Swansea expectation is too much, it could actually end in disaster : Match Reaction & Match Preview
Tuesday, 2nd Mar 2021 13:30 by Keith Haynes
It’s been a somewhat unfortunate three weeks at best, the energy has gone, the desire apparently is lacking, and by all accounts Swansea City haven’t got it in them as individuals, and as a team to maintain their goal of premier league football.
Let’s have a look at a few things before we analyse exactly what we here at Swansea Independent believe has gone wrong at the Liberty over the past six weeks or so. Steve Cooper and Mike Marsh, over the last eighteen months have tuned in very quickly to the Swansea way of playing and delivering football to its followers. That clearly was the attraction for Trevor Birch after Cooper’s second presentation which secured him the top job. His history has seen nothing but success. From the time he took up a coaching and development role at Wrexham to management of the youth training centre to Liverpool where again he excelled in management, to England youth sides where he won the World Cup. Winners are hard to find at any level of football.
However, please stick with us on this. There is more
Steve Cooper not only talks a good game he delivers a good game in the results business. His win rate over 150 professional games is possibly in the top twenty as it stands currently in Europe. He was manager of the England under 16 side and returned a 62,5% win rate, with the under 17 side the World Cup he hit 69.7%. Of course most folks are going to be looking at his swans career to date. Currently that’s at 46%, far higher than many managers, but his percentage rate is falling. Of course it will do, the recent defeats won’t help, and let’s be honest there’s more to come this season. However, these stats are decent. And return an overall nigh on 55% career average. Regardless of what fans think of stats, that’s impressive.
But here’s a thing
With Liverpool and England he coached and managed the best young players on offer the majority of the time. We can see his win rate was pretty phenomenal, but of course when you have the best you usually deliver the best, or at least you start to get what you pay for. Cooper’s philosophy is new in many ways to the majority of coaches, this is why he succeeded Graham Potter so smoothly. Potter was another young coach with a methodology years away from the old school guard who have been riding on the merry go round for thirty years. That’s what the club wanted back in 2019, someone with fresh ideas to carry on the work that had been done. Albeit a lot of the recruiting was pretty average under Potter, his skills based training methods and out of comfort learning experiences were admired by many of his peers.
It must have come as a shock, Cooper and Marsh on their separate coaching journeys had experienced only thirst and hunger for knowledge, it’s what youngsters require, well, those youngsters who want to achieve in their careers. And many did. Cooper especially could develop his own skills base whilst developing young players as well. His desire to learn from many successful coaches and managers, to travel and indulge himself in many tactical ideas paid off. At this point and as he was appointed at Swansea, albeit a gamble, it was a clever one. The culture shock most certainly would have been new experiences with players in a different age group, and some older heads too. Initially it went well, but his tactics and formations, like many were addressed well by opponents. We have seen that away at Derby, Huddersfield and at home more so at times.
The end of season play off loss was actually seen by many as a success
The problem both Marsh and Cooper now had was expectation. The club, the fans and those watching the club closely believed only more success would come. He had invested well, far better than Potter, still utilising his contacts with young players and within the game. Every signing was crucial and every signing seemed to meet with approval. Unfortunately, for the first time this season, over the last six weeks or so, most people eyeing the club were beginning to get a tad cagey. Cracks were appearing, injuries didn’t help, and recent injuries have taken their toll. However Cooper is the leader of this gang, his decision making and requirements were passed on to Andy Scott, these were Cooper’s targets. And Cooper’s alone. He has only himself to blame, for sure.
When Cooper 'could have' walked
Cooper remained professional even when Kris Peterson was sold from under his feet ( and he was ) it could have seen Cooper walk, and we know here for sure it could have happened. Peterson had been with Cooper for years, as a youngster at Liverpool, and there on Cooper always had the desire to work with him again. His sale could have seen him walk, that’s a fact, it’s not even a talking point. The speculation on Twitter was laughed at, actually it was right, by guessing or otherwise, Cooper was close. Peterson was a player Cooper was developing, albeit slowly, his leaving so quickly really angered him. Some would say Cooper should have played him more, others may be more astutely, on reflection, will agree, Cooper had known the player for years, this was purely financial. There's a principle here, the fact it was Peterson hurt a lot. The fact Cooper got stuck in even more is testament to his loyalty to the players he had brought in, and to his desire to make Swansea City a success again.
Moving forwards, it seems the seasonal sticky patch is with us. What has become evident is that the team have, this year, stumbled more than won convincingly. Since the Barnsley 3-1 away win especially. The changing attitudes on the pitch from a massive desire to win in one half to a completely different side the next must be baffling for Cooper. He has said ‘ We talk about it, we study it and we look at putting it right, even when we win we want to win better’ A fair point. What is certainly clear is that the players, with all due respects are not starlets and big names for the future, although there are a couple of players which have developed so well under Cooper that could come back and bite his critics. Cooper isn't managing and coaching the best available, thats his real problem.
Cooper needs to assess his squad as it is, not with what he had in the past
Copper’s training style has worked over time, and the real fans issue is those that see three points from every game as the bench mark. Well, that’s impossible, And this is a ridiculous expectation. Fans reacting week to week on results is hardly helpful. However reacting on the past week or so is a decent shout. The hammering at Huddersfield saw a swans side totally indifferent to wanting to win. No effort, no panache, little understanding and definitely no desire. The win against Coventry, like against Forest and think about the Luton game earlier this season, yes they were wins but the cracks were back again. So, being fortunate against Brentford is another example, superb against Norwich, a complete change in attitude, the ups and downs of the performances were more unsteady than Bitcoin. As we have said, baffling.
