Paul Clement: Swansea City must stick together
18th March 2017
Paul Clement insisted Swansea City must look at the bigger picture after a disappointing 2-0 defeat at Bournemouth dented their hopes of Premier League survival.
Clement had urged his players to put the frustration of their 2-1 loss at Hull City last time out behind them by delivering a result at the Vitality Stadium.
But on a day when they lacked cutting edge, the Swans were left counting the cost of a second straight reverse.
Having put some daylight between themselves and the bottom three a couple of weeks ago, the Swans have slipped back down to 17th in the table after suffering successive losses for the first time since Clement took charge.
But the Swans head coach insists his players must now stick together if they are to pull clear of danger.
"It's difficult to take any positives out of this result when clearly we needed more, but we have to reflect on the bigger picture as well now," Clement said.
"At the start of January we had 12 points and were rock bottom.
"With nine games to go, we are 17th and we play two home games next.
"Bournemouth have just shown what you can do when you put two good results at home together. They have a bit of breathing space now and we have to try to do something similar to them in the two home games we have.
"Clearly, Middlesbrough next is a very, very big game.
"But we must not panic and we must not start looking for culprits, pointing the finger or blaming people.
"We are very much in this together and the players have pulled together well since I have been here.
"They have trained well and we have got some really positive results over the last two-and-a-half months.
"We now have around two-and-a-half months left of the season and there's no reason why we can't get some more good results from here on in.
"Our objective, as it has been all along, is to finish 17th. Anything higher than that will be a bonus."
The Swans fell behind at Bournemouth 31 minutes into what was a fairly even first half.
A defensive error handed Benik Afobe time and space to shoot, and his effort deflected in off the unfortunate Alfie Mawson.
The onus was on the visitors to step their performance up a level in the second half, but they struggled to trouble Eddie Howe's resolute defence and were undone when Afobe fired home on the counter-attack in the 71st minute.
After that, the Swans never looked like getting anything out of the game.
"Clearly we didn't do well enough," Clement added.
"That's disappointing, particularly after we lost last week as well.
"Before the first goal we were doing fine, but they scored via a deflection and that knocked our confidence.
"We got going again in the second half but their second goal knocked the window out of us again. It's disappointing because we wanted to run them much closer than we did."
Clement played Leroy Fer as an emergency right-back after the Swans opted against risking Kyle Naughton, who trained on Friday but felt some tightness in his hamstring.
"We didn't want to risk losing Kyle for the rest of the season, but with two more weeks before we play again, he will be fine," Clement explained.
"Martin Olsson will also be fine. Leroy misplaced a couple of passes early on here, but he was not the reason we lost - far from it. He is a good player."
Clement acknowledges that mental strength will be key in the final push to avoid a return to the Championship.
And he believes his players have already proved they have the fortitude to survive.
"It will be about which players and which teams hold their nerve, who can block out the situation and focus on performances," he said.
"The players have shown they can handle that pressure. They did so against Burnley and against Leicester, two pressure games for us.
"Now we have to react well to this defeat, get back to our stadium and produce a good performance, as we did in our last home game."