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First Team

Media View: Expert insight on Swansea

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to bounce back from their midweek defeat by Preston when they host in-form Championship rivals Swansea City on Saturday (3pm kick-off).

The Cherries surrendered their unbeaten league record as second-half goals from Ben Whiteman and Ali McCann earned the Lilywhites a 2-1 win at Vitality Stadium on Wednesday.

Swansea have hit their straps in recent weeks, a thumping 3-0 home win over arch rivals Cardiff one of four victories in their past five games.

Russell Martin’s team followed up by beating West Brom 2-1 and triumphed 3-0 against Peterborough and 2-1 at Coventry, their only defeat coming at Birmingham (2-1).

Martin took over at the Swansea.com Stadium just days after leading MK Dons in his final game when they bowed out of the Carabao Cup at the hands of the Cherries in July.

An inauspicious start saw the Swans win one and draw four of their first eight league games as well as progressing to the third round of the Carabao Cup where they lost out to Brighton.

Ahead of the clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with Ian Mitchelmore who follows the fortunes of the Swans and Wales for WalesOnline.

SWANSEA CITY PROFILE

Ground: Swansea.com Stadium

Nickname: The Swans

Head coach: Russell Martin (appointed August 2021)

Club captain: Matt Grimes

Current league position: 11th

Leading goalscorer 2021/22: Joel Piroe (10 in all competitions)

Last game: Coventry City 1-2 Swansea City (Championship)

afcb.co.uk: How would you sum up the season so far for Swansea?

IM: After a bit of a slow burner early on, they have really picked up. They have had four wins in their past five games having won just once in the opening month.

It was understandable because there was a really big change in personnel off the pitch. Russell Martin only joined the club as manager six days before they played Blackburn on the opening day so it was a massive overhaul, on and off the pitch with staff and players.

It was always going to take time and the style has changed dramatically. We’re seeing the hard work, particularly from the international breaks, come to fruition because the performances are more consistent and the results are coming as well.

afcb.co.uk: What are your early impressions of Russell Martin (pictured above)?

IM: He’s great to deal with in terms of being a member of the media. He really believes in what he’s doing and there is a lot of trust from fans and players alike in terms of listening to his ideas and implementing everything he says.

I think the players are trusting even more in it because they are seeing the proof on the pitch. They are dominating and controlling games and creating a lot more chances than they did in those early games.

The goals are coming and they are getting more wins. The clean sheet record is very good so, collectively, it’s been very encouraging, particularly in the past two weeks and I think that’s why the players are really believing in Russell Martin.

afcb.co.uk: Is this Swansea team better than last season’s which reached the play-off final?

IM: That’s a horrible question!

They are playing a much better brand of football than they did last season but there was a lot of individual quality in that team.

They were so good defensively at times but perhaps weren’t as exciting and enjoyable to watch in attack, hence why they ground out victories which is certainly not a problem in this league.

This time round, they can dominate matches which we saw against Peterborough recently and in the derby against Cardiff. In terms of them being better, I really don’t know – ask me again in May! 

afcb.co.uk: Tell us a little about Jamie Paterson (pictured above)?

IM: He was released by Bristol City in May, part of a massive squad overhaul by Nigel Pearson. He followed Liam Walsh and Korey Smith in making the move from Ashton Gate to Swansea and has hit the ground running.

He scored on his debut against Blackburn in a defeat on the opening day but his quality has been there for all to see. He had a disrupted pre-season and has grown game by game.

He’s a real influence, not just chipping in with goals – he’s got six already – but by contributing assists while his link up with Joel Piroe has been absolutely phenomenal.

He nailed down a first-team spot very quickly and, as long as he stays fit, he’s going to start all the games this season because he’s been a revelation. He’s so confident and he’s got that swagger as well where he’s playing a bit further up than he has in previous teams in his career.

It’s giving him that bit more licence to really harm teams in the final third which suits him down to the ground as we’ve seen in the opening three months of the season.

afcb.co.uk: What sort of reception can Jamal Lowe (pictured above) expect from Swansea fans?

IM: I think he’ll get a good one. He only had the one season at Swansea, he signed for a small fee from Wigan. He chipped in with 14 goals and played a big part in the promotion push last season.

He scored a lot of vital goals and anyone who scores a brace at Cardiff in a derby is going to be well remembered by the Jack Army. I think he’ll get a good reception.

It came as a bit of a surprise for many fans to see him go after he scored so many of the goals last season but when Russell Martin came in, he clearly didn’t quite see him fitting in and Jamal got a great move to a big club with Premier League ambitions themselves.

It looks like he’s settled in okay down there. I think the fans on the whole will give him a good warm welcome when they see him.

afcb.co.uk: Who is Swansea’s one to watch?

IM: There are a few at the moment. Olivier Ntcham (pictured above) is really starting to go through the gears now.

He had a lot of fitness issues and hadn’t played a lot of football before coming to Swansea. He only played four games during a loan spell with Marseille then got released by Celtic in the summer.

He’s yet to play a full 90 minutes for Swansea but, in the 60-minute appearances, he is showing he has a lot of quality. He’s one of the most athletic players you will see and, when he’s fully fit, he’s going to be a real force in this division.

afcb.co.uk: Are any key players either suspended or injured against the Cherries?

IM: They have a fully-fit squad. Flynn Downes had a hamstring injury last week but he’s back on the pitch. He’s come off the bench in the past couple of games.

Michael Obafemi is back after about a month out. Russell Martin is in the fortunate position of having a fully-fit squad which he didn’t for the first couple of months.

afcb.co.uk: What’s your score prediction?

IM: I’m loathe to go with Bournemouth but I think they are the best team in the division. I do fancy Swansea to score but I’ll go with 2-1 to Bournemouth. 

You can follow Ian on Twitter – @IanMitchelmore 

Officials: Tony Harrington (referee), Constantine Hatzidakis (assistant), Sam Lewis (assistant), Andy Davies (fourth official). 

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