effect this season remains to be seen.

First Six Fixtures

Swansea’s campaign will start with the most challenging test of them all – a trip to Stamford Bridge to face reigning champions Chelsea, who should have too much quality in depth for the Swans to take the three points. Subsequent fixtures against Newcastle United and Sunderland should give Garry Monk’s men the opportunity to score two victories and put themselves in the mix at the sharp end of the table. Manchester United then travel to the Liberty Stadium, where the Swansea faithful will be hopeful of claiming the Red Devils’ scalp for the third consecutive fixture, but United’s stronger side may pay dividends on match-day. Watford should provide little resistance in the following fixture, whilst Everton will be Swansea’s first true test of where they stand relative to the opposition, with that game being the first, perhaps, where a draw would be an expectable outcome.

Final Standing Prediction – 10th

Garry Monk’s summer signings bolster an already strong Swansea side and; with the achievement of last season behind them, I firmly expect them to build upon it this season and attempt push on for a Europa League spot. Whilst teams such as Chelsea, Manchester City and co. are still far superior, the Swans have demonstrated that, on their day, they can take points from the big guns, and this could prove crucial if they are to score a higher finish this term. Players such as Gomis, Shelvey, Fabianski, Williams and Eder will need to be on top form, as will manager Garry Monk, but if everything comes together then a great season could be in the offing. It is still more likely however for them to have to settle for a position closer to the middle of the table.

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Damian is an A-Level student from Trowbridge, Wiltshire. He is a supporter of Swindon Town and will (hopefully!) be starting at the University of Southampton in September to study History.

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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