Sheffield Wednesday: A Swansea City writer explains how they overcame the losses of Oli McBurnie and Dan James
Swansea City arrive at Hillsborough on Saturday flying high in the Championship, fourth in the division and four points ahead of the Owls.
Their ascent to the upper reaches of the table was not forecast, having lost manager Graham Pooter, top goalscorer Oli McBurnie and top goalmaker Dan James to the Premier League over the summer.
So how have the Swans managed such a remarkable start to the campaign? WalesOnline football writer Ian Mitchelmore gave us the inside scoop on all things Swansea ahead of this weekend’s clash.
Swansea are riding high in the Championship with Steve Cooper at the helm. Was this the expectation?
Absolutely not. The Swans impressed in spells under Graham Potter last season in what was unquestionably a major transitional period following relegation from the Premier League. Steve Cooper had never managed at senior level, so his appointment was something of a gamble as far as fans were concerned, but the top brass at the club had done plenty of homework when it came to selecting Potter's replacement. Fans were understandably wary of what this season could hold following the sales of key players such as Oli McBurnie and Daniel James. So I'd have to say Swansea's efforts so far have exceeded expectations to say the least.
They lost Oli McBurnie and Daniel James to the Premier League - how have Swansea managed to keep ticking over?
They were two seismic losses, but collectively, Swansea are still a very strong side. Andre Ayew and Borja Baston have come back into the reckoning having been destined for the exit door in the summer while Sam Surridge - on loan from Bournemouth - has also helped to fill the void left by McBurnie. Cooper has done remarkably well to build on the impressive work done by Potter last season, and he's added his own stamp on proceedings to ensure that Swansea are battling it out at the business end of the table. The back four - particularly the centre-back duo of Joe Rodon and Mike van der Hoorn - have been very solid. Rodon's injury was a massive blow, but they have an able replacement in Ben Wilmot.
There was a lot of talk in the summer about the Swans staying true to 'the Swansea way' - what is that and are they doing so?
The club were well known for their slick, possession-based style of attacking play under the likes of Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup, but the so called Swansea Way - much to the anguish of supporters - slowly disappeared in the latter stages of the club's seven-year stay in the Premier League. Potter was keen to reintroduce the style last season, and that has been carried on by Cooper, with players such as Matt Grimes, Rodon, Connor Roberts, Mike van der Hoorn and Bersant Celina perfectly embodying what Swansea are trying to do following their relegation.
Having spent 12 years there as a player and manager, how is Garry Monk seen now at Swansea?
He will always be regarded as a legend for his playing career. He was there throughout the rise up the divisions, and his crucial block in the 2011 Championship play-off final win over Reading will remain in the Swansea City history books for the rest of time. Monk was also a key figure in the top flight, a period that saw Swansea win the League Cup under Laudrup. Despite leading Swansea to a best ever eighth-placed finish during his time as manager, Monk's reputation was dented somewhat with supporters as the slide from their peak started during his tenure. But on the whole, he holds cult status at the club.
Who are the players that keep Swansea ticking over and where do you think the key battles will be on Saturday?
Ayew has been in top form of late and is always a threat, whether he leads the line or plays out wide on the right. He can create and score goals while his work rate is off the charts, so Sheffield Wednesday will need to keep a close eye on him. Bersant Celina is another man who can produce something out of nothing.
The midfield battle could be key this weekend. Matt Grimes had a dip in form after the first international break of the season but has looked back to his best of late. And if he and George Byers or Jay Fulton can boss things in the centre of the park, that will go a long way for the visitors on Saturday.
What have you made of Monk's start to life in south Yorkshire?
He had a tough act to follow after the way Wednesday improved under Steve Bruce. But on the whole, he looks to have made an impressive start at Hillsborough. With a little more stardust in the squad, I feel Sheffield Wednesday would be really strong contenders for promotion. The big question has to be whether or not Monk is there for the long term, as history shows he doesn't stay in the same job for too long.