Swansea Knocked Back Down With a Bang
St James Park
16th April 2016
Swansea City were on a high last Saturday after a 1-0 win against Chelsea at home - their first victory in the Premier League against the Blues - saw them reach the magical 40-point mark for safety. The performance and formation used met the fans' desire, and from then we hoped we could kick on and finish the season strongly.
Oh how we were wrong. Even a point today would have taken us all the way up to 11th - nose-bleed territory for us considering how the season has gone. But instead, around 1,000 of our fans made the long trip North to watch a performance that was country miles away from the levels of desire and effort we saw last week.
Newcastle wanted it so much more than us from the kick off. They were tactically better than us too as Benitez did a good job to set up his side to close off the gaps in the middle to stop us from playing a good passing game, and also got 2 or 3 players in wide areas to stop the likes of Montero and Ayew becoming a threat. The latter was all too often operating in the middle which left Rangel on his own down the right.
Former Swan Jonjo Shelvey was dropped to the bench and wasn't given the opportunity to try and get one over on his former club. Though he did make a substitute appearance, and in the little time he had on the pitch, he managed to get a stamp on Routledge that went unnoticed to the referee.
Swansea struggled to cope with Newcastle's early energy levels and pressure. Possession was lost far too often, barely two or three passes were put together, and it allowed the home side to keep pushing forward in their opposition's half.
Fortunately, the Magpies finishing early on let them down, but fortunately for them, our ability - or lack of it - to defend corners was back on top form. For the first time this season we conceded twice from a corner - that woeful record of goals conceded from that particular set piece rising to 12 today.
Considering our awful form too when we do concede from corners, losing 8 of those 11 games where we've done so, there was a sense of defeat pretty much as soon as we conceded the opening goal from an in-swinging cross from the left. Sigurdsson left his man, he wasn't even marking the goalscorer goal-side to begin with. Fabianski didn't commit himself to the ball either as he watched it ricochet off him and into the net.
It's not to sound pessimistic when I say there was a sense of defeat already after that first goal. It's just the fact that that seems to always happen when we concede from a dreaded corner. The Swans had 66% possession in the game but only managed a single shot on target - the rest were great chances that should have results in goals, or at least forced the goalkeeper into making a save.
66% possession mattered for nothing. It was tippy tappy passing for passing sake a lot of the time. It was comfortable passing that didn't pose a problem for the opposition. It was far too slow and pedestrian and it reminded us of what the football was like earlier in the year. How the Swans could go back to performing like that so soon after our best performance of the season last week tells you a lot of why we've had problems this season. Consistency has been a major issue, but not only that - the desire and effort has to be better because a carbon copy of that winning performance against Chelsea would surely have been enough to get at least a point today.
Jefferson Montero and sub Bafetimbi Gomis had the best chances as we attempted to make a comeback in the second half, but our poor finishing, and even worse defensive play was punished later on as Newcastle added to their tally. The 3-0 scoreline might have flattered the home side - but the nature of the defeat and all-round poor performances were quite embarrassing.
Montero struggled for most of the game, Newcastle managed him well, often outnumbering him, but Taylor has never proved to be a helpful attacking partner for the winger. Ayew too was ineffective. He was all too often playing inside, sometimes even joining Montero on the left, and when the team attempted to switch the play, Rangel was left all alone on the opposite flank.
Benitez's side began to sit deeper during the second half as they looked to defend a 1-0 goal lead, but as Swansea missed chances and passes were intercepted, this allowed the hosts to counter attack, win a couple of corners and eventually kill the game off.
It's a huge relief that we've picked up some vital wins in the last few weeks that's for sure. Not too long ago, this game was looking like being a massive 6 pointer - thankfully it wasn't. You'd like to think though that if it was, the performance would have far better.
It's Leicester next up - away again next Sunday - who knows what Swansea City will turn up for that one?