An uninspired Swansea ground out an inadequate goalless draw against relegation rivals Middlesbrough on Sunday, and were not helped by manager Paul Clement's inexplicable reluctance to use any substitutes.
A clean sheet is always a bonus, but it's somewhat less of an achievement against the league's worst attack. Swansea's own attack was cut off due to Fernando Llorente having picked up an ankle injury, but the rest of the team actually played well enough. Had the Spaniard been leading the line, this performance should have provided a comfortable win.
No Llorente, no goals. Clement's inability to devise a game plan to account for Llorente's absence proved costly. Time and again useful balls fell to nobody in the Middlesbrough box, and with attacking midfielder Jordan Ayew as a nominal striker, the system played out more like a 4-6-0 than a 4-3-3.
Manager rating out of 10
4 -- Swansea put 31 crosses into the box, their second-highest total this season, on a day when not only was 6-foot-5 forward Llorente missing, but diminutive Ayew was playing in his place. How Clement persisted with a game plan built around Llorente without fielding an able replacement is almost as bewildering as his refusal to play any substitutes on Sunday.
Borja Baston is not a flop -- not yet -- he is a confidence-shot player given next to no chance to justify his label as the side's £15 million record signing. Given 31 crosses to play with, the 6-3 natural finisher might have found some form on a day when Swansea badly needed goals, but the Spaniard wasn't even given a run out from the bench. As time ran short, it seemed clear Swansea needed a change. Clement somehow couldn't see fit to throw Borja or Jefferson Montero on the field to try to change the game, and can only blame himself for the result. If Clement won't play aggressively against the team least likely to respond at the other end, then Swansea's survival hopes are being severely undermined.
Middlesbrough's Steve Agnew switched to a two-striker system by introducing Rudy Gestede, who nearly won the game with a late sitter. In Hull, Marco Silva has regularly made bold in-game changes, taking the initiative and putting a second striker on in his side's wins against Swansea and Burnley. That sort of proactivity is the reason for Hull's momentum, and Clement needs to match Silva's bravery or risk allowing a relegation rival to secure their own survival at Swansea's expense.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Lukasz Fabianski, 6 -- Had almost nothing to do, with Boro mustering only a single shot on target.
DF Kyle Naughton, 6 -- Shaky in defence on his return, but later made some good interceptions. Still looks better suited to playing in midfield.
DF Federico Fernandez, 6 -- Curtailed his tendency to over-commit, and Swansea's defence were better for it, even against the league's worst attack.
DF Alfie Mawson, 7 -- Made a couple of key blocks and continues to grow in stature. If Swansea survive, this season likely will have been the making of Mawson.
DF Martin Olsson, 7 -- Always lively on his flank, and one of Swansea's better players on the day.
MF Leroy Fer, 7 -- Tried to replace Llorente's aerial threat at set pieces, but the Spaniard is a class above almost anyone in the league in that department. Fer's effort still stood out on a day when Swansea seemed curiously down tempo.
MF Jack Cork, 6 -- Tick-tock performance from Cork, who had an easy day defensively.
MF Tom Carroll, 6 -- Continues to show the industry that has endears him to Swans fans, though only for flashes here.
FW Luciano Narsingh, 6 -- His touch was a little off compared with what he's shown previously, but he was still a presence in a supporting role despite Swansea's attack badly lacking a lead.
FW Jordan Ayew, 6 -- Got a decent shot away and won a couple of free kicks, although he sometimes went to ground a little too easily. Is not a natural No. 9, however, and was never going to replace Llorente like-for-like.
FW Gylfi Sigurdsson, 6 -- Swansea's talisman is tiring, having played seemingly every minute of the season and endlessly running and pressing throughout those minutes. His fading influence is not a good sign for Swansea heading into the home stretch.