Swansea City: After a nightmare 2016, can they avoid relegation?

Swansea City owners
Swansea City's new American owners took over the club in the summer of 2016

They were once lauded as the perfect example of how to run a football club, but the Swansea City dream has turned into a nightmare in 2016.

The club who rose from the brink of relegation from the Football League to the top flight without breaking the bank while playing football 'the Swansea way' are now entrenched in the Premier League relegation zone.

They were a club run by a board comprised of businessmen, most of whom were local, and included a fan representing the Supporters' Trust. That same fan-owned club is now in the hands of US owners following a takeover in the summer.

Now stuck in 19th-place at Christmas, supporter discontent is growing by the game with chairman Huw Jenkins and manager Bob Bradley increasingly in the firing line at the Liberty Stadium.

So what are their prospects, and where did it go wrong in 2016?

Can the Swans avoid the drop?

The omens are not great - but better than they would be if West Ham had not beaten Hull last Saturday to send the English club into bottom place.

Of the 21 teams that have been in 19th-place at Christmas in the history of the Premier League, 11 have avoided relegation.

And 13 have survived from 18th spot at Christmas, including the Swans last term when their late season rally saw them finish in 12th place - but not before then-manager Garry Monk had lost his job.

The team bottom of the Premier League at Christmas rarely survives. It's a feat that has been pulled off only three times in the history of the tournament.

But Swansea are above Hull on goal difference only - so there's little comfort in that statistic.

Lack of stability on and off the field

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The Premier League's American trailblazers

When Swansea opted to sack Francesco Guidolin on his 61st birthday in October and replace him with former US coach Bob Bradley, the fact that it no longer registered as a surprise was the biggest surprise.

After a seven-year period where Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup presided over an era of unprecedented success - only Laudrup was sacked - the days of Swansea showing patience on the field appear long gone.

Bradley was Swansea's fourth managerial appointment in three seasons, with chairman Jenkins, once considered by Swans fans to be English football's shrewdest operators, insisting he was to blame for their situation.

A high turnover of managers has led to a situation whereby it doesn't even shock to see calls for Bradley's head, despite him being less than 80 days into the job.

Things are not helped by a lack of cohesion stretching off the field and into the corridors of power at the Liberty Stadium.

Swansea's Supporters' Trust have made their dissatisfaction known regarding how relations have broken down with the club since the US takeover, prompting an apology from majority shareholders Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan.

Swansea have lost six of their 10 games since Bradley succeeded Guidolin, with 25 goals conceded during that time to leave them 19th in the Premier League with only goal difference keeping them ahead of bottom side Hull.

Questions also remain as to whether Swansea's new owners are willing to provide the funds to improve what is looking like an increasingly dire situation.

Ashley Williams
Ashley Williams left the Liberty Stadium after over a decade with the club

A summer of transfer frustration

It would be an understatement to surmise that Swansea's summer transfer dealings left something to be desired.

Top goalscorer Andre Ayew departed for a record fee, but his big money replacement Borja Baston has failed to find his feet in England, scoring just once in 11 games so far this season.

It is a tale of two Welshman, however, that most frustrates Swans supporters who feel the club was weakened significantly over the summer.

Captain for club and country Ashley Williams was sold to Everton, with only young and inexperienced defender Alfie Mawson, who had no top flight experience, signed as a potential replacement.

Swansea's holiday fixtures
Monday, 26 December: West Ham (H)
Saturday, 31 December: Bournemouth (H)
Tuesday, 3 January: Crystal Palace (A)

And not only have Swansea seen a former fan favourite shining on Merseyside, but they failed to bring another one home from the red side of Stanley Park.

Ex-Swan Joe Allen was keen on a return to the Liberty Stadium, but despite starring for Wales at the Euros, Swansea were beaten to the signing by Stoke, a move described as 'a disaster.'

Swansea managers do not pick the players the club signs, but with recent transfer moves proving more miss than hit, that issue has come to the fore ahead of the January transfer window.

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'Weak, limp, something has to change' - Danny Murphy on Swansea City

Too nice?

Not only have Swansea gone backwards on and off the field, but they are becoming an increasing soft touch to face, especially away from the Liberty Stadium.

It has not proven easy to replace former skipper Williams, one of the Premier League's most reliable defenders, and Swansea subsequently have conceded more goals (37) than any other side so far this season.

Their apparent lack of fight has already caught the attention of several pundits and it seems undeniable that a relegation battle beckons unless a considerable amount of money is spent in January on new players.

The issue of whether funds will be available and whether chairman Jenkins and beleaguered coach Bradley are the men to identify the players, however, remains to be seen.

What now?

It's a statement of the obvious - but a point worth making nonetheless - to say the only Christmas present Swansea want is points.

The squad have decided against holding a Christmas party because of the club's predicament and one former player has a stark message for the team.

"We have now reached the period where to stay in the Premier League they have to do it by hook or by crook," said Owain Tudur Jones who was at the club between 2005 and 2009.

"We have to forget about the Swansea way, that's gone for now - it's going to take a lot of time and the right people and certainly the right manager at the club to get that back.

"At the moment it is just trying to get the job done and these next two home games are huge."

There is no element of exaggeration in describing the next few weeks as the most pivotal in a decade and the club must get it right.

Otherwise, Swansea's Premier League tenure will be neither a dream or a nightmare, but simply a memory.

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