Swansea City were promoted to the Premier League in the early summer of 2011, it was widely predicted that while Rangers would become a permanent fixture at the top table, Swansea would almost certainly suffer the indignity of a quick-fire return.
Fast forward 23 months and the script has been rewritten to such an extent that the original draft is virtually unrecognisable. Two goals from Michu, one from Angel Rangel and another from Pablo Hernandez at the Liberty Stadium two weeks ago not only took Swansea into seventh place (they are now eighth), but left Rangers facing the near impossible task of retaining their Premier League status.
With only days remaining before the Swans make the trip to Wembley to face Bradford City in the Capital One Cup final, we take a look at three players to keep an eye on as we approach the big day.
Michu – The Spanish attacking midfielder/striker signed from Rayo Vallecano for £2m last summer has arguably turned out to be the buy of the season, as he already sits on 13 league goals and 16 goals overall. His form has inspired Swansea City to their first domestic cup final in their 100-year existence, and they currently sit comfortably at 8th in the Premier League table.
Michu is a true predatory striker who always finds the perfect finish. His strike against Chelsea embodied everything that is right about his play – as Jonathan de Guzman found the Spaniard on the edge of the box, he proceeded to curl the ball with aplomb past Petr Cech and into the net. A truly wonderful finish and a warning to other teams that this player cannot be given any space in or around the box. His finishing combined with Swansea’s penetrative passing style make for a very dangerous combination.
Ashley Williams – The Welsh international captain Ashley Williams has been at Swansea City since 2008 and has seen them promoted twice since joining from Stockport County for a fee of around £400,000. His defensive instincts have proved vital to Swansea’s surge over recent years and they would not be enjoying such a successful season, as they sit 8th in the Premier League table and have reached their first domestic cup final ever, were it not for Williams’ experience.
He’s a classic British defender, not afraid to put his body on the line and get physical if necessary. His time at Swansea has seen his game develop beyond defensive responsibilities, however, as he often surges forward and helps link-up play and pick out incisive passes. It’s not just his strength that makes him a formidable defender, however, as his reading of the game and positional play are second to none.
Wayne Routledge – It’s tough to choose just one Swansea midfielder to place on this list, as there are numerous who have had a fantastic season. The likes of Nathan Dyer, Jonathan De Guzman and Pablo Hernandez have been in inspired form, but Wayne Routledge has really stepped up this season. The Englishman joined from Newcastle for an undisclosed fee in August 2011 and has really developed his game during his time at the Welsh club. Traditionally a winger, his time at Swansea has seen him play in the centre of the park more, and as a consequence, his game has flourished.
Against Queens Park Rangers, Routledge played through the centre with Dyer and Hernandez on the wings, and the QPR defence just couldn’t cope with their quick penetrative passing and switching of positions. Routledge has already scored 5 league goals this season and poses a real threat in front of goal. His adaptability in midfield provides Swansea with a plethora of options, and the ability to switch tactics and formations on the fly.