Tottenham Hotspur are able to go top of the table with a win tomorrow but, equally as important, Swansea City are currently just three points clear of the relegation zone and could really do with distancing themselves, especially considering their tough schedule later in the season.
With a 15 day break since their last game against Southampton, many would be forgiven for thinking that Swansea will just play their strongest eleven, but with the side playing three games in the next six days, that might not be the case.
The last time Swansea had a schedule like this, Alan Curtis played a largely rotated side away at Crystal Palace, where they played out a goalless draw. It’s without a doubt that at some point during this three-game spell that the side will be heavily rotated, it just depends when.
Swansea face Tottenham tomorrow, then stay in North London for a game on Wednesday against Arsenal, before travelling back to South Wales to face Norwich on Saturday. On paper, the Norwich game is the one that Swansea should be targeting. An educated guess would assume that Swansea play a strong line-up against Tottenham, rotate against Arsenal, and return back to their strongest team for Saturday’s game.
Sturdy back five
The Polish shot-stopper hasn’t quite hit the heights of last season, where he kept 12 clean sheets in 37 games. For comparison, he has kept the opposition scoreless six times in 26 games this season. Despite this, Lukasz Fabianski is still a very capable goalkeeper in the league. Advanced stat users have put Fabianski’s dip due to him overachieving last season with the amount of saves he made from shots inside the six-yard area.
The right-back spot is a toss-up between Angel Rangel and Kyle Naughton at this point. Tottenham are likely to lineup with Christian Eriksen on the left-hand flank, who spends the majority of the game cutting inside and creating opportunities for his teammates. Francesco Guidolin might prefer Rangel ahead of Naughton for this game because Rangel is more comfortable defending central areas, where Eriksen will spend his time.
When looking at teams’ statistics, such as passes and runs conceded in central defensive zone, Swansea are in the top half. This is largely down to the defensive partnership of Federico Fernandez and Ashley Williams. Swansea’s defence has largely been standard this year, it’s the other end of the field where the struggles lie.
Just trying to think of where Swansea would be this season without Williams is worrying. It seems like Jordi Amat has been impressing Guidolin in training, which is why he keeps getting minutes in the latter stages of games in midfield, but it’s hard to see Williams not playing in this match.
The Welsh international might be the only Swansea player to start in each of the next three games, purely down to a lack of options. Franck Tabanou was loaned out to St Etienne and a replacement wasn’t bought in January. During their fortnight break, Swansea played a behind-closed-doors game against Welsh club TNS in which Stephen Kingsley played the 90 minutes. The Scottish youngster impressed when he was brought on in the loss to Oxford United too though and he could see more game time in the future.
Diamonds are forever
It wouldn’t be a shock if Swansea once again went with the diamond formation, especially with Tottenham’s attacking threat in the middle of the field. These days Jack Cork is one of the first names on the team sheet, even if he still is playing out of position, albeit he is playing well in a wider, more attacking role than he is used to.
Brought back into the starting side when Curtis took over and hasn’t left since. The 33-year old might only start one game this week, but when he does play he is the foundation of ‘The Swansea Way’ and everything goes through him. It’s incredible that he has kept the same level of consistency over the past decade or so, and expect him to do the same again tomorrow.
The Korean has been out of the side recently due to lack of form and injury, but with a long and perhaps overdue rest behind him, Swansea fans might see the return of the Ki Sung-Yeung of last season, where he was one of the better midfielders in the league.
More firepower needed once again
This is where things get tough. There are only three starting forward positions available but about six or seven players vying for them. Andre Ayew gets the nod, because he is one of, if not the, most talented player at the club. He is a goal-scorer and Swansea need as many of them as possible. The Ghana captain has played out wide, up front and in central-midfield recently but it wouldn’t be a shock if he lined up as a wide-forward against Tottenham.
2016 has been a great year for Gylfi Sigurdsson so far. He seems rejuvenated under Guidolin and not only is he just playing well, he is also scoring goals. The Icelandic international will also be raring for this game playing against a former side. The battle between him and Eric Dier should be one to look forward to.
Bafetimbi Gomis will likely start one of the two trips to North London, but Alberto Paloschi is the first-choice striker and, despite Tottenham’s terrific defensive record this season, the Italian looks the more likely to score a goal. Wayne Routledge, Jefferson Montero and Modou Barrow will all be vying for starts but it could be more likely that they will see more game time against Arsenal and Norwich.