In appointing Paul Clement to replace Bob Bradley as manager, Swansea City have pulled the trigger in the hopes that the esteemed assistant manager to Carlo Ancelotti can lead them into the future. The next month of transfer merry-go rounds will show which of two very different plans the board have adopted for the coming years.
Should there be little movement in or out of the club, this would be a clear sign that relegation has been accepted, and Paul Clement was brought into rebuild the club with a clear philosophy once in the Championship. On the other hand, if Swansea are basing their future plans on Premier League survival being essential, you could and should see multiple transfer deals executed between now and January 31st.
If significant money is provided for transfers in January, where should Paul Clement and the recruitment team look to strengthen?
Firstly, full-backs are a clear weakness. Neil Taylor and Angel Rangel are longstanding Swansea servants, being part of the promotion from the Championship in 2011. However, neither has been anywhere near full form throughout this season, with Neil Taylor in particular struggling to replicate his incredible summer away with Wales. Stephen Kingsley has shown promise; although at his young age cannot be relied on for consistent form. Kyle Naughton meanwhile, has been unable to wrestle a starting spot away from Rangel, a worrying sign given the Spaniard’s advanced age.
The worrying sign for Swansea is that not one defender – perhaps except for Alfie Mawson – has staked a claim for a regular starting spot. Fernandez and Amat seemed like the natural heirs to Ashley Williams given their time with the club, although the presence of Williams perhaps covered some of their flaws. A centre-back capable of leading the back four and marshalling the troops should therefore be the number-one priority for those in charge of recruitment.
Before I continue to list where Swansea need to strengthen, let’s look at positions that seem safe. Lukasz Fabianski and Gylfi Sigurdsson are two players to emerge with some credit thus far in the season. That Fabianski was a star performer in a 5-0 defeat to Spurs should highlight the poor quality of defence in front of him. Sigurdsson meanwhile, has continued to look dangerous from set-pieces and provides the main creative spark for the team. Fernando Llorente up front has shown enough to claim that his fledgling partnership with Sigurdsson is beginning to click. Finally, a first draft of this post brought up wingers as a position in need of strengthening, for which Luciano Narsingh seems a fitting purchase.
Now, back to the shopping list. Missing out on Joe Allen in the summer has proven to be a mistake, with Swansea unable to name a consistent midfield base. Leon Britton, Ki, Jack Cork, Jay Fulton and Leroy Fer have all had opportunities while none of them have grabbed hold of a first-team place, and the midfield looks increasingly flaky. One central midfielder willing to work hard and give a physical presence to the Swans midfield would greatly improve the side.
So, just one central defender, two full-backs, and a centre-mid. No pressure boys.