Ahead of Saturday's visit to the Liberty Stadium, saintsfc.co.uk got the lowdown on Swansea from South Wales Evening Post journalist Gareth Vincent.
What sort of form are Swansea in at the moment?
Not too bad, actually. It’s been a bit of a struggle this season, which no one was expecting really. They made a really good start, went unbeaten through August and there was a lot of excitement about what the season might bring, but form dipped alarmingly from the beginning of September and Garry Monk ended up losing his job in December. Now, after a brief spell under Alan Curtis, Francesco Guidolin is in charge and he’s made a positive start. Southampton will be his fourth game and he hasn’t lost yet. Swansea are actually four games unbeaten, including the last one Alan Curtis was in charge of, which is their best run since August, so they’ve had a good little spell, but there’s obviously still a lot of work to do before they’re clear of relegation danger.
How much of an impact has Francesco Guidolin had since his appointment?
He’s had a positive impact. They’ve still got issues – they’re conceding too many goals from set-pieces and the problem all season is they’re not scoring enough goals themselves. Guidolin has made a signing, bringing in Alberto Paloschi, so they’ll be hoping that he can score a few between now and the end of the season. He’s only played a game-and-a-half so far and is yet to score, but he’s made a bright start. Guidolin is a very likeable character, the players seem to like him. He hasn’t been here long and we’re waiting to see exactly how he might tinker with the team – he hasn’t made many changes yet, so it’s a bit difficult to judge exactly what influence he’s going to have.
How would you describe Swansea’s current style of play?
Swansea have become known for a possession game ever since Roberto Martínez took charge the best part of a decade ago. There’s been a few managers since then, but that’s always been the way the club’s owners want their team to play and they specifically appoint managers who see the game that way. It’s the same again with Guidolin, there’s not going to be any dramatic change.
Who are the key players in the team right now?
Gylfi Sigurdsson is in goalscoring form, which is good news for Swansea, because they needed someone to come to the party. He’s got five in his last six, albeit a couple of penalties in there, so that’s been important for them. André Ayew is another influential player up front. Further back, Leon Britton, who wasn’t used that much by Garry Monk in recent times, came back into the team after Monk had gone and has done really well. Although he’s 33 now, he’s still delivering in the heart of midfield. Behind him, Ashley Williams, who has also had a massive role in all of Swansea’s successes in the last few years, remains a pivotal figure.
Saints fans know Jack Cork very well. How is he getting on?
I think Swansea would definitely say he’s been a successful signing. He did ever so well last season after coming in during the January and he’s had another positive season, although he’s not always been in the team. The hottest competition for a place in the Swansea team is in central midfield. Although he’s not always started, I think he will be pleased with the way things are going and Swansea are certainly pleased with him.
How do you see the game going?
Saints are suddenly flying. Fraser Forster looks unbeatable and their attacking options seem plentiful, so it’s going to be a big test for Swansea. The pressure is on Swansea, because after Southampton it’s Tottenham away and Arsenal away. Home games against anyone are important, but really now, and particularly when they’re playing – with all respect to Southampton – not one of the very top, top sides, they’ve got to look to try to get some points. Southampton are going to be a tough nut to crack judging by the form they’re in. Both sides have reasonably similar approaches I think, so hopefully it will be an eye-catching game.