So the Swans capitulation at home to Preston North End yesterday afternoon is not even 24 hours ago yet but as the next day dawns you start to wonder whether thing will change sufficiently in the next 7 games to firstly secure that play off position and then to secure the promotion that the winning play off competitor gets.
Based on performances for the last two months though it is reasonably clear to most people to see that firstly the play off position is anything but guaranteed and secondly even if we made it there seems little fight, adaptation, passion or desire within this team to come through and secure that promotion.
I have said it all along in over 40 years of watching this team that getting beaten is not a problem. Come on, we are all Swansea fans, we know as much as anyone about being beaten in football matches. I have never spent the time looking up my W/D/L ratio in that time as a Swansea fan but I would suggest that the L ratio is probably the highest o the three. However, losing a game when we don’t actually appear to be trying to win it is unacceptable in the extreme and that is what we seemed to be watching yesterday afternoon.
We went through a whole ninety minutes at home without a shot on target. Against a side who came into the game as the most out of form team in the division. Let me repeat that just for the avoidance of doubt “We went through a whole ninety minutes at home without a shot on target. Against a side who came into the game as the most out of form team in the division.” It is a incredible stat and one that stands along side the fact that it is 447 minutes since we last scored a goal and we have scored just once from open play in the last 585 minutes of football. We have failed to score for four successive games and in the 447 minutes since we last scored a goal we have had just 7 (that’s right, SEVEN) shots on target during that period. These are not damming statistics they are pathetic ones and show the results of a team that is just not doing the basics that they are required to do.
And these are the statistics that mean the disappointment of defeat reduced quite quickly but the anger remains strong and the anger is what forces these words to be written on this website. As we said on here after the debacle at Birmingham (read the article here) we have become a team with no identity, a team that has no attractive football being played and a team that is frankly going nowhere. Four games ago it was not about play off possibilities but automatic promotion, right now there is a real serious chance that we could even miss out on the end of season lottery.
It is difficult to know if the manager has lost the dressing room, whether the players are playing to orders or whether this is the result of how we have played all season and that the rub of the green (or the bounce of the ball) has never gone against us. We said in our early match reports that the lack of a recognised striker could come back and haunt us but the biggest issue appears to be that we have no (Zero, Nil, Negative, Nada) creativity in this side as is demonstrated by the pathetic number of shots and attempts that we have at goal.
Even if you think back to the Cardiff game and the statistics of that one (23 shots, one on target) did you ever think “it is a matter of time before we score” or was it more a case of “Cardiff are holding out easily and could hit us on the break if we are not careful” – on reflection the latter seemed more likely at the time than the former.
In midfield we have three players (perm any three from Grimes, Fulton, Smith, Dhanda and Hourihane) who are all but the same player but with different names. Each of them largely defensive, each of them more prone to a backward pass than a forward one and, right now, each of them as likely to pass the ball to the opposition than one of our own players. Even the three yard passes are now going astray. Up front Jamal Lowe and Andre Ayew have scored five goals for us from open play between them in 2021. Lowe has not scored since mid January and Ayew has (penalties aside) scored just twice – as many as Ben Cabango.
Each of the midfielders and attackers are as shot shy as each other. You can say the forwards get no service but largely they don’t look for the ball and they certainly aren’t hungry strikers. In fact both are more likely to try for a free kick/penalty as they are to shoot at goal. We had a few shots yesterday, all of them as woeful as each other, some of them it is rumoured stayed inside the Liberty but the camera work was not quick enough to prove that to be the case.
Our defensive strength that kept us going through the first half of the season has largely gone. Some of that is down to Cooper’s insistence of making more changes in the back three than he does anywhere. That leads to uncertainty and confusion at times and it is more evident as the season goes on. We had not scored more than 2 in a game until we faced Forest in the FA Cup but we got points because we were defensively strong. We now aren’t the latter but the goalscoring is even more of a problem.
Ahead of yesterday we were promised that people would go for it. We were looking to take the chance we had worked to create for ourselves (league position wise) and we were ready to put the recent results behind us. What happened was we put in a performance that was as turgid as the one at Birmingham but felt more painful because at least we had a shot on target at Birmingham (even though we never looked like scoring a goal).
In the commentary box Leon Britton seemed embarrassed to be talking about these players or what they could offer to the team, Ant O’Connell was more interested in pointless stats about when Preston last won in Swansea (with of course the obligatory reference to Deepdale and 81) but frankly they could have gone home just beyond 3pm, the job of the commentator is to commentate on the action and there was frankly none.
The goal itself was laughable and, I’ll be honest, I laughed when it went in. Not because I wanted to lose but it stopped the post match comments of “We have a point and we can now build on it” which could now be replaced by “we have to stand up and be counted”, “We were under par again” and “We want to take our chances.” Why any of them matter though in the order that they are used is debatable as frankly we deliver nothing on the pitch and haven’t done for several weeks.
We said Huddersfield and Bristol City were one offs when they happened but take away the last minute penalties against Stoke and Middlesbrough and we would currently this morning be sat 7th in the table. Just let that sink in for a minute as it could easily have happened.
It is difficult to know where this run will end or indeed whether it will. More and more people are starting to think that the recent form is the real Swansea City. For the large part of this season we have not been “fun” to watch but the results were either making up for it or masking the position we were really in. The 1-0 wins, the late equalisers, the disputed penalties all kept us in touch with the top end but frankly Norwich, Bournemouth and, yes even them, Brentford are much much better than us.
There are many things that could be the answer to the position but right now we are a Championship team in preparation for next season, the only question yet to be answered is whether we are playing out a 46 or a 48 game season.
The disappointment has definitely subsided from yesterday, the anger will live on.