Swansea should turn to youth in Premier League run-in
Having just about survived an immensely disappointing season, Swansea could now face one final humiliation -- ending the campaign on a five-game losing streak. Recent defeats to both Newcastle and Leicester have left the Swans with three matches to restore their pride. An away game versus West Ham and a final home stand against Manchester City await, but not before Liverpool visit the Liberty on Sunday. None of those fixtures seem particularly winnable.
Liverpool's concentration on their two Europa League semifinal legs against Villarreal which book-end the Swansea match, so Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is likely to field a weakened side. However, even Liverpool's weakest possible starting XI could probably get a result against Newcastle, and a full-strength Swansea were roundly beaten by the Geordies. Perhaps the Swans should forget about getting a result on Sunday and use the game to achieve something more valuable instead -- such as giving their own backup and youth players a chance to impress.
Left-back Stephen Kingsley has already been tested at Premier League level and acquitted himself well against a difficult opponent when Swansea upset Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates. With summer signing Franck Tabanou out on loan and seemingly unlikely to return to the club after having only put in a handful of below-par performances in Swansea, Kingsley should push Neil Taylor for starts next season.
Kenji Gorre should also be under consideration. The 21-year-old Dutchman passed through both Manchester clubs' academies before arriving in Swansea as a free agent in 2013. Generally listed as a left winger, he can play on either flank or centrally, and if he were put into a first-team rotation along with Mo Barrow and Jefferson Montero, Swansea would have a potent mix of pace, technical skill and youthful enthusiasm behind the striker, with the masterful Gylfi Sigurdsson as the centrepiece. Gorre had scored five goals in a five-game winning streak for Swansea's under 21s before the streak ended with last Saturday's 2-1 playoffs defeat to Aston Villa, and he should be given another chance to show if he can also excel at the Premier League level.
If giving minutes to young players isn't in manager Francesco Guidolin's plans, then fans might at least see some tactical enterprise. The Italian has so far switched between a defensive diamond formation and a classic 4-2-3-1, but neither shape has yielded particularly exciting football. Against Leicester last Sunday, for example, Guidolin used the diamond in the first half, the 4-2-3-1 in the second half, and effectively lost both 2-0. Swansea have managed two whole shots on target in their last two games combined. It might be time for something new.
Since there's a chance Guidolin won't be returning as Swansea's manager next season, he might prefer to keep the tactics simple and the team competitive (although the last two matches have been anything but), so he can leave with the reputation-enhancing accomplishment of having saved the club from relegation. He probably doesn't want to tarnish his good work with three games of bizarre tactics and strange lineups, although fans would certainly appreciate some excitement before the season ends.
If nothing else, giving the youngsters some competitive playing time now will make the job easier for the next manager. He'll have three games of meaningful video to study those players, which could help them force their way into his plans sooner rather than later. That's just the kind of motivation that has been missing from Swansea's performances recently. It would be far more gratifying to get a taste of Swansea's future stars in a heavy defeat than it has been to pick out which of the incumbent first-teamers should probably be sold this summer.
Max is ESPN FC's Swansea blogger. Follow him on Twitter: @maxwellhicks