Swansea City in Prime Position to Progress Under Paul Clement

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LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 26: Swansea City manager Paul Clement during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Swansea City at Selhurst Park on August 26, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Craig Mercer - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Swansea City had a productive end to the transfer window, bringing in Renato Sanches and Wilfried Bony from Bayern Munich and Manchester City respectively. The club lost their best player, Gylfi Sigurðsson, for a lucrative £40 million fee, plus add-ons and Paul Clement has reinvested those funds efficiently to build a side capable of improving on their decent start to the season.

The other transfers during the window included Sam Clucas from Hull City, Tammy Abraham on loan from Chelsea and the impressive Roque Mesa from Las Palmas. They ended the window with a profit of an estimated £28 million, largely thanks to the sale of Sigurðsson.

The two deadline day deals of Bony and Sanches were huge coups and certainly added to the strength of the squad that Clement possesses. A unique manager, he changed Swansea’s fortunes last season after spending most of the season flirting with relegation. This season, however, they have the squad and strength to progress in the league.

Midfield Depth

The squad, despite losing several key players, has much more strength in depth than last seaosn. With options such as Leroy Fer, Leon Britton, Tom Carroll and Ki Sung-Yueng to add to their new signings, Clement is sure to have a positive selection headache and has several options in case there is an injury concern in his side. The 45-year-old has often followed the trend of playing three at the back this season, having fielded the system against Manchester United and Crystal Palace.

In the first match of the season, away at Southampton, it was Clement’s traditional four-man defence, with Wayne Routledge, Leroy Fer, Leon Britton and Tom Carroll playing in midfield. Against Manchester United, they started with the new system. Fer and Roque Mesa played in a deeper midfield role as Tom Carroll supported Jordan Ayew right behind the sole forward, Tammy Abraham.

In their latest encounter, a win over Crystal Palace, it was a five-man midfield with Kyle Naughton and Jonas Olsson playing as the wing-backs and Fer, Carroll and Sam Clucas playing in midfield. This system worked best as they went on to win 2-0 for their first win of the season, and it will only get better once the new players have integrated into the team.

Swansea, based on the characteristics of their players, would be best-suited to a 4-3-1-2, allowing Bony and Abraham to combine up front. Mesa, one of the best passers in La Liga last season, would be the controller in midfield, creatively linking attack with defence. Clucas, meanwhile, is capable of playing in several positions and was one of the best players in a dreadful Hull City side last season. His work-rate and ability on the ball will be crucial. Sanches needs no introduction; a player of his calibre is a major coup for the club, even if it is for just a year.

Squad strength

For one year at least, Swansea have a young squad as the inclusions of Renato Sanches and Tammy Abraham on loan gives them fresher, younger options. Clement has also put plenty of faith in Alfie Mawson, who was one of the side’s best players last season. The 23-year-old, who had never played above the third tier of English football before last season, has become one of the best defenders outside of last season’s top seven and was also a key figure in England’s run to the semi-finals of the Under-21 European Championship in Poland earlier this summer.

Wilfried Bony has returned to the club where he was a fan-favourite between 2013 and 2015, having scored 35 times in 70 appearances for Swansea across all competitions. He was brought in to replace the departed Fernando Llorente, who moved to Tottenham Hotspur, and for £12 million his signing is a gamble, but if he is able to replicate the form from his first stint at the club, there is no doubt that he will be a success.

Swansea also have relative depth out on the wing, but it seems unlikely that they will be used under Paul Clement as he prefers to use wing-backs or would field André Ayew or Clucas in those roles. In addition to those two, they have Luciano Narsingh, Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge to contribute to the side. Although it seems unlikely that they will see much time on the pitch, they certainly add to the squad and will have opportunities to prove their worth over the course of a long season.

The only major problem in the side is at full-back. Kyle Naughton and Àngel Rangel are the options on the right side, but only Jonas Olsson is available on the left. An injury to any of these would result in problems out wide, and with Àngel Rangel hitting 35 at the end of October, it is certainly a position that will need to be strengthened soon.

The sale of Stephen Kingsley to Hull City didn’t help this matter and they also failed to make a deadline day signing of Andy Yiadom, having run out of time. The Ghanaian would have certainly improved the situation in this position. Sam Clucas could fill in, but he won’t provide a long-term solution and this problem needs one.

The Season Ahead

After a strong end to the transfer window, Swansea can finally look forward to the season with a reduced distraction. They have the squad depth to progress and can choose to strengthen further in January after making a profit in the summer. Clement has reinvigorated the side and the club and with the team they have, they should expect to finish in the top half and build on that finish in future seasons.

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