Opposition View - Swansea City
He was asked:
How would you describe the 'new' Swansea?
Michael Laudrup has certainly brought in some much needed changes to the team to make us a little less predictable - which was a potential risk had Brendan Rodgers stayed at the club. Changes in personnel and in tactics - we've brought in goalscoring midfielder in Michu - a must following the departures of loanee Sigurdsson, plus Joe Allen and Scott Sinclair. The Swans are more attacking this year under Laudrup. While our defence has compensated slightly for that, we are arguably more exciting to watch thiss year. We're creating more chances, scoring more goals and we're little more direct in our attacking game. Very often last season, pundits, opposing fans and manager commented that while we did dominate possession, we did so in our own half whilst creating few chances, which has been rarely the case so far this season.
How have you adapted after the sale of the likes of Joe Allen and Scott Sinclair, not to mention the loan ending of Gylfi Sigurdsson?
All three have been brilliantly replaced by Michael Laudrup, and we've made money in the process! Michu at £2m has replaced Gylfi Sigurdsson - who has so far struggled to continue his form at Spurs. Joe Allen was sold for £15m and we've brought in the superb and promising youngster Ki Sung-yeung - fee around £5m but undisclosed. On the wing, Scott Sinclair, who had a poor season for us anyway, has been replaced by Pablo Hernandez. There were big expectations for the Spaniard after turning down Champions League football with Valencia to join us. He took a few games to settle in but he has been improving with every game and he scored a superb strike to get us a draw against Chelsea. So with the money we've gained and spent, and the players brought in, Laudrup has done brilliantly to replace key first team players.
Was the appointment of Michael Laudrup well received in Wales?
It was the majority's favourite choice for the job. He was one of the first names linked with the job and throughout the process of searching for a manager - which lasted almost a month or so, he seemed to be the man most of us wanted. Laudrup did seem like the best man out of those in the running. There weren't too many others that interested us and Laudrup was always the clear favourite, and so far he's doing a good job considering the tough task he was faced with.
Who should we fear the most out of the Swansea side?
I often automatically answer this question with Michu, our top goalscorer, but the team failed to get him involved at Southampton last week and it could be the same again this Saturday. With that said, our wingers have been vital to our attacking game, like they were last year under Brendan Rodgers. Wayne Routledge has been scoring and assisting goals consistently, while new Summer signing Pablo Hernandez is also improving in every game. And then you have Nathan Dyer who scored an excellent equalising goal last weekend after coming off the subs bench.
What can we expect on Saturday?
Well we'll want to keep possession for as long as possible, but unlike last year it won't be in our own half as often, and we'll look to make that killer through ball for Michu to get on the end of. A lot of wing play from us but few clear cut chances if recent games are to go by.
How do you rate the performance of NUFC this season?
Compared to last season, where you surprised many people, including me, as I never thought Pardew would do such a good job, you've got to be disappointed with the start so far. Performances haven't been great for some reason but if you can find a good run of form you could get up to 8th which wouldn't be a disappointment if you were there come May?
Do any of our players worry you?
The first name that springs to mind after watching your performance at our Liberty Stadium last season would be Cisse, and then of course there's also Demba Ba who's been scoring consistently so far.
With our performances this season nothing to write home about, are you worried about a backlash?
Newcastle is always a very tough place to go. The fans really get behind the team and help to give them a boost at home so it'll be tough for the Swans, as we're still struggling to get wins on our travels. I'm sure you'll be desperate to produce a good performance in front of a good home crowd. What I fear most though is whether or not our manager gets it right with the changes he'll be forced to make. Ki is injured, so Laudrup has all sorts of ideas and options to change his team around. Michu could drop back into midfield with either Danny Graham or Itay Shechter starting. He even hasn't ruled out starting all three of his wingers for a more attacking line-up compared to bringing in Kemy Agustien - which would be the more conservative 'play-it-safe' option given his ball-winning qualities.
Where do you think Swansea will finish this season?
Mid-table again would be an excellent achievement, for the team and certainly for the manager who had a tough task in steadying the ship so to speak, as it was clear to see that the players loved playing under Brendan Rodgers. He's brought in his own players and maybe upset one or two by limiting their first team opportunities, but so far we're on progress for another good finish around mid-table. I believe we'll probably finish just beneath that in around 13th.
Where do you see yourselves in 5 years time?
If we can continue to build as we are, and keep consistently appointing good managers like we have done - as I can't see Laudrup being here for more than 3 years, then optimistically speaking, hopefully we can still be doing what we are now, competing in and around mid table in the top flight.
Where do you think we will finish this season?
Somewhere around where you are now, 8th at best, 12th worst.
and where do you see us in 5 years?
Certainly still in the Premier League, but I'm sure you'll want to get back to where you were before and that's competing much higher up in the table, a club of your size with it's fanbase should be.
If you could have any 2 of our players, which 2 would that be?
Ben Arfa and Demba Ba.
Predictions for the weekend?
My head says a win for yourselves as you'll be keen to produce a much better performance than in recent matches, but I'd like to think that we're becoming quite hard to beat now and that we can hang on for a draw.