I don’t really know where to begin. Swansea isn’t usually a place I look forward to going, and many other fans across the Premier League will agree. They appoint managers who, despite having little or no top-flight experience, play a similar brand of football, which has seen the club rise from being bottom of the football league to established in the top-flight in just under eleven years. However, as so often happens with teams outside the Premier League’s European regulars, European commitments have contributed to a struggle domestically, with the Swans sitting 15th prior to this weekend’s fixtures and looking for a first home win of the season.
As well as this, Sunderland were able to play the new manager card, which usually means a sudden, dramatic improvement on the pitch. But, as far as debuts go, it couldn’t really have gone worse for Sunderland’s new Uruguayan head coach.
Both teams started nervously, with Fletcher coming closest for Sunderland, while a De Guzman free-kick was sent narrowly wide of Westwood’s goal by the Canadian-born Dutch international. Despite cries from the home crowd to send Valentin Roberge for an early bath for the foul which led to De Guzman’s free kick, Sunderland kept it eleven-a-side and went in at half-time level. Who knows what either Poyet or Laudrup said to their team at the break, but only one team listened. While Swansea found the form that landed them the Capital One Cup last February, Sunderland crumbled. Looking at least a yard quicker, and playing with far more confidence, Swansea pressed and after numerous key saves from Keiren Westwood broke the deadlock thanks to yet another goal from a corner. The last touch appeared to come off Phil Bardsley, which, however unfortunate, will not go down well with supporters. A stunning strike from De Guzman followed a minute later and the game looked over. Yet another needless penalty conceded by Craig Gardner gave Wilfred Bony his second Premier League goal for Swansea, while Sunderland conceded their sixth goal from a set piece in eight games this season when Chico Flores headed against Fletcher and past Westwood for Swansea’s fourth.
If Gus Poyet didn’t realise the size of the job he took on, he does now. Speaking before the game, he mentioned the need for a solid, regular back four. Celustka has been one of our best signings this summer at right-back, and Roberge seems to have edged ahead of Diakite to play alongside O’Shea weekly, while the Ireland captain didn’t actually appear to be directly at fault for any goals this week. It’s left-back where I can’t help but criticise Poyet. In my opinion, Poyet had little option but to give Phil Bardsley a chance to get back into the team. Firstly, by including him in training and publically backing him, Poyet has shown the players that he is not Paolo Di Canio which, if the players hated the Italian as much as the press want us to believe, cannot be a bad thing. This helps Poyet go some of the way to winning over a squad who publically called for Kevin Ball to be given the job full-time prior to Poyet’s appointment. Also, it wasn’t too long ago that Phil Bardsley won player of the year, playing out of position on the left hand side of defence. As Poyet said earlier this week, Sunderland need every man they have if we are going to survive this year. However, personally I’d have left him on the bench. Regardless of his match fitness and off-field problems, Jack Colback is a far better option at left-back. If this is the back four Poyet will stick with, they need to improve, and quickly.
So did Ellis Short make the right decision to appoint Poyet ahead of Ball? At this moment it’s difficult to say yes. Strong, confident but unlucky performances against Liverpool and Manchester United under Ball gave fans hope of a win in Wales today, but a 4-0 thumping was far from ideal. However, a win next week in the Wear-Tyne derby and the Gus Bus will be slowly driving up the table.
Reece Hanson - @RGHanson93