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I think Jackareme's assessment is spot on. Bidwell's been great offensively and solid defensively out of possession. It's in possession in deep areas he's lacked composure, and his stats don't lie. Hopefully he'll settle into the Swansea Way of playing with time. Certainly, if he can improve his passing game and maintain his performance levels in other areas he will be a terrific asset.
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.
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:
Comfortably A+. The idea that any half decent manager could have kept us up conveniently ignores the massive development we've seen in so many of our players under Potter's management. Grimes, James, Rodon, Roberts - to name but four have improved massively under Potter. Van De Hoorn's distribution in the Premier League was poor - under Potter he's improved this aspect of his play massively. When did VDH go on mazy runs in the Premier League?
Richards and Toshack have done a good job for sure, but I can't really say, watching the U23s, that I was confident that any of the regulars last season would make the grade at Championship level. That they have done so well, and shown clear signs of progression from the start of the season to its end (Grimes being the shining example) is largely down to Potter's influence.
Imagine if we'd kept Carvahal on as manager. I reckon we'd have been relegated, or struggled at best.
We are so lucky to have Potter. The big question for me is whether he has, in Kyle Macaulay, the right man to recruit budget signings from obscure European leagues to match what Norwich achieved under Stuart Webber. That, more than anything else, will determine how things go next season.
One other thing that may help the club's cause is Dan's international prospects. Giggs has made it pretty clear that he will select players who are playing regularly and on form - hence Lawrence's selection over Williams. As things stand James has a good chance of being selected ahead of Wilson for the Croatia game in June, assuming Ramsey returns from injury. But it's a pretty marginal thing.
Should James move to another club, especially one in the Premier League, he might not get game time, and his prospects for selection for the qualifiers and (hopefully) tournament may suffer as a result. It's not as if Wales don't have plenty of options wide left, with Tom Lawrence and Wilson challenging for a place out wide. If James is smart he'll play the long game and sign a contract with a release clause. If he were to star at the Euros he could be in line for a very lucrative move.