This is an important game. Rene Meulensteen has had some time with the team. The international break has given Fulham time to gel and get healthy. This is as close to a must win game as you can get. Do we see the changes this week? If we don't I'm going to be worried.
As an aside, how do you feel about these Q&A's? Is everyone happy with the questions I'm asking? Would you prefer more match specific or strategy inquires? Let me know.
CC: Swansea City seems to me to be almost the Tampa Bay Rays of the EPL. They are wonderful at spotting undervalued assets (Michu, Scott Sinclair) and getting the most out of them. Even more important they seem to know just when to sell high on a player and re-invest the money. Do you believe this is something that is sustainable for the club? Or is their luck with players and managers eventually going to run out?
Christopher Harris: Without a doubt, Swansea have a sustainable model that is part of a long-term plan. Swansea's M.O. in the transfer market is to try to find footballers who are undervalued and who have something to prove. You're not going to see any prima donnas on the pitch who are collecting massive pay checks each week.
Swansea have had a lot of good fortune in signing Spanish footballers, which goes back to 2003 when Roberto Martinez joined the club as manager — and has been carried through by Paulo Sousa, Brendan Rodgers and now Michael Laudrup. The club has good contacts and scouts in Spain who are always looking out for quality talent.
The club has made a multi-million pound profit the past two years, and I have no doubt the sustainability will continue. The club is run by board members who make sure that the model stays at the club no matter if and when a manager or player leaves. Plus one of the board members is a representative of the Swansea City Supporters Trust, so the fans themselves are represented at the boardroom level.
CC: As a Fulham fan, I know how exciting a Europa League run can be. Would most Swansea supporters trade a high finish in the league for a deep run in Europe? Would it be worth it to finish 15th if you had a lot of European week nights? Or is finishing as high as possible in the league a bigger priority?
CH: It's a tough balance between the two. Most Swansea City supporters would prefer that the club finish high in the league rather than have a deep run in the Europa League. However, as Michael Laudrup pointed out recently, when will Swansea get a chance to play in Europe again? The club is unlikely to finish in a Europa League or Champions League spot, and the likelihood of winning the League Cup or FA Cup again is very slim. As a result, Laudrup is trying to find that ideal balance between succeeding in the Premier League and the Europa League, so we've seen a lot of player rotations each week. At the end of the day, that allows Laudrup to make sure that the Swansea squad gets more playing time. Plus, it provides much-needed experience of playing at a very competitive level.
The important thing is that Swansea doesn't use the Europa League as an excuse for a disappointing Premier League season. The club can rise to the level whereby they can succeed in both competitions, but it's going to push the players harder than ever before.
CC: Finally, Swansea, like Fulham, are always going to be limited in the amount of match day revenue they can accumulate. With the financial fair play regulations coming on (which in my opinion punish the small revenue clubs more than the big clubs), are you worried about their chances to stay viable? Fulham seem to be putting their hope in a strong academy to stay competitive in light of the new regulations, what do you think Swansea's strategy will be?
CH: I know that Shahid Khan has plans to redevelop the Riverside Stand at Craven Cottage, but Swansea has a slight advantage over Fulham. While Craven Cottage has listed buildings and is hemmed in by the Bishop's Park and residences next door, Swansea's Liberty Stadium has filed planning permission to expand the ground from 20,000 to 31,000 seats in the next three to five years. It's a modular stadium, so most of the expansion work could be carried out during future summers without too much impact to revenue losses from ticket sales.
In addition to stadium plans, Swansea recently opened their very first training ground that they can call their own as well as training academy for its youngsters. So all of the teams from the kids to the first team are being schooled in "The Swansea Way."
Having said all of that, I agree with you that Financial Fair Play is going to hurt the smaller clubs and help the giants. Swansea have found a proven formula that will keep them healthy in the future, but there are always concerns such as young players being plucked away by top six Premier League clubs, etc. The Swans will continue doing what they've been doing, and hoping that they'll continue producing players like Ben Davies and Joe Allen (now Liverpool) that will keep on coming up through the ranks.
Projected lineup, and score prediction
Rangel - Flores - Williams - Davies
Britton - De Guzman
Dyer - Shelvey - Routledge
Final score prediction:
Fulham 1-0 Swansea