Going in to the Coventry game most were relieved than happy with the result, the first half against Bristol City was extremely good, but no rewards. The second half was awful. It’s hard to describe the feeling as the equaliser went in, it doesn’t matter who is to blame, Hourihane, Grimes or Woodman it was tentative negative play that brought it about. A failure to look forwards, find team mates and be positive was the fault, nothing more. The second goal was a well worked set piece. Kasey Palmer, clearly furious for being blamed for the swans penalty took a decent corner, no doubt about it. However, look at Woodman because his defenders weren’t. They allowed Bristol City players to dominate him, physically out manoeuvre him from his starting position and there it is, it’s 1-2. Pearson isn’t a mug, anyone who tells me that this set piece was lucky doesn’t know how he operates. It was very evident this was Pearson with a clear knowledge on our weaknesses, that is Woodman’s body strength in his own area. Pearson has a history of taking an advantage and putting it in to his game plan. This is a man remember credited by the majority of the Leicester City squad as being fundamental to them winning the premier league.
Job done, Palmer and Pearson knew exactly where to pressurise Swansea
It’s the old heads who have probably shaken their own old heads at the new breed of coaches that are currently maintaining their sides in the championship - or in Pearson and McCarthy’s case able to adapt quickly and implement their strategy. It was simple coaching and basic pressing play that outdone the swans on Saturday, and I will couple that with the huge stress on those Swansea players shoulders. Stress that has been placed on them by Cooper’s desire to win and how to win. Pressure from within to perform and the supporters desire to win every game. This is where it is all going wrong for Swansea. Cooper talks a lot about players developing, cleverly delivered physical and mental training sessions, and learning from experience. He also enjoys his non negotiable way he wants his players to deliver. Cooper rarely if ever takes the blame, or takes it on board at least publicly that he is wrong. He doesn’t single out players, thats suicide, but he never takes the blame when things go awry. Maybe something for him to develop in himself ?
Cooper has high standards, but needs more reflection on his own performance
The learning from the last few weeks is very clear, this is a successful side this season, a good and well drilled side that will make the play offs for sure. What does it need ? Four wins and a few draws ? Yes, that’s achievable. At this time what isn’t achievable is this demand for top two. There is only one thing Cooper and Marsh can do. Take the pressure off, and that includes Stoke City away, for me it doesn’t matter if we lose in the potteries and then draw on Saturday. Give the players back some pressure free football, not a win at all costs, and don't tell me we need a striker, the only person to blame for not recruiting a goal scorer is Steve Cooper. Sorry if that hurts, but it’s true. It isn’t Scott, Winter or any number of Americans. It’s his. So don’t look there. Look at manager Cooper. Take the rough with the smooth, the plaudits with the negatives. And there’s A very big one. Develop that. His interview this week nearly touched on it, but Cooper backed off saying ' Thats not for now, thats for later. we have what we have, we assess at the end of the season' What are you taking from that ?
I expect Swansea to really struggle if a change of mindset isn’t focussed on over the coming weeks. How that is delivered is down to Cooper and co. But it’s clear that the players are stressed, some would say tired, and mentally tired is equally as impactive as physically tired for sure. That needs addressing and quickly. It has been commented on by many over the past few weeks, the tiredness of the players. For me, it’s not just physical, it’s the absolute win at all costs strategy that is forcing mistakes, look at Woodman for the third goal on Saturday. Totally out of character, and clearly a player shouldering too much pressure. The easy pass was there, he didn’t see it, he made the error. It’s not a problem, he makes very few.
Out muscled and isolated, Freddie Woodman
“I think it's testament to the character and mentality of the team that we always bounce back from a loss. Hopefully, we can do that again on Wednesday,” said Grimes. Obviously, we're still in a very good position. We're having a very good season and we'll look to bounce back. It is a tough place to go - everyone knows that - but we'll do our preparation, get our recovery done and be ready to go again. We know that we let ourselves down on Saturday. I don't think we played badly, but conceded three very sloppy goals and lost the game. It can happen, but we need to dust ourselves down and go again.”
Okay, testament to the teams ability to bounce back from a loss ? Wasn't that Saturday's job ? It has only been two losses on the bounce though, so I will forgive him there. However, what else do we expect a young man who is captain of a very good football side to say ? As I've said twice now, the coaches at Swansea need to reassess their strategy before it combusts and explodes in their faces. Take the pressure, off, not allow it to increase. That isn't happening if Grimes comments are taken on board, he is just applying more pressure to an already powder keg situation mentally.
A confused message by captain Grimes
This isn't a 'knocking the boss article', its an honest observation on Cooper and Marsh and their strategies as it stands. The season has been successful, very successful, no doubt, but may be a bit more reflection and stock taken on the players position is needed ? This side will make the play offs, that golden lottery that can end up anywhere, with some application and a return to the basics, and a lowering of expectations on the pitch could well make the young heads tick again. Don't expect a bounce back on Wednesday, don't think its a must win, there's a long rod, nearly a third of the season to go.
Take the pressure off, relieve the expectation.
I mean, its worth a try surely ?
Photo: Action Images
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