Saturday’s game came and went without supplying the Welsh side with any points. Stoke were bad, but Swansea were worse. On the bright side, Wilfried Bony opened his account for the season, but that was one of the few points of optimism. Poor decision making and even worse defending saw Stoke score twice in less than five minutes, and a team that are no better than Swansea went away with a morale boosting win.
Of course, in football, it is always about the next game, and that is the mentality Paul Clement must have. Three points will not erase an awful start to the season, but it will start the side on their road to redemption.
West Brom are not a team Swansea will fear. They have been awful this season, scoring just 12 goals, and this is a game that the Welsh side can win, if they play in the right way.
The Baggies will arrive looking to stay solid at the back, and to utilise Salomon Rondon’s power up front, a typical style that should not surprise the Swans. Saying that, it has been this sort of style that has worked so well against the Welsh side in recent weeks, with an apparent inability to mark a powerful or tall striker that plays knock downs for his teammates.
Clement cannot stop Albion’s game plan, but he can set up to keep the ball away from them. Swansea teams of the past were lauded for their ability to keep the ball and move it between players with ease. In recent months, this style has disappeared, with their identity smothered under a philosophy that is about as far away from the Swansea side that was promoted to the Premier League.
Of course, this is not Clement’s fault. The manager is looking to win games by any means necessary. He does not have the same luxury as Manchester City, where Pep Guardiola is able to take a season to instil his philosophy, as if Clement tried that at the Liberty Stadium, then they would be in the Championship the next season.
However, the manager must look to rejuvenate some of that old style if he is to keep moving forward. They have the quality of players in the squad with the likes of Roque Mesa and Renato Sanches adept at keeping the ball, but they are instead playing a game that is probably alien to them.
Swansea need something to change. The team can carry on in the same way, but things are unlikely to get better. Perhaps it will benefit Clement to take a chance against a struggling West Brom side and try to dominate the ball as they once did.
With more possession, the likes of Sanches and Mesa can create more, and it will allow Bony and Tammy Abraham more sights at goal. It is not quite do or die for the Swans yet, but if they don’t change something soon, it may already be too late.
Opponent’s most feared player
As previously mentioned, Swansea have a habit of struggling against burly strikers that like to knock the ball down and hold players off. West Brom will likely play a lot of long-balls and crosses to try to utilise his abilities, and both Alfie Mawson and his defensive partner, be it Mike van der Hoorn or Federico Fernandez, must deal with this. Clement could help his defence out a lot by calling on his players to close their opponents down so that they have less time to send in accurate balls.
Predicted line up
Fabianski - Naughton, Mawson, Fernandez, Olsson - Ki, Mesa, Sanches - Ayew - Bony, Abraham.
This is going to be a really tight game. Neither side can afford to lose this one, and it could culminate in a massively tense, and unfortunately dull affair. West Brom are a side renowned for their defensive abilities, while the Swans have actually been pretty good at the back this season for a side that are at the bottom of the table, conceding just 18 goals. This all points to a game of few chances, meaning people that want to watch this one will likely have to stay up late to catch it on Match of the Day.
At home, Swansea can win this one. If Clement sets the team up correctly and looks to keep the ball and move it around in that same patient style that they became famous for, then they will be able to break down a Baggies side that do not look themselves lately. After all, if the fans can’t back the Swans to beat a team near the relegation zone at home, then who can they back them to beat?