Bob Bradley’s struggling Swans took a point in a scoreless draw at home against Watford, but questions about the back line and midfield still abound after several changes to the starting XI.
After Francesco Guidolin led Swansea to only one win in their first seven games, Bob Bradley has been faced with the tough task of turning a 19th placed team back into a comfortable mid-table side. A brutal schedule in the early weeks of the season has not helped matters, but now the team must start to pick up wins.
Bradley has taken a patient approach with his team selection so far. He seems to want to get a feel of what everyone can do, and he wants to see it himself. His experimenting so far has seen 16 different players be used from the start in his two games. In the first seven matches, Guidolin used 17 altogether. Bradley also now has a fully healthy Fernando Llorente to challenge for the striker position, as well as the oft-injured Jefferson Montero, who should be back soon to overtake Wayne Routledge.
The new manager has started all four senior central midfielders in the last two games, and in two totally different looks. Leon Britton, Jack Cork, and Leroy Fer started against Arsenal in a midfield 3, while Britton and Ki Sung-yueng started against Watford in a double pivot. Four guys are fighting for two (or three) spots in the lineup, and I couldn’t say anyone specifically has an edge on the others based on what Bradley has shown us, and the performances of each of them. Bradley could certainly do worse than ride the “hot hand” in Ki & Britton after a solid performance on Saturday.
Another area of the field where decisions will have to be made is at the center back position. Mike van der Hoorn and Alfie Mawson put on the best defensive performance possibly in the last year for Swansea, and I would expect them to at least get another run out against Stoke on Monday. However, Jordi Amat and Federico Fernandez have played the majority of minutes at the back this season. It would be hard to justify starting either one of them after their performances not only under Bradley, but during Guidolin’s tenure as well.
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Bradley will also be looking to give the team an identity. Under Guidolin, you could say Swansea was a defensive side (that lacked actual defending) based on team selection. Under Garry Monk before that, Swansea were a defensive side that grinded out results against teams of all different prowess. The game this past Saturday against Watford was reminiscent of Monk’s managerial reign during the 2014-15 season.
Two very different matches under Bradley do not give us any idea of what to expect going forward, but worse things could happen than focusing on first stabilizing the defense and then letting the attacking weapons do what many Swans supporters know they are capable of.
Several lineup spots are up for grabs, and Bradley will have tough decisions to make. It may take him some time to field a strong, solidified starting XI, but the audition process that he has been putting on has answered some questions at least for now.