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Nice to see a nuanced discussion, rather than the usual binary borefest.
I have to admit to being mildly concerned about the way we're playing. We shouldn't attach too much significance to the results - after all Norwich and Sheffield United were in the lower half of the table at the same stage last season. We also know, from Monk's time in charge that pragmatic football can be successful in the short term but can simultaneously undermine the whole club's footballing philosophy in the long term.
It's worth noting the following:
Bidwell's been a decent signing, especially for a free. He's pretty solid and reliable defensively, and he's made a significant contribution to our attacking potential with his crossing ability. A pragmatic signing you could say given that we've struggled to deliver consistent quality crosses into the box for years, and we have good heading quality in the form of Baston. Trouble is Bidwell is not a Swansea Way player. His pass completion this season is only 64.2%, compared to Roberts' 86.8% - a huge difference. He tends to loft hopeful balls down the line too often for my liking - a tactic that may have worked when James was with us, but is futile with current personnel.
Perhaps we can accommodate the likes of Bidwell, and certainly at the moment I think he brings more positives than negatives to the team. The problem arises, as it did in the Monk era, is if we make too many compromises with team selection, and select too many players whose main attributes are not those of a Swansea Way player. The danger is that you end up losing the critical mass of players comfortable with a one-touch close passing game that you need to sustain the Swansea Way of playing.
Fulton is another player over whom there's a question mark in this regard. He's had a good start to the season, and is a good all-rounder in the Jack Cork mould. But like Jack Cork his touch isn't the most assured, which is reflected in his pass completion of 77.4%, which compares unfavourably with Grimes' 84.5% and Byers' 86.2%.
I thought we were lucky last night, we could have conceded a penalty at 1-1 and were fortunate to be gifted a penalty of our own by a stupid challenge. I'm still cautiously optimistic about this season, but it's how we play that will determine our long term prospects. On that front it's right to hold Cooper's feet to the fire.
I'm very much in agreement Jackareme with regards to your views on McBurnie, Grimes and Rodon. Another reason for not selling McBurnie is because he comes across as a strong positive personality, who I get the feeling is an important figure in the dressing room. He would be a massive loss in so many ways.
Unfortunately, based on the Woods and James fiascos I suspect we'd sell McBurnie for anything north of £15 million, Grimes for £10 million plus, and Rodon for a similar amount. Yet, as long as they stay clear of injury I'm confident that in a year's time all three will be worth more - in Rodon's case substantially more.
I also agree on Roberts, even though it pains me to say it, given he's local and such a strong personality. If anyone has to leave his is the position we have the strongest cover for, also I don't think he's going to appreciate as much as the others, although I'd love to be proven wrong on that. I just feel he's approaching his optimal performance level, and he's older than the others - so that he's not far off his peak value.
I'd be sorry to see Celina go too, but again I agree that he's probably less important than the aforementioned trio. Jonny Williams would be the obvious like-for-like replacement, low risk on cost but high risk on the injury front. We also have the likes of Byers (who I don't rate as a deep-lying midfielder and is a proper number 10), McKay, Routledge and Dhanda who can all offer decent competition for Celina's position.
Hopefully the Ayews will continue to bang in the goals for Ghana and leave for a combined £20 million and we can then dig our heels in with regards to all of the youngsters. I'm not pinning my hopes on that outcome mind...
Norwich, in their first season under Webber and Farke finished 14th - so by the start of the 2018/19 season those two had a full season under their belts - and several of the players they brought in from abroad in their first season also had a season's experience. We're probably ahead of where they were then in terms of blooding youngsters, but given the absence of a recruitment team and the issues around the ways the owners have made several poor decisions I think this season is too early realistically for a promotion push. Had Potter remained then a play-off place, at the very least, would have been on the cards.
We really need to play the long game here and get a settled structure in place. That means finding a dynamic young HoR in the mould of Stuart Webber who buys into the Swansea Way completely. It also means that the owners continue to learn lessons from their mistakes. To be fair to them bringing in Potter (albeit probably at Huw's instigation), and now Cooper, showed that they'd learned from their mistake with Bradley. Potter could easily have gone to Stoke last summer - in which case I'm sure they would be back in the Premier League by now. But we took a gamble on him because he fitted the philosophy that brought us success when we were progressing as a club. The owners also need to learn from the mistake of nearly selling James on the cheap, and show more patience - if only because the evidence of James' transfer demonstrates that they we as a club and therefore them as owners, will be better off in the long run by selling players at their peak value.
