21/09/2017

Silva | “It Is Normal To Have Competition”

Marco Silva is pleased he has players of the calibre of Troy Deeney and Orestis Karnezis in reserve and breathing down the necks of those in the starting XI, creating the sort of competition he craves as a Head Coach.

Deeney is the fourth highest scorer in the club’s history and he, reports Silva, is chomping at the bit to make his first Premier League start under the Head Coach and his first since the away game at Everton last season. 

“Troy is our captain and he did a very good season last season,” said Silva.

“He needs minutes in his legs but what I saw of him in training, is someone who works hard. I believe he wants more minutes, like all the others, and he works hard for that.

“It’s normal for the seven who stay on the bench to be frustrated. This is a normal way. It is up to Troy and others to show to me they want to play in the first XI.”
 

Karnezis is a high-class goalkeeper and was one of the leading number ones in Serie A during his time with Udinese. He’s been capped more than 40 times by Greece and has come to put serious pressure on Heurelho Gomes, and not just play second fiddle. 

“We have three goalkeepers, not only two,” said Silva.

“We have Daniel [Bachmann], it’s important not to forget him. It is normal to have this competition. Until now it’s only Heurelho. He did well and has started the season well but we signed a new goalkeeper to come here and compete.” 

Watch Silva's pre-Swansea City press conference at the top of this article, free-of-charge and no sign-up required.

21/09/2017

Opposition Focus | Swansea City

Chris Wathan, the Chief Football Writer at Media Wales, takes us inside the Swans' camp and previews Saturday's opponents...

Swansea are 14th in the table with five points from as many games. Does that tell the full story?
 
“It's been a bit mixed. They had a decent start but then had two disappointing home defeats, losing 4-0 to United and then 1-0 to Newcastle. They were competitive against United until the last 10 minutes when they got caught on the counter-attack, but then they were very flat against Newcastle.

“Paul Clement was really aggrieved at the Newcastle defeat. Away from home, they have been quite impressive. They won 2-0 at Palace and then stopped Spurs scoring in front of their own fans for the first time in 18 months. Not many expected that result.”

The Swans were in midweek Carabao Cup action, defeating Reading 2-0. Did Clement make changes with the Watford game in mind?

“He made seven changes and they still looked a strong team, which shows you the strength of the squad these days. Wilfried Bony and Sanches both started as they need to get up to speed with fitness and, in Sanches' case, life in English football.

“Roque Mesa, a summer signing from Las Palmas, started and he was very impressive. He's not quite yet ready to start a Premier League game as he needs to get properly acclimatised, but Reading are a decent side so to play so well against them was particularly impressive.”

What has life been like without Gylfi Sigurdsson?

"It's too early to say. If you take someone of that quality out of any team it's going to knock them back. The club were keen to hold on to him but when he made it clear early on in the summer he wanted to go then Swansea's aim was to make sure they got fair value for him, and £45m was certainly that.”

Then there was the blow of losing Fernando Llorente, too...

“The Llorente one was a bit different and he was heading into the last year of his contract. He wanted a move and once they got Bony lined up to replace him, then £12m for a 32-year-old was good business.”

Fernando Llorente (pictured) and Gylfi Sigurdsson left the Liberty Stadium during the transfer window

Sigurdsson and Llorente were the best partnership in the league last season, linking up as a pair for six goals and contributing 25 of the team's 45 league goals. How has Clement gone about replacing them?

“It will be interesting to see how Clement does with new resources. They've tried to find a different way of playing, almost going back to the style they are famous for and one that took them through the divisions.

“They looked to play a lot in the air when Llorente was playing up front. Now they have got different options in Tammy Abraham and Bony. Abraham has started really well in a team that is still very much trying to find its feet.

“They've shown they can defend, with three clean sheets in the last three away games, but now they need to show how they can play on the front-foot."

Bony must have been welcomed back with open arms?

“He came on against Newcastle and started against Reading and everyone expects him to hit the ground running, but he's not played a great deal. He looks very motivated and was so keen to go back to Swansea. He wants to show he was no flash in the pan first time round.

“He's a huge fans' favourite and they were singing his name against Newcastle before he'd even touched the ball. There is a lot of goodwill towards him and everyone wants to see the fantastic player we all saw first time round.”

There has been lots of hype around Sanches. How has the Portuguese youngster fared?

“It's a case of small steps with Sanches. He's got to get up to speed with intensity of the Premier League and get some confidence back as he clearly had his struggles at Bayern. It's a big adjustment to make but Clement will give him the time and the platform to rediscover himself.

“The challenge is finding the best formation for him and the rest of the new players. They are still moving between formations and it's not quite clear how Clement feels it's best to set the team up. He's got a lot of quality in midfield, including Sam Clucas, and it's down to Clement to find the right alchemy.”

We know Clement will keep his cards close to his chest team-wise, but any Swans who will definitely miss Saturday's game? 

“Kyle Bartley is out with a knee injury, as is Ki Sung-Yueng. He had surgery at the end of last season. He's back training but won't be in consideration for this one. Nathan Dyer is only just back in training after surgery on his Achilles. Apart from that everyone is present and correct.”

You've got one of our own in your ranks, young Tom Carroll who was born in Watford General Hospital. How's he doing?

“He's been doing well. There were some sceptics when he signed permanently as we didn't see the best of him when he was on loan before, but he's hit the ground running under Clement and you can see a real improvement in his game since his first spell. He was much younger then but he has really matured.

“He's taken on the set-piece responsibility from Sigurdsson and that shows he's ready to lead from the front. He's really impressed and made himself a real fixture, someone who can be trusted.”

Wilfried Bony returned to Swansea over the summer

Carroll never played for Watford but one man who certainly did, club legend Nigel Gibbs, is part of the coaching staff at the Liberty. What sort of impact has he had?

“He's been very good and had a good impact. When you've got Claude Makelele in the backroom team, a lot of the spotlight inevitably falls on him but Nigel has worked very well behind-the-scenes and is clearly close with Clement, who has credited him with the big improvement in defence and particularly in set-pieces.

“It's been their Achilles' heel for many years, right back to their League 1 days, but Gibbs has led a marked improvement in that area since he came from Tottenham. You see him come out of the dugout and into the technical area when the team is defending set-pieces, and the only goal they conceded from a set-piece, after he arrived midway through last season, was on the final day of the season.

“They conceded a couple to United and Newcastle recently and that will have annoyed Nigel.”

Watford were four unbeaten and earning rave reviews until Manchester City produced a masterclass against us. How's our start been viewed in South Wales?

"You were never quite sure what you were going to get from Watford in the past two seasons, which is probably not a surprise given the amount of change, but they look more consistent now and, aside from the defeat to Man City, which can happen - just ask Swansea - they have hit the ground running.

“You've signed Andre Gray and he's a player Swansea will know well as they've been linked with him fairly recently. He's a player well respected by Swansea. The club also know Marco Silva well because of rivalry at the bottom last season with Hull.

“He ensured it almost went right down to the wire last season and that was some achievement as, just like Swansea and Clement, they were dead and buried when he arrived. Sam Clucas will know Silva well, that's for sure.”

How do you see the game going? 

"They won't be taking Watford lightly at all, that's for sure. The defeat to Watford at Vicarage Road last season really hurt and ended up being a turning point. They looked destined for the Championship after that game. But it turned out to be a turning point and they've not really looked back since under Clement.

“There is a lot of optimism going into the game with Watford. The home form was a big factor in keeping them in the Premier League and they will be keen to get back to that this weekend.”