The transfer window has closed – I refuse to use the term “slammed shut” – and Swansea City has finalised the squad it is relying on to stave off a disastrous relegation. So did Huw Jenkins and his under fire recruitment team finally get it right or did they make a complete mess of things again?
The answer probably lies somewhere in-between, but closer to the positive than the negative.
Of course we won’t know for certain until we have the benefit of hindsight at the end of a second consecutive difficult season but on the face of it we’ve spent a chunk of money and spent it pretty well. We certainly didn’t see the American owners ‘splashing the cash’ though with our outlay mostly coming from the summer surplus on transfer dealings, some of which was realised early through the £9m plus loan taken out with Santander.
Will our transfer activity be enough? Early indications are that it will be, Clement’s new look side bagging back-to-back victories to propel the side out of the relegation zone and offer genuine hope that we can do a Houdini this season.
But there’s a long, hard way still to go and might we regret not strengthening a couple of key areas by the time the whistle blows on our season at The Hawthorns on the 21st May?
It’s interesting to note the varying approaches of those around us; for instance Sunderland sold one of their best players in Patrick van Aanholt and used the money to bring in a couple of low cost bodies and bag the surplus cash. Palace on the other hand chose to spend almost insanely heavily, buying van Aanholt for a ludicrous £14m as well as stumping up £2m to loan Liverpool’s Sakho whilst pledging to cover his £100k a week wages!
Our approach falls somewhere between the two of these and I have to say that I’m happy with that.
It’s clear to see that we have no real cash to play with (gee, aren’t we all glad the club was sold so that we’d have the money to compete, eh?) and borrowing heavily in an attempt to stay in the Premier League would have been a gamble I’d have been uncomfortable with us taking.
By the same token we have made an outlay and invested on what we all hope will be four extremely shrewd signings – and to be fair it’s looking damn good so far!
Tom Carroll and Martin Olsson have both made an impact since signing and look like they’ve been at the club for years. In Carroll’s case maybe that’s because he’s had a spell with us before and knows what we are all about…but the lad himself looks a different player to the pretty timid, fairly average midfielder that drifted in and out of Garry Monk’s side.
This version of Tom Carroll looks confident and composed, has a prodigious work rate and a much needed range of passing; he’s been instrumental in restoring our passing game – alright, we are yet to fully reclaim The Swansea Way but at least we are able to string some passes together again and play our way out of trouble and in to attack.
Olsson’s presence has helped too; he’s clearly an upgrade on the departed Neil Taylor, able to provide some genuine width and forward thrust from full-back as well as being able to defend crosses without closing his eyes and turning his back in fear of being hit with a football.
Luciano Narsingh has had far less game time than the other two but he too has made a telling contribution already, his pace and delivery setting up the winning goal against Southampton in midweek.
To provide some context, all three of these players collectively cost less than Palace paid for the aforementioned van Aanholt, and it looks like a welcome return to form for Huw Jenkins in the bargain basement transfer market!
We gave Aston Villa £4m plus Neil Taylor – so basically we just gave them £4m – for Jordan Ayew and this could again be a bargain too. Much like his brother Andre, it’s difficult to decide whether the player is a striker or a winger but that won’t matter if he can replicate what the older Ayew did in a Swans shirt.
Yes, Jordan has struggled in the Championship this season but he did get into double figures with a woeful Villa side last term and he should certainly provide Clement with a useful option and a degree of tactical flexibility.
For all the promise of the incoming players though, perhaps the best business the club did during the transfer window was retaining the services of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente – both of whom will be crucial in the fight to stay up.
If reports are to be believed the Chinese were after Gylfi, and let’s be fair they were after everyone else that’s kicked a football professionally at some point in their lives. Hell they even offered £4m for a Scunthorpe player!! If it is true that the Swans Board turned down a £30m approach then that is very much another point in their favour – although let’s be fair, you’d have to be a special kind of doofus to risk the continuation of £100m plus in the Premier League by flogging your only world class star for less than a third of that enormous sum.
Just as important was repelling the advances of Chelsea for our sole performing striker Llorente. It would have been sheer madness letting the World Cup winner go just as he’s acclimatised to the Premier League and started to knock in some vital goals. However, the lure of working again with Chelsea coach Conte and swapping a desperate relegation fight for an almost certain champions medal must have been strong to say the least, and it would have been hard to fight off the London club’s advances if the player had pushed for a move.
Fair play to Fernando for showing a great deal of bottle and a touch of loyalty to stick around at the Liberty – but I do wonder if he’d have been as keen to stay if Bob Bradley was still in charge.
Alas, the window closed (in low key fashion, despite anything a gurning, scenery chewing Jim White screamed at you on Sky Sports News) without the all important capture of a quality centre half. It appears we have been priced out of the market for most targets and a realistic deal for Andrea Ranocchia (who has ended up at Hull) apparently stalled due to Clement’s reservations.
Has the need for a commanding and experienced centre half reduced over the past few weeks? I’d say it has to an extent due to both the continued emergence of Alfie Mawson and the installation of some basic organisation by Clement and his assistant Claude Makelele.
But there’s no doubt that everyone would be happier if an experienced “ruffian” had been signed to partner Mawson as none of the other centre halves at the club have been convincing on a consistent basis.
The Southampton victory also showed why a right back should have been signed too as Kyle Naughton again looked a weak link defensively and the only alternative is an ageing Angel Rangel. An Olsson type upgrade on the right would have done wonders not only for our goal difference but also for my nervous disposition…Naughton’s defending as we clung on to that vital 2-1 lead over the Saints left me a sweating, trembling basket case nervously chewing on the back of my Liberty Stadium seat!
With the over-hyped Deadline Day done and dusted though we will have to make do without more defensive reinforcements and go with what we’ve got, relying on the burgeoning Mawson/Fernadez partnership, growing confidence throughout the team and the tactics of a top coach who is really starting to impress as our manager.
Will it be enough? Let’s hope so for our Premier League life is at stake.
if it isn’t enough then history will suggest that this transfer window was a failure…but here and now in the present I view it as more than a partial success.
And all credit to Huw Jenkins and the current Board for that.