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Clement lauds goal-shy Jordan Ayew

Football
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 By Max Hicks

Saved Swans can play without pressure, with decisions in mind

Craig Burley examines Paul Clement's run with Swansea compared to Bob Bradley's and assesses the club's narrow survival.

And so the season draws to a close, with Swansea fans finally able to relax and perhaps just enjoy a football match without worrying about relegation for once.

Swansea secured their top flight survival with last Saturday's 2-0 away win over Sunderland and will host West Brom this Sunday. Albion sit comfortably in ninth place and haven't won in eight matches, and seem unlikely to resist a Swansea side high on relief and likely to be playing with more freedom than they have all season so far.

Paul Clement has echoed chairman Huw Jenkins assertion this week that the club does not need a major overhaul this summer despite its struggles. Clement pointed to Swansea's excellent overall record since he took over as evidence; a win on Sunday would give Swansea 29 points from half a season, equivalent to 58 points over a full season.

However, the Swans have been heavily reliant on a handful of players in particular this term -- Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente chief among them -- and though the starting XI is strong enough for midtable, the side badly lacks depth.

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That starting XI has definitely earned a "lap of honour" match in front of the home fans on Sunday with an aim to finishing the season on a five-game unbeaten streak. However, Clement could use the opportunity to test his squad's depth by handing starts to some of the fringe players instead. Striker Borja Baston could easily come good next season, given a summer and preseason to reintegrate into the squad, and the Swans would far rather see their record signing live up to his £15 million price tag than sell him for a heavy loss.

Decisions have to be made in defence, too. Clement settled quickly on a starting central pairing of Alfie Mawson and Federico Fernandez, with Jordi Amat and Mike van der Hoorn seeing very little action since the new boss took over. With Clement ready to offer Chelsea legend John Terry a new home and defender Amat overlooked even to play as a makeshift right-back earlier this season (midfielder Leroy Fer was trusted with the job during a brief injury crisis), it seems Swansea's defence is due a facelift, overhaul or not.

It might suit Swansea to put a few unwanted players in the shop window on Sunday, but then Swansea could still finish as high as 15th with a win, and the difference in prize money for finishing two places higher amounts to roughly £3.5 million. Few of Swansea's forgotten fringe men would seem worth much more than that on the market, so perhaps the most prudent financial move would be to trust the strongest XI to get the win.

One player Swansea certainly don't want to advertise any more than necessary is playmaker Sigurdsson, who will finish the season among the league leaders for assists. The dead-ball specialist is the league's most dangerous free-kick taker, scoring more goals from those situations than any other player since he arrived in 2012, and his chemistry with striker Llorente has produced seven goals so far this season -- the most from any partnership in the division.

Martin Olsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Tom Carroll and Swansea have certainly earned a lap of honour.

Clement has reminded Sigurdsson how his brief stint at Spurs turned out -- he failed to live up to his reputation after being routinely played out of position in fits and starts as a rotation option -- and Sigurdsson himself has stated he is happy in Swansea and not looking to move. It's a cliche to state that perhaps the best transfer business Swansea could so this summer is keeping Sigurdsson, but it's hard to argue with the figures; the side would likely be preparing for life in the Championship were it not for his contribution this season.

Beyond Sigurdsson, there is another issue to resolve on the wings. Swansea's ranks of wide men are a mixed bag of the occasionally spectacular but inconsistent (Jefferson Montero, Mo Barrow), the consistently unspectacular (Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer), the unproven (Luciano Narsingh) and the always injured (Montero again). Given the option, Clement might prefer to trade the whole lot for two guys who can play 90 minutes every week and a put a few solid crosses in.

The manager changed his system to a 4-3-1-2 partly because his wingers were failing to convince, and hasn't looked back since. Ahead of the summer window, he needs to decide if wingers will be a big part of his system next season, with Sunday his last chance for competitive evaluation, but then he might just want to join the fans, put his feet up and enjoy a stress-free football match for perhaps the last time in a while.

Having saved the club from the drop, he's earned it.

Max is ESPN FC's Swansea blogger. Follow him on Twitter: @maxwellhicks

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