Swans Off Bottom After Stunning Late Win at Watford
30th December 2017
Swansea City lifted themselves off the bottom of the Premier League with a stunning late win at Watford.
It was our first goals and first points in the Premier League at Vicarage Road, but the game looked like it was going the same way as so many before them - a first goal conceded and another defeat. But out of nowhere - moments after a huge save from Fabianski in a close one on one, the Swans came to life as Ayew equalised before Narsingh sent the travelling Jacks into raptures behind the goal to give us a huge 3 points that narrows the gap to safety from five points to two.
Carlos Carvalhal only had a few training sessions to work with his players, but he was bold with his line-up, adopting a flat 4-4-2 - adding to the likes of a 4-4-2 diamond, 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 which have also been used this season.
Naming no less than four central midfielders in the starting line-up - Mesa, Carroll, Clucas and Sanches - it had us all trying to guess exactly where each of them would play across the midfield line.
Clucas started on the right, Sanches on the left with Mesa and Carroll in the middle. It didn`t really work, Sanches kept coming inside, leaving Olsson on his own down the left and we were never able to get the ball into the two frontmen of Abraham and Ayew. They were both isolated up top given the gaps between our lines.
There was more of a zip to our passes, they were played into feet quicker but there was still a vulnerability about us in dangerous areas. Too often we gave away possession and the early goal conceded was typical of what we`ve become so used to this season.
Fernande tried to win a long direct ball but he was outmuscled in doing so. The ball then comes across to Watford`s left side, Naughton gets caught out between deciding whether to press the player in possession or follow his man. He does neither, allowing Watford to get in behind him. Fabianski failed to deal with the first effort on goal well enough, as he parried the ball right in front of the goal and nicely for Carrillo to pick his spot.
Swansea`s only moment in the first half came when Ayew raced forward inside Watford`s half, before finding a bit of space to try and repeat his goal against Crystal Palace, but this his arrowed, diagonal effort towards the top left corner of the goal came off the top of the crossbar.
The quick, one-touch passing just before the chance was very welcomed and something we`ve been missing, but we didn`t see much more of that in the 80-or-so minutes that followed.
Watford rued missed opportunities throughout the game. We were gifting them counter-attacking opportunities and while we were quick to get back and recover, Watford still should have made more use of them.
Sanches was unsurprisingly back in the starting line-up, but he struggled out wide on the left. His first 45 minutes can be summed up with his well over-hit free kick, which was rather shocking given how much he overhit it from a simple deadball situation. Fortunately though, Carvalhal saw the need to change things around slightly at the restart, and moved him into a central position as Mesa made way for Narsingh`s introduction - adding some much needed pace to our play.
Watford stepped up a gear early in the second half, and they were looking to do what so many other teams have done against us this season, score a goal with the first 10 minutes after the restart. There was that feeling that a second was coming as they began to control things. It didn`t, and as the game went on, the Swans finally began to show some potential going forward.
McBurnie came on just before the hour-mark, replacing a disappointing Tammy Abraham who is still struggling to make an impact after showing early potential. The youngster, who started at Anfield on Boxing Day, was already getting involved in proceedings, coming deep and wide to help keep things ticking over.
Sanches also grew into the game, making some promising runs into space he found through the middle, but he kept going a few touches too far and losing possession. Narsingh was also hit and miss with his runs down the right, but at least we had a few players on the pitch now who were at least trying to get forward and beat an opposing defender.
Ayew also found some space down the right on the counter, but the move finally came down to nothing.
McBurnie was then well placed to head the ball back from the direction it came from inside the box, and Ayew - with one leg offside - finished from close range to claim what we thought was a crucial point in our survival push.
We didn`t sit back though like we might have done under Paul Clement, and amazingly - would you believe - we found ourselves in another goalscoring position - despite there being only about three minutes of normal time remaining.
The Swans were actually applying pressure on the opposition`s backline in the final few minutes of a game - not something we`ve been used to at all this season. The ball dropped for Dyer outside the box, hislong range fizzing, low effort was only parried by the goalkeeper, and Narsingh was quickest to react to net the rebound. The players went off to celebrate by the away dugout, showing the sort of passion that we`ve needed for months.
The new manager effect was in full flow. The three points were priceless, and hopefully the Swans can take confidence from that into the next few games. We`ve failed to do so so far, our previous wins this season haven`t been followed up, but maybe - just maybe - we might do so under a new manager - Carlos Carvalhal.