In the second part of my Swansea squad roundup, I'll look at central defence. After a rocky start, new Swan Chico Flores and acting captain Ash Williams went on to form a formidable duo, arguably among the best in the Premier League. Past the two starters, squad depth was thin; veteran Garry Monk deputised for Flores's various injuries, whilst youngster Kyle Bartley had to make do with a bare minimum of appearances. Current transfer talk has Williams valued at 10 million pounds, with Arsenal and Liverpool said to be interested.
Swansea City enjoyed a highly successful season, with Michael Laudrup's reshaped squad and intelligent tactics earning the club its first major silverware (League Cup) and highest Premier League finish (ninth place, 46 points). With the season over, I'll be taking a look at how the Swans players have fared over the season. My team-wide breakdown starts in goal. Goalkeepers It's been a season of ups and downs in the Swansea net; mostly ups for Gerhard Tremmel, mostly downs for Michel Vorm. Vorm, last season's outstanding player, has had a frustrating time.
The 0-3 result against Fulham may have been disappointing, but it seemed clear from the off that Michael Laudrup had given his side considerable licence to go out and have fun against Fulham on Sunday afternoon. The Swans attacked Fulham relentlessly, especially for the majority of the second half, but in so doing left themselves uncharacteristically open at the back. Fulham duly took advantage of the invitation, and hit the Swans on the counter. The first two of Fulham's goals came as a result of defensive errors in playing the offside trap, whilst the third, scored in injury time, was mostly the result of a beaten Swansea side throwing in the towel for the day after getting no reward for a fine display of attacking football.
By Sunday evening, Swansea will know whether they've finished eighth or ninth place in the Premier League, but either way, Michael Laudrup's side will have eclipsed last season's 11th place finish to cap off the Swans' most successful ever season. - Michu: I'm staying at Swansea A win over Sunday's opponents, Fulham, coupled with a draw or loss for West Brom (who host Manchester United in what will be Sir Alex Ferguson's last ever game in charge) will see the Swans reach eighth place, while any other realistic permutation of results will see the Swans stay in ninth.
Although Swansea certainly didn't help Wigan's case for staying up by beating them 3-2 a week or so ago, it wasn't until Arsenal also beat the strugglers 4-1 that Wigan were officially relegated. With the three relegated sides now confirmed, the remaining Premier League sides - and those due to come up from the Championship - can start to pick the carcasses clean. Here are a handful of players from the relegated sides who might make nice additions to the Swansea squad. Needless to say, Michael Laudrup will probably limit his summer shopping to the foreign market, where better value can be found, and in the case of QPR, the players' wages probably prohibit any move to a club like Swansea.
There was really only one result allowed at Old Trafford today, a Manchester United win to give Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably the greatest club football manager of all time, an appropriate send-off. And win United did, 2-1, but not without a scare from a Swansea City side well worthy of the occasion. - Match report: Manchester United 2-1 Swansea In fact, for stretches of the second half, the Swans looked by far the more likely side to make something happen. United defended well enough, and perhaps benefited from Swansea's lack of deadly finishers.
Through a quirk of the fixture list and the timing of Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement announcement, Swansea City have the privilege of being the last team to face Ferguson's Manchester United at Old Trafford. The game already has the makings of an exhibition rather than cagey chess match. Manchester United were confirmed as Premier League champions what now feels like a year ago, whilst Swansea secured Premier League status for a third season even before that. The result can't make any difference for United, and little difference for Swansea, although United will clearly want to give their figurehead the best possible home send-off, and the Swans would still very much like to get something out of the game.
As expected, Wigan's defensive weakness was their undoing as a strong second half from the Swans produced a 3-2 victory and an end to the team's seven game winless streak. - Match report: Wigan 2-3 Swansea Heading into the game, a couple of Michael Laudrup's team selections might have given pause for thought. On-loan striker Itay Shechter, who hadn't scored a goal all season, was preferred to the comparatively prolific Luke Moore in the absence of the injured Michu. Garry Monk once again beat Kyle Bartley as replacement for the ailing Chico Flores in defence and Angel Rangel started at wing with Dwight Tiendalli behind for extra protection on the right flank.
Wigan's annual relegation escape act has an extra edge of poignancy this season. Swansea City can put a serious dent in Wigan's survival hopes with a win on Tuesday night at the DW Stadium, whilst playing the celebrated style of continental football that Wigan boss Roberto Martinez was so instrumental in developing during his time in South Wales. -More Wigan injury problems That Martinez has not really been able to further develop the style with Wigan, and has in fact been eclipsed by his successors at Swansea, is not so much a mystery as an insight into the true value of an unheralded chapter in Swansea City history.
A much improved performance from Swansea City saw the side earn a fair 0-0 draw against an underwhelming Manchester City at the Liberty Stadium. Given Swansea's woeful play of late, a lazy Manchester City had evidentially expected to show up and roll over the Swans with a practice pitch performance, much like Chelsea did last week. Roberto Mancini and his men probably weren't expecting a show of renewed spirit from the Swans (neither was I), and for the majority of the first half, Swansea attacked and counter-attacked with something approaching the verve and confidence of their earlier season vintage.
The title has already gone to Manchester United and Manchester City are more or less comfortable in second. Swansea have already enjoyed their season peak at Bradford's expense and might finish eighth or ninth or 10th. When the Swans meet City Saturday, there might not be much to play for save next season. But whether Michael Laudrup will risk rotating the squad against the Premier League's second best outfit remains to be seen. I have my doubts. In a match of similar borderline meaninglessness against Chelsea last week, Laudrup eschewed the opportunity to mix things up, and instead played what was more or less his preferred starting XI.
Maybe it was West Brom's 3-0 win over Southampton on Saturday which sucked the spirit out of the Swansea dressing room on Sunday. Now faced with a six-point gap to close on their nearest rivals in the standings, the only answer Swansea could come up with against Chelsea was more of the same disinterested, lazy play in a 2-0 loss which has become a worrying hallmark of the side's performances of late. Things had looked to be improving following decent games against Norwich and Southampton, but Swansea started slowly at Stamford Bridge and couldn't pick up the pace.