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?
Is Bojan Krkic the perfect player for Gary Rowett to build Stoke City around?
The 27-year-old has been an outcast at the Bet365 Stadium.
As Gary Rowett continues to rebuild the Stoke City squad over the summer there will be plenty of speculation regarding who will be arriving and departing the Bet365 Stadium.
The Potters have already dipped into the transfer market by signing Nigerian midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo and Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Benik Afobe whilst Egyptian starlet Ramadan Sobhi was sold to Huddersfield Town last week.
Xherdan Shaqiri, who is currently representing Switzerland at the World Cup in Russia, has confirmed that he will be leaving the club whilst, in contrast, Joe Allen has signed a new long-term contract to remain.
There are still plenty of question marks over current players. The likes of Jack Butland and Badou Ndiaye are expected to attract interest from Premier League clubs whilst the expensive pairing of Saido Berahino and Giannelli Imbula may not fit into Rowett’s plans but will be short of offers.
But what about Bojan Krkic?
The diminutive Spaniard was once one of the most promising young forwards in Europe after he rose through Barcelona’s prestigious La Masia academy system and made his first team debut at the age of 17.
He made over 100 appearances for the Catalan’s prior to loan spells with Ajax, AC Milan and Roma before eventually moving to Stoke in the summer of 2014.
Bojan has certainly made an impact at the Bet365 Stadium, particularly during his first two-and-a-half years with the club, but he fell out of favour under Mark Hughes and has spent the last eighteen months on loan in Germany and Spain.
At his best, the 27-year-old was a magician who produced moments of sublime skill and was a central creative influence in the team.
He was technically magnificent and would often glide across the pitch, weaving between defenders and was a genuine threat whenever he received the ball in the final third.
Bojan was one of only a handful of Stoke players from the last decade that would bring supporters to the edge of their seats in anticipation and expectation when he was in possession.
For anyone who requires a reminder of what the forward can do, simply look up his solo goal against Tottenham Hotspur form 2014.
Much has been made of his injury in January 2015. The Spaniard suffered severe knee damage in an FA Cup tie at Rochdale that meant that he was out of action for the remainder of the season and the common narrative is that he was never the same upon his return.
However, this storyline is incorrect. In fact, Bojan was at his peak over the Christmas period in 2015 when he was the centre of Stoke’s attacking trident which also included Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic.
Such was the effectiveness of the trio that The Potters picked up the nickname of ‘Stoke-a-lona’ in reference to their attacking brand of football.
So where did it all go wrong for him?
He fell out of favour with Mark Hughes and, after being dropped from the starting line-up, was never able to regain his position as Stoke City’s creative hub.
The Spaniard subsequently has spent the past eighteen months on loan with Mainz and Las Palmas but has struggled to make any significant impact either in Germany or Spain.
In many respects, Bojan’s stock has never been lower. He has fallen off the radar somewhat in the past year and it appears that any hopes that he may have had of returning to a prominent European club are all but over.
However, this opens up a potential return to Stoke despite their relegation to The Championship.
Last season The Potters were desperately short of creativity and goals – something that Bojan can provide.
The Spaniard man be the perfect figure for Gary Rowett to build his new look team around.
Joe Allen and Oghenekaro Etebo will provide defensive security and energy in the centre of midfield whilst Benik Afobe will make be the focal point in the final third.
Bojan could be the perfect link player if deployed as a number ten and you would imagine that he would be more than capable of causing chaos amongst defences in The Championship.
There is, of course, the question of whether the 27-year-old would be prepared to play in the second tier of English football, although Allen’s decision to sign a new contract and remain at Stoke would suggest that Rowett is capable of being persuasive.
If Stoke are serious about challenging for promotion, then keeping Bojan and reigniting his career at the Bet365 Stadium would be a serious statement of intent.
Jack Wilshere is West Ham’s most realistic midfield target this summer
The 26-year-old seems the best option for Manuel Pellegrini at the moment.
Manuel Pellegrini has seemingly put signing a new midfielder high on his list of priorities this summer, having been linked with some stellar names, but is Jack Wilshere (Sky Sports) his most realistic target?
The Chilean has expressed his desire to get the Hammers playing attacking and progressive football again next term, and views a quality midfield addition as vital in achieving this.
Initially, the suggestion was made that Pellegrini would attempt to move for two-time Premier League winner Yaya Toure (the Telegraph), before stories broke claiming his interest in Paris Saint-Germain’s Javier Pastore (Sky Sports).
However, talks for both have stalled, with Toure’s preference to join a top-six side (Sport 24) and Pastore’s reported wage demands of £190,000-a-week (Sky Sports) to leave the French capital, with it now looking more likely Roma will land the 29-year-old’s signature.
Wilshere would employ the tactics Pellegrini is after and would instantly inject technical quality into the current functional midfield trio of Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate and Pedro Obiang. His ability to carry the ball past defensive counterparts and to spot a final pass would add extra dimensions to the Hammers’ play, and at the age of 26 he could still have his best years ahead.
The ex-Bournemouth man has revealed he will not sign a contract extension at Arsenal with his contract set to expire imminently, meaning Pellegrini could land his signature on a free.
Tottenham should elevate reported interest in Leicester City protege Demari Gray
The 21-year-old could become a superstar if nurtured properly.
Tottenham Hotspur were reportedly interested in the possibility of signing Leicester City‘s attacking protege Demari Gray a few months back, according to reports from ESPN. And after a fruitless period in the search for attacking reinforcements, Mauricio Pochettino should revive his interest in sorting a deal.
Gray contributed four goals and three assists in 30 Premier League appearances last term, and is currently the captain of the England U21 squad. But he is likely to evaluate his future with the Foxes this summer, due to his lack of regular game-time. And Tottenham seems a great fit for the winger.
Spurs have pursued multiple attacking targets since the window commenced, without gathering any real traction on any of their targets, and it seems Pochettino – for once – is more concerned with making a marquee signing, than bringing in a player with the scope to develop and grow into a top player at White Hart Lane.
Talks for Anthony Martial, Christian Pulisic and Ivan Perisic have all stalled in recent times, and a move for the Leicester City man could be just the ticket for Spurs. He brings all the attributes they’re currently looking for; blistering pace, exceptional balance, end product, a cool head and notably the ability to hit an absolute cracker if awarded space.
If he reaches his peak under the guidance of Pochettino, which is more likely than not given his immense talent, the player could double in market-value and could become a key player for the Lilywhites for years to come.