13/04/2017

Opposition Focus | Swansea

Andrew Gwilym, the Swansea City reporter for Wales Online / South Wales Evening Post, provides the lowdown on Saturday's opponents.


What sort of form are Swansea in ahead of the game at Vicarage Road?
 
“Not good. They had a really good start to life under Paul Clement, winning five of their first eight, but they’ve only picked up one point from their last five and have dropped back into the relegation zone. With six games to go, the pressure is really on.

“They were very poor against West Ham last time out. They were a bit unlucky against Spurs as they were 1-0 up after 88 minutes and within sight of three big points but then the wheels came off in dramatic fashion.

“The worry is the level of performance. They were poor at Bournemouth, weren’t very good at Hull and then didn’t do enough to beat a poor Middlesbrough side. They can’t have too many grounds for complaint recently.”
 
What is the latest injury news?

“Llorente is back, which is a massive boost. He was only fit enough to be on the bench at West Ham but will start against Watford. Kyle Naughton should be okay after a hamstring problem and the only real concern is captain Jack Cork. He’s got a race against time to be fit after an ankle problem. Angel Rangel is definitely out with a broken metatarsal. He’ll miss the rest of the season but everyone else is fit.”
 
How has Clement been lining the team up?

“He has tended to play 4-3-2-1. He’s been operating without two wingers and playing really narrow as the team had been defending so poorly that he’s had to play three central midfielders to give as much cover to the back four as possible.

“One of Wayne Routledge or Luciano Narsingh plays on the right of the two behind Llorente, while Sigurdsson plays on the left. He always looks to cut in and plays very much tucked in. Because they have been so poor he may look to change it to 4-2-3-1 and go a bit more attacking, with Sigurdsson as the No 10.”
 
Do they look to get the ball up to Llorente as quickly as possible then?

“They still try and play the passing game that the club have built their reputation around, but this is the first time they’ve ever had a 6ft 3in centre forward so they’ve played a lot more direct than they normally would. It’s proven quite effective as Llorente has got 11 goals.” 
 
Wayne Routledge has called this game a cup final for Swansea. Is that accurate?

“If you look at the situation, two points from safety with six games to play, they need to start winning games so all six games fall into the cup final bracket. They can’t afford to play like they did at West Ham because if they do, there is only one way they are going. Time is running out and they desperately need something from Saturday.”

Kyle Naughton should be fit for Swansea

Is there still a feeling Swansea can get out of it?

“There was a month ago following the immediate impact Clement had. They had that great win at Anfield and also had wins against Leicester, Southampton and Burnley. At that point they were looking up and not down. But a lot of the optimism has drifted away as the results have been poor. But it’s not just the results – the performances have not been great either. They need to get that spark back they had when he first arrived and if they do, they’ve still got a chance. But something has to change and quickly.”
 
What’s Clement been like to deal with?

“He’s made a very favourable impression. People look at his touchline celebration against Burnley and think he’s a bit of a loose cannon but he’s actually quite a measured character. He’s brought a bit of stability and we haven’t really had that since Garry Monk.

“They needed someone to steady the ship and he did that. He’s had a bit of criticism lately for being too cautious, particularly away from home. He’s very much set the team up to contain the opposition and try to nick something. That’s the one criticism the supporters have had.

“Overall the majority feel they have got a good man at the helm and he’s very much here for the long term. If they do go down he’ll be handed the job of getting them back up. No question.” 
 
You have a Watford legend in your ranks. What sort of impact has Nigel Gibbs had?
 
“He’s a great guy. I was lucky enough to do an interview with him recently and he speaks so warmly about Watford. The club have clearly got a very special place in his heart. He’s a great guy to spend time with and, like Clement, he’s made a real impact.

“He’s taken responsibility for set-piece work, both attacking and defending and it’s an area they have improved massively. After the Bournemouth game, they haven’t conceded a single set-piece goal so that’s a bit of a feather in his cap.

“It was a traditional weakness and he’s transformed it into a strength. He’s come in and done a good job and is a good guy to have around the place. I know he’s looking forward to going to back to Vicarage Road.”
 
Swansea have another Watford lad in their ranks in Tom Carroll. How’s he done since signing from Spurs?
 
“He’s been very good. He made a good impression when on loan a couple of seasons ago and he’s made a real impact since coming back permanently. He’s very quickly become an important figure. He links the play very well and has a great relationship on the field with Olsson and Sigurdsson. He had a poor day at West Ham but that’s the first time you could say that about that him.”
 
The game at the Liberty Stadium earlier in the season won’t live long in the memory, will it?
 
“It wasn’t a classic, was it? That was the first game with Bob Bradley at the helm and even then we saw some of the attacking problems that came to define his reign. They struggled for fluency that day and didn’t have the belief to break Watford down. I remember Watford having a great chance to win it at the end. 

What’s the view of the Hornets in South Wales?

“Watford were very solid and good at the back at the Liberty. They slipped into trouble recently and I think Swans fans had one eye on finishing above them at one point but Watford have picked up and Swansea have had a bad run. You know Watford are going to be really physical and have a presence up front.

