Swansea City Review: Nathan Dyer Superb, Neil Taylor Suffers Gruesome Injury
Assists are never given as much attention as they are ought, although that may change during the still-young Premier League season.
Eden Hazard, Chelsea's 21-year-old Belgian sensation signed this past summer and has already compiled six assists in his first three league games. The winger's blend of pace and dribbling precision have made him the toast of southwest London and, if his form holds, might just make assists more of a household statistic.
The trend is being seen across the Welsh border as well. Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge, Swansea City's starting left and right wingers, have five assists between them in what has been a fantastic debut for new manager Michael Laudrup.
Following Saturday's 2-2 draw at home to Sunderland, in which Swansea twice recovered from deficits and played the final 23 minutes (including added time) with 10 men—after centre-back Chico was sent off for a high kick on Louis Saha (71')—those two players again stole the show.
Routledge's goal in first-half stoppage time—a powerful volley from close range—was assisted by a bit of brilliance from Dyer, who lofted a deft little chip past the Sunderland defense for his teammate to run onto and smash home.
It was the first assist of the season for the 24-year-old Dyer, who could have felt hard-done by the fact that he was left out of England manager Roy Hodgson's 23-man roster for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Moldova (Sept. 7) and Ukraine (Sept. 11).
When you've scored two goals and provided two assists in three games' time, you've earned the right to expect a call-up. Chances are good—one thinks—that Dyer's name sits very near the top of Hodgson's list at the moment.
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As was mentioned during ITV's coverage of the match—held in a Liberty Stadium where sunlight and shadows fought for prominence throughout the afternoon—under Laudrup's guidance, the two wingers used in the 4-2-3-1 formation by Swansea pinch in much more than they had a season ago, when Brendan Rodgers was at the helm.
That means incisive runs into the penalty area and opportunities for Dyer to find himself in the sort of pocket of space where he played in Routledge for his goal.
It's rare to see wingers on the same side of the pitch, but Routledge's run was a good one, and Dyer's pass was almost equal to his finish.
Seven points from a possible nine to start the season is the sort of start any coach would ask for.
While Laudrup may be worried with the way his side conceded the two goals: a bungled back-pass from centre-back Ashley Williams allowed Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher—making his league debut—to slot past keeper Michel Vorm and a poor response to a free kick allowed Fletcher to poke home minutes later for his brace. The response from his charges and, better yet, the way they bossed the final 20 minutes down a man, is the stuff confidence is borne out of.
Swansea have every reason to be pleased with a start to the season that has made them the toast of the Premier League. The fact that Michu got his fourth goal in three games on Saturday didn't hurt matters much either.
Dyer and Routledge have been transcendent, and with new signing Pablo Hernandez sure to cycle into the first team after the imminent international break, they should be immune to fatigue and jadedness.
Tom Dulat/Getty Images
Something that Swansea's upcoming opponents won't be too pleased to see, surely.
Neil Taylor Fractures Ankle in 16th Minute of Action
Laudrup confirmed, following Saturday's match, Swansea left-back Neil Taylor suffered a fractured ankle stemming from an awkward 16th-minute collision with Sunderland right-back Craig Gardner.
After speaking with a doctor involved with treating Taylor, the Danish manager was unable to reveal the extent of the injury but could confirm that there was at least "one" fracture.
Gardner had landed hard on Taylor, causing the latter's knee to buckle as he was pressed down to the ground. The medical team raced out to help him, and after some furious work to deal with the ankle, Taylor was stretchered out of play.
Six minutes of extra time were added because of the delay.
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