Steve Cooper has defended his decision to use playmaker Bersant Celina as a wide player, rather than as a central No.10.
The Swansea City manager – whose team travel to Barnsley on Saturday hoping to make amends for their shock home defeat to Championship bottom club Stoke City – has been deploying Celina in an unfamiliar wide left role in recent matches.
It’s a decision that has perplexed some Swans supporters, as the former Manchester City player appears to have been less effective than in his previous central position.
But Cooper insists it will pay dividends by giving Celina more involvement on the ball and says it was a tactic he used to good effect with City’s rising star Phil Foden when Cooper was England U17 manager.
“He can create and score, and sometimes – in my opinion – there are games he can do that from out wide, and there are games he can do that from a central role,” Cooper said of Celina, who has returned to the club from international duty with Kosovo.
“I think what has tended to happen when he plays central – and he has played as much centrally as he has out wide – is we have moved him wide in the game and he has made more of a difference.
“He went there in the second half against Preston and was probably our best player in the second half, the team played much better.
“So, he can do both. We have lots of options at the top of the pitch that can play a number of positions and Bersant is one of them.
“We will try to use him wisely, but he is certainly a player who fits the number 10 profile.
“Phil Foden played wide right for me with England but he was never a wide right. We put him in that position because we felt that he would find spaces where we’d give him an opportunity to touch more of the ball than if he was at 10.
“Sometimes when you play number 10, you just get marked. Of course, to play really well you’ve got to find space. But if you can arrive inside in that 10 area from the side, sometimes you’re more free.”
The Swans are currently back in fourth place in the table after the defeat to Stoke, but the top places are so constricted that another win could take them back to the summit, above West Brom.
To achieve that, Cooper insists his players must be more controlled in the way they manage games. His emphasis is on wanting them to give the ball away less often, so preventing the kind of end-to-end flow that saw them under repeated pressure in their last game.
“We cannot be complacent. I would like us to have a little more control in games. We have good enough players technically to control momentum in games in possession.
“I think at times the game has been a bit too back and forth. That is not a problem, and it’s something we can handle as we have the athleticism and know-how to deal with that.
“It’s just at times I think we need to show a bit more calmness and play a few more passes to control the game.
“I feel if we do that, we look a good team and – if we get it right – I would back us against anybody.That will be our mentality for this game and the next game, and the one after that.
“The more times we get it right, the more chance we have of winning.”