Having kicked off the season with a home win, Steve Cooper takes his Swansea City side on the road for the first time for a tough encounter with highly fancied Derby County. Can Cooper’s Trooper’s raid the Rams? The ATFV Match Preview contemplates that very question…
Although less than convincing, last week’s opening day home win over Hull will have filled Steve Cooper and his squad with confidence and a couple of attacking signings in the build up to this first away game has only added to the burgeoning feel good factor.
Cooper seems to be enjoying life as a Football League club manager. An unbeaten pre season was an encouraging prelude to that opening day win. Transfer market acumen has been displayed with some exciting signings with telltale links to the manager. And Cooper appears to be revelling in the man management side, overseeing an almost Lazarus like rebirth of Borja Baston as a Swan.
But at some point the bitter taste of defeat will come and today’s contest is a strong candidate. Make no mistake, the odds are stacked against Cooper continuing his unbeatable life as Swansea City manager, and not just because Derby County are a formidable proposition in their own right under their own new manager, Phillip Cocu.
No, history – recent and more medium term – is against us; the Swans have an awful recent record away from home with Cooper’s predecessor losing seven of the last ten on the road. And you have to go back to the pre-Premier League Promised Land Paulo Sousa days for the last time the Swans took down Derby on their own turf.
Cooper won’t care about history though and he’ll be confident that with an almost fully fit squad at his disposal he’ll be able to find a formula to nullify the Derby danger and bring a point at least back to South Wales.
The back four is likely to pick itself with ex skipper Mike van der Hoorn still a Swan after Deadline Day (The UK version) passing without a departure, and he’ll be partnered with Joe Rodon. Connor Roberts will lay claim to the right back shirt despite a mixed performance last time out and on the other side Jake Bidwell is certain to get the opportunity to show us all again his unique mixture of forward forays, tough tackling and Sunday League style fouling!
Behind them will be The Lumberjack Freddie Woodman (see what I did there? – Ed.) although rumours from the dressing suggest Kris Nordfeldt tried to reclaim his place by injecting The Lumberjack with a dose of the flu jab…but he kept dropping the needle…
There’s options galore in midfield for Cooper but it’s all about who lines up alongside his Captain Matt Grimes. And it’s here that I think Cooper might spring a surprise in an attempt to nullify Derby’s attacking threat; I can see both Fulton and Byers sitting out the start of the game and new boy Ben Wilmot coming in to stiffen up the protection in midfield whilst offering a bit more control to our possession at the back.
I will of course repeat my absolute belief, just like last time, that Bersant Celina will be “in at Ten” – safe in the knowledge that Cooper learnt his lesson last week playing Celina on the wing with disastrous results!
That left wing spot should go to Kristoffer Petersen who offered enough in his debut cameo last week to suggest he’ll be a real asset this season. Despite his towering size the lad has very good ball skills and just loves to front his man up and then beat him…a la Nathan Dyer five or six years ago. Dyer of course turned back the clock last week, putting in a busy performance that yielded two assists and he’ll feel a little hard done by should he give way to new boy Aldo Kalulu or the fit again Wayne Routledge.
It’s a binary choice for Cooper up front again but whereas last week it was Borja or Courtney Baker-Richardson this week it’s the more difficult joint top scorer Borja or exciting new signing Sam Surridge the manager has to decide upon for the sole striking berth. Whilst Borja is in the driving seat having made a scoring start last week doubts remain about his long term future with the club still receptive to shipping out such a high earner over the last few weeks of the global transfer window. That might open the door for Surridge to stake a claim and as we saw with The Lumberjack last week, Cooper ain’t afraid to throw a new boy straight in at the deep end.
The Anticipated ATFV Line-Up: Woodman; Roberts; van der Hoorn; Rodon; Bidwell; Grimes; Wilmot; Celina; Dyer; Peterson; Borja
Derby suffered that ultimate agony of losing the Play Off Final last season and then, at the start of the summer, their Lamps went out, Frank walking out to boss Chelsea. The bottom could have fallen out for the Pride Park club but the appointment of Phillip Cocu stabilised things and an impressive opening weekend win away to Huddersfield and the subsequent announcement that Wayne Rooney will join in January has kept the momentum going nicely.
It wasn’t just Lampard the Rams listen the summer, two of their most dangerous players went too – Mason Mount and Harry Wilson returning to their parent clubs Chelsea and Liverpool respectively after successful loan spells.
Coco moved to fill one of those gaps on Deadline Day, capturing Jamie Paterson from local rivals Nottingham Forest, and the attacking midfielder or winger is likely to be involved at some stage today.
Another attacking midfielder, Tom Lawrence, started the season in emphatic fashion with two goals in the Rams’ 2-1 win over Huddersfield and he appears to be revelling in the free role handed to him by Cocu. Lawrence’s particular threat is one of the reasons I think Cooper might bring in Ben Wilmot as a second defensive midfielder alongside Grimes.
Derby have their own version of Wilmot, the imposing centre half or defensive midfielder Krystian Bielsik snapped up on loan from Arsenal but the new signing is not in contention for today’s game and the likelihood is that Cocu will start with the same team that saw off freshly relegated Huddersfield last Monday night.
Last week’s win over Hull showed just how much work Steve Cooper has in front of him despite the positive result and he will also need all his man management skills to install confidence in a squad of players that has struggled to achieve results away from home. Cooper will be buoyed by his new recruits and he’ll back his lads to secure enough possession to generate chances – the trick will be taking at least one of them. By contrast Cocu will be supremely confident his side can capitalise on home advantage, make and take the chances to win a second game in succession in this fledgling season. Too confident? Over confident? Maybe…I fancy the Swans to share the spoils with a 1-1 draw.