Why Fernando Llorente is set to be vital to Swansea's survival hopes
It’s been a nightmare season so far for Swansea City. Their captain and talisman from last year departed, Francesco Guidolin was sacked after becoming full-time manager in the summer and injuries have hurt them bad. Furthermore, while the club’s thrilling 5-4 win over Crystal Palace could have proven a turning point, the weekend’s 5-0 defeat to Tottenham brought them straight back down to earth. Despite all this, the match winner against Palace, Fernando Llorente, remains absolutely key.
Bob Bradley picked up his first win as Swansea boss at the Liberty Stadium, dragging Palace into trouble and reviving City’s season with it. The key to that was the introduction of the Spanish centre-foward, who assisted with his first touch and scored twice – the second coming in the 93rd minute.
Their top scorers this season, before two weekend’s ago, were midfielders Leroy Fer and Gylfi Sigurdsson, with four each – a sign of their desperate need for a prolific striker. The last time they put faith in a Spanish forward, Michu became a cult hero by the time he departed South Wales, and Llorente hasn’t made a bad start.
‘El Rey Leon’ made his name at Athletic Bilbao, progressing through the youth ranks, before establishing himself as their leading forward when he moved up to the senior side in 2005. Making 262 appearances for Bilbao, he’s been described as a ‘legend’ of the club, despite not achieving a major honour in his time there, scoring 85 goals.
The 6ft 4 striker can bring a new dimension to Swansea’s armoury with his physical prowess and ability to bring team-mates into the game. With the delivery Sigurdsson possesses from set pieces and pace out-wide in Jefferson Montero and Mo Barrow, Llorente could be a hit at the Liberty.
A World Cup and European Championship winner with Spain and three time Serie A title holder at Juventus, he has many accolades to an unassuming glittering career. This makes the fact he is now plying his trade with Swansea City even more impressive on the club’s part. Given the right service, which he can get playing in front of a talented midfield, he can steer them through a relegation scrap.
The Christmas period is the most testing part of a Premier League campaign, as most fixtures, especially with the sides position at the moment, will be seen as ‘six pointers’. If Llorente can deliver big goals like he did twice against fellow strugglers Palace, he can elevate himself to the status of Michu when it comes to Spanish Swans.
At the age of 31, this could be Llorente’s last big time chance in a league as globalised as the Premier League. He’ll want to prove he still has it and can bring his experience of achieving honours to a group of players who need to start believing in themselves again. As victory over Palace showed, Bradley may have just stumbled onto a recipe for success with Llorente the target man in front of technical, creative and pacy midfielders, it will be vital that he uses this to build a club that has fallen from a steady perch, back up.
Swansea have been a joy to watch in their time in the top flight, from Brendan Rodgers’ possession dominant style, to Gary Monk’s high pressure game. If they are to survive a battle against the drop, there won’t be many players more important than the man nicknamed, ‘The Lion King’.
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