Bony haunts Swansea to leave Bob Bradley facing relegation battle
Swansea's old boys came back to haunt them as Joe Allen and Wilfried Bony helped Stoke to a 3-1 win on Monday night. With tougher fixtures ahead and a five point gulf to safety, Bob Bradley's Swans now have a very real relegation fight on their hands.
Bradley may still be waiting for his first win as Swans boss, but his side are at least starting to take some shape. Anyone who can get a goal out of Wayne Routledge is clearly doing something right, while Fernando Llorente rewarded Bradley's decision to start him ahead of record signing Borja Baston. Swansea are a bare bones side but they have most of the pieces they need to pull away from danger. However, they need all those pieces to be firing to stand a real chance.
Mo Barrow was probably due a bad game, and this was it. With the winger struggling, Swansea had no width and were forced to channel attacks through the middle where Llorente's excellent hold-up play felt a little wasted.
Elsewhere, Swansea's lack of depth was exposed. There was no adequate replacement for Barrow off the bench, while defensively Angel Rangel was two yards off the pace when asked to replace Kyle Naughton. In midfield, Leroy Fer and Ki Sung-Yueng both played reasonably well, but neither is a bone fide defensive midfielder and it showed as Stoke were able to thread passes between the lines all night.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Bradley's tactical options are going to be limited at least until January, and that's assuming Swansea's new owners want to give him money to spend. In the meantime, he's been rotating his squad to see which groups of players can best play his style. On Monday a new midfield got their chance as Fer partnered Ki. The combinations are coming, but Bradley needs to find his best XI and stick to it soon.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Lukasz Fabianksi, 6 -- Not a dominant performance from the Polish stopper, although he couldn't really be blamed for the second goal.
DF Kyle Naughton, 6 -- Substituted early due to illness, and never really got going.
DF Mike van der Hoorn, 6 -- Didn't make any glaring mistakes but still felt a little like a spare part at times.
DF Alfie Mawson, 6 -- Was unfortunate to score an own goal, but he was at least trying to make a positive play on the ball. Didn't seem overawed by the physical challenge of Bony even though the scoreline says he came off second best.
DF Neil Taylor, 7 -- Best game for Swansea in a while. Made a game-leading six interceptions and mostly kept Marko Arnautovic quiet.
MF Leroy Fer, 6 -- Tied with Ki for a game-best 94 percent passing and managed three shots, but is not playing to his strengths in a deep role. Struggled to make the right impact defensively.
MF Ki Sung-Yueng, 6 -- Followed on from last Saturday's strong showing with another fairly solid display. Like Fer, is not the strongest defensive player, but helped Swansea control possession on the other side of the ball.
MF Mo Barrow, 5 -- A night to forget for the Gambian, whose first touch and general sharpness abandoned him. Had he been anywhere near his usual self, Swansea might have gotten a result. Without him, it felt like the team were fighting with one arm tied behind their back.
No.10 Gylfi Sigurdsson, 7 -- Took three shots and played six key passes as the Icelander picked up the slack from Barrow's no-show. Supplied the assist for Swansea's only goal and continues to show consistency through a difficult time.
MF Wayne Routledge, 7 -- Scored a goal, which is a rare treat for the shot-shy winger. If he can add regular scoring to his game, he'll justify his curious status as a seemingly undroppable player during a time of heavy and necessary rotation.
FW Fernando Llorente, 7 -- Put on a clinic of deft touches, perfect lay-offs and excellent hold-up play, winning a game-best 10 headers in the process. A shame his supporting cast couldn't take better advantage.
DF Angel Rangel, 5 -- Replaced Naughton on 40 minutes and lost the battle of age against youth against Stoke's 19-year-old winger Ramadan Sobhi. Frequently out of position owing to lack of pace. He's been a club legend, but his time as an impact player at this level has to be drawing to a close.
FW Borja Baston, 6 -- Managed a couple of shots but couldn't make the decisive impact despite being given a full half hour.
MF Jack Cork, N/R -- Replaced Ki in the 86th minute but didn't have time to affect the game.
Max is ESPN FC's Swansea blogger. Follow him on Twitter: @maxwellhicks