Swansea City narrowly missed out on promotion to the Premier League last term, suffering a 3-2 playoff semi-final defeat at the hands of Brentford over two legs.
The quality in finishing between the two sides played a decisive role in the Swans’ exit from the playoffs. Steve Cooper’s men were able to control the first half to keep the Bees in check, but Ollie Watkins, Emiliano Marcondes and Bryan Mbeumo fired Brentford to victory in the final game at Griffin Park.
Thomas Frank’s side lost out to Fulham in the final and are spending another campaign back in the Championship with the Swans. The Welsh outfit have made the stronger start to the season, suggesting that Cooper and company could be back in the Premier League before the Bees even make their bow, despite the difference in quality in the final third.
Although Swansea have made an incredibly bright start to the campaign, a question looms over whether their form is sustainable over the course of the term. The backline appears solid even in the midst of Joe Rodon’s departure to Tottenham. However, outside of Andre Ayew there appears to be a dearth of options in the final third that could make-or-break a promotion bid.
Limited attacking options
Rhian Brewster’s arrival on loan from Liverpool last season provided major impetus for the second half of the campaign. After a bright start to the term, Swansea had dropped off the pace for the playoffs, but the forward’s ability in the final third allowed Cooper and his men to regain their footing to sneak into the playoffs at the death.
Brewster’s 10 goals were worth their weight in gold. However, the Swans were unable to retain his services as the Premier League and Sheffield United came calling, despite rumours of a potential return to the Liberty Stadium.
Jamal Lowe was signed from Wigan Athletic, while Viktor Gyokeres joined on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion. Lowe only managed six goals for the Latics in the Championship last term, and is hardly prolific in front of the net. Gyokeres has earned two caps for Sweden, scoring once in his fledgling career. He has shown bursts of potential, albeit not in England. Gyokeres notched seven strikes for FC St. Pauli in 2 Bundesliga last season in 26 appearances.
Cooper would settle for that return from a player making his way in the game, but Swansea’s need could be greater to ease the burden on Ayew. The Ghanaian was outstanding last season, scoring 16 times in the Championship, including the playoffs, along with a brace in the Carabao Cup. He has already made a solid start to the current campaign, but the Swans cannot afford for his standards to slip.
Do the Swans need another goalscorer?
Not necessarily! Swansea can take a lot of heart from the performances of Leeds and West Brom last season in their bid to win promotion to the Premier League, being backed in the football betting odds at 4/1 to reach the top flight, as of 30th October. Both sides that finished in the top two scored 77 goals and did not have a 20-goal striker in their ranks.
Patrick Bamford led the way for the Whites with 16 goals, while Hal Robson-Kanu and Charlie Austin were joint-top scorers with the Baggies with 10 apiece. Fulham were not that prolific either, mustering only 64 goals over the course of the campaign – only two more than Swansea. As long as Ayew maintains his standards of scoring in and around the 15-goal mark – the rest of the team only needs to support the forward.
Lowe has pushed on in his development and could approach double figures to ease the pressure on Ayew. Pablo Hernandez was Leeds’ second-highest goalscorer with nine strikes, and that total would fit the bill from the Swansea forward. Gyokeres could find his form with an adjustment to life in the Championship and also push double figures in the mould of Austin and Robson-Kanu.
Then there are contributions from the middle of the park. Yan Dhanda, Wayne Routledge, Morgan Gibbs-White and Kasey Palmer all need to improve their levels of production. Dhanda scored three times last season, and if he were to up that production beyond five goals – it could make all the difference down the stretch.
It will certainly take a team effort for the Swans to realise their dream of the Premier League, but with Cooper, they have an excellent tactician and motivator that can generate results. Whether it’s enough to earn promotion remains to be seen.