As an advertisement for the Swansea City manager’s job, this was about as damaging as it gets, yet a fourth successive defeat and the prospect of taking over the Premier League’s bottom team have not discouragedPaul Clement from accepting the offer to replace Bob Bradley.
Clement, Carlo Ancelotti’s No2 at Bayern Munich, has agreed in principle to become Swansea’s third manager of the season, with the 44-year-old to be appointed in the next 48 hours and expected to meet the players before Tuesday’s Premier League game at Crystal Palace.
The paperwork has yet to be signed, but Swansea are confident that Clement will take a leap of faith and hopefully breathe fresh life into a group of players who look resigned to relegation. Totally outplayed by Bournemouth, Swansea are four points adrift of safety and it is difficult so see how Clement could take any positives from their latest listless performance.
First-half goals from Benik Afobe and Ryan Fraser, followed by a late third from Josh King, allowed Bournemouth to ease to the most straightforward of away wins with Jack Wilshere outstanding in an advanced midfield role.
The margin of victory could have been even wider, such was the gulf between two clubs that set out to play the same way but are heading in opposite directions. Bournemouth are up to 10th place. Swansea are anchored to the foot of the table and staring at the possibility of playing Championship football next season unless they can produce an act of escapology to rival just about any other that the Premier League has witnessed over the years.
Alan Curtis, who was asked to take charge on a caretaker basis, talked about a crisis of confidence, yet there is a glaring lack of quality as well as self-belief. Bournemouth were superior in every department, controlling possession to such an extent that it felt like they were the home team. “Bournemouth were excellent,” he said. “They probably did to us what we used to do to teams.”
Next up for Swansea is the trip to Selhurst Park, where Clement is expected to watch from the stands. Highly rated as a coach, Clement has worked with the world’s top players as Ancelotti’s assistant at Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Yet his managerial experience is confined to the eight months he spent in charge of Derby last season and he is walking into a huge challenge at Swansea.
The club have lost eight of the past 12 games and conceded 32 goals in the process. Those sort of statistics will not be turned around on the training ground alone. Swansea need new players as badly as a new manager. But how much money will the club’s American owners be prepared to throw at what looks like a lost cause and, perhaps more to the point, what sort of players could Swansea hope to attract?
For the moment Curtis is ploughing on, preparing the team for the Palace game and doing his best to sound upbeat. “Naively or what, I still think there should be enough there to get better results,” he said. “But confidence in football is such a fragile thing. There are good players but once we concede you can see the confidence draining out of them.”
Afobe opened the scoring and it was the 14th time in 19 Premier League matches that Swansea have conceded first. It was also another piece of awful defending. Fraser, released by Wilshere, crossed from the left and Jordi Amat, who was surprisingly recalled, miscued, spearing the ball towards his own goal. Lukasz Fabianski managed to keep it out but Afobe was there to turn in the rebound, pivoting six yards out to sweep a left-foot shot past the Swansea goalkeeper.
Wilshere was also involved in Bournemouth’s second goal, which was brilliantly worked and encapsulated what Eddie Howe’s team are all about. Harry Arter, Simon Francis and Junior Stanislas also played a part in a slick move down the Bournemouth right that ended with Fraser turning home from inside the six-yard box in first-half injury-time. “That was the key moment – we were dominating but the game’s on a knife-edge,” Howe said. “It was one of the goals of the season for us.”
The Bournemouth manager was full of praise for Wilshere, who showed some lovely touches and set up further chances for Stanislas and Afobe early in the second half. Those opportunities were squandered but the predictable third goal arrived two minutes from time when Charlie Daniels released King and the substitute sprinted clear before slipping the ball past Fabianski, wrapping up three points for Bournemouth and leaving Swansea with one hell of a survival battle on their hands.