Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
Swansea City lost 2-1 at Rotherham last time out, but they certainly did not deserve the defeat.
For over an hour, they were the dominant side and indeed, opposing manager Paul Warne described them as the best team to visit this season.
Ultimately, one error from goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt and another from midfielder Leroy Fer saw them give away two late penalties, both of which were dispatched by Ryan Manning, condemning the Swans to defeat.
The performance however, cannot be ignored.
Swansea possess a lot of players who appear to be improving with each passing week and that is credit to the work Graham Potter is doing.
🗣️ “You need to know about football, but you need to know about people as well.”
@SwansOfficial manager Graham Potter on what he gained from studying a Masters in Leadership and Emotional Intelligence. #Swans pic.twitter.com/8vEMVvViUR
— The Coaches’ Voice (@CoachesVoice) August 21, 2018
Academy graduate Daniel James, who had not featured professionally before this campaign, has been a real threat down the left channel; he teed up last week’s goal for Oliver McBurnie.
McBurnie, himself has the physical frame of a classic target man and yet he is also surprisingly comfortable in different areas of the pitch; sometimes he’ll occupy the number 10 position, at others he’ll drift over to the right to allow right-back Connor Roberts to break into the final third.
In fact, every player appears comfortable moving into different positions in a system akin to total football.
The orchestrator of Swansea’s fine play is Matt Grimes, who was playing League One football with Northampton last season.
The club missed out on Ryan Woods in the summer window due to wage demands and perhaps that has benefited Grimes, who has been handed the run of games he perhaps needed to refine his technical capabilities at this level; the former Exeter man has been rewarded for his excellent form with a new, two-year contract.
Swansea still have a long way to go and, with so many young players, their end product can perhaps improve further, but this exciting project bears a stark contrast with the situation at Bolton Wanderers, who possess a squad in decline with performances seemingly getting worse by the week.
Phil Parkinson and Steve Parkin are hindered by financial restrictions: there were reports that, before Friday’s 2-0 defeat at Aston Villa, there had been payment issues with a few senior players.
Although they have reportedly been cleared up swiftly, those types of glitches do not necessarily help the management and coaching team motivate players to perform to the best of their ability.
Plus, the average age of the 14 permanent senior additions Bolton have made since staying up on the final day last season is 30; the problem with adding relatively old players is that they do not offer much pace, an attribute so important in the modern game.
The table sees Bolton 20th: outside the relegation zone with 16 points. 10 of those points however, came in the first four games and they were fortunate to accumulate that early return, having been outshot 36-68 by West Brom, Bristol City, Reading and Birmingham combined.
There is a toxic mix of problems at Bolton and given that they are facing one of the best teams in the Championship when it comes to spatial awareness and one-touch build-up play, this could be another sobering afternoon.
Swansea to win and Under 4.5 goals – 13/10