Swansea set for interesting summer
Swansea made sure of their Premier League safety with last week's convincing 4-1 romp over Aston Villa, so it was surprising to see manager Garry Monk field a more or less full strength starting XI for the 1-0 loss to Southampton on Saturday.
Granted, more points at this stage would mean a better finishing position with roughly 750,000 pounds difference in prize money between mid-table places and a couple more wins wouldn't hurt Monk's chances of being named the Swans manager proper for next season but surely this was a great opportunity for Monk to give fringe players and prospects the chance to impress instead?
Monk seems clearly the odds on favourite for the job regardless of results at this stage but less certain are the futures of January's short-term additions Marvin Emnes and David N'Gog and Michael Laudrup signings such as Jose Canas, Alejandro Pozuelo, and Roland Lamah.
Emnes -- on loan from Middlesbrough but available to sign as a free agent this summer -- did get a cameo from the bench and has looked the most useful of Swansea's fringe players recently, earning two late penalties in recent games. A former striker converted to a deeper attacking midfielder during his time at Middlesbrough, Emnes seems at least as useful as Lamah on the left flank and can play behind the striker or as an outright striker.
Lamah has barely had a look under Monk's leadership and although the Belgian winger is on loan until the end of next season, it seems only a dearth of better options or an excellent pre-season showing from Lamah will keep him in Swansea -- and that's if he lasts long enough to feature in next season's preparations.
N'Gog -- rumoured to have cost Swansea one million pounds for a six month contract -- has played all of forty five minutes football for Swansea and looks unlikely to be offered a new contract, having barely had any chance to show what he's capable of. Canas and Pozuelo have been marginalised under Monk, and seem from the outside to be players who the Swans would be happy to part with for a reasonable price.
That's a lot of players who could conceivably leave the team over the summer and they would need to be replaced. It is understandable that Monk did not wish to risk fringe players in competitive matches while Swansea were still battling for survival but with top flight football assured, it might be prudent for Monk to have used the remaining games this season to exercise the full extent of his squad.
Monk could offer a last chance for certain individuals to impress, show their value and earn some trust. Similarly, it might be nice to see more of highly regarded prospect Jay Fulton, who made his debut as a late substitute from the bench last week. Perhaps Fulton could have been given 30 minutes, or even a full half on Saturday? And hasn't Neil Taylor's patience earned him a start?
It seems likely that not many of the first team regulars would have objected to a reshuffle -- Swansea have played more games this season by far than most of their Premier League rivals and with one or two players also likely to be involved in the World Cup, an early rest might have been welcomed.
Of course, Saturday marked Swansea's final home game of the season and the fans might not have appreciated the business-first mentality which playing a heavily rotated side would have represented. To that end, Saturday's fond farewell was more of a family outing, a celebration, even if the football nor the result lived up to the billing.
Perhaps Monk plans to use next week's away game at Sunderland to experiment with his squad instead. It's a chance he would do well to take -- the World Cup will suspend most top flight transfer business for an extra month this summer, which puts a greater premium on preparation for next season. With the right players in place, there's no reason Swansea shouldn't target a top ten finish next time round.