Having narrowly avoided relegation last season, Swansea are able to look at the last 12 months or so and take stock of quite what has happened. In the late summer of 2016, the South Wales club was approaching a new season, having scrapped for top-flight survival in the season prior. There were reasons for optimism, such as the arrival of seemingly top-level strikers Borja Baston, and Fernando Llorente. There was also room for negativity, with Andre Ayew and Ashley Williams leaving sizeable gaps in the Swansea dressing-room after leaving for West Ham and Everton. But one thing was clear; the upcoming season would live or die on what happened to Gylfi Sigurdsson.
And in that respect, nothing has changed. Should he stay, Sigurdsson will be a source of both goals and assists, and should continue his remarkable defensive effort and role as a leader for Swansea City. The chances of Swansea celebrating a successful 2017/18 season however, may be considerably impinged should Everton eventually secure the signature of the Icelandic attacking midfielder.
Assuming he is to go, Swansea will have a few key tasks in what remains of the transfer window. Firstly they must continue to take advantage of their target man striker, Fernando Llorente. Sigurdsson assisted Llorente six times from set-pieces last season, and was vital in securing important points towards the end of the season. Tom Carroll has been placed in charge of set-pieces in the absence of Sigurdsson, securing two assists from corners in the club’s final pre-season friendly against Sampdoria. Paul Clement will undoubtedly be hoping he can carry that into next term.
Secondly, Swansea must move to replace Gylfi Sigurdsson, or change system away from the diamond which placed the creative responsibility from his shoulders. Rumours abound of Nacer Chadli, Wilfried Bony, and more recently Joe Allen being lined up should Swansea receive spending money, and Swansea should be working hard behind the scenes to secure their prime targets quickly.
Finally, Swansea will have to ensure that there are leaders on the pitch, who play with the same intensity and effort of Sigurdsson. A main factor in Swansea’s struggles last season was the failure to replace Ashley Williams effectively. For long periods of last year, Swansea looked rudderless, and missed a strong leader. Eventually, a settled line-up and the re-introduction of Leon Britton allowed Swansea to unite and push out of the relegation zone. While Britton and Mawson orchestrate the defensive side of Swansea’s game, Clement will be looking out for someone to take the burden of inspiration in the final third for Swansea.
The start of a new season allows teams, players and managers a fresh start. Will Swansea and Paul Clement accept their new chance at success? And will Gylfi Sigurdsson be a part of that team? Time will tell.