After the disappointment of yesterday’s 1 nil defeat at a seemingly revitalised Aston Villa, question marks were raised by some Swans fans about the constant changes to the starting 11 by manager Graham Potter, who has handed 12 league debuts to players thus far this season.
In all honesty, the season so far could probably be best described as a mixed bag. A mixed bag however that is considerably better than what a lot of us were thinking it would be when it all kicked off in August. We have certainly avoided the car crash that it looked like we could potentially have been heading for. It is clear we will be unlikely to now “do a Sunderland”.
Mid-table would be a long way from disaster and could be put down as consolidation. The bookies have us about 9th favourites to get promoted, which seems about right, but for anyone feeling bullish, BetStars has us at 50’s to win the league.
If we are going to make a fist of this season, and at the very least get into the play-offs, a look at the upcoming fixtures suggests that the next 6 games are crucial.
All 6 are winnable. After dropping points in games we should not have, it is vital we take – at the very least – 30 points from those 6 matches.
People say there is always one team that makes a late run into the play-offs. In reality, that is no longer the case. The top 8 (even 12 teams) in the Championship are all very, very capable sides, the majority with budgets and players that would not have been out of place in the country’s top tier only a handful of seasons ago.
You just cannot afford to have a gap between you and them going into the new year. Keeping pace is difficult enough.
Dropping points in games like the Ipswich one (admittedly, their position belied the strength of their team) is simply something you cannot afford to do.
And then of course there is the rollercoaster/lottery/horror – you can choose your own description – of the play-offs themselves. But we will cross that bridge, if and when we get to it.
Another side currently sitting in mid-table in what is their first season back in the Championship. They of course came into the league via the other entrance, but Tony Mowbray has done well, and their performances could perhaps have garnered a few more points (where have we heard that before?). They are a hard-working team, with players who are playing with the confidence that comes with winning games, carried on from last season. That is something you cannot accuse our starting 11 of, but despite everything we should have enough to get all 3 points. Let’s just hope that the former player curse doesn’t strike again, with Danny Graham finding the back of the net on Tuesday evening!
Reading are the perfect example of how quickly it can all go wrong in this league and should serve as a warning to everyone who only thinks about getting out of the Championship via the upwards route. After finishing third in 2016/17, they lost on penalties to Huddersfield in the play-off final. Last season they finished 20th, 3 points above Barnsley in 22nd, and they appear to be trying to emulate last years performance this time around. They are leaking goals, while being unable to find the net at the other end of the pitch. After the Ipswich game no one will be taking any game for granted, but 3 points is a must – especially with former Swans boss Paul Clement in charge of the Royals.
Rotherham United (A)
Paul Warne’s team are in danger of becoming a yo-yo club, but many would argue that is still punching above their weight. After gaining promotion via the play-offs last season, they have found it hard going. It is our first visit to the New York Stadium, and anything less than 3 points would be a dent in our hopes of a play-off push.
Bolton Wanderers (A)
After surviving last season by the skin of their teeth, so far this term has seen them improve slightly. Goals are hardly a prominent feature of the Trotters’ games, but they needed to shore things up and, with talks of takeovers, there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Another winnable game.
Norwich City (H)
Norwich fans would have hoped to have seen their team return to the EPL by now. Instead, their parachute payments have gone, though many of their high earners still remain (on the bench, loaned out, training with the reserves). It is another lesson of what can happen in this league. Their manager was under pressure recently, but a turn around in form has saved his skin for the time being, and raised their fan’s expectations. Erratic at the best of times, a hard one to predict, but like the previous games, if we are serious, we cannot drop points against the likes of Norwich.
West Brom (H)
The hardest match on paper. Many saw it as a huge gamble keeping Darren Moore on as manager, but he has repaid the board’s faith in him. They have been scoring goals for fun and look like they could very well return to the Premiership at the first time of asking. A repeat of last April’s 1 -1 would not be a disaster.
By the time these fixtures are done and dusted, the start of busy December – with 6 games to play before the New Year – will be upon us, and we are more than likely at that stage to know what 2019 will bring.
Our league position at that time, is also likely to dictate (for the owners at least) what the club’s dealings in the January transfer window, which opens at midnight on Tuesday, 1 January 2019, will be.
Of course, only time will tell if the board will back Potter’s rebuilding project with new acquisitions, or once again rely on the Swans Under-23 products for re-enforcements, as has been the case so far this season.