The past week has shown that Russell Martin still has a lot of work to do at Swansea City, but it also gave us an idea of what can be achieved and why patience remains essential.
One of the things Swansea fans wanted from the former MK Dons boss when he was first appointed was entertainment and we definitely got that last Saturday at Luton.
The term “a game of two halves” has never been more appropriate.
Tempers were frayed in the Kenilworth Road away end after the Swans conceded three goals in the first 23 minutes. Some supporters began turning on the players and management in a torturous first half.
They played without any kind of defined shape, crumbling under the pressure of Luton’s high press and committing countless errors. The men in white looked flustered and panicky, lacking any of the required composure or sharpness. The 3-0 half time scoreline probably flattered the shambolic visitors.
As they trundled down the tunnel, the question on my mind wasn’t “how do we get back into this” but rather “how much more embarrassing can this get?”
With the defence wide open and the Luton goal unthreatened, all the worst traits of the opening weeks of the season were on show. Fans could be forgiven for wondering where on earth this was all heading but after the break came a display which will live long in the memories of everybody in attendance.
A triple substitution helped transform the game. All of a sudden the Swans were camped out in Luton’s half, bombarding their goal and playing with an energy and dynamism which had been sorely lacking up until that point.
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They passed the ball instinctively, stretching the pitch and picking holes in an increasingly overwhelmed Luton rearguard.
Against all odds they managed to score three goals, which was nearly as many as they had netted in the entire league campaign up until that point, and they could have won it right at the death.
It was a barnstorming performance with excellent wing-play, slick passing and tremendous confidence.
The full-time celebrations told a story. The first half mess had been overshadowed by a display of genuine class as everything seemed to click into place.
Olivier Ntcham ran the show from midfield, his cultured touches, forward-thinking and accurate passing a joy to behold. Fellow substitute Joel Piroe gave Swansea an extra weapon in attack and alongside Michael Obafemi, the pair gave Luton’s defence far more to think about.
As well as the excellent impact from substitutes, others managed to get themselves far more involved.
Ethan Laird was a constant threat down the right and once again suggested he could be a real star in the making. Matt Grimes was far more of a presence while Jamie Paterson had his best 45 minutes in a Swans shirt, consistently looking to make things happen in the final third.
The disarray of the first half cannot and should not be forgotten. There was clearly a lot which needed to be corrected and plenty of bad traits which remain a concern, however the second half showed that this squad has the capacity to thrive in Martin’s new style.
After the spectacular comeback at Luton, a largely second-string Swansea side travelled to Sussex to take on Brighton in the Carabao Cup.
The Swans lost the game and once again the nature of the goals conceded may come as a bit of a disappointment. But there was also much to admire in their mid-week showing.
Once again they created a wealth of great chances and even though the finishing touch was missing, the build-up play was both creative and incisive.
Even without most of the regular starters, there were many positives to be found in the defeat.
The past week wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Many of the problems seen in the opening month of the season are still there and still need to be addressed but we also got an exciting indication of what can be achieved with time and perseverance.
Martin is a firm believer in process. He actively avoids quick fixes and looks to build systems which can be effective on a long term basis. Fans have been keen to support him and despite picking up just one win in the first eight games of the Championship season, the Jack Army is for the most part united in its backing of Martin.
But when wins aren’t forthcoming, supporters need reasons to be optimistic and that’s what we’ve seen this week.
Blind faith is pointless and asking supporters to be patient without any evidence of progress is an unrealistic demand. But in the second half fight-back against Luton and the encouraging performance against Brighton we saw indications that Martin is getting his ideas across to the players and that the team is moving in the desired direction.
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Martin was a popular appointment because fans believed he would drastically alter the team’s style and get them playing a more enjoyable brand of football. But there was an acceptance at the time that such a change would be difficult and may take time to get right.
That remains true. This is a hefty project and it won’t happen overnight. If you expected instant success then you had unrealistic expectations from the start.
Swansea’s squad contains players of serious potential and based on what we have seen in recent games, they are adapting to Martin’s style of play in a way which could have very exciting results in the long run.
This season will have extreme ups and downs, sometimes in the same game, but we have seen enough in the last week to justify investing patience in Martin and his methods.
We need to remember this as we embark on a tough run of fixtures which includes four of the top six in our next nine games. Knee-jerk reactions and impulsive dissent every time something goes wrong won’t help anybody. We as supporters have a part to play in this too.
Martin has embarked on a seriously ambitious task which will take time to get right but there are signs of progression which should give us all cause for optimism and even excitement.
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