Swans End Season With Solid Point vs Man City
15th May 2016
Swansea City ended their season with a very pleasing 1-1 draw against a Manchester City that had a top four spot to play for in the final game of the Premier League season.
With another four changes from the previous 4-1 win against West Ham, many outsiders and pundits might have expected a comfortable away victory. Pellegrini named his strongest side, while Guidolin was forced into giving goalkeeper Nordfeldt his League debut, while Kingsley and Amat were two other players at the back with a lack of experience this season.
In midfield, Leon Britton returned to a midfield trio alongside Leroy Fer and Jack Cork. Andre Ayew was up top once again while Jefferson Montero was back from injury to join Routledge on the wings.
Considering the amount of players out for the Swans, with a number of them kindly given time off for Euro 2016 preparations, it was an impressive and solid enough display without being spectacular. It was one that lacked attacking creativity as Ayew was often forced too deep to get involved leaving a lack of support further forward. Manchester City were, of course, a well drilled and organised side that doubled up in wide areas, meaning Montero and Routledge could never really form good attacking partnerships with their full backs.
Within 5 minutes, City were ahead and you might have thought that they could actually go on and win quite comfortable. With Mike Dean in charge, there had to be a bit of avoidable drama. The goal was a perfectly good one, yet Mike Dean had to firstly wave for a free kick, before then awarding the goal. The move started with Aguero down the left, he passed inside and made a free run into the box. Unmarked, he was able to receive a return pass and his first-time shot was saved before Iheanacho easily netted.
Swansea`s lack of attacking creativity through the middle suggested what they need to improve during the Summer, although Ayew is an option when the squad has quality strikers again. Had Gomis had been any good - and worth starting, Guidolin could have started him top with Ayew behind - to give the side a bit more attacking presence in midfield. Instead, the Swans had a trio of holding midfielders, with too much space between them and the lone striker. As previously mentioned, the wide players were often marked closely to limit their threat.
But what was pleasing about our play at times was our attempts at passing into space, and therefore forcing the player receiving the ball to move into that space. All too often, our play this season has been ball to feet, very little movement off the ball - making it very easy and predictable for the opposition to read. Play like this forced the opposition to move out of position, but this alone wasn`t enough to cause City too many problems.
Fortunately, after an improved spell that featured a few corners and free kicks, the Swans had another set piece in a decent shooting position. Rather than Kingsley floating in a ball towards the edge of the penalty area, this time Ayew tried his luck with a curling effort. Taking a huge deflection, it came off the head of a City player in the wall to leave Joe Hart rooted to the spot.
1-1 at half time - a scoreline we`d settle for, and one we were certainly happy to see unchanged at the full time whistle.
Manchester City didn`t quite look the same after the break. They were wasteful in front of goal and didn`t make use of the space they found in the final third. There were moments when you thought they had opened up the Swansea defence - enough to score a potential winner but they were let off by unusually poor finishing from Aguero. But having said that, the central defensive partnership of Fernandez and Amat looked solid once again. Both worked tirelessly, they were strong and intercepted passes well as the visitors had little to test them in the final 20-25 minutes.
They had lost their sharpness on the ball and they looked like they were happy enough to see out a draw - which was enough to guarantee Champions` League qualification for next season.
Trying to inspire some pace and more momentum in their attacking play, Guidolin replaced Routledge with Barrow just short of the hour-mark, but he couldn`t re-produce the recent form that has been so deserving of recent starts. You could argue that he deserved to keep his place ahead of the returning Montero, but on this display the Gambian couldn`t have too many complaints.
The Swans looked a solid but unspectacular outfit. But given the players available, it was a positive result as they look more capable and grinding out hard-fought results like these.
Finishing 12th is an excellent achievement given the troubles we`ve had and the genuine fears of relegation at the beginning of the year. But an improved run of results, consisting of four wins and a draw in the last 5 at home have been crucial.
Hopefully now Guidolin and his team can take that form into next season. He`s got his work cut out during the Summer. There`s no lack of dead wood that needs to go and will need replacing, but the Italian coach has proved during his career that he has the ability to get the best out of his squad.