Why Swansea should be pleased despite heavy defeat

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It is not often that a team plays at home, dominates possession and creates chances against the defending league champions the way Swansea did in their opening game of the 2013/14 season, and still end up losing 4-1. 

Unfortunately, that is also exactly what happened to Swansea.

On a day when the Swans were undone by brilliant counter-attacks and world-class finishes that resulted in goals quite clearly scored against the run of play, the team's coaching staff can get back to the drawing board having taken plenty of positives from the game.

Of course, the defending will be questioned, especially in reference to Danny Welbeck's first goal, a simple tap-in from three yards out, but there was really nothing that Williams and Chico Flores could have done to prevent either of Robin van Persie's goals.

Williams and left-back Ben Davies will be disappointed by their inability to close down Antonio Valencia during the build up to United's second goal of the game, which came two minutes after van Persie had blasted the defending champions ahead with a sumptuous finish past Michel Vorm, although on the whole, they did not have a very bad game.

However, to criticise the Swansea team as a whole would be a tad unfair. The game against United was the perfect case of United using their experience and match-winning mentality to convert the few chances they created, in a display of ruthless killer instinct.

Swansea were probably the better team in terms of keeping possession, distributing the ball and closing down their opponents.

The midfield trio of Jonjo Shelvey, Jose Canas and Leon Britton were excellent on the night; Britton was the epitome of confident calm when under pressure, and did ever so well to maintain possession and control the pace of the game.

Canas had a promising Premier League debut for the Swans, as he quickly came to terms with the pace and physicality of English football.

After making a horrendous tackle on Michael Carrick early in the game and then being on the receiving end of some of his own medicine, he showed that he was neat in possession, and very eager to get forward and contribute to attacks whenever possible.

His ability to link the team's midfield and attack with his surging runs up the pitch, and the determined nature of his performance against United meant he received warm applause from the home supporters when substituted late on in the game. 

However, the real positive from the game was the performance of £5million signing Shelvey. The former Liverpool player is yet to convince the majority of Premier League fans, some of whom are of the opinion that he is not capable of hitting a barn door from a yard out, and is too temperamental to succeed in the league.

To those detractors, his performance against United will come as the signal to stop with the unnecessary and unfair abuse. Shelvey was all over the pitch, working well with Canas to close down the likes of Carrick and Cleverley.

He tried to link up with Michu at every opportunity, looking for the towering Spaniard with long balls and supplying Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer on a regular basis.

While he wasn't spectacular, he showed that he could perform the role given to him by Laudrup very well, and should prove to be a crucial player for Swansea over the course of the season, especially given the injury suffered by creative midfielder Jonathan de Guzman after his bizarre clash with international team-mate Dirk Kuyt during the week.

Shelvey has his fair share of detractors, but looks he could turn out to be a very good signing for Laudrup.

Routledge and Dyer, and later substitute Pablo Hernandez, all showed promise at times, but were not allowed much space on the day by a well-organised United back four.

They should be able to exercise more influence on games as the season progresses, and their combined pace, trickery and ability to beat a man and cut in from the flanks will see Swansea create plenty of opportunities in game. 

Up front, Michu started the game alone and was often left stranded against the imposing figures of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. Most of Swansea's possession involved their midfielders, who did not succeed in finding Michu.

The crossing from full-backs Angel Rangel and Kyle Bartley was disappointing, and most crosses either harmlessly floated past the Spaniard or were headed out by United's experienced central defenders.

Last season's standout player for Swansea, Michu put in a real shift against the United back four, but will need better delivery from his team-mates if he is to stand a chance of repeating his goalscoring feats from his first campaign in England.

His strike partner and club-record signing Wilfried Bony suffered a similar lack of quality supply for the most of the 45 minutes he spent on the pitch, but showed glimpses of what he is capable of.

He will be disappointed with himself for missing the target from point blank range, as he could only head Shelvey's perfect cross wide of De Gea's goal while the scoreboard read 3-1 to United.

He made amends moments later after an enterprising run from Pablo Hernandez saw the ball land at his feet in the United penalty area.

Instead of taking a touch to compose himself, the Ivorian coolly placed the ball into the bottom corner of the goal in an excellent display of his instinctive ability to find the back of the net.

Laudrup did exceptionally well to complete the acquisition of a striker who was once rumoured to be attracting interest from the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham, and should get at least 20 goals out of his number 10 striker over the course of the season.

Despite the clear need to work on its approach to the game in the final third, this Swansea team has showed that it clearly has quality for Laudrup to work with.

With excellent ball-playing defenders, quality midfielders who can keep the ball all day and distribute it efficiently to wingers who love nothing more than to get into one-on-one situations with defenders, this Swansea team perfectly suits the possession-based tactics that Laudrup favours.

While none of the players in this team are world-class, they work well as cogs in the same machine, and a tactically astute manager like Laudrup should be able to continue to get the Swans to play some exciting football.

The Premier League is without a doubt the toughest league in the world, but Swansea have already shown they have what it takes to finish in the top ten at the very least. If they continue to put in good performances like the one we saw against United, the results will soon follow.

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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