Can Barnsley's Alfie Mawson develop into Ashley Williams' replacement at Swansea?
Swansea City have done relatively little in the transfer market, considering they have lost two key players in Ashley Williams and Andre Ayew. According to Transfermarkt, the club are just under £14 million in profit from their transfer dealings this summer and their fans will expect them to reinvest before the deadline. It is unusual for sides not to spend the new television money as the league becomes more competitive and there will be concerns about the strength of Swansea’s squad at this moment in time.
On Friday, the Welsh side agreed a fee with Barnsley for promising young defender Alfie Mawson, which suggests they will be active in the coming days. The BBC report that it is an undisclosed fee, but it believed to be roughly £5 million. Although it is difficult to judge how much a player is worth in the current market, Mawson has done well in the lower leagues and could turn out to be an inspired purchase.
During the 2015/16 campaign, Mawson had a breakthrough season at Barnsley after moving to the Yorkshire club from Brentford. He entered last season as a relative unknown and ended it as an integral part of the Barnsley side that gained promotion to the Championship. They also managed to win the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and their season mirrored that of Mawson’s.
Barnsley struggled in the early part of the season and despite his obvious promise, Mawson was inconsistent. They didn’t keep many clean sheets and they looked a long way from a team capable of gaining promotion back into the Championship. However, their defence improved immeasurably and in 2016, they have kept 14 clean sheets in the league. This upturn in form for the club could be correlated to Mawson’s own improvement. His mistakes became fewer and he started to emerge as one of the best young centre backs in the Football League.
The centre back is intelligent and he is mature beyond his years. The Englishman is switched on when on the pitch and is excellent at recovering from a mistake either by himself or his centre back partner. Despite being only 22, he is a leader on the pitch and helps organise the back four. Mawson is a decent tackler, but he prefers to stay on his feet and has good anticipation, which allows him to make interceptions frequently.
His distribution stands out when on the field, especially in the lower leagues. He is calm on the ball and is never rushed into making clearances. Mawson prefers to pass out from the back and if he can spot a team-mate in space, he won’t hesitate to find him. This is rare in the lower leagues, with the majority of defenders lacking the technical ability to build attacks from deep. He is also good in the air and scored seven goals last season.
Mawson is developing all the time, but he needs to add more experience if he wants to keep progressing. His mobility is an area of his game that he will need to improve over the coming months, as the quality of striker differs hugely in the Premier League. He will be coming up against some of the best players in the world and he will need time to adjust. The centre back has stepped up to each new challenge in his career, but this is the hardest yet.
The Football League is an undervalued market and there are some excellent young players operating in the levels beneath the Premier League clubs. There have been many examples of players stepping up to the top flight with ease in recent years, with one example being Dele Alli. Swansea look set to sign one of the best young centre backs in the country and he could develop into a great long term replacement for Ashley Williams. He won’t be expected to do that straight away and will have to earn a place in the first team, but it is a smart piece of business by Swansea.
Featured image: All rights reserved by stefwillo
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