Chico’s time to shine as EPL star
Swansea City are in Premier League dreamland—that can’t be overstating the case as the Liberty Stadium troops sit second in the table after Week 2. It’s certainly a rarefied atmosphere at sea level.
Their record reads: played 2, won 2, scored 8, conceded none. However, as any manager will tell you, it’s important to rebuild a squad while it’s doing well. And a superb start shouldn't put the brakes on the Swans’ focus as they assess areas to address in order to maintain their infectious momentum.
1. Chico Flores
The centre-back with distinct cult hero status is without doubt a formidable player. Co-author of two clean sheets and near-goal scorer with a crunching header against the crossbar at QPR, he’s already easing the disappointment of the admirable Stephen Caulker’s return to Spurs.
But, closer examination of his display against West Ham does bring some food for thought. A referee like Phil Dowd or Mark Clattenburg would undoubtedly have awarded the Spaniard a yellow card far sooner than the more genial Martin Atkinson.
It eventually arrived after a mini-rash of ill-advised tackles, each followed by an indignant and familiarly Continental-style protestation of innocence and self-defence after being pulled up for them.
The concern is that, with different officials and against opponents like Wayne Rooney and Luis Suarez—for whom thundering to the turf at a mere change of wind direction is in their DNA—yellows could quickly become reds with a potentially fatal depletion of resources, especially against the elite teams.
In addition, while he’s willing and hungry to carry the ball out from the back, it’s just possible that his accomplishment in doing so may be just adrift of the act itself. In the opening twenty minutes or so of the West Ham game when the Sky commentators reacted with surprise to the amount of times Swansea were giving the ball away, close forensic examination would reveal Flores as a leading culprit.
While these points may appear to seem a fraction grudging, we need to remember that with many pundits still tipping Swansea to be among those struggling to avoid the drop, every aspect of the Laudrup "golden ticket" needs refining as closely and carefully as possible.
The same hypothetical football pathologist referred to earlier could surely make rich capital analysing Swansea’s use of—and reaction to—corner-kicks against the Hammers.
Despite heavily monopolizing those set-pieces against, can we genuinely say that the deliveries—generally from Jonathan de Guzman—really caused alarm, confusion or cast-iron goal opportunities?
In the EPL, corners are hard-earned opportunities to put one’s opponents under pressure, and boss Laudrup will be keen to ensure every such chance is seized upon and exploited to the very best attacking extent.
Meanwhile, visiting boss Sam Allardyce will be the first to point to their own openings from set pieces.
One saw Ashley Williams having to hack clear from the line, while another had Leon Britton instinctively changing his assigned position from near post to far at the last moment to do the same, and combined with an inspirational point-blank save from Michel Vorm at similar range, these prevented the game from being considerably more tricky than it proved to be.
Once again it needs emphasizing that the EPL elite would prove far more severe executioners than West Ham.
After their flying start, where can the Swans finish ?
3. Swansea City Supporters
Laudrup's squad has already benefited from the magnificent Swans fans following both at QPR and the Liberty Stadium, where fortnightly full houses are guaranteed.
However, while aspiration is the underpinning key to EPL life, any danger would lie where aspiration becomes complacency.
If the Jack Army is ever tempted to believe that visits from the likes of Aston Villa, QPR Southampton and this weekend’s visit of a highly capable and threatening Sunderland side bring with them a guaranteed three-point haul, realism and patience may need to be in long supply as this is a league that weekly proves there really is no such thing as a free lunch.
If visiting supporters are left to ponder why Swansea fans rouse their team with a full-blooded rugby song in "Hymns and Arias" every game, and they return home as pointless as Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman, the patient approach will have been richly vindicated