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Norwich vs Swansea

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Based in similar unfashionable parts of the country where players may be a little more reluctant to go, and judged on performances over the last two seasons and a half where they''ve competed pretty much toe to toe, why is it that Swansea now seem light years ahead of us?

There are only eight points separating us, yet despite our supposed improvement in defensive performances, there is a massive gulf between the goal differences of the two teams.

How is it that Swansea have succeeded in shoring up their defence without compromising their attacking intent?

Our squads in the promotion year and the first year of the Premier League must have been of a similar standard based on points accrued, yet they are raking in millions for their players and replacing them at no cost to performance. They''ve reached a Cup Final and they''re feted from week to week, whilst we''re lucky to get last spot on MOTD, and no-one can argue with that, of late.

They spent £7m over those two seasons compared to our £11m spend. This season they spent £10m compared to our £3m, but they were entitled to because they recouped £25m on the sale of three players, for a nett profit of £22m!! Of the £11m we spent over those two seasons, we ''wasted'' £8m on Ryan Bennett, Vaughan and Morison, all of whom are worth a lot less than we paid for them, proving that spending large sums of money is not necessarily the answer.

They could sell Michu this summer for a sum of money that we couldn''t realize were we to sell our five most coveted players, and you would be hard-pressed to come up with five!

Man for man, if a neutral was to compare the two teams that started yesterday, it wouldn''t surprise me if the Swansea player was preferred to the Norwich player in every position....although Turner might run Chico close......

The value of their squad is streets ahead of ours. When was the last time any Premier League club showed a genuine interest in any of our players?

The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that the coaching methods must be playing a major part. Laudrup was an inspired managerial choice, they have seemingly kicked on from Rodgers'' leadership, although it has to be said that the signing of Michu has been immense, and has scored as many goals as our four highest goalscorers combined.

Irrespective of the flaws and merits of Lambert and Hughton, rightly or wrongly, I had far more faith in the merits of Culverhouse and Karsa than I could ever have in Calderwood and Trollope.

We haven''t progressed this season. Supporters will cite the increase in clean sheets, but this is balanced by the numerous hammerings we have suffered.

It is probably all to easy to blame the coaching, without witnessing/understanding what goes on, although it''s also about the mindset of the players.

Hughton hasn''t helped by the way he has built up the opposition week in week out Last season Lambert instilled in the players that they had earned the right to be in the Premier League and were good enough to be there. This season the players could be excused for thinking they were way out of their depth at this level.

So for my twopenneth worth, I''m blaming the coaching and player mindset. It could be total bo**ocks, but we''re all scratching around for answers at the moment.

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They replaced their manager with someone who could come in and build on what was already there. We replaced ours with someone who has a completely different philosophy to Lambert. Last season we were the most versatile team in the league, playing all manner of different systems, many times changing it up in the middle of the game, to do that we had many different types of players in the squad. Hughton instead wants to play one system very well, and its lead to a situation where we have a load of players who were important for us last season like Fox, Surman, Howson, Tierney, completely unable to contribute.I think a lot of the dull performances we are seeing now is down to a lack of squad rotation, Hughton clearly only trusts about 14/15 players in the squad, and they are getting tired and complacent.

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One or twop of our players were signed with the objective of getting out of Div 1. Others were signed to rise from the Championship. Many of tnese were low price, because we expected to take a few years to get into the Premiership, not the meteoric rise we had.

 

Swansea were able to build more slowly and judicously. Rodgers bought some good players, while we were still filling gaps. In a season or two, given our support level, I expect us to be matching them on and off the field.

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Maybe one of the reasons is that Swansea have had £15 million of the Joe Allen money to spend, plus the compensation for Rodgers.

I still don''t know how they got £15 million for somebody who plays 5 yards sideways passes.

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That''s the thing, Salopian. Our meteoric rise has meant we''ve had to overhaul the squad once after winning League 1 and again after getting to the Premiership. Swansea won promotion to the Championship in 2008, so had three seasons at that level to build up their squad.

Also, you have to remember is they only pay a peppercorn rent on their stadium, so the vast majority of their money has been able to go on football. We are still paying off a stand built 9 years ago.

If we stay up this year, I think Salopian is right, we will start to match them, as we will be virtually debt free.

Swansea were lucky with Michu, getting someone so good for that price. If it wasn''t for him I think we would be a bit closer.

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The quality of the swansea squad is head and shoulders above the Norwich one at the moment. Regardless of the managerial merry go around they have known when to sell and extracted good prices. Many of their signings have been supurb and have gone on fron strength to strength Michu clearly the best of the bunch. I anticipate they will get better. I can see us improving next season but it will take a few seasons to catch them up. I still  struggle to understand how we have beaten them in the last 3 games

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There is a long and a short answer to this. I''ll give the short one first - Michu. Chuck a 15 goal a season striker into our side and we''d be on the same points as Swansea now. I know our style of player perhaps doesn''t help a lone striker bang the goals in, but until not long ago we had the worst conversion ratio in the division; we were getting chances and not making the most of them.

The long answer, for me, though is this:

I think, arguably, they had a squad that was more suited to this league than we ever did have. Last season we were able to match them partly due to the surprise factor, and partly because of the team spirit Lambert had fostered over the previous couple of years.

Were our performances last season sustainable in the long term though? Probably not. We saw at the end of last season the fragility of the squad when teams began to wise up to how we played. Also, for the first time in Lambert''s time here, we had a rather long string of fairly average results (I think we only got something like 12 points from our last 13 games). I''m not saying the team spirit disappeared, but 2 seasons of success can help to carry you. When that success starts to dry up a little bit (ie; a third of a season with some pretty average at best results) we seemed to struggle to come up with any answer of how to get out of the problem.

Swansea on the other hand didn''t meet any of those problems. They had a squad of players who played good possession football that would work in the premiership. They were far less reliant on team spirit and generally being ''carried'' by a good run of two seasons winning non-stop than we were.

As such, Laudrup was able to come in and carry on a job, adding minor improvements to the side. Hughton, on the other hand, had to come in and make some fairly large changes to the personnel and the style of play.

When we appointed Hughton I said I wasn''t sure if he was the right "type" of person to get instant success with us. He was the complete opposite of Lambert in management styles and personality. I think that has shown to be about true - he hasn''t been able to get the same out of the players that Lambert was able to. However, in the long term, he has probably started to do a lot more for the club than Lambert would have been able to this season.

As long as we stay up this year (which we almost certainly will do now), Hughton will, I hope, have begun to build something that will see us start to catch up with Swansea in terms of becoming a top-mid-table club, instead of a bottom-mid-table club.

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