Swansea City FC: 5 Key Players to Keep the Swans in the English Premier League
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Last season Swansea capped off its epic campaign with an entertaining 4-2 playoff win over Reading to become the first Welsh team to play in the Premier League since its inception in 1992.
England Under-21 international Scott Sinclair was the star of the Swans' season, bagging 27 goals in 50 appearances. His hat trick versus Reading was one of the great clutch performances in English football last season.
Now that Swansea have gained promotion to England's top division, they must do everything they can to avoid relegation. Last season's historic relegation battle saw Blackpool, Birmingham City and West Ham United drop to the Championship. In order for Swansea to avoid the same fate, the following five players must find their form next season.
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The 26 year-old Wales international has been a rock at the back for Swansea over the past three seasons. But Williams has done more than defend for the Swans. He has also scored 10 goals in 149 appearances for the Welsh club since the 2008-09 season. Central defenders are arguably the most vital players on the pitch in the Premier League, and Swansea have a more than capable one in Ashley Williams.
“To be able to say that we are Premier League players feels nice,” said the 2009 Wales Footballer of the Year. “I’ve given Rio (Ferdinand) a text to say I will be seeing him soon. I’ve given my all to get to the Premier League and I am just looking forward to it.
"For most young boys they dream about playing against the top sides when they are older and we are no different. Going up against top players at Old Trafford, Anfield, the Emirates, that’s all in store for us next year and we are looking forward to it. We can go there and show no fear again. We can enjoy ourselves.”
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The former Chelsea winger has finally found a home after he was loaned out to six different clubs while at Stamford Bridge.
Sinclair enjoyed his best season as a professional footballer last year and earned himself a spot on England's Under-21 European Championship squad.
Manager Brendan Rodgers needs Sinclair to have a big season in 2011-12 because the Swans simply cannot survive without his services. His pace and skill make him one of the young players to watch next season.
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Taylor was originally part of Manchester City's youth system before moving to Wrexham in 2005. He was called up to the senior team in 2007 and established himself as a first-team player for the next three seasons.
Taylor joined Swansea in 2010 and enjoyed a great first season with the club. He was so impressive that Newcastle United reportedly made a bid for the player in June, but the bid was rejected by the Swans.
Taylor can play as a left back or as a left midfielder. His versatility will provide manager Brendan Rodgers the ability to pick different formations when they face the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool.
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The former England Under-21 striker spent the past two seasons in the Championship with Middlesbrough. In 81 appearances he tallied 20 goals with 12 of them coming this past season.
Lita was transferred to the Swans for a reported fee of £1.75 million. The 26-year-old seems to be the lead candidate to spearhead Swansea's attack next season, making him absolutely essential for the club's success. In his previous stint in the Premier League, Lita scored eight goals in 47 league games for Reading from 2006-08.
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Despite only managing three goals in that time, Monk remains the heart of the Swans. He is a blue-collar central defender who is both reliable and accountable. Injuries, however, have limited Monk over the past two seasons.
Upon his return to the Premier League (he was previously with Southampton) Monk is keen on remaining fit for the duration of the 2011-12 EPL season. If he can remain injury-free, Swansea's chances of remaining in England's top flight increase exponentially.