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🔎 Inside Scoop: Swansea City

We speak to our latest local journalist covering Sunday's visitors, the Swans

24 April 2021

Next up for the Royals, standing between them and what would be a massively important three points are Swansea City, who visit the Madejski on Sunday for a televised lunchtime meeting in RG2.

Prior to our meeting with the Swans we spoke to another regional journalist who has been covering their team home and away, in order to get the inside scoop on this weekend's guests 4th-placed Swansea.

Wales Online football writer Ian Mitchelmore gives an insight into the latest from Steve Cooper's side, as the Royals hope to end the month of April by getting back to winning ways against the Welsh outfit.

With three games to go, how would you sum up Swansea’s season?

On the whole, it's been a huge success so far. They ended the 2019/20 campaign with 70 points, and they're six points better off than that tally this time around with three games left to play. The first half of the season produced numerous encouraging displays and results while the defence was rock solid, although that has largely not been the case in recent weeks and months - aside from some positive showings against the likes of Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday.

In some ways, it feels like a missed opportunity regarding the top two, although it looks as though - barring a capitulation - another play-off campaign beckons, which is more than most expected.

How does this compare to your expectations at the start of the season?

In fairness, I certainly didn't expect the Swans to be in this position after losing the likes of Rhian Brewster, Mike van der Hoorn, Conor Gallagher and Joe Rodon. Realistically, most fans would have snapped up the offer of a top six place before a ball was kicked. 

Steve Cooper has again put Swansea in contention this season, how are you reflecting on his tenure to date?

In terms of points totals, Swansea have improved year on year since dropping out of the Premier League in 2018. They were ultimately outclassed by Brentford in last season's play-offs, although to even finish in sixth in those circumstances was an astonishing achievement.

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Expectations have certainly been raised this term given that Swansea have been so close to the top two all season, but there's some real trepidation over what lies ahead given the drop off in performance levels. That said, with the budget he's had in comparison to other Championship managers, Steve Cooper has done a remarkable job to get Swansea into the position they are in.

Last time out Swansea fell to a 1-0 defeat against QPR, how did the Swans look in that one?

They started off well and created some big chances in the opening half, although, after a positive start, the Swans faded badly. Andre Ayew was sorely missed as the hosts desperately struggled to cause QPR any problems in the second half.

In the second half, they switched from a 4-3-3 system to the back three that they have used for the majority of the season, although that move backfired spectacularly. QPR asked more questions after Swansea failed to take those first half chances, and they got the rewards they deserved in the end as Lyndon Dykes struck at the death.

Watching from afar, what have you made of Reading this season in general?

Reading seem to have had something of a Jekyll and Hyde season. Lucas Joao has no doubt been key, but, like Swansea, Reading have had some really tough spells to negotiate in recent weeks and months. It must be said, it's clear to see that Reading are on the right path under the current regime after three poor seasons - two of which saw them come within a whisker of relegation. Veljko Paunović deserves an enormous amount of credit.

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Equally, what were your reflections on our last league meeting? A goalless draw back in December.

It was a very exciting encounter last time out, despite the game ending goalless. Swansea were close to their free-flowing best on what was at the time a new pitch at the Liberty Stadium. Rafael produced a string of stunning saves to earn the visitors a point in what was an entertaining game. 

Which Swansea players should Reading fans be keeping an eye out for as your biggest assets during the week?

It remains to be seen whether or not Ayew will feature due to the hamstring injury he suffered in the 2-2 draw with Wycombe, so Jamal Lowe is the man who is most likely to threaten at the business end of the pitch. The winger turned number nine has 13 league goals to his name this season, and Swansea desperately need him to be on top form in the final weeks of the season. Elsewhere, Ryan Bennett and Marc Guehi have impressed at the heart of the defence - whether in a back three or four.

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Lastly, how are you feeling about Swansea’s final three tests?

Given how dramatically the picture can change in the Championship, it's fair to say the nerves are well and truly kicking in. It almost feels as though it's about gearing up for the play-offs, which feels dangerous to say given that a top six spot has not yet been secured. A large amount of recent performances have left fans concerned, but if Swansea can replicate the displays from those wins at Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday over the course of the remaining three matches, they'll pick up more points along the way. 


Ian Mitchelmore is a Football Writer predominantly covering Swansea City for Wales Online.


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