Saturday, 27 December 2014

Swansea 1-0 Aston Villa: Player Ratings

Josh Kilmister's take on who fared well, and who didn't in our Boxing Day victory over Aston Villa

On one of the coldest days at the Liberty I’ve experienced as a Swans fan, we came out victorious against Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa. For the second time in the space of a week Garry Monk and his side managed to do something that many thought we were not able to, and that’s hold on to a game when up against it. Here’s how I saw the Villa game, and how the players performed.

Starting XI

Lukasz Fabianski - 8 (Man of The Match)

Fabianski didn’t have all that much to do throughout the game, but everything he did do, he did excellently. The awful conditions can make a goalkeeper’s life a misery, but this didn’t faze the big Pole. Battling in the air with Christian Benteke is something no goalkeeper will find easy, but there were multiple times where Fabianski plucked the ball out of the air with ease, even with the rain making it difficult. It wasn’t until late on that Fabianski earned his stripes, making a magnificent diving save to prevent a Benteke header from finding the back of the net, before showcasing his stunning reflexes to deny Gabby Agbonlahor from close range. 

Neil Taylor - 6.5  

Taylor enjoyed an excellent first twenty minutes, showing the Liberty crowd that himself and Jefferson Montero are starting to build up quite a partnership. However, with Jeff being forced off with injury, Taylor didn't have such a striking seventy minutes. Perhaps more noticed for his assistance in attack this season, Taylor has an impressive 85.3% pass success percentage - better than Manchester United’s Luke Shaw and Man City’s Gael Clichy and less than one percent less than Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta - and that was no different today. If I had to give someone the most improved award so far this season, there’s no doubt in my mind who would be getting it.

Federico Fernandez - 7.5 

Another one of Monk’s summer signings who shone against Villa, Fede Fernandez made some beautifully times tackles and was consistent for the majority of the game. Ruthless in the air, the only time the Argentine was beaten was when Benteke’s header was brilliantly saved by Fabianski. Proving to everyone that Monk’s decision to put him straight back into the side, Fernandez doesn't look like a man who will be dropped any time soon.

Ashley Williams - 7

The Hull game lead to Williams being praised for both his technical and mental ability, and the same will be the case for this game. Williams is never one for backing out of a challenge, and his physical presence really impacted the game today. Something else that impressed me today was his range of passing, as Ash picked out some incredible balls to get us off the back foot. Wrong footed just once - where again Fabianski bailed us out - Williams’ leadership held the defence together for the final fifteen minutes where it looked as if Villa would knick a point, and for the second game in a row was a huge factor in a satisfying victory.

Angel Rangel - 7

I’ve been critical of the Spaniard of late, but partnered with Nathan Dyer on the right flank today I thought he was excellent. Rangel looked to have rolled back the years as his passing, tackling and overall play was better today than I feel it has been for a while. Some crucial blocks in our third of the pitch and some great passing play at the opposite end justify the praise that Rangel got on Friday, but whether he will keep his place for Monday’s trip to Anfield is another question.

Ki Sung-Yueng - 7

One of the two players making their last Liberty appearance of the calendar year, Ki kept his position of the sitting midfielder as Leon Britton missed out through injury; and he didn't have a great first half. The second half however saw the Korean come into his own, dictating the play from his deep midfield position, as well as making his way forward from time to time. A good piece of football between him and Sigurdsson had him through on goal, but at a difficult angle and with an awkward bounce he hit it over the bar.

Jonjo Shelvey - 5.5

It always excites me to see Jonjo starting, but he disappointed me this game. Playing in a role that we see Ki play so well in, he offered next to nothing in midfield and I feel this was largely behind Monk’s decision to take him off. To say he may as well not have been there is a little extreme, but he was very much absent the middle of the park, allowing Villa to gain control of the match. Not to mention the fact that he picked up another yellow card, his sixth in ten games (seventh if you include his second yellow at Everton). It’s no secret that Shelvey much prefers playing in an attacking midfield role, but if he wants to get into our team he has to adapt; especially with such strong competition on the bench.

