A Monk’s Tale and Two Captains’ Errors.

Congratulations to Gary Monk for preserving Swansea City’s status in the Premiership. He replaced Michael Laudrup as Head Coach in February, picked up the pieces of a disjointed squad, and secured sufficient victories against Cardiff, Newcastle and Aston Villa to ensure another season in the top flight.

He was rewarded with the news that he has been appointed manager on a full time basis with a three year contract. However, watching the Swans unconvincing performance in a 3-1 win over Sunderland in the final game of the season, confirmed to me that Monk has to strengthen the squad in the summer if they are to retain Premiership status.

Let’s be realistic. The Swans have possibly a half dozen players who are Premiership standard: Wilfried Bony, Ashley Williams, Leon Britton, Ben Davies, Michael Vorm, De Guzman and Wayne Rutledge.

I deliberately excluded Jon Jo Shelvey because I believe he lacks the nous to be a top class midfielder. Yes he can score a spectacular goal and deliver a sensational pass, but he can’t tackle, lacks positional sense and has a tendency to go missing in a game. Leon Britton is the central hub of the team, but is not getting any younger. The jury is still out on whether Michu was a one season wonder.

I’m sure Gary Monk is aware of the weaknesses in the squad and will address them over the next few weeks. He will also have to deal with a number of suitors sniffing around Wilfried Bony who can only enhance his growing reputation by performing well in the World Cup for Ivory Coast.

Kudos also to the Premiership for providing us with the most exciting season ever. With a month to go four teams, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City were within the mix to win the title. Indeed Arsenal were top for 126 days while the eventual winners, Man City, led the league for a mere 4 days when it really mattered.

Arsenal fell away at the end, and Chelsea lost games against opposition at the lower end of the table which made it very difficult for them to sustain a challenge. Four games remained and Liverpool’s next opposition were close rivals Manchester City at home. They led City 2-0 only to allow them to crawl back into the game 2-2. It looked for all intents and purposes to be heading for a draw when City’s captain, Vincent Kompany, made a monumental error by slicing an attempted clearance in his penalty area straight to Liverpool’s Courtinho who drove the ball into the back of the net for the eventual winner.

It was Liverpool’s title to lose now; requiring only seven points from their last three games. However, Kompany’s error appeared to galvanize his team, and they ultimately revealed greater resolve in their remaining matches than their challengers to claim the title.

Meanwhile Liverpool’s next opponents were Chelsea at home. Manager Jose Mourinho was in spin mode claiming that Chelsea had blown their chances of the title and threatened to play his reserves to allow his best players to rest since the Liverpool fixture was sandwiched between the two leg semi-final against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.

Chelsea came with a game plan to stifle Liverpool’s free flowing attacking style, and it worked to perfection. The game appeared to heading for a stalemate and Liverpool would have to content with a point until another captain’s error dramatically changed the course of the game.

Liverpool’s Captain Steven Gerrard was the last line of defense and received an innocuous pass from a team mate only to stumble on the ball. The Chelsea player, Denver Ba took full advantage of Gerrard’s mistake and gleefully swept the ball into the Liverpool net.

Gerrard and his team mates resembled a deflated balloon where all their energy had been sucked out of them. They frantically searched for an equalizer, but left themselves exposed at the back and conceded a second goal before the final whistle.

Their next match against Crystal Palace merely confirmed the brittle nature of their defense. They dominated the match for 75 minutes and deservedly led 3-0. They continued to search for more goals in an attempt to improve their goal difference. But in an unprecedented eleven minutes they conceded 3 goals and were hanging on for a draw at the final whistle. Those three goals were the final three nails in the coffin of their title challenge, but the stunning blow to their failed attempt to win the title for the first time in 24 years was Gerrard’s uncharacteristic, school boy error.

Do you remember my blog about the difference makers determining the outcome of the title? One name comes to mind: Yaya Toure. Enough said.

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