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Sports News of Monday, 29 January 2018

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Jordan Ayew - The Saviour of Swansea?

Jordan Ayew in action for English Premier League side, Swansea City play videoJordan Ayew in action for English Premier League side, Swansea City

Time is running out for Swansea City. Promoted to the Premier League in 2011, the Swans defied the odds by surviving with considerable comfort. The following season, Brendan Rodgers made way for Brian Laudrup, and it was a miniature golden era, with Swansea lifting the EFL Cup and finishing in the top half.

It would prove to be the pinnacle of Swansea’s modern day fairytale, which, ever since, has been a tale of decline and frustration on the Gower. One of the principal causes of Swansea’s recent downfall was the inability to replace the mercurial Wilfred Bony after the Ivorian’s departure to Manchester City in 2014.

Though he is once more sporting the white of Swansea, Bony’s second spell has been drab. With loanee striker Tammy Abraham now injured, the Swans need a hero like never before. In Jordan Ayew, they may have the figure of inspiration they need to make a true fight for survival.

Ayew gives his thoughts after Swansea send Wolves crashing out of the F.A Cup.

Spotlight on Ayew

As of 24 January, Ayew has scored three times on the last five occasions he has played a full ninety minutes. His most recent strike came in Swansea’s 2-1 F.A Cup third round replay win against Wolves, and just days later, Swansea’s battle for survival was given its biggest boost yet. Swansea’s 1-0 victory over Liverpool on 22 January immediately went down as one of the shock results of the season.

Though the honour of scoring the match-winner against Liverpool fell to defender Alfie Mawson, the Swans appeared far more confident and galvanised with an energetic focal point in the form of Ayew. He also compares favourably to his Ghanaian peers in the Premier League, including his own brother Andre, in several key areas:

If judged on a per-game basis, Jordan Ayew wins out in the pass completion and shot accuracy rate compared to other Ghanaian players in the Premier League. He is also impressively close to Crystal Palace's defensive winger Jeffrey Schlupp’s rate of tackles won per game.

The man from Marseilles has also made an average of 2.2 tackles per ninety minutes so far this season, putting him a lofty fourth in the entire Swansea team in that respect. For many, the above stats destroy any remaining doubts that Ayew is Swansea’s key to survival in 2017/18.

With just four league goals in 2017/18, as noted on Transfermarkt, Ayew still has a long way to go before becoming etched in the annals of Swansea lore as a saviour, but his upturn in form is impossible to ignore. Ayew’s purple patch has also had a significant effect on betting site Betway's relegation markets for the Premier League, which now prices Swansea at 4/9 to go down. Though Swansea are still odds-on to drop and render eight seasons of hard work meaningless, this relegation price is the longest Swansea have commanded in a long while. The catalyst of change is Carlos Carvalhal, who replaced Paul Clement as Swansea manager in December 2017.

Carlos Carvalhal and Leroy Fer

Though Carvalhal had never managed in the Premier League prior to his appointment, he appears to value Ayew’s strengths more than his predecessor, making Swansea an altogether sterner prospect in the final third. Carvalhal, whether time will reveal him as a genius or a flop, had little choice but to make a revision of his side’s approach to attack when he arrived. Although the tactics have not undergone a major change, there is a certain chemistry within the side which was entirely absent during the short-lived Paul Clement era.

In terms of all-round ability, Leroy Fer is Swansea’s star asset, and he has clearly been focusing on developing a partnership with Ayew as a player that could amount to a support striker. Though this 'spearhead' is far from title contention material, recent performances have suggested that it will be the key to Swansea’s survival. With Swansea not facing another of last season’s top six finishers in the Premier League until 31 March (away to Manchester United), February and March will be pivotal in determining Swansea’s top flight status – or lack thereof – next season.