Paul Clement has been quietly doing some excellent business in this transfer window.
The Swans have made three signings in the window so far. Erwin Mulder seems like he is destined to be backup goalkeeper to Łukasz Fabiański, so it is hard to judge that piece of business. However, the signing of Roque Mesa is a good sign for Swansea fans regarding how Clement wants the team to play. Signing Tammy Abraham on loan is a smart move as well.
Mesa was bought for £11 million which is a bargain considering the control he will bring to the midfield. His past two seasons, under Quique Setién at Las Palmas, have provided clear evidence of his suitability for a possession based system. The Canary Islands side changed into a possession juggernaut under Setién with Mesa at the heart of that.
Abraham is an excellent addition because he is a hybrid player in terms of his role. He can be a target man in order to relieve pressure defensively or in the box offensively as an aerial threat. Although, he can also be used as a vertical threat in order to stretch the opposition defence by running in behind. This means he can offer similar to Fernando Llorente or something completely different if Clement intends to change the style.
Regardless of the style of play, Abraham is an excellent poacher. This combined with the fact that this is his first major chance in the Premier League suggests that a promising season could be ahead of him.
Last season was a bit chaotic for the South Wales side. They had four managers and this showed with their football which was dysfunctional until Clement became manager. He has brought some much-needed stability with a clear style of play. This has translated into the transfer window because he has managed to keep hold of the key players so far.
The Swans have a strong spine to the team: Fabiański, Alfie Mawson, Gylfi Sigurðsson and Llorente. Keeping these together is key due to the experience and quality they have. From his signings it looks like Clement is attempting to build around this in order to enhance it rather than finding potential replacements.
Out of the four players, Sigurðsson is the only one who looks like he could be moving. The Icelandic international has been linked with Everton for £40 million as the Merseysiders continue their ambitious spending. Losing him isn’t disastrous, especially if they spent the money wisely, but he is currently vital for the team’s creativity.
The acquisition of Mesa could be an indication that Clement intends to return to Swansea’s philosophy of short passing based possession, starting from the defence, in a 4-3-3 formation. At the very least, Mesa has been brought in to bring some control over matches in the intense atmosphere that is the English Premier League.
He used a 4-4-2 diamond formation last season with Llorente as a target man. Leon Britton was used as the pivot, but often struggled to finish matches. This is where Mesa is an improvement because he can play full matches, and was more consistent with his pass accuracy in the past season (91.4% compared to 89.4%).
Having Mesa allows the team to be more confident in using short passing to create opportunities in the final third. This suits Abraham due to his poaching ability, so he will thrive off passes into the box. They also have Llorente as a ‘plan B’ option if they need to resort to using his or Abraham’s aerial threat.
Last season, they often relied on quick counter-attack’s or Sigurðsson’s set-pieces against the big teams. Acquiring Mesa and Abraham allows the team to have a greater variety of attacking styles. While at the same time bringing the main style closer to their roots.
Based on these signings, it seems like Clement has a clear idea of how he wants his team to play. Throughout his team, he has players who are comfortable on the ball even down to the centre-backs. The addition of the ‘Canarian Xavi’ could take them to the next level in terms of controlling games. It allows them to relieve pressure and give the defence a rest at the very least.