Swans looking over their shoulder
It may have gone under the radar somewhat, but in this season of surprises with Manchester United struggling and Liverpool looking like top four contenders again, there is one side slipping inexorably towards the relegation zone. That side is Swansea.
January 14th, 2014
On the 4th December, the date of their last win in the Premier League, they sat in 11th place, having taken 18 points from their first 14 games, and closer to the sides challenging for Europe than those filling the relegation spots. Fast forward a few weeks, and they have taken just three points from their next seven games (an impressive drop from 1.29 points per game to just 0.43), and while they have dropped only two positions in the table to 13th, they now sit just three points clear of that dreaded bottom three, and Michael Laudrup may well be beginning to cast nervous glances over his shoulder.
Granted, that run of seven matches which has yielded only three points has included some games which Swansea fans would have expected little change from when casting an eye over the fixture list, including encounters with Chelsea, Everton and both the Manchester clubs, but taking only draws from their matches against Hull, Norwich and Aston Villa strikes as something of a lost opportunity.
There are, inevitably, plenty of caveats. The club is embarking upon a campaign in the hideously long Europa League, and successfully so as they qualified from the group stage behind Valencia and next month have the considerable prize of a two-legged tie against Rafael Benitez’s Napoli in the knockout stage. Without the sort of large squad that the bigger clubs in the league boast, two qualifying rounds and six group games were of course going to put a significant strain on the group.
To add to that, key players from last season have spent much of the season out injured, including the much-heralded bargain of the previous campaign, Spanish forward Michu. Having featured in only just over half their league games this season, the man who has been linked with moves to both Arsenal and Liverpool has been a significant miss; as has Michel Vorm, the impressive Dutch goalkeeper who has been forced to undergo surgery to repair a long-standing knee injury. The fact that his replacement in the side, Gerhard Tremmel, looks shaky at best does not help matters.
Injuries to Pablo Hernandez and Nathan Dyer have also done nothing to help matters, but putting aside the reason for their struggles, the bare facts are that the Swans are quickly sliding towards a relegation battle. They face no easy task in their next fixture against a Spurs side full of confidence under new manager Tim Sherwood, but the four subsequent games could prove key to their season.
Swansea face Fulham and Cardiff at home, as well as trips to West Ham and Stoke before embarking once again upon their European adventures. It’s a run of fixtures that one feels must yield a fair return of points, particularly given that these opponents are similarly in the relegation scrap, or come May the South Wales club may find themselves in a highly unenviable position.