Take an inside look at Reading’s next opponent, Swansea, with WalesOnline Columnist Guto Llewelyn...

First off Guto, talk us through Swansea’s season thus far...

The summer was tumultuous once again for Swansea. Manager Steve Cooper who had led us to two straight play-off seasons left only a few weeks before the season started. We didn’t get his replacement in, Russel Martin, until the final week of preseason. 

He came in with big plans to radically change the style of play, but he had a very short space of time to do it. Rather than try to do it gradually he basically threw us in at the deep end and told us to learn as we go. That meant that the start of the season was a culture shock. We had some painful matches, some bad defeats. We looked a mess at the start of the season but I think fans always had the understanding that he was trying to do something quite ambitious and fans didn’t lose patience. And as the season’s progressed we’ve slowly gotten better and developed into a really good football team.

He’s only been in the job a few months, but how would you evaluate Russel Martin’s tenure?

I think we’re much further ahead than most fans expected. Cooper’s relationship with the fans was quite strange because the results were very good, but the style of play was a real sticking point and that is something that’s very important for Swansea fans. You could call us entitled, but it’s something we pride ourselves on as a club - playing this very attractive and technically advanced style of football and we weren’t seeing that with Cooper. Russel Martin has come in and you get the impression the players enjoy this style of play much more, they enjoy being able to express themselves, they enjoy seeing more of the ball, and having the confidence to try and keep it instead of just booting it up the field.

Reading Chronicle: Swansea City manager Russel Martin. Image by: PASwansea City manager Russel Martin. Image by: PA

He’s won over the players, he’s won over the fans and I think there is generally a lot of excitement about what he could do here. It’s not the finished article by any means, we’re still working on it. A few weeks ago we went to Bournemouth and lost 4-0, they absolutely tore us to pieces. So there are still areas that need to be improved but if you had offered this situation to fans at the start of the season I think the vast majority would have taken what we’ve seen so far. 

Currently sitting 9th in the Championship table, what do you think's the aim for Swansea this season?

If we're being ambitious I’d say play-offs, which isn’t impossible but I think most fans would be happy with a top ten finish. I think most fans are realistic, this team isn’t the finished article yet. My personal feeling is that because of the nature of the style of play, as the season wears on we could see tiredness or a few injuries play its part. And I don’t think it would take too many missing players for our team to really struggle. So a lot needs to go right for us to reach the play-offs but I don’t think it’s an unrealistic goal at the same time.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of this Swansea team?

The strengths are definitely how comfortable we are on the ball. We’re very happy to just pass it around. Some fans would like to see a little bit more urgency but there’s never any rush, we’re very happy to keep the ball and wait for the perfect opportunity. And we’ve got players as well who can make the difference, who can score out of nothing.

In terms of weaknesses, I think sometimes we have shown naivety at the back. We play a 3-5-2 and we were playing the same kind of system last season but it was very strictly a 5-3-2. The wing-backs were asked to do a lot of defending. This season it is undoubtedly a 3-5-2, the wing-backs are attacking freely, they’re not expected to defend. And that can sometimes leave us exposed at the back. The teams who have done the best against us have been the best pressing teams, the teams who put us under pressure and limit our passing options out from the back. Last Saturday we played Blackpool who are notoriously very good out of possession and they made life really difficult for us. If teams are very good at pressing they can cause us problems as the likes of Bournemouth showed. That’s probably our biggest weakness.

Players likely to cause Reading problems?

Olivier Ntcham


Age: 25

Squad #: 10

Reading Chronicle: Ntcham celebrates Swansea's opening goal against Barnsley. Image by: PANtcham celebrates Swansea's opening goal against Barnsley. Image by: PA

Ntcham is a really classy midfield player, the kind we’ve been missing for a few years. He’s good defensively but also a strong runner, intelligent passer, and he’s just got this class about him. Everything he does is very smooth, it’s very elegant, it’s very confident. 

Jamie Paterson


Age: 29

Squad #: 12  

Reading Chronicle: Paterson goes for goal in Swansea's 3-0 win vs Cardiff. Image by: PAPaterson goes for goal in Swansea's 3-0 win vs Cardiff. Image by: PA

Paterson is one of these players who’s been around the Championship forever and he’s always been pretty good but this season he’s quite possibly playing the best football of his career. He came on a free transfer and I don’t think expectations were that high, but he’s been phenomenal. He’s got confidence in everything he does, he’s a fantastic dribbler, he can score from distance.

Joel Piroe


Age: 22

Squad #: 17

Reading Chronicle: Piroe scoring one of ten league goals this season vs West Brom. Image by: PAPiroe scoring one of ten league goals this season vs West Brom. Image by: PA

Piroe was bought for around £1m in the summer from PSV and he was a bit of an unknown quantity. But he has been just amazing. He isn’t always that involved in the game, he’ll go through long periods where he’s very quiet but whenever he touches the ball he makes something happen. He can score all sorts of goals. We’ve seen him score from outside the box, we’ve seen him score tap-ins, seen him score a header, seen him run in behind, and seen him score with both feet. That’s one of the great things about him. There’s no such thing as a ‘typical Joel Piroe goal’. And everything he does is coming off at the moment.

Score prediction?

Our record against Reading is unbelievably good, if I’m being honest. I’ll go for a 2-0 win for the Swans.

Stat of the Match: Reading have failed to beat Swansea in the two side’s last 16 meetings. The Royals’ most recent victory over Saturday’s opponents came on September 27th, 2008, Noel and Stephen Hunt each scoring once while Kevin Doyle grabbed a brace in a thumping 4-0 triumph.