Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Four Defensive Midfield Options for Swansea City

The January transfer window has earned a reputation as the worst possible time for sound recruitment. However, at Swansea City, manager Garry Monk has singled his intent to add 'young' and 'hungry' players to the squad, particularly as he knows he will lose vital team members in Ki Sung Yeung and Wilfried Bony to the Asian and African nation's cups, respectively.
In addition, after a bright start to the season, performances and results have begun to tail off, and the areas of the squad in need of reinforcement have become increasingly obvious with every passing week. Of course, back-up will be required for Gomis- who would otherwise find himself the only first-team striker at the club- during Bony's absence, but issues in the current first team may also need to be remedied.
So far, both of the side's fullbacks have come under scrutiny from fans. Neil Taylor has consistently struggled against the very best wide-men in the Premier League, and it has become self-evident- if it wasn't before- that right-back Angel Rangel lacks any of the salient qualities necessary to play week-in week-out in the top flight. More pressing than that, however, has been the lack of an orthodox, high-tempo, holding midfield player.
For the bulk of the season, in the absence of Leon Britton, Ki has performed that role admirably in the knowledge that Jonjo Shelvey, though physically robust, lacks the technique and tactical nous to shield his defenders. However, the South Korean's languid style makes it difficult to ensure the side maintain a high tempo, and his creative talents would surely be better served in a slightly freer 'box-to-box' role. Britton, though he has exemplified the team's style of play in their ascendancy to the Premier League, has always had the potential to be physically bullied and, now 32, and with injuries all the more frequent, cannot not be relied upon to dictate the pace of games in the manner fans have come to expect.
A long-term successor, then, will surely be near the top of Garry Monk's shopping list as he pursues recruits in the new year. Here are four potential candidates to succeed one of the club's longest serving players:

Jack Cork:
Linked with with Swansea City seemingly forever, the son of the former Swansea manager is in fact still only 25. With a footballing history that includes Chelsea and the Southampton, Cork is well versed in the footballing philosophy for which the Swans have become revered. And, now, in the final year of his contract, and with Southampton rich in defensive midfield options like Wanyama and Schneiderlin, Cork could represent something of a bargain. But while the former England Under-21 international seems to possess many of the professed qualities of Leon Britton, with somewhat more physicality, a question mark remains over whether he would represent sufficient an improvement to take the club to the next level.

Benjamin Stambouli:

A French midfielder whom the Swans tried to sign in the summer, only to be shunned for Tottenham Hotspur. Both the player and his new club have endured a thoroughly miserable time since, with Stambouli restricted almost exclusively to Europa league matches as Pochettino rotates line-up after line-up, in a seemingly random and desperate attempt to unearth a side with some semblance of balance. With rumours of unrest in the squad and a chairman struggling to account for haphazard expenditure, Stambouli may be susceptible to a loan bid until the end of the season. It may be difficult to secure a permanent transfer at the end of that time, especially if he does well- Levy is a notriously stubborn negotiator- but he could realistically prove a worthwhile short term option.

Emyr Huws:
The one that got away for Swansea City. Shortly before the club's rise to prominence, Huws was a gifted teenager poached from the Welsh club's youth teams, and for which they received substantial compensation from Manchester City. Some years later, and captaining City's under 21 side, Huws found his path to the Champion's first team blocked by several expensive acqusitions. To the surprise of some, the player whom Patrick Vieira had compared favourably with Sergio Busquets was allowed to leave for Wigan Athletic, with whom he enjoyed a successful loan spell last season. However, his new club are in turmoil with Malcky Mackay's controversial appointment. In adition, the new manager's prosaic footballing philosophy has seen the cultured midfielder banished to the sidelines. Huws, still only 21, may be grateful for the opportunity to finally return home.

Nathaniel Chalobah: 
20 year old Chalobah is highly rated by many in both the England and Chelsea youth set-ups. Unfortunately, with such a wealth of expensively assembled talent, the athletic youngster who can play both in central midfield and defence has only seen first team footbal via a series of (largely successful) loans. Injuries have interrupted his current spell at Burnley which comes to an end on 2nd January and, with so much competition for places at the West London giants, he could be convinced to launch his senior career properly in South Wales. Quick, sound technically, and standing over 6ft tall, he could be the ideal long-term succesor to Leon Britton. 

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