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Whoscored: Pleasant early Prem surprises

Southampton Sep 26, 2014
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Mar 31, 2014

Swansea's quality resurfacing as health improves


It shouldn't really be surprising that Swansea finally managed to beat Norwich 3-0 on Saturday. For the first time in a long time, the Swans are more or less playing with a full squad, having endured a treatment room carousel which has seen one or more key men miss games every week since last September. As the players have returned, so too has the style, the confidence and fluidity, which despite being a trademark of Swansea football, has been in short supply in recent weeks. - Report: Swansea 3-0 Norwich City Manager Garry Monk is now so spoiled for choice that central midfielder Jonathan de Guzman has lately been starting on the flank to accommodate returning central players Jonjo Shelvey and Michu in the same formation. On Saturday, all three players were directly involved in one or more of the goals, interchanging pieces working around the immovable Wilfried Bony as a central pivot. Bony himself didn't score, but still dictated much of the Swans' attacking play. His standing backheel "rabona" to lay on de Guzman's second goal was the latest highlight from a reel already full of unexpected "elasticos" and no-look flicks; Bony is capable of the kind of ball skill you just don't see from big men, and is offering Swansea something which few other players can: not just a central focus and a finisher, but an unexpected playmaker and conduit through which Swansea can channel attack after attack. The striker's awe-inspiring physical strength means his team-mates can be confident he will win and retain the majority of balls played to his feet, which allows Swansea's auxiliary attacking players to benefit, as was the case Saturday with two of Swansea's goals. Bony is a target man par excellence, but with the additional secret skill and guile of a No.10. Sizable offers will test the Swans' resolve this summer, but the Ivorian is already worth twice what Swansea paid, and more besides. How much de Guzman might be worth is also a question worth asking. The Dutchman has taken a while to win over the Swansea fans, and his game has improved immeasurably over the past six months. No longer nearly as much of a defensive liability as he had been previously, the midfielder has even been missed when he's not been in the line-up; I can't help but feel Swansea would have fared better against Everton with a full 90 minutes from de Guzman instead of a late 20 from the bench. On Saturday, despite being started as a nominal winger, de Guzman continued to support the attack with timely runs from deep. It was his lofted ball down the flank which started the move from which he would score his first -- latching onto a scruffy Michu knock-down from deep -- and it was another run from deep and quick-fire connection with Bony which led to the second. Without de Guzman's opportunism, Swansea would probably not have out-shot Norwich 2-1, and certainly wouldn't have either of his goals. The Dutchman was once bought for seven million pounds; how much his parent club Villarreal will hold out for this summer should Swansea want to buy remains to be seen, but it is certainly worth an enquiry. For now, Swansea will just be happy that de Guzman -- and his team-mates -- have hit their stride again at the right time. Saturday's win took Swansea above Norwich in the standings, putting another team between them and the drop zone. Even more encouraging was the almost total lack of anxiety from Swansea during the game -- at no point did the Swans look nervous about the magnitude of the proverbial six-pointer. Perhaps matching Arsenal last week re-asserted the Swans' self-belief, or perhaps it's just that with a healthy squad, the Swans' true quality is finally resurfacing. The work isn't done yet, but -- barring the Chelsea match -- Swansea's final fixtures are not especially difficult. All that remains is for Monk to keep his side on an even keel to see out the season in safety.