Swansea's String Quintet
Despite the loss of striking tandem Jason Scotland and Jordi Gomez in the Summer and a second long term injury to their star midfielder, Ferrie Bodde in September, Paulo Sousa has kept Swansea simmering like a good pot of Portuguese cozido. Wisely deciding to let Roberto Martinez’s fluid, 4-5-1 brew grow to maturity, the benefits of a light touch have been exemplified by a steady sweep into the play off placings and a record of just five defeats at today’s official half way point.
At Reading today, the Swans took the game to the Royals in the first half, with Leon Britton enjoying the freedom of Royal Berkshire and reminding us of his dexterity in possession. Such was the Wandsworth man’s influence that Brian McDermott was forced to employ the ever excellent Gylfi Sigurdsson in a man-marking role in order to negate the impression Britton was having on the game. Ahead, the surging Darren Pratley confirmed the ex-Fulham man’s thoroughbred status, with a goal reminiscent of Stevie Gerrard at his best and intricate link-up play with wingers Nathan Dyer and former Ajax wunderkid Cedric van der Gun, as well as the cultured Andrea Orlandi. At times, this quintet threatened to pull Reading apart like a turkey’s carcass. Dyer in particular was everywhere, operating in an apparent free role, swapping flanks with the Dutchman in the first period and spending much of his time after the break more centrally. Why Southampton ever let him go remains a conundrum.
If the midfield is the engine room for most teams, for Swans it provides almost the entirety of their industrial capital; but the club also possesses two buccaneering and industrious full backs in Federico Bessone and the now seasoned Angel Rangel, over a century of appearances in white behind him. Centre backs Ashley Williams and Alan Tate provide a telling combination of grit and that teamwide characteristic of mobility, and keeper Dorus de Vries towers over the penalty area at set pieces like a Lighthouse off the Mumbles.
So, it’s perhaps up front alone that improvement is required. Craig Beattie has perhaps exceeded expectations at the Liberty with some sock-discarding displays (albeit relatively goal free), but on this occasion, his absence allowed the patient Basque Gorka Pintado one of his infrequent starts. A hot scoring streak in his time at Granada (in the shadow of the Alhambra, not the Coronation Street set), have not translated to the fields of South Wales and abuzz with his highlighted hair, the impression here was of style over substance, especially as Royals grew to boss the game after the break. That said, get a convincing forward, and this team could be well nigh unplayable.