Swansea make the international trip to the Reebok Stadium tomorrow in a far healthier position than they could have hoped pre-season, while the Wanderers – although showing signs of resurgence – are distinctly under par.
They meet this weekend in the cup; which, these days, means both teams will have the opportunity to try out some fringe players and preserve some of the bigger names for their respective games vs. London on Tuesday (Bolton play Arsenal; Swansea, Chelsea).
So who do we, your humble Men In White podcasters, believe should start the game on Saturday? Well – I’ll tell you.
(GK) Bogdan Keep the colourful young keeper in the team. He is doing the job admirably well at present, and there’s no reason to knock his confidence by throwing Jussi straight back in at the first chance. Our upturn in form has coincided with his longest run in the team this season.
(RB) Riley Ok, ok. I know in our podcast we say Steinsson has proven that – while no genius – he is the most experienced right back in the team, and he should start, I think this game is ideal for young JR. Big game, vs premiership quality, would give him a real test.
(LB) Ricketts Also a key part of Bolton’s recent success. No one else has looked comfortable at left back all season – with the possible exception of Alonso against Blackburn, but he isn’t available. Keep Ricketts in; keep swans out.
(CB) Knight He’s guaranteed to give you at least one heart murmur a game. But he is a senior player, with a decent head on his shoulders (as shown in his calming-down of Reo-Coker at half time on Saturday), and he can build on his good work versus Liverpool here.
(CB) Boyata No real doubt that Knight and Wheater will start against Arsenal, and that Ream will be Coyle’s preferred stand-in after securing the American’s signature. But there’s no problem having some depth in the squad, and paying Boyata in his preferred centre back role might give him some useful experience.
(DM) Muamba Young, athletic. Should be able to do two games in 4 days. And he is vital to breaking up attacks. Give Reo-Coker a rest after his sterling efforts in recent games, but keep the Moo in place for stability.
(CM) Pratley We all know that Darren has failed to reach the highs he hit pre-season. In fact, he has not shown anything to warrant his inclusion on this list. But Mark Davies has picked up injuries with worrying regularity in the past, and is too important to risk at the moment. Add the ‘players always do well against their old club’ mantra, and he’s got himself a last-chance saloon.
(AM) Tuncay Let’s see what happens if Tuncay plays in the role in which we’ve been using Mark Davies. Behind the front man with the freedom to push forward is his preferred role, and we’ve yet to see the best of the Turk. We all know he has flair, and on occasion, real end product. I’d like to see him out there on Saturday.
(RM) Eagles Should also be able to stomach two games in quick succession. And the new system is one that he could do with playing as much as possible – familiarity breeding content and all that. Keep him in.
(LM) Petrov See above – although with a little bit more of a question mark over his ability to play two sets of 90 minutes, given his age. But the Bulgarian has been lively of late, is playing for a new deal, and should be able to cause a little upset with his delivery and his new-found bursts of pace.
(CF) Klasnic Yes – no Ngog. No Kevin Davies. Because Klasnic needs pitch time. He’s still our top scorer with 8 (double his closest rival, Eagles), and keeping him confident and upbeat might prove an important decision during the run-in to the end of the season. This guy guarantees goals.
So there you have it. Stick with the 4-5-1, albeit without the two out-and-out defensive midfielders. It’s not our strongest line-up; we agree with Coyle about that (having suggested it before he started playing it!).
But it is the cup, and a great chance to get Tunccay, Klasnic, and (dare I say it) Pratley on the field and in the mood to prove themselves. Have all the big names on the bench if needed, and maybe bring on Kevin Davies around the 60 minute mark to show what he’s got.