After their two-game winning streak was snapped against Bournemouth last Saturday, Swansea should eye this Saturday's late game against Aston Villa as a perfect opportunity to get back on track. Swansea are eight points above the drop zone. Another three this weekend would give the club 36 total, which seems likely to be enough for safety this season. Villa meanwhile are nine points adrift at the bottom of the table and with only eight games left, they seem certain for the drop.
Villa's predicament means that many of their players might already be mulling over their options for next season given they'll almost definitely be playing Championship football, while Swansea have a chance of a strong finish to a difficult campaign. It is hard to imagine anything other than a Swansea win, and with Villa conceding nearly two goals per game (actually 1.9) this season, the time could be right for Alberto Paloschi to show his quality.
The Swans' new striker has netted once already, picking off a deflection for their goal in the recent 2-1 defeat to Spurs, but he would no doubt like to have done better than one goal in six games to start his Swansea career. He has come close on several occasions, unlucky not to score after manufacturing a chance for himself from an unlikely angle in the Bournemouth defeat for example, but Swansea need to provide better service.
Perhaps having suffered behind a seldom-scoring Bafetimbi Gomis for so long, the Swans other attacking players have learned to compensate and are now having difficulty remembering they actually have a striker up front. Gylfi Sigurdsson has a recent scoring record that would flatter most out-and-out strikers, with seven goals in his last 1 games and nine overall, while fellow attacking midfielder Andre Ayew remains the team's second-highest scorer with eight.
While that kind of auxiliary scoring is obviously extremely useful, a team needs its main striker to be firing in order to be truly dangerous. Swansea have averaged one goal per game in league play this season; the league average is 1.3. The difference seems negligible but amounts to slightly over eight extra goals this season so far. When you consider how many of Swansea's games have been decided by a single goal, that difference becomes meaningful.
Facing the league's worst defence on Saturday, Swansea should strive to be bold and use the opportunity to solve some small attacking woes. Concentrating on creating opportunities for Paloschi to shine and gain some confidence would be a good idea, as would working on set pieces. Villa might have both the league's worst defence and worst attack but it is Swansea that have the league's worst record at both defending and attacking set-pieces, with 16 goals conceded (40 percent of Swansea's total against) and just five scored (excluding penalties, 17 percent of Swansea's total haul).
No team should be as weak at set pieces. Corner kick routines especially are easy to practice as they are dead ball situations, and Swansea have an excellent dead ball specialist in Sigurdsson. With Leroy Fer now in the fold, there is an extra aerial threat while defender Federico Fernandez also mut be due a goal -- the Argentine has missed his share of sitters in front of goal this season.
Provided Swansea can avoid complacency, a win over Villa should be a formality; assuming that's the case, Saturday's game provides a real opportunity to address offensive shortcomings and ensure a strong finish to the season. It would be nice to see a rout but even a 1-0 victory would suffice, especially if the goal is scored by Paloschi. From a corner.