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Three reasons why Swansea are stranded in a relegation battle

Swansea

Swansea City

Three reasons why Swansea are stranded in a relegation battle

It is a long walk between the dugouts and the entrance to the changing rooms at Turf Moor.

The home of Burnley Football Club is a throwback to a bygone era and is exemplified by the 50-yard walk that the managers of both teams have to make diagonally across the pitch four times on a match day.

For Swansea City manager Paul Clement, the last of those four walks must have felt like it had taken a lifetime after the final whistle had blown, concluding a fourth consecutive defeat for his side on Saturday afternoon.

The 45-year-old cut a lonely figure as he strode across the pitch, the boos of his own travelling supporters and chants of “you’re getting sacked in the morning” from the home fans echoing in his ears, and the troubled expression etched across his face spoke a thousand words.

Swansea currently sit 19th in the Premier League, firmly cemented in the relegation mire for the second consecutive season, and the statistics will not make good reading for Clement.

His side have picked up just eight points from the last 36 available, have lost six out of their previous seven games and a defeat against Bournemouth next weekend will leave the Swans with less points than they had at the same stage in the last campaign.

Tony Pulis, Frank de Boer, Slaven Bilic, Ronald Koeman and Craig Shakespeare have all been dismissed since the start of the season and Clement will certainly be fearing for his own job following Saturday’s defeat.

The current predicament at the Liberty Stadium is not entirely of his own making, but in the grimy world of modern football it is not owners or players that are relieved of their duties when the going gets tough on the pitch.

The Boot Room examines why Swansea find themselves in danger of being relegated to The Championship.

A failed transfer policy

After Paul Clement had pulled off a minor miracle by guiding Swansea City to safety in the closing months of last season, the club came into the summer needing to rebuild and enhance the squad that had struggled for much of the previous year.

However, rather than strengthening, the club chose to cash-in on their two top performers.

Fernando Llorente had scored 15 goals in the previous campaign but was sold to Tottenham Hotspur for £15 million whilst Gylfi Sigurdsson, who had been the the Swans’ creative pivot, moved to Everton for £45 million.

The sale of their two best players should have set alarm bells ringing in South Wales, but the failure of the club to sign adequate replacements significantly undermined their prospects of survival before a ball had even been kicked.

Swansea’s negligence in the transfer market is exemplified by the signing of Wilfried Bony.

The Ivorian rose to prominence at the Liberty Stadium during a goal-laden spell between 2013 and 2015.

However, a big-money move to Manchester City saw his career hit the buffers and his failure to rejuvenate his career during a season on loan at Stoke City, where he had been dropped entirely from the match day squad by Christmas, should have warned any potential suitors that his ability had been severely diminished.

Instead, Swansea chose to re-sign the striker for £12 million and he has yet to find the back of the net.

Arguably worse, was the case of Sigurdsson. It was obvious that the Icelandic international would be departing South Wales during the summer in a big-money move – the only questions were how big the fee would be and the final destination.

 

Despite knowing for four or five weeks that their star player was heading towards the exit, Swansea’s response was to wait until the last minute and sign the solid, but uninspiring, Sam Clucas from relegated Hull City.

A willingness to sell your star players whilst failing to secure adequate replacements is a recipe for disaster.

Fragile confidence

For over twelve months the Swansea City squad have been undermined by a definitive fragility in their confidence and mental strength – something that their spectacular end to last season appears to have failed to solve.

The Swans started brightly against Burnley at the weekend but as soon as the first goal went in the team crumbled and lost all sense of direction or purpose.

The club have been lacking leadership since the departure of Ashley Williams in the summer of 2016 and the absence of motivation was there for all to see on Saturday at Turf Moor.

In truth, there has been desperately little for the current squad of players to take confidence from in recent weeks and you get the sense that everyone around the club is wondering just where the next positive result will be coming from.

Their confidence is so brittle that it only took one goal on Saturday before the shoulders of each player were slumped, arms were being waved dramatically in the air and eyes were turned towards the ground.

The team will certainly need to demonstrate some fight and belief in the coming months if they are to have any hope of avoiding relegation.

Managerial change

Since 2008, Stoke City chairman Peter Coates has appointed just two managers: Tony Pulis, who guided the club into the Premier League and established The Potters as a top-flight club, and Mark Hughes, who has overseen a change in playing style and secured three top-ten finishes in his four seasons in charge.

In contrast, Swansea will be looking for their fourth manager in thirteen months if Paul Clement is relieved of his duties.

The lack of stability, consistency and permanence at the Liberty Stadium can only be having a detrimental impact with the constant chopping and changing of managers creating uncertainty.

Each manager that walks through the door brings his own coaching staff, signs his own players and deploys his own methods and philosophies, leaving the club continually in a phase of transition.

Every manager has been left stuck with the previous incumbents costly transfers and trying to correct the errors that were not of their making.

But, more than anything, the managerial change has resulted in the club losing its identity.

When Swansea were promoted to the Premier League they had a clear playing philosophy that had been introduced by Roberto Martinez before being fine-tuned under Brendan Rodgers.

The Swans used a possession-based style of play that was idiosyncratic and mildly reminiscent, albeit on a much smaller scale, of what Barcelona had developed in Spain.

Now, it is little more than a memory and the managerial merry-go-round has all but eroded away the club’s identity.

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