Returning players make difference in Swansea - Knee Jerks
Thursday, 13th Feb 2020 16:56 by Antti Heinola
Antti's usual six talking points from the Swansea draw reflect on the impact made by returners Angel Rangel, Geoff Cameron and Ryan Manning.
A few times this season we've embarked on mini winless runs and because of our dreadful tendency to turn a couple of bad results from a little skid across some skiddy ice to one of those mile-high sheer-drop water slides, we've all been conditioned to, essentially, panic whenever we lose two or three. This is despite us starting the year with two thrashings and a defeat of the league leaders. Still, the spectre of last season, the season before that and especially the season before that loom large, understandably, in our minds.
However, unlike his two predecessors, Mark Warburton does seem able to get a corner turned before a drama turns into a crisis. It's still not a win, and our first goal drought of the season has well and truly set in, but at least we chalked up a clean sheet and grabbed a rare point. Hopefully this will restore a bit of confidence in the side and we can move on from the fug left by Wells' departure.
I thought the selection Warbs made last night was both predictable and correct. Rangel was bound to come in, and Cameron was a cert, so it was all about who would go. In the end, Ball got the nod to stay and we started with, for Warburton, a very defensive line up. And it worked really well. Rangel looked better both defensively and with the ball than Kane has done in recent times. Cameron had one of his better games and Barbet brought back some much-needed vision at the back. Looking at the selection without seeing the game, you'd be forgiven for thinking MW went for a 0-0 and got it, but in fact our outlook didn't change. We still attacked - more than they did - and should have scored at least a couple of goals were it not for Hugill's failure to convert two or three very decent chances. So, right team, decent result, could've been better.
I didn't, however, expect to see a recall for Ryan Manning who has been out of sorts for a while now. Whether Wallace was sick or injured or just rested, I'm not sure, but it was good to see Manning rediscover some of his early season form. I thought he was better here than he has been for some time, not only doing a very good job on the dangerous Ayew (a player who would need to pull off someone's leg and start beating about the ref's head before he might be yellow carded, it seemed) but also safe in possession and putting in a couple of sumptuous crosses that deserved more than they got. I think overall he's a better player than Wallace, but there's a real battle for that left back slot now, unless Warbs finally decides to give Ryan a go in midfield again.
Over on the other full back, the old warhorse was back, months off, but looking no different to the last time he played. The downside of Rangel is that we have to defend a bit deeper, the upside is that he's just a good defender. His anticipation is excellent, his positioning very good, he stops crosses and he passes the ball accurately. If only he were 10 years younger. If only he were five years younger. Plenty of people had influential games last night, but I thought from the start of the game Rangel looked completely determined to play his part. When a player gets to his age you sort of think that they're probably happy just to play the odd game, but they won't be. I'm sure Rangel wants to compete with Kane and play every week if he can. Brought some sure-footedness to the defence and was another good outlet for Kelly.
I subscribe to the common thought that if Cameron plays well, we play well. Last night he played well and did what he does best: winning the ball, showing strength, getting it, giving it (although I do think he has a propensity to sometimes mess up the simplest of passes), and he also had a few surges forward. Indeed, his clean strike on the half-volley could easily have brought a goal but for an unfortunate deflection. The problem, as with Rangel, is his age. He just cannot play at full tilt in every game, and that spot (or spots) at the base of the midfield are so crucial to how MW wants us to play. I agreed with Clive when he said the other week that Ryan Woods, who went on loan to Millwall, would have been ideal for us. Wonder if Warburton might think of trying to nab him in the summer...
We've had our fair share of poor luck with pens this season (not least an appalling decision on Saturday), so I'm not too bothered if we got away with one last night, although I have to say I don't think any of them were penalties. There was contact with all three, but contact does not mean a penalty. Kelly's contact with Brewster was minimal and came after he had grabbed the ball at the 19th attempt. It was like a bar of soap, Martin. Barbet's shove was stupid and risky, but overall there was enough of a barge coming from the other way that I think the ref got it right. And Ayew's was a dive - the old trick of flicking his boot out at Barbet's leg and throwing himself down. He'd been holding the ball, desperate for a challenge so he could try it and when the challenge didn't really come he did it anyway. Pretty poor.
Said this on the Match Fred, but I thought Warburton got this about right. I wasn't even too happy about Rangel coming off. Sometimes in tight games, it feels risky to change things. No one really looked exhausted, except maybe Rangel and Pugh, and all over the pitch players were, on the whole, winning their individual battles. I might have taken Pugh off for Chair, but I felt he was giving Manning some decent cover and was showing for the ball well. Warburton had rotated quite a few players from Saturday's game, so most of them were pretty fresh. The only concern remains poor Eze, who, with the absence of Wells, we're starting to rely on more and more - just at the point where his goals have dried up a bit.
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