It’s three games without a win now for Steve Cooper’s Swans but two encouraging performances after the flop against Forest. The visit of lowly Reading to the Liberty should provide a promising opportunity to get the promotion push back on track, but in order to do so Cooper needs to relocate the early season creativity that brought goals galore. ATFV ponders whether the Swans can dethrone the Royals in the Swans v Reading Match Preview, sponsored by Drop Bear Beer.
One point and no goals from the last two Championship games since the international break would be a little concerning and certainly the home failure to Forest would seem to justify that concern.
But Forest went top of the table last night, putting our defeat into a little different context, and the goalless draw away to Bristol City was a credible result. Add into that the many positives in defeat away to Premier League Watford with a young side and overall things are still gravy.
Add into the mix the Under 23s recent form, including a 5-1 destruction of the vaunted Porto Academy side, and Cooper has a number of tools at his disposal to kickstart the creativity in his side. The question is will Cooper make changes to his preferred line up?
The answer is yes.
Of course one change is forced upon him as Jake Bidwell is banned for one Sunday League challenge too many (looked ridiculous but was in no way a red card), but the dropping of Connor Roberts for Kyle Naughton for the Bristol game shows the gaffer isn’t afraid to pick on form rather than reputation.
Naughton is likely to get the nod this afternoon but the question is does he carry on in Roberts’ right back role with Declan John deputising for Bidwell, or does Connor reclaim his jersey with Naughton switching to the left?
There are question marks elsewhere too; with the exception of Aldo Kalulu – still recovering from an ankle injury – the boss has a full squad to choose from and he somehow has to find some creativity out wide and up front.
One seemingly easy way to do that would be to introduce Jordon Garrick into the mix. The young winger taunted and terrorised both Porto left backs he come up against earlier in the week in a performance soaked in pace, trickery and aggression that produced two assists.
However, having played the full 90 last Wednesday I doubt Garrick is in the reckoning – he might make the bench but I suspect Kristoffer Peterson might be the one to break into the side this afternoon.
Peterson of course has been talking of his unhappiness at being out of the side in the Swedish media and whilst a few Swans fans will probably have a pop at the guy for doing so, his comments actually are encouraging.
He hasn’t hit out at the club in any way and he’s just frustrated at his lack of action since signing – I’m far happier with that than him being happy to sit tight and pocket his wages.
I like the look of Peterson too, I like his ability to take a player on – with technique rather than pace – and his willingness to pull the trigger from anywhere is welcome too.
Cooper might well weigh up our lack of creativity the last few games and Peterson’s straining at the leash and decide to throw the Swede into the fray.
Peterson’s inclusion would allow Bersant Celina to move back into the number 10 role but with Jan Dhanda fit again and George Byers a goal threat in that position it’s by no means certain Cooper would do that. The manager certainly has options there in the pivot role, the three players already mentioned plus the wild card of Wayne Routledge occupying the role.
The sole striking role is just as uncertain right now, I’d guess. Borja is still the man in possession but he’s been quiet the last few games and Cooper may decide to mix things up.
Sam Surridge has continued to impress when given opportunities and his goal in midweek against Watford won’t have done his chances any harm at all.
Another option for Cooper would be to move Ayew of the Andre variety up front; this would allow Ayew more freedom to wander across the frontline and also give Cooper the opportunity to play either Routledge or the pacy Dyer on the right wing.
Predicting the line up is going to be a nightmare but it’s nice to have options and permutations so I’m not going to complain. We’ll also find out a lot about Cooper as manager this afternoon I think…how brave, how radical will he be??
Answers at 3 o’clock, kids…
The Anticipated ATFV Line-Up: Woodman; Roberts; van der Hoorn; Rodon; Naughton; Grimes; Fulton; Celina; Peterson; Ayew; Surridge
Reading arrive at the Liberty Stadium in a poor run of form, having lost their last three league games and suffered a fourth defeat to Wolves in the Carabao Cup, albeit on penalties.
Jose Gomes’ side though won’t be pushovers this afternoon; they are porous at the back but attack well when they look to go forward.
Influential defender Michael Morrison is most likely out after leaving last week’s game in a protective boot and Gomes will have to choose between young Tyler Blackett or the fit again Matt Miazga to replace him.
One man that will line up in defence for Reading is Andy Yiadom; the former Barnsley man was a long time target for the Swans and it will be interesting to see him up against his Ghana teammate Andre Ayew.
Potential pain the ass this afternoon will be midfielder John Swift. The man with 10 on his back is one the Championship’s stand out creative influences so far this season and he’ll need some special attention from our defensive midfielders.Swans fans will no doubt have watched and cheered his tremendous solo goal against Cardiff earlier in the season but let’s hope he doesn’t repeat the trick this afternoon, eh?
Reading don’t have much going for them in the history or the recent form stakes; a 1-4 defeat to Swans the last time out is symptomatic of their inability to beat us, recording no wins in the last fourteen matches…so scratch up a win away for Jose Gomes’ side today then, eh?
The Swans position as joint top of the table (before Forest played a game more) is made all the more impressive by the fact that it was done against all the other sides in the top six; today’s opponents are in poor form and inhabit the bottom six and so victory today is vital if we really want to consider ourselves promotion candidates. Jose Gomes is already under pressure and his side is there for the taking…it might take the sort of patience that was required in the Birmingham victory but I’m predicting a thumping return to form this afternoon with a 3-0 for the Swans. One for Surridge, one for Ayew and one for Borja off the bench. And if I pull off that prediction I’m testing my luck further by getting on the phone to Anjelina Jolie and asking her to be my friends with benefits!