The dust seems to have barely settled on the Swans Boxing Day humiliation at Southampton. A 5-0 scoreline could simply have been worse and highlighted much that is wrong with the Swans squad at this point in time.
The ease in which a Saints side, which barely seemed to get out of lower gears, brushed past the Swans was alarming to say the least and, when looked back upon, could easily be a catalyst to a better second half of the season with new manager Luke Williams now firmly in situ in SA1.
Since that hammering the Swans have taken points at both Coventry and Birmingham as well as secured wins over West Brom (League) and Moreambe (Cup) at home which has eased the pressure more than a little over a league position that was starting to look more than a little nervy.
The return fixture against the Saints – one which will see Russell Martin make his return to the Swansea.com Stadium – should prove to be one of our toughest of the season with the Saints unbeaten in all competitions since 23rd September – a twenty match run that has seen them secure a victory fourteen times.
45 points from the last 57 available has closed the gap on second place Ipswich to jut three points and a scoreline almost as comprehensive as the one on Boxing Day could even lift them into the top two for a period at least this weekend.
The Swans could have secured a win at Birmingham last weekend had it not been for a 95th minute equaliser that denied us a maximum return and with a strong home crowd behind us on the weekend it could play a factor that may see us upset the form book and continue our unbeaten run in 2024.
Luke Williams was frustrated at the weekend that he did not start his league record in SA1 with a win and told the press after the game “I think we made a mistake trying to defend the lead, because as soon as they equalised we nearly scored straight away as we went back on the front foot.
“So I need to encourage the players to keep playing football in the same way, because if it’s good enough to get us in the lead, it’s good enough to stay in front.”
Trying to defend leads have been a problem that sits with Swansea City long before Williams arrived here and if he can eradicate that desire we seem to have at times of getting our noses in front then it will be a welcome addition.
Incredibly the Swans have dropped twenty-three points from winning positions this season the most of any club in the Championship and you don’t need to be a detailed analyst to realise that if we could even plug the gap on half those points then our league position would be one thinking of a challenge for the play offs not one sat relatively comfortably in mid table.
Interestingly Southampton are not immune to letting leads slip themselves having given up fifteen points from winning position this season, more than any other side above the Swans currently in the table. That said with more than half the clubs in the division being significantly better than the Swans in defending leads they work hard to earn it will be a key part of the Williams strategy going forward in terms of improvement for the club.
Anything other than a Swans win on the weekend will see Southampton set a new club record for an unbeaten run – Saturday’s 4-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday was their 20th consecutive game unbeaten equalling a record that was set back in 1921/22 – an achievement that did not go without comment from Russell Martin after the weekend game. “They’ve made a little bit of history today in equalling something,” said Martin. “I want them to go and break that next week, and be the team that does it.
“I said to them before the game, ‘the biggest incentive for us is to be second at the end of the game’, so from where we were 19 games ago to where we are now is just incredible really, from everyone – the staff, the players, I’m so proud of them, so grateful to them, because it takes a huge amount of effort.”
Football has habits of throwing out these little quirks when records are there to be broken and there would be more than a small amount of satisfaction within the home support this weekend should it be the Swans that end the run of their former manager. Maybe even more so after the humiliation of three weeks ago.
The Saints were active in the transfer market this week with the loan capture of Joe Rothwell from Bournemouth confirmed yesterday until the end of the season with the player clear that he has arrived at St Mary’s on a mission to return them to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
“I think [my experience] could be massive, especially going down the stretch,” he told the Southampton official website. “When it’s just relentless, games Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Wednesday every week. And as footballers that’s what you want. You want to be playing games all the time.
“So as I say, hopefully I can come in and use my experience of playing in this league and help out and get us over the line, that’s the end goal. That’s the only [reason] why the manager wants to bring me here is to hopefully help the team and get them back up to where they should be.”
The final word for now though goes to Josh Tymon who highlighted what many saw on the weekend that the arrival of Luke Williams had changed things after the disappointment of the Michael Duff reign in Swansea. Early days with the manager only in position for just over a week before the Birmingham game but enough for Tymon to highlight the things that have changed.
“It was different to how we’ve been playing this season, and I think the fans will go home with a lot of optimism and knowing how we’re going to be playing moving forward.
“You could see the patterns that we were trying to implement, and in time we will get better.
“There’s been a lot of information, but to be fair to the lads, they’ve taken everything on that he has asked us to do so far, we will get better with time. The mood around the training ground has been brilliant.”
Saturday’s game will be broadcast live on Sky Sports with a 12.30pm kick off.