It's no secret that Swansea have struggled this season, and a summer of unsatisfying transfer business is one of the biggest reasons why. On Monday night, the Swans will play Stoke and face two former players who could have returned to the Liberty Stadium this off season. Joe Allen has emerged as an unlikely goal machine for Stoke, while Wilfried Bony -- the man everyone thought would be scoring the goals -- has yet to net for his new club.
Odds seem good that Bony will choose Monday night to open his account with Stoke. The striker has scored in both of his appearances against Swansea for his parent club, Manchester City, since the transfer. Allen meanwhile has been on fire, having scored four in four this season and a goal for the Welshman against his boyhood club would be a painful reminder of what could have been.
Swansea had apparently made Liverpool an £8m offer for Allen prior to Euro 2016, but refused to match the selling club's £10m counter-offer. Stoke meanwhile are said to have offered Swansea £7m for out-of-favour Ki Sung-yueng, who had not enjoyed a good season in Wales.
Put those two scenarios together and the takeaway is that Swansea could have effectively swapped Ki for Allen for £3m. On the evidence of each man's contribution to their teams so far this season, that deal was clearly worth doing.
Bony has had a less impressive start to his Stoke career, but his success with Swansea can't be underplayed: he was the Premier League's top scorer in the calendar year of 2014 with 20 goals, beating Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez in the process. There's no doubt he could have helped his old club this season, but either wage demands or the players own agenda meant Swansea had to look elsewhere.
The men Swansea did buy, Fernando Llorente and Borja Baston, have also started this season slowly. Each has a single goal, but Llorente suffered from limited support and service before Bob Bradley took over as manager, while Borja has struggled with injury and fitness concerns. Both men played a part in last Saturday's goalless draw against Watford, and were together for the last 25 minutes or so after Llorente was substituted on. Swansea managed five shots on target in that game; three of them came with both strikers on the field.
It would take some guts for Bradley to start both strikers on Monday night. Last Saturday, although Swansea were set-up in a 4-2-3-1, Gylfi Sigurdsson was pushed further forward than usual, and the remaining two midfielders were over-run to a degree by Watford's central trio during the first half. However, after Llorente was introduced, the Swans gameplan became so attack focused that Watford, the away side, chose to play for the draw rather than risk exposure.
With Swansea the visitors on Monday, starting two strikers in a 4-4-2 would be an aggressive risk, but one which might be worth taking. Stoke have looked vulnerable defensively this season, and have an even worse defensive record than Swansea. There is surely some logic in putting pressure on Stoke's weakness rather than allowing them to assert their strength -- a diverse and talented forward line capable of scoring goals.
Swansea's own defence looks much improved as of last week, when Bradley made three changes to the back four. Two players assumed to be backups -- Mike van der Hoorn and Alfie Mawson -- started the game as the central defensive pairing and helped Swansea keep a clean sheet for the first time since the opening weekend. Stephen Kingsley resumed his role as Swansea's best left back, and if the same foursome -- rounded out by right back Kyle Naughton -- continue to play well together, half of Swansea's woes will be over.
Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic will challenge both full-backs, but the big battle will come through the middle. Swansea will have to make sure their past -- and their reluctance in the summer market -- doesn't come back to haunt them by stopping Bony and Allen, and in some respects there is more at stake than just Monday's result.
If Swansea can stop both men and get a result, it will somewhat vindicate the club's position. Ki played well for Swansea last week for the first time in a long time, and he'll need to show more of the same if he features. Leroy Fer would love his starting place back and at the moment is tied with Allen on four goals, while the two new strikers will want to add to their numbers.
Swansea's fans need to believe the club is still on the right path, and Monday night provides a fascinating contest between new and old to prove that they are.