Swansea had a mixed year last year following a wonderful introduction to the Premier League in 2012-13. Their mid-season form saw manager Michael Laudrup dismissed just a year after he had won the club their first piece of silverware. He was replaced by former player Garry Monk, who led the side to a respectable 12th place finish.
With the recent news that Michel Vorm has departed Wales for the sights of Tottenham, the Swansea City goalkeeper situation became a whole lot clearer. It had appeared a 50/50 split between Vorm and who many believed would start in goal for the Swans, the newly-acquired Lukasz Fabianski. They still have veteran ‘keeper Gerhard Tremmel on the books but it’s unlikely he will be anything more than a veteran backup. The other two ‘keepers who currently have squad numbers are Welshman David Cornell, and Gregor Zabret. But both are under 24, so it is unlikely they’ll challenge for the starting job.
Defensively, they have solid group of players but again the headline is a departing player. Ben Davies was a rock at left back last season, playing 34 Premier League games, but his move to Tottenham has left a wonderful opportunity for someone to step and become fantasy relevant for the Swans.
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There are two main men in line for taking over Davies role: fellow Welshman Neil Taylor (who wears the traditional left back “number three” shirt), and Dwight Tiendalli, whom many feel will win the job after having started more games last year. Because of this competition I’m not touching either of them until the situation resolves itself a little clearer.
At right back Angel Rangel played 30 games last season and is the odds on favorite to be the starting right back again this year. His fantasy relevance is debatable, though. With only one assist last season and eight yellow cards, most of his fantasy value comes through clean sheets, of which there are other teams that will supply more. He should play regularly meaning he’s a solid choice for a fourth or fifth defender.
He’s backed up by Ashley Richards who, at age 23, is more of one to watch for the future as opposed to displacing Rangel this season.
Centrally there are three men competing for one spot alongside club captain Ashley Williams, the man in prime position for one of those two spots. Last season he started 34 games, contributing one goal and one assist, and more of the same should be expected this season. Meaning, he is by no means an elite option, but he should contribute as a solid third or fourth defender because he’ll play regularly.
Last season his defensive partner was Chico Flores, but he showed vulnerability a couple of times highlighted by being sent off twice. However, I do expect him to start the season but their two young central defenders, Kyle Bartley and Jordi Amat will be hot on his heels. Flores has fantasy relevance as a fifth defender while Amat and Bartley are two to keep an eye on, especially Bartley who has looked a superb talent.
The midfield is where, in my opinion, the star signing has been made with the addition of Gylfi Sigurdsson from Tottenham who could add some real fire to a midfield that lacked a little in the way of goals last season. The other midfield addition, but a less major one in my opinion, is Jefferson Montero from Mexican club Morelia. His ability to play on either flank should mean he sees plenty of time on the pitch for Swansea, but he wouldn’t be the first player to struggle in his first season in a tougher more robust league. Therefore, he is an upside flyer at best and I wouldn’t want to be investing in him any more than my fifth or sixth midfielder with my 14th-16th pick.
Now we transition over to the men who were present last season for the Swans. Jonjo Shelvey is perhaps the best known name from his time at Liverpool, and he showed flashes of why he was so highly rated as a teenager last season, with six goals and six assists. Expect him to work in the centre of the midfield once again this year and chip in around five goals and five assists once again.
Leon Britton will likely play the position of defensive midfielder. Once again, this meaning that for fantasy purposes he’ll be fairly non-existent.
Jose Canas and Ki will also play a part of defensive midfielder rotation, but again both are fantasy irrelevant in that position.
It’s the creative players ahead of them where things get interesting. The addition of Sigurdsson and Montero mean there are five players for three positions across the front. Routledge is the one of the next three I expect to be a shoe in for one of those positions, having played 35 games last season. But, if he wants to keep that spot he’ll need to improve upon his two goals and four assists from last season.
Nathan Dyer (six goals and two assists) and Pablo Hernandez (two goals and seven assists) are the two guys I expect will see a bigger role off the bench this season, but they will both be competing to take advantage if Jefferson Montero cannot get to grips with the Premier League quickly. With those three I am not sure you want any of them in your starting line up week to week, but as players on your watch list, you could find one of them hitting form.
Swansea’s striking options are interesting this year and are led by the formidable Wilfred Bony who topped a fantastic 2013/14 season with a two goal return at the World Cup this summer (more on him in a moment).
The club also made the off season signing of Marvin Emnes a permanent one after having Emnes on loan last season. With only two goals in seven performances last season, they value him as a striker off the bench or as backup in case of injury. However, Emnes is not someone you should consider drafting or selecting, but is one to watch.
Another hotly-tipped signing is in the addition of Bafetimbi Gomis, who I expect will spell Bony during the season and will look to build himself into the starting XI as the season goes on. Again, I’ll touch more on him briefly.
The youngster at the forward position who’ll be hoping to break in is Rory Donnelly, who’s not someone with fantasy relevance right now but is an injury or two away from being a man to watch.
Wilfred Bony: It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Bony took last season and consigned it to the record books by producing an even better performance this year. The young striker (25) showed that Michu’s 2013/14 season wasn’t a fluke for Swansea striker’s, with a 16-goal 4-assist season whilst playing in 34 games. He took a team high 3.2 shots per game and if he plays more full games (he started 27 games last season), then don’t be surprised if that shots per game ratio increases, potentially bringing an increase in the goal tally towards 20. However, do beware, he wouldn’t be the first striker to fall of the map after a great first season in the league. And the addition of Gomis means he could see himself losing time on the pitch if he doesn’t get off to a hot start.
Key New Signings
Gylfi Sigurdsson: A return to Swansea is something that could be real profitable for people who are willing to invest in Sigurdsson. He was last at Swansea in 2011/12 when he took a career high 3.9 shots per game leading to seven goals in 18 games. If he returns to that form over a full season you’re looking at double digit goals and potentially 10 assists.
Bafetimbi Gomis: A fantastic goal scoring record will mean that Gomis will go straight into consideration to start in front of Wilfred Bony this season. In five years with Lyon he has yet to register a season with less than 10 goals and has contributed at least one assist per year whilst taking over two shots per game. However, there is a big step up between the French league and the English Premier League, so Gomis will still have to do some work to prove he can handle the pace and physicality. Having said that, he should be a solid investment as a third striker.
Under Rated Player
Jonjo Shelvey: There are many preformed opinions about Shelvey from his unspectacular time at Liverpool, but last year he had a quietly effective season, and for a deeper lying midfielder a return of six goals and six assists isn’t too shabby. If he can build on that this season then he could be a really useful fifth midfielder to have on your bench as either a plug and play or a trade chip if he gets hot.
Rory Donelly: I touched on Donelly above and he will be desperate to break into the first team be it by staying and training hard, or by proving his ability out on loan. He scored 20 goals in 50 appearances for his old club Cliftonville (Ireland), but in the last two years he hasn’t played a professional match. So, as much as he is a name to watch out for in the future, you don’t want to be putting any stock in him just yet.
Jay Fulton: Signed on the last day of the transfer window in January 2014, Fulton made his first team debut in April 2014. His performances in training and in reserve games earned him a new four year contract, so he is one they’ll be keen to get into their midfield. He could step in if Britton or Shelvey suffer with any injuries during this season.