NBA First Half Awards
With the season just over halfway done, let's look at the major awards. Feel free to disagree but it's James Hardens world right now and we're just living in it.
On Wednesday, the inevitable happened - Swansea City announced that the club has parted ways with manager Paul Clement. It came as a no surprise with the side sitting bottom of the English Premier League, having picked up only four points from the last ten matches. But the sacking should've happened much sooner.
The Swans have basically been in trouble since day one this season. They started off with a credible 0-0 draw at Southampton but were completely outplayed in the match. The Saints had 29 shots in total (including blocked attempts), while Swansea managed only four. None were on target. It was a sign of things to come.
Swansea has currently registered only 157 shots this season, which is the second-worst mark in the league. Brighton has had three shots less. However, in terms of shots on goal, Swansea might be the worst the team in Premier League history. With 18 games played, they have managed only 36 efforts on goal, 13 less than Brighton, who owns the second-worst mark.
Clement did well to mold the Swans into a team against whom it's tough to score, but in the process, he sucked all attacking imagination and creativity out from the side. Since the start of September until the end of November, they failed to score in seven of their 11 league outings. You can't win football matches if you don't score. If that isn't a sign of something being fundamentally wrong, then I don't know what is. Yet it took four more miserable outings until the Swansea board finally had seen enough.
It's the sixth sacking this season in the Premier League. All clubs except West Brom, have improved after that. Leicester City and Everton are now pushing for European places, Crystal Palace and West Ham have made their way out of the relegation zone. The new managers have a combined record of 16 wins, 13 draws and 14 losses. 16 wins, 11 draws and 12 losses if we take out Alan Pardew at WBA. The results and performances have greatly improved compared to the start of the season, which begs the question - what was Swansea thinking, waiting so long?
The team looks doomed with only 12 points picked up so far. Even a win against Palace on Saturday might still leave them at last place and we all now that it's almost impossible to survive in the Premier League if you're at the bottom on Christmas. Last season, Swansea became only the 4th team to avoid the drop after being last in the division on December 25.
Even Tony Pulis' famous record of not getting relegated as manager might not survive in this situation. Maybe that's the reason why he has reportedly already pulled himself out from the running for the job. Ryan Giggs and Ronald Koeman, who were other bookies early favorites to take over from Clement, have said no as well. Even Swansea legend Leon Britton, who's been appointed as caretaker boss, doesn't currently see himself as a full-time manager at the club. And you can't blame him, or any other manager for their reluctancy to take the job, as the club is a mess. Proven by the fact that they find themselves in the same situation as they were 12 months ago. Needing a miracle to survive in the league. But miracles don't happen that often.
Clement did a wonderful job last season by keeping the side up, but he had the chance to rely on the magic of Gylfi Sigurdsson and his almost telepathic understanding with Fernando Llorente. Both were sold over the summer and whilst the return of Wilfried Bony and the addition of Renato Sanches offered plenty of excitement for the Jack Army, neither has found any consistent form. On-loan striker Tammy Abraham, who was just 19 at the start of the season, has been the best outfield player and that says it all really.
Some defensive work done this season deserves credit, like the masterclass at Wembley to shut down Tottenham, but actually, some of the team's stats at the backend don't look pretty either. For example, only three sides have conceded more goals at home (14) and Lukasz Fabianski has been the busiest goalkeeper in the league.
Looking at the Swansea squad, are there even more than a couple of players other Premier League clubs would gladly have on their side? The team is poorly built and Clement shares that responsibility with chairman Huw Jenkins and owners Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan. The £45 million received for Sigurdsson was spent on almost nothing. 2/3 of it went on Sam Clucas and Roque Mesa, who have combined for only 19 matches so far. Clucas, who couldn't help Hull City to avoid relegation last season, is the club's record signing with his fee potentially rising to £16.5 million.
Adnan Januzaj, Nikola Vlasic, Mario Lemina, Richarlison, Will Hughes and Tom Ince are among players you could've signed this summer for the same amount of money, or even less, spent on Clucas. Overall, Swansea ended up having the lowest net spend in the Premier League during the summer transfer window. After that, it was always going to be tough for Clement to maintain the success of last season.
The American owners have made two big mistakes. Not spending enough to stay competitive in the Premier League and giving Clement too much time to make something out of nothing. The club, which was once perfectly run and a great example for every smaller side on how to be successful in the English top flight, is on its way to relegation following seven consecutive seasons in the Premier League. And considering the dire performances on the pitch, they won't be missed either.