Saturday, August 25, 2012

Swansea City vs. West Ham United preview

Swansea's performance in beating QPR 5-0 at Loftus Road was the surprise result of the opening weekend. The most heartening aspect of Swansea's display was that the team continued to play in the style and philosophy that was perfected last season, under new manager Michael Laudrup. The absence of Joe Allen and Gylfi Sigurdsson was barely noticed, as Laudrup replaced them with Michu and Jonathan De Guzman, and both delivered high-calibre performances.

Michu justified all the hype surrounding him, and if he maintains the standards set in his double-goal scoring debut, then the Spaniard could possibly propel Swansea to even greater heights than last season. Alongside him Leon Brittion was as metronomic as usual in keeping possession, and de Guzman was brilliant in supplying balls to wingers Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge, while also forming a telepathic understanding with Michu, the duo swapping some delightful one-touch passes and finding each other in open spaces regularly.

West Ham started life back in the Premier League with a hard-fought win over Aston Villa at Upton Park. The victory had all the hallmarks of Sam Allardyce. Direct play, dangerous set-pieces and tenacious tackling were the order of the day, and whether the West Ham fans like it or not, this style is here to stay at least for this season.

Allardyce is not likely to go with two up front away from home this season, so there is a good chance that Alou Diarra will be given his first West Ham start at the expense of Ricardo Vaz Te. West Ham will believe that having a combative midfield of Diarra, Mohammed Diame, Kevin Nolan, Mark Noble and Matt Taylor will be the best way to stop Swansea's fluid possession game.

Swansea were a terrific team at home last season, dominating almost every opponent at the Liberty Stadium. The crowd in South Wales contributed to an amazing atmosphere which encouraged the players to put in some tremendous performances. West Ham will be difficult to beat, and Carlton Cole could conceivably cause some problems for Swansea's defence. Swansea will ultimately dominate the game from midfield and with enhanced goalscoring options, should start another impressive campaign at home with a close win.