Thursday, 1 January 2015

January set to be one to remember for Swansea

Eric Imhof has taken a look ahead at what the New Year has to offer, and it's set to be a cracker

I have to admit, there were moments in December when I resigned myself to the inevitable doldrums of a 38-game season; it seemed that Swansea would finish mid-table by beating some teams they should, especially at home, but doing little else of note. With all the recent attention being paid to teams like Southampton and West Ham, it was looking to be yet one more under-the-radar slog fest towards the finish line, full of frustrating inconsistency punctuated by hard-fought moral victories. “Nothing to be excited about at the moment,” I unceremoniously tweeted at the time. 

However, while even December’s victories were far from the most thrilling of games, things have now rapidly become interesting again at the start of this new year. Referee decisions aside (I’m sure many more people will write about them, rightfully so), January is going be packed with talking points. Without Bony, Ki, Montero, Shelvey, and possibly Routledge, Monk will face a new and exciting challenge to start the second half of the season. 

Yes, it’s still an unnecessarily gruelling gauntlet (one more complaint for the FA’s suggestion box), but at least the fixture list in these circumstances will be fascinating to watch and analyse. First comes a trip to Tranmere in the FA Cup, with only 48 hours to rest and prepare. This might be a game that Monk uses to tinker, and it’ll fun to see how many new faces pepper the lineup. Will new signings Nelson Oliveira and Matt Grimes get a run? Will Emnes start out wide, as many fans are calling for? Will Barrow make another magical appearance? (He’s a unicorn, truly.)

Then comes a real test of whether or not Monk can cope without his rock in midfield and without his bear of a striker: a visit from West Ham, a team with so many weapons and little injury concerns of their own. After last month’s all-too predictable shelling at Upton Park, this match-up will beg even more questions than the Tranmere trip. Will Monk have a new fullback in by that point, and if so, will someone taller than Angel Rangel be marking Andy Carroll? 

Then comes Chelsea at the Liberty, a chance to measure what, if anything, has been learned since the 4-2 reality check last August, which was ages ago in football terms (the Swans were first in the league then, remember?). 

Still other questions remain: Will Bony come back from the African Cup of Nations in a Swans shirt? Will people finally start taking notice that Monk has a point about the refs this season, and take some kind of action? Will Gomis lift us out of our seats again? 

With so many questions swirling through the ether, I’m predicting that at the end of January the only thing one won’t be able to say about this first month of 2015 is that it was boring. That’s something, right? 

Thanks as usual to Eric for his ongoing contribution to the site. Want to write for the best sports blog in Wales? Get in touch! Give Eric a follow on Twitter @AustinJackArmy