“They play quite direct but they’ve also got good players in midfield in Capoue and Cleverley. I think Swansea fans would have been expecting to finish above Watford at the start of the season as they have been in the Premier League longer and should have bigger resources, but now they’ll just take finishing 17th given the way the season has panned out.”

First Team 10/04/2017

Milestone | Mariappa 250

When Adrian Mariappa pulled on his Watford shirt against Middlesbrough on the final day of the 2011/2012 season, you would have been forgiven for thinking he would forever be stranded on 247 appearances for the Hornets. 

However, the Academy graduate's return to the club at the beginning of this season provided the Jamaican international with the chance to further write his name into the club’s history books. 

Almost eleven years after his senior debut, Mariappa’s place in the starting line-up against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Saturday finally secured the much coveted quarter of a century accolade. 

We take a look back at exactly how Mariappa reached 250 appearances, and highlight some of the milestones along the way. 

2005/2006

5 appearances, 0 goals 

A 19-year-old Adrian Mariappa didn’t have to wait long at the start of the 2005/2006 Championship season to make his Watford debut. 

A Carling Cup clash against Notts County at The Vic provided Watford fans with their first glimpse of Mariappa in a yellow shirt. Partnering Jay DeMerit at the back, Mariappa marked his debut with an assured performance in a 3-1 Watford win.

Mariappa would go on to start in the third round defeat at Wigan, before making his league debut as a second-half substitute against Leeds United in February 2006. 

A further appearance from the bench would follow in a 2-1 win against QPR on the penultimate weekend of the season, before being rewarded with a full league debut in a 0-0 home draw with Hull City on the last day of the season.

Mariappa would go on to earn a place on the bench as Aidy Boothroyd’s side secured promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs, rounding of a hugely successful season both for Mariappa and the club. 

2006/2007 

25 appearances, 0 goals

Despite making just five appearances in all competitions during the previous campaign, Mariappa had made enough of an impact to earn a starting place in the Hornets’ opening day Premier League clash away at Everton. 

A 2-1 defeat ensued, with Mariappa then having to wait until the middle of December for his next Premier League appearance. Once back in the team, Mariappa featured heavily in the rest of the campaign and was an ever present in the side that reached the semi-final of that season’s FA Cup. 

2007/2008 

30 appearances, 0 goals 

Relegated back to the Championship, Mariappa found himself in and out of the side that eventually missed out on an immediate return to the Premier League with defeat in the play-off semi-finals. 

He did, however, chalk up his 50th appearance for the club on the 12th February 2008 in a 1-0 win over Leicester City at The Vic. 

2008/2009 

47 appearances, 1 goal 

A season of managerial change at Vicarage Road, but Mariappa’s positon at the heart of the defence was a consistent presence throughout. Under the leadership of Aidy Boothroyd, briefly Malky Mackay and then Brendan Rodgers, Mariappa would go on to enjoy the most productive campaign of his career to date. 

More inclined to prevent the ball going in his own net, Mariappa would also enjoy the rare feeling of scoring as he struck his maiden Watford goal in a 3-1 defeat away at Wolves in January 2009. 

In a season of personal success, his 100th appearance wasn’t far behind either, coming in a 0-0 draw with Ipswich in March of the same year. 

2009/2010

49 appearances, 1 goal 

Now under the management of Malky Mackay, Mariappa continued to flourish under the leadership of the former Watford centre-half. 

Despite being the tender age of 22, Mariappa’s maturity and consistent performances earned him the honour of leading out the Hornets for the first time in a 1-0 win over Burnley in September 2009. 

Mariappa would go on to be the only player to feature in every league and cup game for the Hornets that season, ticking off 150 games for the club in the process during his side’s 1-1 draw at Preston in April 2010. 

2010/2011

49 appearances, 1 goal

More of the same for Mariappa during the 2010/2011 season, with another 49 appearances and another single goal.

A first red card of his career against Middlesbrough in March 2011 ended a highly impressive run of 114 consecutive appearances for the club – the fifth highest in the club’s history.

However, that didn’t stop him chalking off his 200th appearance for the Golden Boys with that milestone arriving during a 2-2 home draw with Norwich in April 2011. 

2011/2012

42 appearances, 1 goal

In what would turn out to be his final season in his first spell at the club, Mariappa marked his farewell with a fine personal campaign under the guidance of another former defender in Sean Dyche. 

Scoring his single goal in a 3-2 victory over Leicester in February 2012, Mariappa would finish the season as Watford’s Player of the Season, as voted for by both the fans and players. 

His final appearance for the club came at The Vic on the final day of the 2011/12 Championship season against Middlesbrough, and fittingly ended in a 2-1 Hornets win. 

2016/17

3 appearances, 0 goals 

They say good things come to those who wait and after a four season absence from Vicarage Road, Mariappa finally earned his 248th appearance in January’s 1-0 FA Cup defeat against Millwall.

249 was to follow last Tuesday (April 4) when Mariappa came on as a second-half replacement in the 2-0 Premier League victory over West Bromwich Albion before reaching finally a quarter of a century in Saturday’s Premier League defeat at Spurs.