The Swansea View
Ahead of the visit of Swansea City, we had a chat to Guto Llewelyn to find out about the hopes of and dreams for the new season.
Q. Last season was quite turbulent for Swansea fans wasn’t it but you managed to survive?
It was probably the craziest season I can remember the club having in my lifetime. We had three different managers, including the nightmarish eleven game reign of Bob Bradley. We conceded seventy goals, the third highest total of any club to avoid relegation from the Premier League. We also somehow managed to stay up despite having just twelve points halfway through the season, relying on an amazing turnaround in form towards the end of the season and a total collapse from Hull City. I’m still not quite sure how we avoided the drop but it felt great when safety was finally secured.
Q. Did the change of ownership contribute to it?
The summer before the 2016/17 season was dominated by the takeover and everybody running the club lost focus when it came to on-field matters, leaving all our buying and selling until the last minute. It meant we were extremely poorly prepared for the start of the season and when the time came to sack Francesco Guidolin, the new American owners further damaged their image among fans by appointing the ludicrously under-qualified Bradley. They have since accepted that mistakes were made and the appointment of Paul Clement as manager, coupled with an impressive January transfer window and a hardball approach to selling Gylfi Sigurdsson has significantly softened attitudes towards them.
Q How do you rate the job that Paul Clement did for the club since he was appointed and do you think he is the man bring back a level of stability?
Nobody expected him to keep us up when he arrived but he performed a minor miracle with a weak squad. He made us tough to beat, improved the style of play and worked out a system which suited our strengths. He did brilliantly last season and may not have received as much credit as his achievement deserved. This season he faces another tough task following the sale of Gylfi Sigurdsson. He needs to completely change our attacking approach which will not be easy. I would like to think Clement can remain here for a few seasons and steady the ship but history tells us managers don’t hang around for long at Swansea.
Q. Losing such an influential player as you have in Gylfi Sigurdsson, it must be hard to take at this stage of the transfer window?
We always expected to lose Sigurdsson this summer but it is still a huge blow. He scored or assisted more than half our goals last season and our entire attacking strategy revolved around his genius. We have nobody in the squad who can play in his position and the first two games of the season have shown how reliant we were on him. We have had just one shot on target so far this season and that is largely down to the massive gap in midfield which Sigurdsson once occupied. Other players have been asked to step up but our wingers are the worst in the league and they cannot compensate for Sigurdsson’s absence. Losing him this late in the window means we are rushing to find a replacement but many of the names we have been linked with are seriously uninspiring. We probably need an attacking midfielder and a quality winger to make up for the loss of Sigurdsson.
Q. How has the club done in the transfer window so far and how much activity are you expecting before it closes particularly if the Sigurdsson money is readily available?
The moves we have made have been good ones. Roque Mesa could be one of the bargains of the summer at £11million and Tammy Abraham has shown flashes of brilliance so far despite having no service up front. But the Sigurdsson saga has hampered all attempts to bring in more players and now we find ourselves in a position where we are rushing to bring in replacements. We will definitely spend some of the Sigurdsson money before the window closes but I fear a lot of it will be wasted on overpriced and inadequate replacements.
Q. Your young defender Alfie Mawson has received plenty of rave reviews since he broke into the Swansea side but will he be the next to follow Sigurdsson out of the club or do you think you will be able to hold onto him?
He is like a young Ashley Williams. Mawson is a brilliant athlete, a cultured footballer and a reliable defender who pitches in with goals from set pieces. He also seems like a natural leader and many people are calling for him to be given the captain’s armband, even though he is only 23 years old. I can’t see us keeping hold of him long-term but hopefully we can keep him for a season or two because he has the potential to be a superb player.
Q. How do you think Frank de Boer will do in the Premier League with Palace particularly with the style of play that he is introducing at the club?
De Boer will be under pressure to succeed at Palace after his big move to Inter failed spectacularly. I think Palace may need to be patient with him. He showed what he can do at Ajax but he had an entire system tailored to the way he wanted to play. He will not have that at Palace, at least not in his first season, and he may have to adapt his methods during the early days just to help players adapt after working with Sam Allardyce and Alan Pardew, who are polar opposites to de Boer.
I hope it works out and think Palace have enough good players capable of playing de Boer’s style. But I don’t think it’s going to be a quick fix and if after half a season the pieces are still not fitting into place, Steve Parish’s resolve will be tested. After all, the way the English press works, you sense there are plenty who would relish seeing somebody like de Boer with his total football ideals fail to make it in the ‘best league in the world.’
Q. Explain in no more than 140 characters how the last ten years have been for the football the club.
10 years of overachievement, upsetting the odds, it’s been a dream, I just hope it continues.
Q. Name one player from EACH side that you think the opposition should consider a real threat in this match up.
As I said, Swansea’s problem at the moment is the lack of threat. Tammy Abraham is definitely the most likely player to score, and if somebody can somehow produce a decent cross or through-ball, he’ll be waiting to pounce, but that’s a huge if. As for Palace, with Wilfried Zaha likely to be out I’ll go for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who seems to have settled in really well at Selhurst Park. He looks powerful, authoritative, and if the game’s a bit slow and turning into a dull stalemate, he’s the kind of player willing to take responsibility and try to change things.
Q. Your prediction?
I can’t see Swansea scoring and home advantage could make a difference for Palace. I think Palace will win 1-0, but I also think I predicted Palace wins in both of last season’s encounters, and Swansea not only upset the odds on both occasions, one of them turned out to be a nine goal thriller (which I’m still recovering from) and the other was probably our most important win of the season. So hopefully I am wrong once again and the Swans can get another season-changing win on Saturday.
Q. And finally, please tell us all how the wonderful JackCast came about and any what we can expect to see from you this season.
The JackCast podcast has been going for a number of years now, presented by fans, giving fans a chance to have their say on all things Swansea City. This season you can expect the usual mix of moaning, whingeing and complaining, with the occasional hint of positivity and trace amounts of common sense.