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West Brom v Swansea: Inside track on Steve Cooper's side

By Luke Hatfield | West Bromwich Albion | Published:

West Brom take on Swansea City this weekend hoping to stretch their lead on top of the Championship table - get to know Albion's opponents here.

Swansea City's George Byers (left) celebrates

We spoke with Ian Mitchelmore, digital sports journalist at WalesOnline, and Steven Carroll, from SoS Fanzine, to get a better take on the Welsh side.

See what he had to say here...

How has the season gone so far for Swansea, it seemed to start strongly?

IM: Swansea started the campaign like a house on fire and topped the table after their win over Leeds at the end of August.

But they've had just three wins in 14 matches in all competitions since that memorable day at Elland Road.

They've turned in some woeful performances in recent weeks, Millwall at home being a prime example, but their away form has been outstanding, with Swansea being the only side in the EFL yet to lose away from home in the league.

On the whole, there's been more positives than negatives.

SC: It started very strongly with five wins in six but we were a little bit lucky to be honest and we were taking our chances rather than dominating games.

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Since then we’ve tailed off a bit, but are probably where we should be.

A lot has been made of the situation at the club following relegation a while back - how is the club being handled now?

IM: The club are still suffering from the mistakes during the Premier League era, such as giving certain players bumper contracts.

It was always going to be a lengthy process to get the club back on to something of an even keel, and new chairman Trevor Birch has been instrumental in doing just that.

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Investment in the squad has been minimal, with Steve Cooper - as Graham Potter did - having to rely heavily on academy players.

Swansea City manager Steve Cooper

SC: It’s far better now that Trevor Birch is the chairman.

The previous one Huw Jenkins lost his way, and although more players may have to be sold to balance the books, I think the club is starting to rebuild the relationship with the fans.

What sort of style of play can we expect from Swansea? Is it still the attractive style of play we became accustomed to a few years ago?

IM: It's not the style they adopted under Potter last year, with Swansea now being harder to beat as a result of their defensive organisation, although that has come at the cost of them being more blunt in attack.

They adopt a 4-2-3-1 formation, although they rarely deploy out-and-out wingers which means they can be too narrow at times.

But defensively, they're been tougher to beat this season than they were last term, with only one of their five Championship losses being by more than one goal.

SC: Not especially, we don’t tend to dominate possession like we used to, there’s been some games where I’ve been wondering what the plan actually is, we don’t create many chances either and I think we’ll be quite cautious on Sunday.

How has Steve Cooper been getting on as boss, in your opinion?

IM: He started brilliantly, and while things have proven difficult of late, with the squad and resources he has at his disposal, I still believe Cooper is exceeding expectations.

He spent just £650,000 in the summer, with Jake Bidwell joining on a free transfer while four players came in on loan.

It came after key players such as Oli McBurnie and Daniel James were sold while a host of experienced men such as Leroy Fer, Wilfried Bony and Martin Olsson were offloaded.

It's not been easy, and the fact Swansea are even in the mix for a play-off spot is something of an achievement, particularly when you remember this is the head coach's first job in senior management.

Huddersfield Town's Jon Gorenc Stankovic and Swansea City's Bersant Celina

SC: We’ve had some impressive results so far this term but questions remain on the style of play.

I think most fans are with him, but with five defeats in our last seven at home, most of which are couple with lacklustre performances, he needs to sort this out or the fans will start to voice their concerns.

Who are the danger men for Albion to be wary of in Swansea's ranks and why?

IM: Bersant Celina was dropped for the defeat to Fulham and will hope to prove a point if included from the outset against West Brom.

He can play in the No. 10 role or out wide on the left, and while he's not hit top form this season, the Kosovan is arguably Swansea's most creative player.

Andre Ayew is a cut above this level, so he's someone the Baggies should keep a close eye on too.

SC: Andre Ayew is probably our most likely goal threat, he will play either on the right or up front.

He’s a funny one because I don’t know what his best position is! But he can often pop up with a goal.

What's your predicted XI for the game?

IM: Woodman; Roberts, van der Hoorn, Wilmot, Naughton; Fulton, Grimes (C); Ayew, Byers, Celina; Surridge.

SC: Cooper can be unpredictable, but i'Ll say, Woodman, Roberts, Van Der Hoorn, Wilmot, Naughton, Grimes, Fulton, Ayew, Byers, Celina, Surridge

What have you made of Albion from afar? Do you think they've got what it takes to secure promotion?

IM: They've been hugely impressive.

I've always been a big fan of Slaven Bilic and expected big things from him at the start of the season. And he certainly hasn't disappointed.

From a Welsh perspective, it's great to see Hal Robson-Kanu back on the goal trail too, and it's a squad that's packed to the rafters with talent. They'll take some stopping this season.

SC: It’s been a good start to the season for Albion, Slaven Bilic looks like a good appointment and I think you’ll be in the mix, a good chance of top two and if that fails then It’ll be top six for sure.

Your match prediction?

IM: West Brom 2-1 Swansea City.

SC: 2-1 to West Brom.

You can follow Ian on Twitter here. Meanwhile, you can see Steven's work here.

Luke Hatfield

By Luke Hatfield
Digital Sports Journalist - @LHatfield_Star

Digital Sports Journalist based in Wolverhampton working on the Express & Star and Shropshire Star.

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