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Swansea City 2020/21 season review

After missing out on a trip to Wembley at the end of the 2019/20 season, many Swans fans felt the squad had overachieved after selling some key players during the campaign. Steve Cooper had got the best out of a thin squad which was one of the youngest and most inexperienced in the league. Swansea began the summer with some shrewd business, signing Bristol City captain Korey Smith on a free transfer and then re-signing the successful loanee duo of Marc Guehi and Freddie Woodman from Chelsea and Newcastle United respectively. Towards the end of August, the club benefitted yet again from Steve Cooper's England U17's connections as highly-rated Wolves midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White signed on loan for the season and Joel Latibeaudiere signed a three-year contract after joining from Manchester City. Swansea also took advantage of a Wigan team which had been relegated to league one after the club went into administration and were handed a 12-point penalty and signed Jamal Lowe for a fee believed to be around £900,000.

Meanwhile, Mike van der Hoorn led the way for club outgoings as he joined Bundesliga newcomers Arminia on a free transfer as his Swansea contract came to an end. Bersant Celina and Kristoffer Peterson were two of the most notable outgoings as the club looked to balance the books before the start of the Championship Campaign.

Swansea City kicked-off their 2020/21 Championship campaign way back at the start of September away at Deepdale against a Preston side with former Swansea hero Scott Sinclair in their ranks. With a back 4 of Bidwell, Guehi, Rodon and Roberts, the Swans looked solid and went on to win the season opener 1-0 after Morgan Gibbs-White scored from close range on his debut. The team looked cohesive and expansive, with great width and intent. Despite not having any out-and-out striker, the swans suddenly found themselves with very promising attack as Andre Ayew, Jamal Lowe and Morgan Gibbs-White continued to look threatening in the Swans attack. The Swans then went on an undefeated run picking up 10 points from the first 4 games before a crazy transfer deadline day on October 16th which saw Joe Rodon leave to join Tottenham, whilst Ryan Bennett and Joel Latibeaudiere both joined to replace him. Once the Window finally closed, Swansea had seen 14 first-team outgoings and 10 first-team incomings since the end of the 2019/20 season.

Players In: Korey Smith (free), Freddie Woodman (loan), Marc Guehi (loan), Morgan Gibbs-White (loan), Viktor Gyokeres (loan), Kasey Palmer (loan), Jamal Lowe (£800,000), Ryan Manning (£300,000), Ryan Bennett (free), Joel Latibeaudiere (free). Players Out: Joe Rodon (£10,000,000), Bersant Celina (£3,000,000), Mike van der Hoorn (free), Joel Asoro (loan), Barrie McKay (loan), Kristoffer Peterson (£450,000), Declan John (loan), George Byers (loan), Jordan Garrick (loan), Erwin Mulder (free), Cameron Evans (loan), Kees de Boer (free), Jefferson Montero (free), Courtney Baker-Richardson (free). Swansea City's next 13 games saw them pick up 20 points with the only 3 losses coming at the hands of Huddersfield, Norwich and Middlesbrough. We were far from a free scoring attacking team but we had become a very difficult team to beat. Morgan Gibbs-White had picked up a long-term injury but the promise of his soon return to fitness gave fans plenty of promise. Jamal Lowe was struggling for goals but was trying to live up to the number 9 plastered on the back of his jersey. At this point, many in the Jack Army questioned where we could be if we had managed to sign an out-and-out striker which everyone knew we needed. Next up was Cardiff City away. The derby proved to be an important part of the season. Cardiff were struggling and Swansea desperately needed a good result to keep the momentum after a string of under-par performances. Unlike many performances before this point, Swansea dominating the fixture from start to finish. More possession, more shots and most importantly, more goals. A Jamal Lowe brace split by a Captain Matt Grimes strike tipped onto the post saw Swansea City claim a brilliant away 2-0 victory against the old rivals.

Much to Cardiff's delight, the derby match inspired Swansea to go on a run of 11 games in all competitions from 16th December to 5th February, scoring 21 goals, conceding 6 and losing just 1 game before then losing to a fantastic Manchester City side 3-1 in the 5th round of the FA cup. That run of games and results was particularly impressive considering the January transfer window in the middle of it all. Wolves recalled Morgan Gibbs-White, Brighton recalled Gyokeres and Bristol City recalled Palmer. The jack army were particularly disheartened by Gibbs-White leaving the club after showing so much promise before getting injured and not really being able to show his potential in the side. Although Swansea City saw a lot of unexpected outgoings, fans would've been forgiven for thinking it was maybe a blessing in disguise. Conor Hourihane, Jordan Morris, Paul Arriola, Morgan Whittaker, Kieron Freeman and Ben Hamer were all brought in to strengthen the squad, whilst Brandon Cooper was recalled from his hugely successful loan out at Newport. However, Injuries to Paul Arriola and Jordan Morris saw them both return to the US prematurely whilst Brandon Cooper was also ruled out for the season soon after being recalled after picking up multiple ankle injuries in training. Conor Hourihane proved his class by unleashing his powerful left foot on his debut and always posed as a real goal threat throughout the rest of the championship campaign until opponents began to pick up on it and whenever he was marked closely and targeted, his lack of creativity on the ball was highlighted and his impact in the team quickly faded.

After the Manchester City defeat, confidence and performance levels took a dip as Steve Cooper sacrificed style of play and Swansea's footballing philosophy for results on the pitch. A number of poor displays saw the team losing more and more games and even when we won games, they were often 1-0 victories. Whilst our defence had remained fantastic throughout the season thanks to some unbelievable defending and Freddie Woodman making his way towards his eventual golden glove award, goal-scoring had become a real problem. Scoring 9 goals in 12 games saw us pick up a number of defeats and lose out on an automatic promotion spot after Norwich and Watford pulled away at the top of the table. Despite this drop in performance levels, Swansea City were still firmly in contention for a play-off place for the second consecutive season. This alone is quite remarkable considering the amount of changes there have been to the first-team squad. Steve Cooper deserves a lot of credit for the way he has managed during all this adversity during 2 seasons where fans have been treated to some fantastic results whilst watching from home. As whispers began to circulate amongst the Swansea faithful about whether Cooper is losing his touch with the team, Swansea travelled to the Den to face a strong Millwall side. Cooper switched the team formation to a 4-3-3, bringing in Wayne Routledge to ply down the middle, interchanging with Ayew and Lowe on either flank. As Routledge has so often done before during his Swansea City career, he delivered yet again. Adding creativity and inspiration to our attack, Swansea went on to win 3-0 with Routledge grabbing an assist in a hugely important game which was closer than the score would suggest. 4 games later and our playoff place was confirmed. Swansea City went on to finish the 2020/21 season 4th, one place below last season's play-off rivals Brentford. If anyone had told me at the start of the season that Swansea would finish 4th after losing van der Hoorn and Rodon at the start of the season, id have told them to not be so daft. Another incredible season for Wayne Routledge and the team has been huge for the city and the Jack army community during a time when there hasn't been a lot to feel positive about. The togetherness and resourcefulness of the squad speaks volumes for the job new chairman Julian Winter has done for the club. Contrary to much of the media's opinion, I believe he found ways to wheel and deal and back Cooper in the transfer market and work some fantastic deals throughout the season. Giving season tickets access to live-streamed games and balloting semi-final tickets to season ticket holders for no extra cost are two great examples of the good decisions being made at the club. It was recently reported that Swansea had made a net profit of just over 2 million pounds over the course of the year which again illustrates that there are many positive signs for Swansea City fans to be happy about. Who knows what will happen next season, but there is plenty to look forward to.

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