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 By Max Hicks

Swansea's Premier League hopes pinned on Fernando Llorente

Garry Monk lost his job at Swansea as the club flirted with relegation last season so what lies in store this time around? Francesco Guidolin steered the club to safety and will now look to avoid another scrape for survival.

Here's a look at Swansea's 2016-17 campaign ...

At a glance

With an all-new strikeforce and Guidolin given a full season to work his magic, Swansea should be set for a strong mid-table finish at the least.

Quick predictions

Premier League: ​7th
FA Cup: Fourth round
League Cup: Quarterfinals

Transfer business

Swansea's transfer business was heavily delayed both by Euro 2016 and a change of ownership. The club might have acted late, but they have acted wisely. World Cup winner Fernando Llorente is undoubtedly the most decorated player ever to wear Swansea's colours, and seems the perfect fit for a side well stocked on the wing and looking for added danger at set-pieces.

Fellow Spaniard Borja Baston lit up La Liga last season with 18 goals in 36 games, and if he can replicate anywhere near that form in the Premier League, he will justify his position as Swansea's record signing. having cost £15 million from Atletico Madrid.

The loss of Andre Ayew is troublesome. Other players beyond the new strikers will have to chip in with goals to compensate, but making £20m on a player who signed for free one season ago represents good business regardless.

In defence, there remains the possibility Ashley Williams will leave for Everton before the window closes. Swansea will miss his leadership, but Jordi Amat has the potential to be every bit as good a player, and deserves his chance having waited in the wings since the days of Michael Laudrup.

Fernando Llorente
Fernando Llorente is one of the biggest names to ever pull on the Swansea shirt.

Key questions

Swansea's reputation took a hit last season. The club was forced to sack Monk and were mired in a relegation battle by Christmas.

New manager Guidolin came to Swansea as an unknown entity in British football but with a track record in Italy for getting maximum performance out of mediocre sides. Not only did he steer the club to safety over the second half of the season, he achieved a points-per-game average which would have bettered Swansea's best ever season if projected over an entire campaign.

The question is, can Guidolin achieve the same this season? Swansea could threaten the European qualification places if he can reproduce that form over an entire 38 game schedule.

To do so, he'll need to hope Llorente and Borja can translate their skills to a new league. Whether either man will turn out to be the next Wilfried Bony or just another Bafetimbi Gomis is perhaps the season defining question for the Swans.

Set-pieces are also a key piece of the puzzle. Swansea ranked dead last at both ends of the field from dead ball situations last season. Even a modest improvement could gift the club half a dozen points or more in the standings. Fix this weakness, get the new strikers scoring, and Swansea could be a legitimate dark horse pick for a big season.

Potential pitfalls

The obvious danger for Swansea is if their new strikers falter. Llorente's credentials are not in doubt, but he hasn't experienced Premier League football yet, and neither has Borja.

If these players struggle, then Swansea could be set for a re-run of last season's striker horror show, when Gomis didn't score for three months and Alberto Paloschi struggled so much he went back to Italy after just half a season.

However, last time out Ayew and Gylfi Sigurdsson were there to pick up the slack. With Ayew and his 12 goals gone, Swansea will need someone else to fill the void in a worst-case scenario.

Injuries to key players could also prove ruinous. The starting XI is very competitive, but like most clubs of their stature, the Swans lack depth. Most of the backup players would make fine short-term replacements, but it seems unlikely any of them could replace, say, the production of Sigurdsson or the box-to-box endeavour of Jack Cork over a long stretch of games.

Mo Barrow did well on the wing for Swansea vs. Sunderland and could bey a key component against Watford on Monday.
Mo Barrow will have the chance to impress after Andre Ayew's move to West Ham.

One to watch 

Modou Barrow has been in fine form in preseason, not just picking up where he left off but looking improbably faster and sharper. The young Gambian was mostly used off the bench during the last campaign, but with Ayew gone and only Nathan Dyer as real competition on the right flank, Barrow should be able to make the position his own.

He is still raw, and still learning to add defensive responsibility to his game, but he is arguably Swansea's most skillful individual player and undoubtedly the fastest. He still has some way to go before he can completely replace Ayew, but there is no reason to believe he can't make significant strides this season, provided he is given the playing time.

His pace alone makes him dangerous, but the winger comes with more tricks than a card sharp and the confidence to use them. With opponents more likely to be focused on stopping Llorente, Borja and Sigurdsson, Barrow should benefit from his relative anonymity, and his genuine game-breaking ability gives Swansea a potent secret weapon.

Max is ESPN FC's Swansea blogger. Follow him on Twitter: @maxwellhicks


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