Rangel's late goal seizes relegation-threatened Swansea a crucial victory
Swansea City's hiring of Paul Clement already looks like a good appointment. All the new man had to do was show up for the Swans to record a rare 2-1 win over Crystal Palace on Tuesday. The tide could be about to turn.
Swansea's players clearly believe in the Clement appointment. The side's struggles under Bob Bradley were well documented, but even after the American was dismissed, the team still lost 3-0 at home last Saturday to Bournemouth. Perhaps the players were worried about who would become their third manager this season.
With Clement since having agreed to sign, Swansea looked like a new team versus Palace. There were still one or two shakes at the back but nothing to match the level of incompetence seen under Bradley. Across the rest of the field, this looked like the Swans of old, all passing, possession and tempo control. Clement didn't even have a chance to make any changes or have any real tactical say; he was just at the game to observe with Alan Curtis calling the shots. Swansea's improvement was entirely the result of a nervous, stressed side finally being able to breathe a sigh of relief and start again.
The defence still needs some work although allowing one goal rather than three was a good sign, especially considering Wilfried Zaha's strike was virtually unstoppable. Swansea's new boss will also need to generate more chances and more clear shots on goal -- Swansea's 11.5 shots per game is a pinch under the league average of 12.9, and a team fighting for points should really be shooting above the average, not below it.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Curtis again started with the 4-3-3, but with the players clearly feeling more confident, the shape worked a lot better than it did last Saturday. His real masterstroke came via his substitutions, as both men involved in the winning goal -- unlikely scorer Angel Rangel and Leroy Fer who provided the assist -- joined the play from the bench. Rangel's introduction was particularly inspired, Curtis deciding to make an unorthodox switch at full-back, removing Neil Taylor and switching Kyle Naughton to left-back to accommodate the Spaniard. Taylor's departure was said to have been due to injury and it was, if you read injury as "being beaten all ends up by Wilfried Zaha". Nobody would have expected a minor defensive reshuffle to have provided the key to winning the game -- least of all Rangel -- but it did.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Lukasz Fabianksi, 6 -- Had very little to do, and did it well enough.
DF Kyle Naughton, 6 -- Passing could have been better, but solid involvement at both ends.
DF Federico Fernandez, 7 -- Looked reliable again for the first time in months and made a game-high 12 clearances.
DF Alfie Mawson, 8 -- Swansea's best player. His passing, particularly at range, was better even than his predecessor Ashley Williams, and his reading of the game is years above his age. Scored a clever goal, too.
DF Neil Taylor, 6 -- Struggled a little with Zaha but didn't make any costly errors.
MF Jay Fulton, 6 -- Acquitted himself well enough but didn't shine.
MF Ki Sung-yueng, 7 -- Is a different player in the attacking third compared to the rest of the field. As a No.10, might be a star player.
MF Jack Cork, 6 -- Equal parts tackling, shooting and passing. It's back to box-to-box basics for Cork, who is better for it.
FW Wayne Routledge, 6 -- Solid stuff, especially given the winger was recovering from illness.
FW Fernando Llorente, 7 -- Won seven headers, came close to scoring, and constantly involved himself in the play.
FW Gylfi Sigurdsson, 7 -- Made three key passes, three interceptions and got an assist. Continues to do what he is asked, even when it involves playing wider than he would like.
MF Leroy Fer, 7 -- Proved he might be best as an impact sub, joining games late when his trademark lack of industry neatly matches the flagging fitness of everyone else on the pitch, but his physicality can still make hard work for defenders. His assist was sublime.
DF Angel Rangel, NR -- The long-serving full back scored a rare strikers goal to win the game for Swansea, adding a touch of poetry to the narrative that the old Swans might be about to make a comeback.
FW Nathan Dyer, NR -- Came on in the 80th minute for Routledge but didn't have time to make an impact.