Swansea v Newcastle: repeating the trick

Ayew alright to play? – goal.com

Both teams got their first goals and victories of the season before the international break: Newcastle beat West Ham 3-0 to relieve some pressure while Swansea won 2-0 at Crystal Palace.

Head coach Paul Clement will be pleased with the confidence his side showed at Selhurst Park, especially in the final third, Jordan Ayew’s mobility being key to incisive breakaways. The Ghanaian hopes to have fully recovered from the stomach bug he picked up during the international break, because Swansea don’t have any central forwards who can do the same job.

Wilfried Bony isn’t a bad signing, but he is perhaps too similar to Tammy Abraham for the duo to play together. Both do most of their damage in the penalty area but quite often, for two up top to work there needs to be a more withdrawn forward who contributes more from outside the box like Ayew.

Whoever does start up top though could face a makeshift back-line. Chancel Mbemba had come in for sidelined left-back Paul Dummett for the first three games, but he himself has had an adductor injury. Ciaran Clark might therefore have to shuffle across, meaning Rafa Benitez will be sweating on the fitness of centre-back Florian Lejeune, who hasn’t featured since the opening day.

Benitez is at least leading a more united camp now. All the fans rallied behind him in that win over West Ham – despite frustrations with Mike Ashley – and the players followed suit. Mikel Merino showed his class in a dominant central midfield display, which could leave the volatile Jonjo Shelvey out of the starting eleven despite his return from suspension.

Swansea will need to press Merino to restrict his influence and they may do that through a new signing of their own, Renato Sanches. The young midfielder’s arrival from Bayern Munich looks a coup, considering his powerful displays for Portugal at the Euros just a year ago. Sam Clucas is not quite as strong but his intelligence out of possession allows him to make a lot of interceptions.

Swansea were fortunate to escape with a point at Southampton on the opening day but they have kept two clean sheets from three Premier League games. Alfie Mawson is a disciplined defender who gets close to his man without allowing space in behind. Mike Van Der Hoorn won a lot of aerial duels against Crystal Palace and he will hope to have similar joy against Joselu, who scored his first goal for Newcastle last time out.

Both teams showed what they can do at their best two weeks ago – the question now is whether those performances can become the norm.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 1-2