Neil Taylor's injury leaves Swansea City boss Michael Laudrup a little light on options
THE transfer window had been closed for a matter of hours when a possible chink in Swansea City's armour was exposed.
Neil Taylor's awful injury is a huge setback for the player and a mighty blow for his manager.
To a large extent, Michael Laudrup's plans came together before last Friday night's transfer deadline.
He got most of the players he wanted during the summer, and moved out a few who he felt would not contribute much to the cause.
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What he had not anticipated, of course, was that his one senior left-back would shatter his ankle come Saturday afternoon.
"This was not in my plans," Laudrup conceded.
Taylor is not the most influential player at the Liberty Stadium. A full-back, after all, is very rarely the central figure of a team.
But his is one of the positions in Laudrup's squad where Swansea are not blessed with a wealth of options.
The former Wrexham player is the only senior left-back on the payroll in SA1, and his season-ending injury means Swansea must now go in search of a free agent capable of playing in that position.
Finding someone boasting both the fitness and the ability required to survive in the Premier League will be no easy task.
Swansea had a hard time recruiting a central defender — and there are more of them around than there are good quality left-backs — when Steven Caulker's injury left them short this time last year.
Brendan Rodgers gave Vangelis Moras a short-term deal. The Greek managed only one substitute before being shown the door come January.
As things stand, Swansea will rely primarily on Ben Davies.
His fine start to life as a first-team player was rewarded yesterday when he was drafted into the Wales squad as Taylor's replacement.
But as Laudrup has pointed out, it is hard to ask a 19-year-old rookie to play regularly in the Premier League when he is only just finding his feet in the first team.
Davies looks a bright prospect, and has appeared very assured in his three Swansea appearances to date.
But the Neath-born player only made his senior debut ten days ago and is yet to start a top-flight game.
As well as Davies, Laudrup could play the likes of Alan Tate, Jazz Richards or Angel Rangel on the left flank of his rearguard, but none of those options is ideal.
Given the way he likes to play, with full-backs piling forward into the space left by wingers who are asked to move inside, a left-sided left-back is what the manager wants.
Laudrup has highlighted more than once since he arrived in Wales that his predecessor was fortunate to avoid many serious injuries last season.
Having lost Taylor, he could do without many more fitness problems.
Swansea do have options in their squad, as highlighted last weekend by the presence of one £5 million-plus signing on the substitutes' bench and another in the directors' box.
But some departments are stronger than others, and Swansea are not a club who can cope easily with absentees in any area of the pitch.
Players like Michel Vorm, Ashley Williams and Danny Graham would all be sorely missed should injury strike.
But Laudrup is relatively happy with the work Swansea did prior to the transfer deadline, particularly after his long pursuit of Pablo Hernandez ended with the Spanish international holding up Scott Sinclair's old No. 11 jersey in front of the camera lenses.
"They were two big deals which were related to each other," Laudrup said.
"Scott got the move that he wanted and Manchester City got a very good player, and we get another very, very good player from a big team who will give us experience and individual quality."
Swansea's fans will spend the international break waiting with bated breath to see what Hernandez will bring to the party.
For all his pedigree, the former Valencia player may have to wait for his turn on the bench at Villa Park given the sparkling early-season form of Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer.
Ideally, Laudrup wanted an extra winger to compete with that trio, and Swansea could do without injuries here given that one problem would leave him short of an alternative wideman among his substitutes.
But Marvin Emnes proved to be too expensive and Tom Ince was not for sale.
Dutch Under-21 man Jerson Cabral, meantime, opted to stay in Holland — he left Feyenoord for FC Twente on deadline day — rather than move to the Premier League.
Swansea's bid for Crewe's Ashley Westwood also faltered at the last minute.
The young midfielder could end up facing Laudrup's team at Aston Villa after he clinched a £2 million switch to Paul Lambert's team.
It is thought Swansea were only prepared to pay around half that sum for Westwood, who compares himself to Michael Carrick.
It remains be to seen whether Westwood's signing proves to be a shrewd piece of business on Lambert's part.
Swansea, meantime, press on with what they have got — and central midfield is one area where they do not look short of resources.
Joe Allen may have departed, but with Ki Sung-Yueng, Jonathan de Guzman and Michu all having come in the opposite direction, Swansea look strong in the middle of the pitch.
Their concerns are further back, with Taylor out for the long term and Chico Flores facing a three-match ban after his reckless tackle on Louis Saha last weekend.
Swansea must hope there are no further rearguard problems around the corner, for they already look a little stretched.
And even if with the options available now, Laudrup could do with another left-back.