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Conor Hourihane isn’t getting the plaudits from everyone that’s for sure - and here is why
Sunday, 21st Mar 2021 10:59 by Keith Haynes

Swansea City fans, us here at the Independent included, were absolutely delighted to learn of the arrival of Conor Hourihane at the Liberty, but it seems that relationship has gone sour. The way the swans play either isn’t suiting his game or his desire to turn his time at the Liberty in to a memorable one just isn’t there. Conor Hourihane is under scrutiny.

When you earn as much as Conor Hourihane, and come to a club with the pedigree he has, not only in getting his parent club promoted but as an overall leader and talisman then expectations are high. He came with great expectations and his first three games were just that, his link play, determination and goals were there for all to see. In those first three games he scored against Brentford, Norwich and Rotherham away return in seven points from nine. Then against Forest the swans won 1-0, Hourihane was subbed late on after a scrappy but deserved win. It was after that we saw a different Conor Hourihane. Away at Huddersfield he scored a majestic free kick, but the swans went down 4-1 to a team who had forgotten how to win.

Hourihane’s commitment was questioned after that game, what he brings to the attack he most certainly wasn’t bringing to the defence. His marking ability under pressure and desire to get back and defend was definitely under scrutiny. Positionally he wasn’t at he races. Huddersfield’s goals that day in the first half were down to a defensive collapse and Hourihane was culpable for sure. In his next two games he was substituted against Coventry and Bristol City. The former a 1-0 scrappy win, the latter once again exposed his lack of competency to get back and help his defence. He looked either tired and out of sorts or just couldn’t be bothered. What was evident was his lack of commitment to knuckle down and fight for his team when it was required, he just didn’t seem that bothered. Confirming this was the two substitutions in those two games. You would have thought Steve Cooper would have looked to Hourihane to lead and fight to get the team the three points. He didn’t, he took him off the pitch.

The next two games saw Hourihane benched for the Stoke away win, coming on for the last twenty minutes and contributing to the controversial win. When Warnock’s pants were taken down at the Liberty he started the game but again it was clearly evident Hourihane was struggling to partake in his defensive duty. Swansea City rely on all ten outfield players to consume the whole game as a group. The strategy is clear, at times it isn’t pretty but it wins games. When an element of that group fails to do that huge gaps appear and a total effort from the other nine players can become too much. Games can be lost.

Away at Blackburn he just didn’t seem in the game, eventually going off injured on sixty five minutes. We saw one glimpse of a tough Hourihane which ended Potts game, but that was just once, we want that the majority of the time, every team needs that. In his position in the team it isn’t an option, it’s a must. The swans battled out a 1-1 draw but sadly Hourihane found it very difficult to get in to the game. It was a tough battle requiring a determined approach to a game that the swans could easily have lost. His injury meant the swans were able to strengthen the midfield and get the draw, sadly that’s how it seemed. Comments after the game were along the lines that some felt his withdrawal assisted the swans getting the point.

Then came the Luton away game, one of the toughest he swans have played for many weeks. Luton were strong and quick with a clear game plan. Although the swans scored an early winner, Hourihane’s fifth goal for the club little else worked on the day. Hourihane was rightly subbed again, his non involvement was evident - not assisting the defensive requirement of the team. The game was passing him by again, he was off the pace and lacking in determination. Against Bournemouth away he was included but subbed. This was the catalyst for this article and possibly why a lot of swans fans are now questioning Conor Hourihane. This game needed a hard edge to everyone’s game, some players turned up and some didn’t. In the end the swans had to strengthen Hourihane’s position or it could have been a lot more. His game ended early against Cardiff, a game that required a clear commitment from all eleven players. Early on his concentration was failing and he lost the ball to Bacuna, injuring himself as he did so.

If we look at Conor Hourihane as a goal scorer from a midfield base he has delivered, his contribution has earned Swansea City points, no doubt. But the reason some supporters are questioning his commitment is also as evident. It’s almost as if he doesn’t value the requirement of Steve Cooper to be that complete player he thought he had signed. For us here it’s his fragility, his lack of endeavour at times and maybe even the fact the pressure is too much ? He feels that he has to deliver and it’s too much ? Going forwards on a sunny day, the pitch in fantastic condition and your team winning the game Conor is an absolute delightful footballer. When it’s cold and windy, and toughness is required it seems he doesn’t fancy it. Maybe his scrapping over the years for Barnsley and Villas taken it out of him as well ? He wanted to come to a club that played good football, and he didn’t think about the dogged nature of what it requires to win games in championship ?

Whatever the reasons Villa fans should know, he is a welcome attribute to Swansea City, but overall he isn’t gaining too many fans of his game in a Swansea team that needs everyone to be a leader, a team that demands physicality and intensity. And that’s all the time, not just when the fairway is looking fantastic and life’s a breeze. Nobody needs singling out at any point in any team, but when you come with the salary and expectation Hourihane did to Swansea you have to take the plaudits and indeed the criticism.

That’s how it works, so here’s to a return to favour for Conor Hourihane, injury dependent as the swans look to once again get a promotion to the premier league, no matter how unlikely that seems and feels today.

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