Swansea City are currently enduring their worst run since promotion to the top flight in 2011; 9 matches without a win is a record only beaten by Sunderland in the current Premier League season. But following the appointment of former US coach Bob Bradley, he was quick to acknowledge the root of the problems.
“Let’s face it, that’s where we are. Bradley told the BBC following the 3-1 defeat at Stoke on Monday night. “When things are going in the wrong direction, it takes a real strong effort from everybody to turn it around.
“When a team has gone through a bad stretch, there’s no magic way of getting some confidence back.
“It’s a huge job we have. I knew that from the start.”
Performances since Bradley’s appointment have improved sporadically, but despite an encouraging display in the 3-2 defeat at Arsenal, Swansea were largely outplayed by Stoke, who have recently climbed out of their own poor form with 3 straight league wins.
“We were a little fortunate to go in level at half-time, but then we talked about needing belief and needing to raise our level.” Added Bradley.
“We said we had to be able to match them physically better than we had in the first half, but I think that was a factor in the game.
Although confirming an interest in free agent Dimitar Berbatov just yesterday, Bradley alluded to more potential transfer activity.
“I’ve met him (Berbatov) a few times and I know he’s anxious to get back in the PL.
“Everybody in our club knows that, so when there’s discussions his name is mentioned. But where it goes we’ll see. He’s on our radar – but there are a lot of things on our radar.”
Berbatov would of course bring experience to the squad, having performed consistently for Spurs, Man Utd and Fulham over the years, and he appears hungry for one last Premier League stint, even at 35.
But a cutting edge up front is not what they are lacking the most: it’s physicality. Fight. Leadership. After captain Ashley Williams left for Everton, the defence appears to have lost it’s bite. 24 year old Mike van Der Hoorn is certainly no replacement but has been thrown in the deep end somewhat following his transfer from Ajax. There just isn’t enough experience between the current back four to cope with a league that has become more attacking orientated than ever, or leadership to carry them through.
An ideal candidate here would be Hull’s Curtis Davies. An excellent centre back for sure, as evidenced even through the tough times Hull are experiencing this season, but above all, he is a leader at the back they sorely miss following Williams’ departure. Of all the pros of such a move however is of course the biggest con of all: his commitment to Hull.
It is what Swansea are lacking, and Davies has stayed through thick and thin, but then again so did Williams…until this season. Following the 6-1 embarrassment at the hands of Bournemouth, Davies called it just that, so could it be just a matter of time until enough is enough?
The defence also needs protection – the ‘sentinel’ role that is becoming more and more prevalent in the modern game – to help build from the back, gain control of the ball, protect the back four but also push the team forward. A short term solution could come in the form of the manager’s son, Michael.
Forgive the obvious bloodline bond made there but the Toronto FC and US national team captain is a flourishing example of today’s midfield engine – hard work, lots of running, breaking up moves and on top of all that, a range of passing to boot. On Sunday alone against the top scorer in MLS this season, NYCFC, he made 10 tackles the Toronto season-high for an individual player in a single game.
His experience at Uefa Champions League mainstays Roma became invaluable to becoming the commander he is now – a new-age Michael Carrick if you will. The problem with such a move is it will almost certainly be only temporary – Bradley left Roma for a return to the MLS, receiving a pay-rise in the process ($6m a year). However, with the MLS season now entering its play-off semi final stages, and the season drawing to a close on December 10, it would be worth trying to put a loan deal on the table, should Bradley wish to keep playing beyond the MLS season.
A more permanent option for a midfield general is someone closer to home – Hull’s Sam Clucas. His performances sat in front of the defence this season have been admirable to watch, despite his club’s results of late.
With 36 tackles to his name already this season, which is almost up there with Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson. He has the energy and vision to burst forward when Hull attack, often due to play broken up by him in the first place. A brilliant £1.5m acquisition from Chesterfield just over a year ago, Clucas has proven he can perform at this level, and for Swansea he could well be a bargain that could help save their season.