If we have a good HoR in place in the next couple of weeks and he/she can hit the ground running then I wouldn't necessarily mind seeing one or perhaps even two of our youngsters leave, but only on the condition that we get top dollar for them and we bring in 5 or 6 quality players into the squad before the end of the transfer window. That's a massive ask, but our best chance of doing a Norwich. In any event we need to have some faith in the likes of Birch and Cooper that we're getting things back on track, and we need to cut them some slack.
Sorry to keep banging on about Norwich, but they really have set the template for other Championship clubs, especially clubs like ours that simply doesn't have the cash to splash on signings. Apart from bringing through the likes of Aarons, Lewis, Godfrey and Cantwell from their academy (all of whom played more than 50% of games in the Championship last season), they have done spectacularly well in terms of the players they've brought in - for very low fees.
Since this time last year Norwich brought in (figures from Transfermarkt): Leitner joined for 1.5 Million Euros from Augsburg, Pukki joined for free from Brondby, Buendia joined for 1.5 Million Euros from Getafe, Tim Krul joined from Brighton on a free transfer, Ben Marshall joined from Wolves for 1.7 Million Euros, and Rhodes joined from Sheffield Wednesday on loan. Only Marshall of the above didn't play a big part in Norwich's Championship winning side - and that was mainly down to the emergence of Aarons. To put the above in context, all of these players cost far less than Celina, and also cost less than Asoro (2.3 Million Euros).
If you look at the previous season, after Stuart Webber joined in April 2017, Norwich also signed the likes of: Zimmermann joined Jul 2017 for free from B Dortmund II, Trybull joined for free from Den Haag in August 2017, Vrancic joined from SV Darmstadt for 0.75 Million Euros in July 2017, Stiepermann joined from Bochum for 1.7 million Euros August 2017, Grant Hanley joined from Newcastle for 3.8 million Euros in August 2017. Only Hanley cost more than £1.5 million - the only Championship-sourced player (significant?), and the only disappointment.
Norwich have set the bar very high - but have at least shown how it's possible to achieve great success on a shoestring. Many of the elements that they had to achieve success (Category One academy, progressive footballing philosophy, Premier League training and physio/medical support) are in place at Swansea. The huge remaining missing piece in the jigsaw is the equivalent of Stuart Webber. Should we find someone with his drive, insight and capability we'll be flying.
If you can't be bothered to listening to Stuart Webber's interview in full (which incidentally is probably the most insightful thing I've ever heard that's relevant to Swansea's situation), then listen from 1:00:41 onwards - where he discusses recruitment specifically:
I would argue that the Head of Recruitment position is more important for our long-term success than the managerial one - important as that is too. Stuart Webber got two clubs promoted from the Championship - in Huddersfield and Norwich - without spending money that the clubs didn't have. A big factor in his success is his knowledge of foreign markets, both managerial and player-wise. His recognition that German football coaches have a far more rigorous preparation than their British counterparts was an important element in his ability to steal a march on his Championship counterparts, who are still over-reliant on under-prepared, often big-name ex-player, British coaches.
Although I'm confident that Birch and co appointed the best suited candidate of those interviewed it is a bit of a concern that only very few foreign coaches without extensive experience of British football featured amongst the runners and riders (e.g. Kasper Hjulmand). This perhaps reflects the narrowness of the experience of Birch, Curtis and Leon within the British game. Will the same scenario play out with regards to the Head of Recruitment position? I sincerely hope not. We really need to spread our net far and wide, and recruit internationally, if that's where the best candidate's experience lies. We may be lucky and land ourselves a Stuart Webber, with experience here and abroad - but failing that I'd rather see a HoR with an extensive contacts list abroad, and an in-depth understanding of under-appreciated markets (Scandinavia and eastern Europe) to complement Steve Cooper's contact list.
I strongly recommend the YouTube interview with Stuart Webber embedded in this article: https://trainingground.guru/articles/stuart-webber-climb-of-the-canaries . It's over an hour long, but well worth a listen, if only for the digs at the Cardiff approach to things.