Against all odds, Matt Grimes is still a Swansea City player but the decision to refuse the deadline-day offers for the Swans captain has divided opinion among some fans.
Usually when one of Swansea’s key players is courted by clubs higher up the food chain, it inevitably results in a departure.
That was the case with Connor Roberts and Jamal Lowe, who joined Burnley and Bournemouth respectively on Tuesday for a combined fee of around £4m. It’s not a massive amount in the grand scheme of things but the club clearly felt it could not turn down that kind of money.
Roberts’ transfer was particularly painful. A local boy who has supported the Swans since childhood, Roberts has established himself as one of the best wing-backs in the division. Both his all-action style of play and infectious personality contributed to his status as a firm fans’ favourite.
There was universal disappointment when it was announced that Roberts would be moving to Turf Moor. The reported £2.5m fee hardly softened the blow but with the Welsh international in the final year of his contract, the Swans were in no position to haggle and Roberts left on the cheap.
But a similar bid was received for Grimes, who is also in the final year of his contract and of a similar age to Roberts. However, the Swans chose to snub Fulham’s advances and as a result they retained their captain.
It was surprising but also welcome news for new boss Russell Martin, who has made it abundantly clear that he rates Grimes extremely highly and wanted him to stay.
Why wouldn’t he? Grimes has proven himself to be among the best in the Championship at what he does. He has always been very comfortable on the ball and is one of the Swans’ top passers. Under Steve Cooper he was given the captain’s arm band and added an extra solidity to his game. Only four players in the entire division made more tackles in the 2020/21 season.
He even chipped in with five goals in all competitions which is a very respectable return for a deep-lying midfielder. These included some absolute stunners against the likes of Rotherham and Nottingham Forest as well as his gem in the play-off semi-final against Barnsley.
Grimes is a very good footballer and the Swans’ midfield is clearly much stronger with him at the club but there are those who fear the decision to keep him may backfire.
This has nothing to do with Grimes’ ability or attitude, both of which cannot be questioned. It’s all down to the finances involved and the possible alternatives had Swansea cashed in on their captain.
Reports suggested Fulham were willing to pay around £2.5m for Grimes, which isn’t a massive amount for a player of his quality but the Londoners were unlikely to offer much more than that seeing as Grimes could be available for free when his contract expires next summer.
This amount of money would not have funded any wild spending sprees but had Grimes been sold, Swansea would have been able to bring in Brentford’s Tariqe Fosu on loan, which is why some supporters feel the club may have made a mistake.
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Fosu is an exciting, skilful and creative trickster. The Bees’ wealth of talent has prevented him from becoming a regular starter there but even as an impact substitute he has shown himself to be a very effective attacking midfielder.
A tricky operator with excellent ball control and an end product to match, Fosu could have been a seriously useful signing for the Swans in an area of the pitch which has been problematic for quite some time.
The Swans could really use a player like Fosu to cause some trouble and create scoring opportunities for our strikers. It’s still early days but so far this season the Swans have been among the worst sides in the Championship when it comes to creating chances.
Many Swansea fans have argued that, with less than a year remaining on Grimes’s contract, the club would have been better off bringing in a player like Fosu to address a major weakness within the squad.
It’s a valid argument. A lack of creativity behind the strikers was a recurring issue last season despite the Swans’ top-six finish and this problem is likely to continue without a player like Fosu in the team.
The Swans strengthened in this department by bringing in Jamie Paterson earlier in the summer but he alone can’t resolve this dilemma.
Joel Piroe has already shown he is capable of finding the back of the net and the Swans have bought an exciting young striker in Michael Obafemi to add firepower up front, but every striker relies on good service and that could be in short supply once again this year.
It’s easy to see why some fans feel the need for a player like Tariqe Fosu outweighed the need for a more defensive midfielder like Grimes. They may very well be proved right but at the same time we should not undervalue Grimes’s importance to this team.
Swansea have a lot of options in central midfield between Jay Fulton and Korey Smith, new signings Liam Walsh, Flynn Downes and Olivier Ntcham and youngster Dan Williams. But arguably none of them possess Grimes’ unique set of attributes.
Grimes is a great all-round package. He is capable of receiving the ball from his centre backs in deep positions and advancing it up the pitch. His reading of the game is better than any of our other midfielders and he can provide excellent protection for the back line.
Grimes has had a mixed start to the season just like everybody else in the squad but if Martin’s new approach is to succeed at Swansea, he needs a player like Matt Grimes to run the midfield.
A player like Grimes is essential when passing it out from the back and vital when transitioning after a loss of possession. The new Swansea style is massively reliant on a Grimes-type player pulling the strings and keeping things tight in midfield.
We cannot underestimate how reliant we are on players like Grimes to make this system work. Without an effective marshal in the heart of midfield, the foundation isn’t there for our attacking players to flourish.
Grimes isn’t the most glamorous of footballers but he has an all-important role to play in this team and that probably explains why Swansea have chosen to keep him at the expense of a more attack-minded player.
Russell Martin clearly wants him at the Swansea.com Stadium and confirmed on Thursday that Grimes will be offered a new deal. Hopefully he and the club can come to an agreement which would eliminate the risk of losing him for free next summer but it remains to be seen whether or not Grimes will want to make that kind of commitment at this stage in his career.
Keeping Grimes for this season should make it much easier for Martin to implement his style of play but there is definitely an element of risk involved in turning down £2.5m for a player in his position. Hopefully the decision will work in Swansea’s favour.
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