Swansea still lacking at spots
Swansea have had a great start to the season, but if we're being completely honest, the team have yet to come up against a really strong opponent. A historical opening-day victory over Manchester United has been put in some perspective by United's subsequent results, while relegation favourites Burnley were truthfully unlucky not to draw after last week's second half.
Saturday's match against West Brom will be the Swans' last litmus test before the transfer window closes on Monday. Manager Garry Monk will have just two more days afterwards to bring in whatever reinforcements he sees necessary, and with that in mind, I'm hoping Albion put in their performance of the season. I'd like to see these Swans fully tested while Monk still has some time to patch any holes.
It's already fairly clear the Swans could use more bodies at wing and at left-back. With Jefferson Montero, Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge already on board, Monk will only need a depth acquisition out wide, but left-back might need something more.
It's hard not to feel a little bit sorry for current left-back Neil Taylor. When Ben Davies moved to Spurs earlier this summer, Taylor finally got his old job back, and most people -- myself included -- expected a smooth transition. There never used to be much between the two players in terms of ability, after all.
However, Taylor has been fairly rotten so far this season. He was clearly targeted as a weak link by Man United boss Louis van Gaal, and Taylor was tormented into a yellow card and early substitution by Adnan Januzaj, and then outplayed by replacement Dwight Tiendalli, who is normally a right-back. Not exactly a power moment for Taylor.
Monk knows he needs better from the Welshman, and it could be that a strong new signing forces Taylor back to understudy status. Having gotten his wish to be a first-team player again, Taylor pretty much has one more game to prove he can handle it.
Meanwhile, Monk seems to have convinced himself that his midfield is set, when it isn't. Swansea have six men in the squad to cover three midfield positions, which satisfies the "two players for every position" depth requirement. But are they the right players? I'd argue no.
Jonjo Shelvey, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Ki Sung-Yeung and Leon Britton are the established names, with Jay Fulton and on-loan Tom Carroll making up the numbers. If I asked you to play "spot the ball-winner" from that bunch, you might be as flummoxed as Monk will be when he has to figure out how to stop Chelsea playing through his soft centre in the first game after the window closes.
These are all good players, no doubt, but the balance of skills could be better. Right now, it is hard to think of a single ball-winner among the entire Swansea squad, let alone the midfield. Monk's focus on finesse over ferocity means that while Swansea won't cough up possession too often, they'll be hard-pressed (and have to press hard) to win it back when they do.
Poorer teams will make plenty of unforced errors, but better sides won't, and by not installing a more imposing presence in front of the defence, the Swans are introducing a weakness where there needn't be one. For that reason, I hope West Brom come to play on Saturday, because now is the last chance for Monk to find out just how watertight his side are. I'm sure it's not too late to bring Benjamin Stambouli over. And he can play left-back, too.