Swansea: It’s as good as over

At the beginning of the season, I tipped Swansea City to be relegated. Despite being a somewhat established Premier League side, it was clear to me that problems were afoot.

Now, just eleven games into the season, the Swans find themselves already seven points adrift of safety and are only off the bottom of the table by virtue of one goal.

With no wins since the opening day of the season, Swansea are in real trouble. An early change of manager – Francesco Guidolin was replaced by Bob Bradley – has failed to produce a ‘new manager bounce’ and it is difficult to see where the next three points are coming from.

On paper, there appears to still be some quality in the squad. Gylfi Sigurdsson is their obvious talent and Fernando Llorente should be a useful option up front.

Yet it is the talent that has departed which is the real problem? Andre Ayew was a source of goals that are now at a premium, while he also linked up the play well with Sigurdsson, allowing the marauding midfielder to get into dangerous positions.

However, perhaps even more keenly felt is the loss of captain Ashley Williams. There are no other real leaders in the Swans’ defence and there is a real lack of organisation. You simply cannot hope to get by if you aren’t replacing those qualities.

The recent acquisitions just do not appear to be good enough, too. Llorente has had just three shots on target so far this season, while Borja Baston, was bought in from Atletico Madrid for £15m, has barely featured due to injuries and fitness. Alfie Mawson was a long term replacement for Williams, but expecting a 22-year-old to step into those shoes and perform to that standard is a ridiculous notion, and he has struggled in his few games so far.

The problems aren’t just on the pitch, however. It comes from the top. From being an extremely

From being an extremely well-run club under Huw Jenkins, it is no accident that the slump coincides with the new American ownership. For me, the appointment of Bradley is a huge mistake. Despite a wealth of experience in international football – mostly with the USA, but also Egypt – there is very little know-how elsewhere. His management career, spanning back to the early 1980s, has mostly been spent in the American leagues.

A year’s stint in Norway with Stabaek in 2014 was relatively successful, culminating in Europa League qualification, and that was followed up in 2015 in the French Ligue 2 with Le Havre with an eventual fourth place finish. But this is not preparation for a relegation dogfight in the toughest, quickest and most demanding league in the world. It is hard to look past the probability that Bradley has been chosen purely for his nationality for and fitting in with the new owners.

There is more than a touch of the Remi Garde about this. Aston Villa were in a similar position to Swansea. Having sold their best players, youngsters from the lower leagues or overseas were brought in as replacements. The final nail in the coffin was the appointment of Garde – a manager with no experience in England, or of being in relegation scraps. It couldn’t have gone any worse and despite being drafted in in October, the Frenchman had departed by the following April. By which point Villa had been effectively relegated.

There is a reason why the likes of Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis are sought after by clubs battling relegation. They know how to escape. They have been there and done it and know what it takes. Bradley is the exact opposite, and it has probably come as a shock to him just how huge his task is.

History has shown that if a struggling team has a striker who can still plunder 15 or so goals, then they’re likely to escape. Jermain Defoe and Christian Benteke are two recent examples of players whose strikes have kept their clubs up despite the rest of the team being abject. The only speck of light for Swansea is the prospect of Llorente or, more likely Baston, scoring goals. Right now, that seems highly unlikely.

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