Sunday, 25 January 2015

A Piece Of My Mind

Chill out, is it...

Yesterday the Swans crashed out of the FA Cup at Blackburn in a sadly predictable fashion. Our seventh and eighth red cards of the season bookended a disappointing day where we'd ultimately lose 3-1, but there are several things I want to talk about that aren't particularly connected so here goes. 

"We're a long ball team"

Bollocks. I looked at some stats a few weeks ago (link) and it's simply not true that we are playing a more direct style of football. Where he have struggled is retaining possession, but Leon Britton has been absent for large swathes of the season and, as I point out in the stats piece, he makes a massive difference to our possession stats.

What we are, nonetheless, going to have to plan for and achieve is how to retain the ball without Leon at the base of our midfield. People (including myself) have long been crowing for a bruising defensive midfielder, and I do feel this would go a long way in solving the problem of how to retain possession without our diminutive talisman.

Directly tagging players on social media to criticise them

This is something that has long got my goat, and something which I simply do not understand. If you want to have a rant then fine, that's your prerogative. If a player has had a bad day and actually goes out and searches for his name on the internet he should expect to see things he doesn't like - but actually tagging them in the hope that the player sees it? Just what are you trying to achieve? Psychology is becoming a massive part of performance management in sport, and the idea that swearing or berating a player on Twitter will do anything other than exacerbate a problem is, frankly, ludicrous. 

If managing players' motivation levels was that easy, then why bother with managers? When a player's had an off-day, he could just check his Twitter feed to see what people (who've never played professional football, and who have probably never done any coaching courses relevant to professional football) thought of his performance. I mean, you're entitled to your opinion, so it's obviously right and you know better than the manager, right?

Let's put this in perspective. Imagine you work for the DVLA, the council, or in another big officey type building, and that you have a very job-related specific set of tasks. Would you be happy if a Swans player turned up and started giving you public grief about how you're a disgrace to the workforce and that you don't know what you're doing? No? Thought not - so why on earth would it be a good idea to actively search out a player to essentially say "I thought you were shit today"? The percentage of people who respond positively to that approach is very small, and I maintain that nothing good will come of behaving in such a manner.

Of course, you're entitled to your opinion. You're entitled to speak freely. But if in doing so you actually demotivate the players you're claiming to support then perhaps think twice before searching out that Swans player to give him some stick after a match.

"We're in trouble"

Rubbish. So we lost 5-0 to Chelsea, who've brushed aside most teams this season, when we were missing Leon, Ki & Jonjo. Sigurdsson was in an unfamiliar position, as was Oliveira... I wrote last week that it was no surprise we got a bit of a hammering but those are the options we have.

To me, that result shows that we're still massively punching above our weight. Look at our squad - it's littered with players from the football league picked up for relatively small fees, and there aren't many more cheaply assembled squads in the Premier League. 

1Manchester United£379.4m
2Manchester City£353.7m
6Tottenham Hotspur£178.0m
10Aston Villa£79.9m
11Newcastle United£69.5m
12West Ham United£67.8m
14Hull City£59.7m
15Stoke City£50.0m
16Swansea City£44.6m
17West Bromwich Albion£38.3m
18Crystal Palace£32.9m
19Leicester City£18.3m
If there are only four teams who've spent less money on their squads, I'd say we should accept that anything above a sixteenth place finish is a massive, massive achievement. With a rookie manager still learning the ropes even more so. People seem to think we're entitled to a place in the top ten - to me that's ludicrous and we still have some way to go before that becomes a realistic target, as opposed to something we shoot for in the knowledge we'll probably fall a little short, but secure safety nonetheless.

As for yesterday's result, some of the pearls gleaned from social media included "We're going back to league one" and "fans should have a refund". If the latter was to happen and fans were refunded after a heavy loss would you happily pay twice as much when we win 5-0? No? Then you have no argument! If you're saying a refund is dependent on price, then the price is performance-related, in which case as a customer you should be happy to pay more. After all, you're getting a better "product" than you expected, right? 

Maybe after our first season in the Premier League we should have asked all fans who bought season tickets to chuck in the same amount of money again, seeing as we finished so highly? The idea that fans should be entitled to a refund after a poor performance is, in my eyes, ludicrous and smacks of extreme arrogance. As fans all we're entitled to for our match ticket money is to see our team take the field and play a game of football. If they literally didn't turn up then you'd have a valid argument. As long as they were only metaphorically absent then, as supporters, it's something we have to accept.

The future

Will be fine. You heard it here first. Monk may still be green around the gills, but we're still ninth in the Premier League. Objectivity is called for right now. We've lost Bony, Ki has been away, Shelvey has been banned, Leon has been missing for lots of the season - these are all players who would be nailed on to start so is it any wonder the fifth-least-expensive squad in the league has struggled at times to play it's natural game? 

We're currently in a transitional period, and I have absolute confidence we'll come out the other side smelling of roses. We have a manager in charge who believes in the long term future of the club, and who accepts that on occasion that will mean having less money to play with than his Premier League counterparts. 

I wouldn't have it any other way.