Point at Norwich a credible result for Swans

Posted by Max Hicks

Christopher Lee/Getty ImagesNathan Dyer, right, put Swansea head early against the Canaries before having to leave due to injury.

Following Sunday afternoon's 1-1 draw with Norwich, the temptation is to criticise Swansea for a sub-par second half, for a lack of decent chances on goal and for settling for a point when three were available. If anything, it's a testament to the strength of the Swans' squad that expectations should be so high, but after playing their sixth game of this month already, a point away from home is actually a credible result.

If anything, Swansea put in exactly the kind of performance they ought to have produced against St Gallen in last Thursday's Europa League tie -- grab an early goal, then take all the pace out of the game and sit on the lead. Norwich got one back, but the same result last Thursday would have put the Swans into the knockout round without the nerve-wracking reliance on other results. Of course, it's all academic now, and for their troubles the Swans received a tough draw against Napoli in the next round -- more on that later.

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The bigger story for Swansea in the here and now is the loss of Nathan Dyer. On Sunday, Dyer was Swansea's most dynamic player. He scored the opener, and his injury late in the first half effectively cut the game in two. Before, it was Swansea's game; after, it belonged to Norwich.

The extent of Dyer's injury is yet to be revealed, but it wouldn't be alarmist at this point to imagine the winger might be sidelined for the rest of the season. If that proves to be the case, then expect all those rumours about Tom Ince and Wilfried Zaha to be taken off the back burner and thrust firmly into everyone's grill come January.

Regardless of what happens on the wing, the winter window will almost certainly see a new backup goalkeeper given a one-way ticket to Wales, with Michel Vorm expected to undergo knee surgery after Christmas and Gerhard Tremmel the lone cover option. It was disconcerting to see the Swans' stopper take the field on Sunday complete with bandaged knee, which makes me wonder if he was chosen for his superior time wasting skills -- I haven't seen a 'keeper run that much time off the clock since before the back-pass was outlawed.

The time-wasting, along with a Swansea formation which leaned more towards a 4-5-1 than the usual 4-2-3-1, were intriguing tactical developments from Laudrup, who clearly knows how to manage a tiring squad without hurting morale by telling everyone exactly how tired his players are.

The Dane was also keen to highlight the fact his side now have 20 points -- or half the magic 40 typically needed to avoid relegation -- shortly before the halfway point of the season. If that all sounds a little bit two-and-a-half-seasons-ago, when avoiding relegation and reaching the 40 point threshold was the sole aim, then I'd suggest Laudrup's words rather betray his ambition for the Europa League.

In Laudrup's eyes, the Europa League represents a winnable competition. A tall order, yes, but more than just a pipe dream like winning the Premier League would be. Fulham have demonstrated that the Europa League is (nearly) a winnable competition for teams of a certain stature; the Prince's crown of European football, the bronze medal made for mid-tablers (or the dysfunctional elite), and that bracket certainly includes Swansea. So long as the side avoid relegation, Europe represents the biggest reward available to Laudrup and the Swans.

Swansea's path to Europa glory goes through Napoli -- Champions League dropouts and therefore a bracket higher than the Swans -- and the Italians likely won't be the hardest test Swansea will face if they are to make good on Laudrup's most ambitious goal. That competition will only get more difficult from here on in, while the league continues to provide stern tests with Everton and Chelsea next on the schedule.

With all that in mind, the Swans can be forgiven for settling for a single point on Sunday after an exhausting season so far. It sounds unlikely, but Swansea have actually played the most games of any Premier League team this season, after all.


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