The fine line between competition for places and too many players is one every manager must grapple with to have long-term success.
Rafael Benitez was famous for his rotation policy, as was Claudio ‘’Tinkerman’ Ranieri, whilst Alex Ferguson rarely chooses the same 11 in two consecutive games. Okay, Manchester United’s squad is vastly superior to most, but the same principle applies.
Thus far, Brendan Rodgers seems to be walking the tightrope well. There has been a settled feel to the team, with a few tweaks here and there, whilst the League Cup has provided the opportunity to rotate the squad.
“I look at their intensity and desire (in training) and, when they show that, the possibility is there to come into the team.” You can’t say fairer than that Mr. Rodgers.
Joe Allen came into the team after impressing off the bench, and took his chance when he started, thus setting the template for all the squad. Now it’s up to David Cotterill to force his way back into the starting team.
Last season, Paulo Sousa talked of an exodus of players to trim a bloated squad. This did not really materialise, and the result was players like Stephen Dobbie and Lee Trundle kicking their heels on the bench, with Dobbie eventually loaned to Blackpool.
Swansea have been linked to numerous players in the past few weeks, and the additions of Frank Nouble and Yves Makabu-Makalambay will definitely add depth.
Nouble was straight into the action on Saturday, which was certainly a surprise, given the form Dobbie has showed. However, when Dobbie comes off the bench to score and we win 2-0, it can be put down as a managerial masterstroke.
Even though Dorus has been outstanding for Swansea with no direct competition, the addition of Yves will be no bad thing, with David Cornell hopefully finding a loan club. Nouble and Yves are both ex-Chelsea trainees, again showing Rodgers’ useful link with the Premier League champions.
Nevertheless, there is potential trouble ahead in midfield with no less than 14 players all competing for places.
Keeping all these players happy will take skilful man-management, not to mention a long FA Cup and League Cup run to aid player rotation.
This system has obviously worked so far, with a well deserved victory over Peterborough, with a mix of squad players and first-teamers.
When your best players are performing in all competitions, step forward Scott Sinclair, fast becoming the purchase of the season, you have a good arrangement.
Additionally, Neil Taylor has quietly impressed with his attacking bursts, à la Angel Rangel, and could form a potent link with Sinclair. The fact he is young and Welsh adds to the exciting package the Swans could have.
On the subject of Sinclair, the Swans fans are sampling what it must be like to watch Messi week in week out at the Nou Camp, albeit at Championship level.
In previous seasons, lack of goals from midfield has been problematic with the likes of Leon Britton rarely finding the net.
However Sinclair seems to be the perfect attacking package – provider, scorer, and a constant threat that can occupy several defenders.
With pace, trickery, and the ability to make you look silly, a wing-attack of Dyer and Sinclair will have defenders waking up in cold sweats. Add Allen, Cotterill and Pratley, and you have a very good midfield with an average age of 22.
It would seem Brendan Rodgers is finding the right balance between the Martinez total football method, and the cautious goal-starved Sousa reign.
The Liberty has rarely been labelled a ‘fortress’ before. The Swans have sometimes struggled at home against compact, negative teams, but found success on the road, where the attacking onus was on the home team and there was more space to exploit.
This season, the opposite is happening, and five wins, 12 goals and one conceded makes it hard to argue against ‘fortress’ status.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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