Swansea v Norwich Preview
Since my last preview, we've nicked a point at Goodison Park and St.Mary's, then continued our impressive home form against the Mackems. Happy days.
I say happy days, but I can't have been the only one bricking it during the second half last Sunday. Thank goodness such a glorious chance fell to Matt Kilgallon and not Steven Fletcher, because the black cats might've even gone on to get another one and win the darned thing.
While John Ruddy is on the sidelines nursing his thigh, Mark Bunn has been fantastic in his absence. Bunn had already produced a couple of good displays in the League Cup, but any time you're asked to come into a Premier League side without consistent game time you have to make sure you're ready. Ok, it's actually his job to be ready for such occurrences, but you have to admire him for not only his patience, but the way he's grasped the opportunity. Ruddy should slot back in on his return, but he'll certainly be better for the competition Bunn provides him with.
The Sunderland victory culminated a difficult, yet triumphant month-or-so of games which have tested the fitness and resolve of the players. A test they've stood up too with courage, graft, determination and vigour. Sebastien Bassong in particular has been colossal and a fundamental reason for the recent surge and 9-game unbeaten run across the competitions. Hopefully not too many other clubs are noticing him, because he'd be a great addition for a number of them, especially if they've got more money to offer him.
Next up, a team who joined us in the top flight along with QPR. It's fitting that while neither have spent as much as the West-Londoners, we're both thriving whilst they have spent a fortune and are clinging on to top-flight status for dear life now.
Last time we met-
If you travelled to the Liberty last season, you certainly got your monies' worth. The mustard initially went 1-0 down to a Danny Graham effort, but 3 goals in an explosive 18 second half minutes completely turned the tide, giving the Swans only their second home defeat of the season up to that point. Actually, Swansea only lost four times at home in the campaign and recorded victories against Liverpool, Arsenal and even Man City, whilst also holding Chelsea and Spurs to draws. In short, we did brilliantly to get all three points, when even just the one would've been quite welcome.
Graham scored a penalty to pull it back to 2-3, but strikes from Pilkington and Holt (2) had done the necessary damage. Holt was subjected to the usual "You fat B-word!" chants, and he responded by removing his shirt and flexing like some kind of narcissistic Greek warrior. Legend. Elliot Ward also returned from injury after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, putting in a decent shift. It was a cracking game and another super result which saw Norwich move up to 8th in the table, having won four out of their last six matches. Such was our good form at the time that I strongly considered dusting off my passport in case we did something completely stupid like get into the Europa League.
Key opposition threat-
Michu is just superb isn't he? He's the league's joint top goalscorer and he's in rude form. He scored two against Arsenal last week and you can bet he'll fancy his chances in front of goal again when we roll into town. But Swansea are a far from a one man show, and they've got real quality all over the park. The nickname 'Swanselona' isn't a piss-take, but rather a glowing tribute to the positive, attacking brand of football they provide. Michu isn't the only goalscoring threat either, and Danny Graham has even been touted as a possible Canaries' transfer target for the January window. At the back, Wales captain Ashley Williams will fancy his chances against Holty, and you wouldn't bet on many to outpace the likes of Wayne Routledge on the flank.
What's in store this time?
The Swans are in excellent form and playing some brilliant football, a joy to watch. We're still searching for an away win and considering what I just said about the opposition, South Wales wouldn't be the first destination I'd pick if I wanted to keep an unbeaten run going.
Tactically Hughton will have his mind made up and I'll trust his judgement, but I can't decide what I think would be the best policy. We could put ten men behind the ball and play it long (something Swansea players like Nathan Dyer actually criticised us for last season) and try to stop their creative juices flowing, but it won't be quite so easy when they're at pretty much full strength in the outfield. Perhaps we should just go and attack them and fight fire with fire. We know they're going to come at us and test us, so why shouldn't we extend such a courtesy in return?
In all honesty, a point would be terrific in the circumstances. We performed brilliantly here last time out, so hopefully we can take inspiration from that cold, yet glowing February day.