Newcastle United have just been crowned the Championship winners. Preparations for their Premier League returns are being put in place, but before we get there, lets continue discussing how they would have performed against the teams in it this season.
As a team that burst onto the Premier League scene six years ago, it has been a real downer for Swansea for the past two seasons. Having gone through three managers in that time, they now appear to have settled with Paul Clement. He looks set to stay regardless of their league status next term.
The Welshmen had become renowned for their slick, free-flowing, possession based approach under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup and Garry Monk. This season, results have really declined, but Clement, to his credit, has continued their footballing culture.
Their best player is undoubtedly Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Icelandic midfielder has been involved in everything positive for them this year and will be in big demand this summer. Whether it be his brilliant set-piece delivery or his natural goalscoring instinct, he really is a top player.
Newcastle have always struggled with effective and clever players that play in between the lines. Why? Well, ever since Cheick Tioté began to decline, the team have lacked a proper midfield enforcer. Jack Colback was never going to be able to reach the required level, neither was Vurnon Anita. Isaac Hayden has been excellent this campaign, but still has plenty to prove. Sigurdsson has been a thorn in the Magpies side for many years and would be influential to his side taking points from Newcastle.
So, they have someone who delivers a wonderful set-piece. Funny story, they also have one of the best aerial centre forwards in the division: Fernando Llorente. The former Juventus man has 13 league goals this season and on his day, is a huge threat to every single defence. He possesses something that cannot be defended against and that is his brute strength and gigantic frame.
The question is, do Newcastle have a centre half in their ranks that can dominate in the air? The simple answer is no. As good as Ciaran Clark has been, he has repeatedly been found wanting in the top flight. Jamaal Lascelles is great when the ball is in front of him, but when he gets caught underneath them, he becomes totally lost. The task of marshalling Llorente would require two Newcastle defenders, freeing up more space for Sigurdsson to operate in. Bottom line is, relying on Newcastle to keep a clean sheet against Swansea, especially away from home, would be ambitious to say the least.
It sounds as if I am making the Swans out to be as good as anybody in the division, but the fact of the matter is that they are not. Actually, barring the aforementioned couple, it is very difficult to pick out other players that would frighten you. Those behind Sigurdsson do not really offer much in an attacking sense, and have been far too lightweight on occasions this season. Jack Cork is a decent player, but is not the most mobile. Leon Britton is a fan favorite, but is aging. Leroy Fer has the tools, but his form has fallen flat since August/September.
Of course, they did have Jonjo Shelvey, but now they don't. When Newcastle signed him, eyebrows were raised and he has shown exactly what all the fuss is about this season. He has the passing ability to dominate football matches and none of those Swansea midfielders can match him.
Dwight Gayle loves peeling off of defenders and exploiting his pace to get in behind them. He would lick his lips at the prospect of playing against Swansea's centre-backs. Federico Fernandez and Alfie Mawson are two big, strong players, but are not the quickest. They are also susceptible to the odd lapse in concentration (just look at Mawson's howler at Watford). Given Shelvey's ability to cut through defences, this would spell trouble for Clement's side.
It can't be forgotten either, that Newcastle pack a punch from set-pieces too, especially when Aleksandar Mitrović is on the pitch. He would be a brilliant option to come on late and bully the Swansea defence. Just like he did last season, when he set up Andros Townsend's goal in the 3-0 home win over Swansea.
Would Newcastle have enough to beat Swansea? Yes. Would they? I would say yes, but not twice. I'll sit on the fence with this one and say that both would snatch home wins against one another.