Jefferson Montero - 7.5

Montero is probably the most difficult to rate this time around, as he only managed twenty minutes. Despite going off with an injury, Jeff had plenty of time to make an impact on the game. Torturing Villa’s five-man defence and winning the free-kick that led to our goal, I’m sure his rating would’ve been higher had he stayed on. Hopefully he won’t be out for too long, as he has really made the left-wing position his own over the last few games.

Gylfi Sigurdsson - 7.5

Back in the squad after picking up a slight injury in training last week, Sigurdsson done what we’ve come to expect of him this season - put a shift in. The Villa defence looked dodgy from the off, and Gylfi’s pressure only made it worse for them. Another thing I wouldn't mind coming accustomed to is his ‘worldie’ free-kicks; one of which flew into the far corner of Brad Guzan’s goal. Goals from this man could be vital going into January, and I’m certain he’s ready to step up to the plate.

Nathan Dyer - 6.5

An all-round decent game from Dyer, who’s pace troubled the Villa defence now and again. A good piece of footwork in the Villa area should've resulted in a goal, but his feeble shot slotted straight into the hands of Guzan. 

Wilfried Bony - 6.5

With the most of the battling taking place in the midfield, Wilf had a fairly quiet game by his standards. He did drop deep to help out now and again, but his only chance - which he put away well - was judged as offside. One thing I have to mention is Bony’s strength, which had even the Villa fans impressed towards the end of the game. Seeing out the game by the corner flag, Fabian Delph was made to look a fool as Bony used his arm to hold off the England international. Despite his best efforts Delph couldn't get a glimpse of the ball, and I’m sure I caught Wilf having a bit of a giggle to himself about it. 


Wayne Routledge - 6 (for Montero, 22)

Routs did very little in terms of impacting the game when he came on, and the one thing I really don’t like about him was blatantly obvious today - his positioning. When Routledge plays the whole team seems to play deeper, and that really affected us today. You could even go to the extreme to say that he (along with Shelvey) was Villa’s catalyst, as his lack of ambition allowed them to take control in midfield. Maybe I’m being a little critical, but next to Montero neither he or Dyer look as good as they once did. 

Tom Carroll - 6.5 (for Shelvey, 60)

Carroll tried his best to add an element of control back to our midfield, and to some extent he did. It was obvious as soon as he came on that it was someone like him that we had missed this game, as we started to pick up possession again. He did the best he could defensively and allowed Ki to push up a little while he offered a link between the defence and midfield. 

Marvin Emnes - 6 (for Sigurdsson, 78)

I’m really not sure what to make of Emnes in the Premier League yet, and his cameo appearance against Villa didn't help much. He played a good ball across the box to Dyer - from which he should have scored - but even then I’m not sure that ball was intentional. Looked a tad lazy for a player who doesn't have much game time, but lazy would be a good word to sum up most of the players in the time that Emnes played. 


It comes to something when winning scrappy feels as good, if not better than winning easily. After so much doubt was cast over our ability to hold on to a win, there has clearly been some work done on the training ground as we’ve done exactly that for two games on the bounce. 

The team we started today was perhaps one of the strongest we could field, but the performance definitely didn’t show that. Of course, at this time of year it’s the points that matter, not the performances; and I couldn't be happier with the three points we picked up.

A tough trip to Anfield on Monday will be a real test for Monk and his players, and they us much as us will be hoping to make good for the loss there in the Capital One Cup in October. One thing I will say is that I expect there to be some rotation in the squad; where exactly, I’m not too sure. If Leon is back fit I’d expect him to slot back in, be that for Ki or Shelvey, and Jazz Richards might even get another start if Monk wants to rest Rangel. 

For anyone not making the journey to Merseyside, the game will be shown live on Sky Sports 2 at 8pm on Monday.

As Josh states, it's nice to win gritty for a change, and if we can combine the steel displayed in the last two games with some of the football we've played this season we'll really be a force to be reckoned with. Agree with Josh's ratings? Disagree? Get in touch below!