Swansea City manager Graham Potter spoke about learning about his players during Thursday’s pre-match press conference and you couldn’t help get the feeling that he was responding to his recent critics who are questioning his constant team changes between games.
For two games running, Potter has been forced to make changes during the games having got his starting line-up wrong. Leroy Fer and Jay Fulton didn’t click together at Aston Villa last Saturday but the midfield pair came on at the start of the second half on Tuesday night against Blackburn Rovers and they both played a big part in our comeback 3-1 victory at the Liberty Stadium.
Some players have been inconsistent this season and so you could defend Potter for making changes but then again, would a solid run in the team help that lack of consistency for some individuals? For example, Fulton made no impact at Villa Park but he was excellent when he came on against Blackburn. It was a similar thing for Fer. He was very poor at Aston Villa, looked unfit and lost possession far too often, but Tuesday night he gave us some much needed physical strength in the middle of the pitch.
Potter has probably settled now on his number 1 goalkeeper, even if the fans can’t understand that logic. Rodon and van der Hoorn are the established centre-back pairing, with Rodon having a rest in midweek now and then. The manager’s main headaches in defence are at full back. Connor Roberts has impressed when played further forward – like he did against Rovers – scoring a goal as he made inside runs to support attacks. Naughton has played well when called upon in midfield but he struggled at right back on Tuesday. He was sloppy to concede a penalty and Nordfeldt saved further blushes late on when his poor clearance allowed a shot on goal that was brilliantly saved by Kristoffer down low to his left.
Elsewhere, Celina and McBurnie’s places are also pretty established, but especially in McBurnie’s case – we’ve got no alternative options for their attacking positions. McKay is in and out of the team and considering his form since the first game of the season, he’s rather lucky to be anywhere near the starting line-up. Dan James must surely keep his place on Saturday after playing a huge part in our second-half comeback as he provided the assist for Roberts’ second goal of the season.
Like we wrote here, I still defend Potter’s tinkering, although I did think his decision to go with a back three at Aston Villa recently was going a bit far. It allowed him to see what Cian Harries is capable of but it was clear that we’re far better suited in our tried and tested back four.
Like Potter says, he needs to “get information” about his players and the only way he’ll ever get that is by giving them chances in the team. He faces a tough task in getting the balance right between understanding his squad’s players – knowing their strengths and weaknesses, giving them playing time which they’re all looking for, and getting results on the pitch.
“I had no idea what our young players could do – that’s the truth,”
“Part of the process is finding out, getting to know the players and their attributes.
“For example, which side is Dan James best on? When I came in, some people said right and some people said left.
“Joe (Rodon) and Cian (Harries) were seen as a partnership, and other players in that group were mentioned too.
“The only way to find out about these players is to give them an opportunity.
“We are trying to develop a group and to build something here.
“To do that you need information on all the players, and the only way to get that information and make decisions on players is to see those players in action.”
I can understand the fans’ frustrations over the constant changes but I still feel some are being harsh on Potter and the job he’s done so far. We’re only 4 points from the play-off places and we’re not too far from being a side that could possibly compete in the top 6. Our poor finishing and lack of attacking depth have held us back so far.
“We have a combination of challenges,”
“We have had a lot of guys making their debuts this year – it’s a young group of players.
“We only had a four-week pre-season so we’re still working out who can do what.
“We also have to cope with the physical challenges of playing three games of Championship football a week when many of our players have been used to the under-23s.
“We also have a lot of players going away to play international football, whether it’s senior level or under-21s.
“And then it’s about finding the right balance in the team for each game we play.”