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Andrew Boulton: Swansea for the Champions League? Well that would be just Coolio

by Andrew Boulton | September 2, 2015

What is wrong with kids today, with their drop-crotch slacks, their Snapchats and their, I don’t know, let’s say Tamagotchis?

Well, because I’m a bit like Michelle Pfeiffer in that film with Coolio, I can tell you precisely what’s wrong with the feckless little rascals. It is (as always) the Premier League.

But for once it’s not the fact that Norwich City’s third best left-back earns enough money to build a hospital made from moon rocks and unicorn sick.

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Nor is it, despite the best efforts of the Daily Mail, the fact that the bright young heroes of the game are plucking balloons from the tiny hands of wailing tots before guzzling down the delicious gasses within.

No, it’s because the Premier League has taught our young that we should all be aiming for fourth place. Our little Timmy got the fourth-best grade on his exams, oh super. Hurrah, little Tommy is off to the fourth-best university in the East Midlands. Bravo, little Antony Costa, you’re the fourth-best member of ‘Blue’.

But, in amongst the usual churlishness surrounding the dubious (yet massively lucrative) honour of finishing fourth, the one redeeming factor is that un-fancied teams do, theoretically, have a chance to nudge their way into the Champions League. Un-fancied teams like the increasingly fancied Swansea City.

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Permit me to plunge a few stats into your eyeballs, like a rusty screwdriver of knowledge. Swansea currently sit right there in fourth place, undefeated and having already taken four of their eight points off Chelsea and Manchester United.

Perhaps more telling is the fact that only Arsenal and Manchester City have created more chances than the Swans. Jonjo Shelvey – with a haircut not conducive to thriving in the August sun – has created, on his own, only three less chances than the entire Newcastle United team.

And that’s half the story, players like Shelvey stepping up all at the same time – like a brigade of synchronised window cleaners.

Bafétimbi Gomis has four goals in four games, Ashley Williams is consistently commanding at the back and Jefferson Montero is making first-rate full-backs look like they’re playing with a porpoise strapped to each thigh.

From the star signings, like the seemingly unstoppable André Ayew, to the quietly game-defining components like Jack Cork and Ki Sung-yueng, Swansea are a team experiencing so many purple patches their heat map looks like a Ribena bukkake.

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And then there’s the other half of the tale, the manager. Garry Monk, (above) having steered the team to their highest ever finish and highest ever points total in his first full season, has shoved the team through and beyond the doorway marked (patronisingly) ‘The New Southampton’.

And, if you’ll permit me a bout of speculative number tickling, if Monk were to repeat the 14 point year-on-year bounce he engineered last season he would finish on 70 points – enough to take fourth-spot based on last season’s placings.

So with a thoughtful, determined manager and a talented, flexible squad there seems to be no apparent reason why Swansea shouldn’t be pushing stuttering sides like Manchester United, Liverpool and (oh go on then) Tottenham for fourth spot. Except possibly these apparent reasons.

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Swansea have picked a tricky time to get ambitious, in the midst of the wealthiest and most competitive mid-table the Premier League has ever seen. Beating Manchester United becomes all the less significant when teams scrapping for eighth, ninth and 10th can boast semi-mega-talents like Yohan Cabaye (above), Dimtri Payet and Xherdan Shaqiri.

What’s more, despite an excellent infrastructure, a sensible and supportive board and a fair slice of the Premier League’s massive money Viennetta, it’s only nine months ago that Swansea lost their best player, Wilfried Bony, to a seat on the Man City bench.

But, of all the teams in that frothy, yellow potty of mid-tableness, Swansea seem the ones most capable of clawing their way up to the warmed seats and funny bum-rinse baths of the top four’s private bathroom.

What remains to be seen is whether they’ll slip down, like a pair of drop-crotch slacks, or endure like Tamagotchis. As I said, just like the Coolio film.

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