I helgen är det dags för Liverpool att resa till Wales och möta Swansea City, ett lag som haft en tuff inledning på säsongen, med bara en enda seger under sex första omgångarna. I denna omgång av Q&A bjuds vi på en riktigt matig presentation av motståndare, detta tack vare två av deltagarna i The Jackcast(@TheJackCast), nämligen Steven Carroll(@StevenSOS1987) och Guto Llewelyn(@GutoLlewelyn) Härnedan kan ni läsa hur de ser på säsongsinledningen, ägarsituationen och saknaden av Ashley Williams, håll till godo:
1. First, can you tell us a bit about the owner situation at the club, what are your thoughts on the new american owners?
Steven: Over the summer Jason Levein and Steve Kaplan’s consortium completed their takeover of the club and now own well over 60% of the club. Many of the previous directors sold their shares completely while some of them still have a reduced share and the supporters trust continues to own 21% of the club. In truth many including myself are sceptical of them at this stage. They’ve talked the talk but haven’t walked the walk yet.
Guto: Swansea City, like most football clubs who have spent most of their history outside the Premier League, have a long history of terrible, immoral, at times criminal owners. However in 2002 the club was rescued by a group of mostly local businessmen who had been fans for many years. They took the club from the edge of extinction at the bottom of League 2 to the Premier League, with success based on sustainability and a clearly-defined on-field philosophy, in one of the great success stories of modern football. However over the summer there was an American takeover of the club which has left many fans extremely worried. Fans generally feel we have not had enough information about the new owners’ intentions and we do not know how the club will be run from now on. There is also anger that the takeover seems to have dominated the summer and hampered attempts to strengthen the squad. The American owners still have a lot of work to do before they get the fans’ support.
2. We are six games into the new season, you have gotten quite a tough start, how has the first games been? Have you been unlucky or do you deserve your place in the table?
Steven: A poor start was to be expected when you look at our transfer dealings this summer but the fixture list has also been unkind thus far. We’ve been poor in a lot of games and in truth our best performance was against Manchester City last weekend which does give some cause for optimism going into this weekend at least. If we can play like that most weeks then when the fixtures become a bit easier we should collect some points.
Guto: We are lucky to have so many points. We had a decent start by beating Burnley, followed by three really poor performances against Hull, Leicester and Chelsea. The tactics have been very negative, the wrong players have been selected and the beautiful football we were once famous for has been nowhere to be seen….until Saturday. Suddenly on Saturday the performance levels improved massively. This was largely down to Federico Fernandez being dropped and Leon Britton and Angel Rangel being brought back into the side. We were unlucky to lose the game and if we keep playing like that, results will get better.
3. It was a bit surprising to see Ashley Williams leave for Everton quite late in the transfer window, who will be the new leader in your defense?
Steven: Good question, I’m not sure any of them are up to filling his extremely large boots. Federico Fernandez has been poor so far and the defence looked better without him. Jordi Amat and Mike Van Der Hoorn looked the better partnership whilst new signing Alfie Mawson is waiting in the wings. Hopefully Amat and Van Der Hoorn will be given a few games to gel after a decent display against Man City.
Guto: That is a very good question. Ashley Williams is a hero in Swansea and his departure was a big blow, especially as it happened so late in the summer, we did not have time to react before the season started. Jordi Amat and Federico Fernandez played in the first four games, but looked uncomfortable together. Francesco Guidolin even tried changing the formation to 5-4-1 against Chelsea to give them more support but it failed and the formation was changed before half time. Against Manchester City Mike van der Hoorn played alongside Amat instead of Fernandez and the defence looked much more solid. Hopefully we’ve found a competent partnership, but the team still lacks natural leaders. Ashley Williams was the best captain we have ever had, in truth his presence and personality cannot be replaced.
4. What has Francesco Guidolin changed as a manager and do you see him as a long term solution?
Steven: He’s fairly unpredictable but it’s not in a good way. He’s tried various formations and players in different positions and it rarely works. He’s not the long term solution and is a dead man walking if you believe the press. My own opinion is that he should not have got the job on a permanent basis, Brendan Rodgers should have had it. But now Guidolin is in the job firing him would be harsh after six games which have been tricky on paper. He probably deserves another 3 or 4 to improve things.
Guto: Results improved under him last season but the performances were still poor. The football we play has been negative, ugly and does not play to our squad’s strengths, but he was given the job in the summer after keeping us up. So far this season he is still struggling to convince fans he is the right man. Nobody sees him as a long term solution and there are even rumours he could be gone in the next few weeks. He is a very nice man but he is not the right manager for Swansea at the moment. The big question is who will be brought in if he leaves. Ryan Giggs has been mentioned by the media but many supporters want a manager with proven success.
5. Who will be your key players this season? Do you have any young players coming up and competing for game time?
Steven: Gylfi Sigurdsson is a massive player for us, his nine goals from January onwards played a key role in our survival. Elsewhere new club record signing Borja Baston will be replied upon for goals now he’s recovered from injury. If he fails to fire I will fear the worst. As for youngsters Stephen Kingsley at left back as played a few games recently and done a decent job. He’s unlikely to play on Saturday though.
Guto: In terms of young players, Stephen Kingsley is 22 years old and providing real competition for the left-back spot. He has to improve defensively but in attack he’s pretty fast and has a very good cross. Modou Barrow is only 23 but he is going to be very important for us this season as he provides much-needed pace in a very slow team, although his end product is still a problem. Gylfi Sigurdsson is our best player and will be vital for us this season. He is still finding full match fitness after his successful Euro 2016 campaign with Iceland, but when fully fit he is a magnificent footballer to watch. New striker Borja Baston needs to start scoring because there is a lack of goal-threat in the team. But against Manchester City Leon Britton once again proved he is probably still our most important player. He is 34 years old but he is the only man who can get the team passing the ball properly. He is still brilliant to watch and controls midfield. He has to start regularly if we are to re-discover our passing game.
6. What are your thoughts on Klopp and Liverpool, do you think we can compete for the champions league spots?
Steven: Liverpool have had an excellent start and look very easy on the eye. They’re scoring for fun although I do think they are vulnerable at the back. I’d say you can definitely push for a Champions League position and could even push for the title. The key will be games like Saturday, you seem to do well against the big sides so you need to regularly beat the lesser sides to achieve your ambitions.
Guto: In pre-season I predicted a top four finish for Liverpool and after watching quite a lot of Liverpool this season, I still think that is very likely. Jurgen Klopp has clearly rejuvenated the club and the football you’re playing is brilliant to watch as a neutral. However the one area where I still think you need to improve is in defence, where I still think you are searching for a solution. I did a bit of research and discovered that Liverpool have kept just one away league clean-sheet in 2016, back in February against Aston Villa. I think there are clear weaknesses we can exploit. If Swansea play the way they did against Manchester City, and Liverpool play the way they have for most of the season, there should be plenty of goals. However with Liverpool’s attacking players looking so clinical, I would be surprised if this was anything other than an away win.