Monk eyeing further progress
Published 07/08/2015 | 11:13
Garry Monk feels Swansea are in good shape to build on last season's best Premier League finish and record points total.
Monk has valid reason to curse his side's start away to champions Chelsea on Saturday evening - "I don't think the fixture computer likes us very much," - as 12 months ago Swansea started their campaign at Manchester United.
But Swansea spoiled Louis van Gaal's Old Trafford bow that day by winning 2-1 and, while many observers feel Monk has his work cut out to repeat last term's eighth-placed finish and 56-point haul, the 36-year-old feels the current squad is in a healthy place.
Monk has managed to keep key players like skipper Ashley Williams, striker Bafetimbi Gomis and goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, the latter signing a new four-year deal on Thursday amid reported interest from Serie A giants Roma.
He also did his summer transfer business early with international forwards Andre Ayew and Eder, France Under-21 defender Franck Tabanou and Sweden goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt integrated into the Swansea squad at the start of pre-season.
"We've had good preparation time with the group, they've put a lot of hard work in on both the physical and football side of things," Monk said.
"The group were together very early and the new signings were here early as part of our plan.
"It's an advantage because we've had five or six weeks with the whole group while other clubs are still looking to bring in players.
"We got to a good level last year with the expectations of how I want them to work but now it's about improving tactically, physically, technically - and that's what we've been working on.
"We have sat down and shown them how much they have improved and how much they can improve.
"We have showcased situations on the pitch when it's been negative and they've not dealt with it properly, then - after work with them to put it right - how they dealt with it properly and how it becomes second nature.
"That's how we are trying to improve, how to attack stronger and quicker, keep the ball better, how we defend certain areas of the pitch."
Monk has had no joy against Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho in the past, losing every one of their three previous meetings with the most recent being a 5-0 thrashing at the Liberty Stadium in January.
"We conceded nine against them last year, which wasn't good enough at all," Monk said.
"There weren't many times I could say I was gutted with a performance but the one at home was one of them.
"But Jose is tactically one of the best managers in the league.
"He's very clever in his approach, his team is so adaptable in playing different ways and brilliant to watch.
"They've set the standard for everyone and when I come up against Jose I know I'm in for an interesting afternoon."