Swansea City’s 2016/17 season is one that can certainly be described as a rollercoaster of a year.
The story of the season
The lows started early on, as Francesco Guidolin started the season without a great deal of financial support behind him.
Swansea didn’t get a lot of early points, but had a very tough run of fixtures against top teams and despite some good performances, Guidolin wasn’t allowed to turn the team’s form around.
Enters Bob Bradley, who beat out Ryan Giggs to get Swansea’s top job. He wouldn’t last long though, between slander in the media for his Americanisms and more importantly horrific performances on the pitch, Bradley would be sacked after just 85 days in charge.
In 11 games under Bradley, Swansea picked up just eight points from a possible 33, conceding 29 goals in the process, an average of 2.64 per game.
Two points below Sunderland, Paul Clement took the reigns as Swansea’s third manager of the season. Things are looking bleak, but perhaps this new man, previously sacked by Derby County in the EFL Championship, could turn things around.
However, something is different. Clement is named manager of the month in his first month of the job, taking the club out of the bottom three with wins over Crystal Palace, Southampton plus the club’s first win at Anfield.
Skies are blue again over Swansea, and the club look like they might stay up especially with a light schedule ahead of them.
They were right back where they started. Swansea had just five games left to save their season, and really just had to finish ahead of Hull who were two points ahead of them and in exceptional form.
So that’s what they did. Swansea clawed back to record wins over Stoke City and Everton while drawing at Old Trafford. Unfortunately Hull did the same, beating Watford and drawing 0-0 away to Southampton.
Then something extraordinary happened. Hull, unbeaten at home under manager Marco Silva, were defeated 2-0 by an already-relegated Sunderland team that Swansea would then travel to a week later and claim victory over.
Swansea just needed Crystal Palace to avoid defeat against Hull in order to survive. That’s just what happened, as the Eagles were 4-0 victors and all of Swansea rejoiced.
After the highs and lows, twists and turns. It was over. Swansea ended up finishing 15th after a last-day win over West Brom.
End of season awards
Player of the Season
Who else but the Icelandic wizard? Another outstanding season was needed in order for Swansea to survive as he came through on countless occasions when the club needed him. The entire offence flows through him and the side would look completely different without their star man.
Young Player of the Season
He’s 23, but that counts as young. Swansea’s squad age profile (average age of starting lineup) is 27.9, 8th oldest in the league and very few minutes were played by anyone under 21. Alfie Mawson in his debut Premier League season has been outstanding. Clement brought him into the squad alongside Federico Fernandez and the two have formed a formidable partnership. He looks a future England international and will no doubt be a big part of Clement’s plans for next season.
Defensive Player of the Season
It’s tough to give any player this award in a team that conceded 70 goals in a season, but the majority of their defensive woes came when Mawson wasn’t in the side. In games where Mawson didn’t play, Swansea conceded an average of 2.2 goals per game, as opposed to 1.6 goals per game when he did feature.
Signing of the Season
Mawson could have grabbed his third award, while Tom Carroll, Martin Olsson and Jordan Ayew all made key contributions after signing for the club in January but Fernando Llorente has been the side’s best signing. His goals have won Swansea 13 points this season, only Diego Costa’s goals won his team more points with 15. He was the focal point for the side and came up big when they needed him.
What do Swansea need to do next season?
Keeping Sigurdsson and Llorente is the best piece of business that the club can probably do this summer.
There are several areas in which the club do need to improve on over the next few months though. The formation to start with.
Clement ended the season using a diamond-shape with Llorente and Ayew up front. This system worked quite well but historically a formation of this ilk doesn’t work out over a lengthy period of time. Not to say it can’t work for Swansea, but when defending, their wide areas look particularly weak. Perhaps Clement can tweak the system but serious discussions need to take place.
The club needs a holding midfielder. Badly. Jack Cork has filled that role for the most part of the season but Leon Britton filled the gap towards the end of the campaign. Britton will be 35 in September and Cork had a down year, coupled with a back four that isn’t outstanding and an ageing Lukasz Fabianski, that spells trouble.
Kyle Naughton and Federico Fernandez’ spots in the first-team should be precarious. Swansea don’t have to spend a lot of money this summer, but they do need to spend smart.