Ahead of Town’s crunch clash with Swansea city at the Liberty Stadium, we at Talk of the Town got in touch with Kevin Elphick of Vital Swansea to discuss the Swans, Town and the game ahead.
1. What have you made of Swansea’s summer overall?
“It’s been a mixed bag really. We had quite an exciting deadline day with the arrivals of Wilfried Bony and Renato Sanches, but you can’t help but feel that we’re still lacking quality in key areas. Bony has a tough task in replacing Llorente, and we’ve not filled the gap left behind by Gylfi Sigurdsson, so we need to do more work in January”.
2. Have you been impressed by Clement’s signings or do you feel that more is needed?
“More is definitely needed. We’re weak at full back, we don’t have a quality central attacking midfielder and overall there’s currently a lack of attacking creativity in midfield”.
3. How do you feel Swansea are adapting to life beyond Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente?
“We’re struggling so far. It’s been frustrating to see us attempting the same stuff that worked when the pair were here. Constantly attempting crosses for the likes of Abraham and Bony is never going to work. Hopefully Clement will adapt us up top to suit the strikers we now have in the squad”.
4. Who will be your key players this season?
“Mainly our strikers, but we need a midfielder behind them to help them, because currently we’re not creating enough chances and that’s not the fault of our front men. Currently we have too many central midfielders who are all quite the same, can do the basics in the middle third but lack that extra quality to improve our final balls into the final third, and that’s one of Clement’s biggest challenges to get right”.
5. What are your hopes and realistic ambitions for the remainder of the season?
“I predicted a 14th-placed finish back in the Summer and currently I would be delighted with that as it’s not been a great start so far”.
6. Where do you see Swansea finishing come May?
“It’s hard to say, but I currently don’t see us doing any better than last season’s 15th – unless Clement can suddenly influence and improve our attacking play – as well as bring in some quality players in the new year”.
After an interesting discussion about Swansea and their areas of improvement, we moved on to briefly discuss Town.
Huddersfield Town questions:
1. How much of Huddersfield Town have you seen since the start of the season?
“I haven’t seen a great deal to be honest, but their winning start to the season was impressive. Having done it ourselves (promotion via the play-offs), it’s always good to see other teams come up like Huddersfield and do well”.
2. How highly do you rate David Wagner and what do you make of the signings he has made this summer?
“Wagner has done a superb job of course – and like we did – you face the challenge now of keeping hold of him to continue your success. You’ve made a number of signings so Wagner faces the task of embedding them all in and making it work, but so far it looks like you might have enough to avoid relegation”.
3. How do you rate Town’s survival chances this season?
“Promoted sides tend to start the season off well having kept the momentum going from the confidence that promotion brings, but it’s how you cope further on that’ll be key – strength in depth and the lack of experience of the Premier League. I think you’re currently in a better position than 3 clubs at the moment to stay up”.
4. Do you think their style of play will suit the Premier League?
“Definitely, but it’s whether or not they can maintain the energy levels throughout, or will Wagner adjust accordingly. It’s an energetic style that will definitely suit the Premier League – which is a fast-paced League itself. Like I said, I’ve not seen much of Huddersfield so far but it appears to be a dynamic and well-balanced style that could see them have a decent Premier League opening season”.
Finally we moved onto the game itself and asked Kevin to make some predictions about how the game could go and where the game could be won and lost.
1. What did you make of Swansea’s late defeat to West Ham United? Are you concerned about Swansea’s start to the season?
“You can’t help but feel concerned at this early stage. We know from experience and it’s difficult to see how we can turn things around anytime soon considering our huge lack of chances in front of goal. Our style is slow, predictable and lacking ideas and Clement has his work cut out to help improve our form”.
“At home it’s even more of a worry. We’ve never lost our opening 3 home games and the pressure is mounting to get a result. The West Ham defeat was another blow. West Ham were a very poor side and even their own fans admitted that they were there for the taking. Yet our only shot on target was Bony’s effort from outside the box”.
2. Are there any key players that could be missing the game due to injury or are you expecting a fully-fit squad for Saturday?
“Renato Sanches improved at West Ham but he’s probably out injured, and Wilfried Bony is a doubt so we may have to revert back to using just Abraham and Ayew up top”.
3. How do you think Wagner will approach the game?
“I’d imagine he’d approach it not very differently from previous games. A positive approach and looking to get the win, rather than sitting back settling for a draw like others might. I’m sure he’ll fancy his chances while the Swans have to approach the game as if they’re facing one of the top four”.
4. What will be the key battles that could decide the outcome of the match?
“It’ll be in midfield. You often hear that these days in response to the question but we’ve had days where we’ve struggled in midfield, particularly at home against Newcastle when we played a diamond. Without the midfield functioning for us, we’ll struggle and this tends to have an effect on our defence – who looked ragged at times against Watford too”.
5. If you had to pick the Swansea starting XI for Saturday, who would you pick?
“I’m not convinced with the diamond, 3-5-2 failed at home against Watford so I’d like to see go back to 4-3-3 again. Clement has no interest in using wingers in a 4-2-3-1 but 4-3-3 provides the flexibility of using wingers / inside forwards either side of the main striker. And without a quality central attacking midfielder in the squad, I believe 4-3-3 suits us best overall: Considering our injuries, I’d maybe go with: Fabianski, Naughton, Mawson, Fernandez, Olsson, Mesa, Carroll, Clucas, Narsingh, Abraham, Ayew”.
6. What’s your score prediction for the game?