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.
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.
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.
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.
Price Match! You won’t find retro shirts cheaper than at @CampoRetro http://bit.ly/1CSHHj7