One of the biggest disappointments of last season for me was the negative way that we approached most of our games during the course of the season. Not just the final few months but largely most of the season and it eventually came back to give us the result that we probably deserved over the course of the season.
On the night when we beat Norwich at the Liberty there were very few Swans fans who didn’t believe that we were primed for a push towards the promised land and really did stand a chance of nestling ourselves into the top two of the table.
We were 2nd in the league going into the weekend but never managed to push ourselves on from there and, as the season progressed, we seemed to become more and more about a time trying to succeed on the tightness of a defence rather than the ability to score goals for fun. Norwich, Watford and Brentford did the opposite and I don’t need to remind anyone where they ended the season. Or more to the point where they will start the next one.
For too many games we failed to register a shot on target including, and totally unforgivably, the play off final where we capitulated and gave Brentford one of their easiest 90 minutes of the season. In the biggest game either side played. We should never forget that.
Maybe it is in the coaching genes of Steve Cooper to play football this way but as fans start to return to the games it will be a style that will have little room for forgiveness. It will be tolerated (not necessarily accepted) when results are good but as soon as those results start to wane a little it’s easy to see that the atmosphere could turn on the manager?
Put fans reactions to one side though and it will be key that we do change this season if we want to push on from two play off campaigns and get over the line this time around. When we are joined by the likes of Fulham, West Brom and Sheffield United we know the division has probably become slightly tougher than last season and all three know what it takes to get promoted – the first two with a reasonable level of doing it frequently!
If Cooper’s natural style is what we have seen then he may struggle to lift his side and have another promotion push but all good coaches will recognise where things need to change and bring in the personnel to make that happen. The arrival of Piroe and Joseph up front appear to be good signings and the links with the likes of Harry Wilson and Morgan Gibbs-White would add much creativity to a midfield that last season was packed with the same player repeated several times over.
Cooper also needs to ensure that he does not get sucked into continually playing players who are not adding the value we need. Conor Hourihane was that player last season. A good player no doubt but not for us and certainly not last season. Our continuance to play him was one of Cooper’s biggest mistakes of last season. And yet he kept repeating it.
Steve Cooper is a young coach and, in many ways, still learning his trade. He does not need to become engulfed in one style of play and needs to recognise that different styles are required for different games. Too often last season he was out thought by other managers who know this and used it to their advantage against an entirely predictable Swansea City. As we said at the time, when Lee Bowyer recognises this, you know you are doing something wrong.
It seems reasonably clear to most of us what Steve Cooper needs to change ahead of the new season and, you would assume, on that basis you would expect it to be clear to himself and his coaching staff.
Remember if you always do what you have always done…