FA Cup – Fourth round
Carling Cup – Second round
Although Swansea City only mathematically ensured their Premier League survival a couple of games before the conclusion of the season, they have been comfortably ensconced in mid-table for most of the campaign which is a phenomenal achievement.
Brendan Rodgers urged fans to dress like Elvis Presley for their final game of the season, the visit of Liverpool, after certain bookmakers’ pre-season claims that there was more chance of seeing ‘The King’ than Swansea avoiding relegation. Amidst the party atmosphere, the Swans claimed yet another scalp by beating Liverpool 1-0 on Sunday leaving them a remarkable eleventh-placed finish.
Norwich City may have matched Swansea’s achievement in seamlessly adapting to the standard and demands of the Premier League, but Rodgers’ men have managed the feat while demonstrating an unwavering tiki-taka ethos to the delight of neutrals up and down the country. The likes of Blackpool and Burnley have impressed with expansive, attack-minded football in recent years but naivety and defensive susceptibility saw them swiftly return to the second tier.
Swansea have been a work in progress for many years and have established a solid base with which to build on. The defence is battle-hardened and Michel Vorm and Steven Caulker have fitted in seamlessly to add an extra bit of quality. Vorm must be the signing of the season. A £1.5m buy from Utrecht, he made 11 saves on his debut – a Premier League record – in a 4-0 defeat at Manchester City. He has since saved penalties against Wigan and Fulham and was unbeatable in a 0-0 draw at Anfield.
In midfield, Swansea have stockpiled an array of small, talented, technically adept operators that dazzle the opposition with their speed, movement and incessant passing. Leon Britton has one of the highest pass completion rates in Europe, while Joe Allen and Gylfi Sigurdsson have also impressed in central midfield. Scott Sinclair has failed to maintain the sky-high standards set in their promotion campaign but remains effective, while Nathan Dyer has had an excellent season on the opposite flank.
Danny Graham, Swansea’s record signing, grabbed 14 goals in 34 starts, which is a respectable return operating up front on his own. His goal scoring may be streaky but his work rate has been of a consistently high standard.
If they are to repeat this season’s heroics next term, more firepower is required, along with a replacement for Caulker, who will return to Tottenham. Swansea have also had an initial bid for Sigurdsson rejected and it looks unlikely that they will be able to sign the Icelandic international permanently. He has been a revelation and Rodgers will struggle to replace him.
Swansea have come a long way since heavy defeats at Manchester City and Chelsea early in the season, where they appeared intimidated and insecure. They have since beaten City and drawn with Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium, where four of the top six have dropped points. Formidable at home, their away form needs to improve next season as their quest for 40 points starts anew. For now, they can bask in an impressive first top-flight campaign that left the competition all shook up.
Manager – Brendan Rodgers: Taking a template implemented by Roberto Martinez and briefly refined by Paulo Sousa, Rodgers has married a pass and move philosophy with defensive stability to form a formidable style of play, signing players that have wholeheartedly embraced his methods. A sainted man in Swansea, Rodgers plans to “keep on top of the game” by spending four days with at Spain’s pre-Euro 2012 training camp, according to the Daily Mail.
Player of the Season – Neil Taylor: Michel Vorm was voted Swansea City’s player of the year, while Gylfi Sigurdsson invigorated Swansea’s campaign with seven goals and give assists after arriving in January, but unheralded left back Neil Taylor has been superb. Since opting to sign a new deal rather than move to Newcastle, Taylor has been solid in defence while linking well with Scott Sinclair in attack. A Great Britain call-up for the London 2012 Olympics would be justified.
Turning Point: Having struggled on their travels in the Championship, Swansea’s first away win, a 2-0 victory at Aston Villa, was always going to be significant. Away from the Liberty Stadium, they had earned only three points from a possible 27 at that stage. After their success at Villa Park, they recorded a further 10 points from the nine games that followed, banishing the threat of relegation in the process.
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