Small margins squeezing Swans

Posted by Max Hicks

Richard Heathcote/Getty ImagesMichael Laudrup's Swansea have been hard-hit by injuries this season.

Michael Laudrup was a figure of frustration at full time on Sunday after his Swansea side fell 2-1 at home to Everton. The blue half of Merseyside have been almost as good as the red half this season, with new boss Roberto Martinez rightly in the discussion for a manager of the month award (if not the season so far), so the defeat is not ignominious. However, Swansea's season continues to tell a tale of potential excellence compromised by small margins; the Swans always, seemingly, a day late or a dollar short.

- Report: Swansea 1-2 Everton

On Sunday, it was Ross Barkley's excellent late free kick which robbed Swansea of a deserved point. Cannoning in off the crossbar, had the kick been any lower Gerhard Tremmel might have gotten a hand to it. That's a small margin. The fact the kick was illegally spotted almost ten yards closer to the Swansea goal is perhaps a larger margin, and more or less confirms -- in the most ironic way possible -- that the Swans' covert compensation calls from the FA's referees have officially stopped. Another crooked decision costing Swansea points? Normal service has apparently resumed.

Futile outrage aside, it's not like Swansea didn't have ample chance to control their own destiny on Sunday. Despite a promising appearance against Valencia, Alvaro Vasquez is in danger of becoming this season's Itay Shechter -- an on-loan striker who doesn't strike. Perhaps he was unsighted by the Everton defence, but when he suddenly appeared on the business end of a deep cross late in the game, the equalizer seemed certain, only for the ball to sail past untouched. Wilfried Bony must have been wondering where that kind of service was when he was on the field. Any contact with that ball, and it's 2-2. Small margins.

It's a recurring theme. Against Kuban, Swansea conceded a late goal to twist a win into a draw not once but twice. Versus Norwich, the one Swansea player out of the eleven on the field to pick up a game-ending injury was the one player who was having the most positive impact, and who scored the Swans' lone goal (Nathan Dyer). The forced withdrawal of a player who was clearly Swansea's key threat on the day changed the game completely, and a potentially impressive three points away from home became instead a merely credible single point. Why that player? Again, it's small margins, little details.

Like the Dyer injury, a lot of the circumstances which have conspired to hamstring the Swans this season have not been anyone's fault. Before the first game of the season, anyone with half an interest in Premier League football was looking forward to seeing what Bony and Michu could do together. As I've previously shown, when the two have played together in their preferred positions, the Swans are virtually unbeatable. However, instead of an irresistible 1-2 punch in attack, we get to see both men spend weeks at a time in the treatment room, with neither seemingly able to be healthy at the same time as the other.

Perhaps Swansea's play on the field best exemplifies their habit for falling short by the narrowest of margins. A day late and a dollar short? How about a pass too many, a yard too far, a shot too few. When those ambitious through-balls squeak past the defensive line, and there's someone on the end of them to convert, the dozen or more passes and solid minutes of possession that led to it transform the goal from an act of opportunism to a statement about the beautiful game. When those through-balls are intercepted, when crosses are over or under-hit, which is the case 90 percent of the time, then the same build up play just looks like time-consuming extravagance with no justification. Two mutually exclusive states: one commending, the other condemning, all by the width of a defenders shinpad.

Things aren't going to get easier straight away for Swansea. The exhaustion of the Europa League group stages has given way to the even more tiring Christmas schedule. Come the new year, the Swans should have chance to get their breath back, and that can't hurt. After all, those small margins are all about luck, and the old adage has it that the harder you work, the luckier you get. This squad has worked hard enough this season so far, so it stands to reason some good luck might just be coming.


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