Note: If you haven't already, please read Part 1 of this article before continuing.
The phrase, “like a new signing”, is an overused cliché in football but I feel it is a more than apt descriptor of centre-back Kyle Bartley. Bartley joined Swansea from Arsenal for £1m over five years ago but failed to challenge for the starting centre-halve positions with then-manager Michael Laudrup going as far as playing midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng as the starting centre-back in place of Bartley in the League Cup final against Bradford. For many years it looked as if Bartley didn't have a future with Swansea until a season-long loan with Garry Monk's Leeds last season saw him develop into one of the Championship's finest defenders, forming a formidable partnership with Pontus Jansson. Upon Bartley's return from his loan spell Paul Clement made it clear that he wanted Bartley as part of his plans for the upcoming season. Bartley went on to feature strongly in pre-season and earned himself a deserved three year extension to his contract. In what was a surprising change from Paul Clement, Bartley started as part of a back five against early Premier League title favourites Man United several weeks ago. Bartley was tasked with man-marking Lukaku and he did a stellar job of keeping the £90m forward quiet. It was only until Bartley's substitution and a change of formation late in the game that United were able to dominate, eventually winning 0 – 4, a score which flattered the Champions elect. Bartley may not be as rounded a player as Fernandez or Mawson but he is a more than capable stand-in or as the third defender in a back three. His injury against MK Dons is a big loss.
Swansea have been criticised in the past for failing to utilise the loan market. I don't think the same can be said this season with the very shrewd acquisition of Tammy Abraham for a £2m fee. Abraham enjoyed his first full season in league football with Championship side Bristol City last season, notching an impressive 23 goals in 41 games. Capable of either playing with his back to goal or running the channels, Abraham is a tricky player for defenders to contend with. With two goals in two games against MK Dons and Crystal Palace, the second of which was a fantastic volleyed finish, Abraham looks as if he has found form and could go on a goal scoring run. Abraham may not be the finished product yet, he needs to show for the ball a bit more and add a bit more energy to his game, but he looks an excellent prospect. Who knows, maybe Chelsea may be open to the idea of making the move permanent in the Summer?
If there is one position which Swansea strengthened this season beyond any doubt then that position was midfield, beginning with the eye-catching capture of La Liga pass-master Roque Mesa for £11m. DLP/regista Mesa is a favourite of football connoisseurs and critically acclaimed for pulling the strings in Las Palmas' midfield over the past two seasons. Attackers Jesé, Jonathon Viera and Kevin-Prince Boateng may have won all the plaudits, but Mesa was the chief architect behind Las Palmas' entertaining and successful brand of football. What made Mesa such an exciting acquisition is that it signaled the intent of a return to the attractive, possession-based football which has been a big part of Swansea's success over the years. It was a signing that suggested we had finally found an heir to Leon Britton. That Jack Cork's transfer funded the deal made the signing all the sweeter. While Mesa may not have played as much in the opening three games this season as fans would've liked, that shouldn't be any cause for alarm. Mesa himself admitted in an interview that he is still adapting to the lifestyle change and the intensity of the Premier League. Besides, how long has it taken past players such as Bony, Fer, J. Ayew and Llorente to get up to speed before becoming mainstays of the team?
After the protracted Gylfi Sigurdsson saga came to an end, the club immediately moved for Hull's highly rated midfielder Sam Clucas in a reported £16m move. The 26-year-old English midfielder was instrumental in Hull's late bid to avoid relegation but, in the end, it proved too big a step for Marco Silva's men. Of all the players Swansea signed this window, Clucas is this author's favourite. While Clucas' name may not carry the same weight as Mesa or Sanches or the nostalgia of Bony, I believe that Clucas best embodies what Clement has been striving for – tactical flexibility and technically gifted players. I have been looking at different formations and line-ups Clement could run with and Clucas' versatility means that Clement is spoilt for choice. Clucas could play in a double pivot in a 4-2-3-1, at the base of a midfield diamond, as either a DM or box-to-box mid in a midfield three, as the left-sided ball-playing centre-back in a three man defence, as an attacking midfielder or even as emergency left-wing back cover. That Clucas wouldn't look out of place in any of these positions (save for perhaps left back/left-wing back) is testament to his ability as a footballer.
In what was one of the more surprising deals of the Summer and arguably the greatest deadline day transfer, Renato Sanches signed on loan from Bayern Munich for a £4m fee. Sanches made his name as the young player of the tournament during Portugal's Euro 2016 campaign but failed to push on at Bayern Munich following a big-money move. That his progress may have stalled should not put any of us off, for Sanches' energetic and explosive play is far better suited to the chaos of the Premier League than it is the slower and more technical nature of the Bundesliga. Like Clucas, Sanches is capable of playing all over midfield, but is best suited to a box-to-box role. As one of world football's elite youngsters this should be considered a massive coup for Swansea.
Last but not least is the return of fan favourite Wilfried Bony. I'll be the first to admit that I have my reservations over the 28-year-old Ivorian, but I have warmed to him over the transfer window. That Bony fell behind a 35-year-old Crouch in the pecking order at Stoke is a concern, but I still believe that he could return to close to his former best with some regular game-time and the support of a fan base that loves him. While Llorente is undoubtedly the better player at this moment in time, Bony is four years younger and at his best probably offered more to the team as a whole with his link-up play, intelligent flicks and back-heels and variation in types of goals scored. I think Bony will take some time to get back up to speed, but once he does we will have a very good player on our hands.
Where We're Short
Failure to land Arias or Yiadom on deadline day has left a bitter taste, even more so with the departure of Kingsley. We only have three natural full-backs on our books, one of which is a 35-year-old Rangel. We need to hope that both Naughton and Olsson remain fit until January, otherwise we'll be forced into playing a past-it Rangel or an out-of-position Clucas. We either need to convert one of our three wingers to wing-backs (as Conte did with Moses last season), sign a free agent as cover or call up one of our development players.
We may also live to regret our decision not to sign a mobile, natural attacking mid. A player like Chadli or Viera would've at least given us more options and made the prospect of playing with wingers more viable. As it stands, we are restricted to narrow formations.
Amat to Bartley → upgrade
Baston to Abraham → upgrade
Cork to Mesa → upgrade
Llorente to Bony → downgrade (likely to change over time, however)
Siggy to Clucas and Sanches → difficult to say as we haven't replaced Sigurdsson like-for-like. That said, I think it's likely that Clucas and Sanches could offer more to the team between them than Siggy could.
Overall, I'd argue that we are a stronger team now than the one that finished last season. Midfield, in particular, received a huge upgrade with the signings of Clucas, Mesa and Sanches. I'd even go as far to say that our strength in midfield is among the greatest in the league. We also possess plenty of options up front. Abraham, Ayew and Bony are all quality forwards with differing strengths and weaknesses. While I would've liked to have seen one more full-back/wing-back and a creative attacking midfielder, I have enough confidence in our manager and squad that we won't be dragged into a relegation battle and expect the aforementioned weaknesses to be corrected in January. With an improved squad and over £30m made in profit I'd call this a successful window.
Overall transfer window rating = 8/10
Possible Line-ups and Formations