[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here is a quiet confidence surrounding Swansea City’s 2015-16 Premier League campaign, with Garry Monk’s men one of the most understated-yet-able sides in the English top flight.
The South Wales outfit proved as much at the weekend, drawing 2-2 with national champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, coming from behind twice to gain a much-deserved point.
Following beating Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford on the opening day of last term thanks to an inspired Gylfi Sigurðsson performance, the result in West London shows once more that the Swans can go toe-to-toe with anyone on their day.
There are no world beaters in the Liberty Stadium squad, just solid, technically sound footballers that are willing to work hard and buy into their progressive manager’s ideal of how the game should be played.
However, the performance of Ecuadorian winger Jefferson Montero at the weekend suggests that Swansea could well have a individual gem on their hands.
For the South American, playing in the Premier League is a second chance at European football after a three-year stint in Spain, where the sprightly winger failed to live up to his billing.
Montero first starred as a fresh-faced youngster in his homeland’s second flight for Independiente Valle, where his blistering pace and trickery on the ball first became evident in one stunning season.
A move to Villarreal promised much for the Babahoyo-born attacker, but over the course of a number of campaigns at El Madrigal Montero struggled to make an impact – largely due to the presence of other able attacking midfielders such as Santi Cazorla.
A loan stint at Levante proved unfruitful, while more regular action was forthcoming in a similar temporary deal with Real Betis.
Despite scoring against Real Madrid and helping Pepe Mel’s men stay in La Liga in 2011-12, the following summer he made a return closer to home by signing for modest Mexican outfit Morelia, where he started to find his best form once more.
Montero’s potential had been spotted in Ecuador at a young age, with the versatile attacker making his national team debut as a teenager and wracking up almost 50 caps since.
With some South American players, regardless of their ability, a move to Europe does not always prove a success, with the likes of ever-present Argentina international Fernando Gago a prime example.
However, with Swansea taking the chance to land the winger on a four-year contract after the World Cup, their investment and faith in Montero appears to be paying off.
Like compatriot Antonio Valencia who has excelled at Wigan Athletic and Manchester United due to lightning pace, Montero’s acceleration from a standing start is an attribute that opposition defenders will be having nightmares about.
The 25-year-old started 15 Premier League games last season and came off the bench in another 15, while an injury mid-season prevented him from striking up any momentum.
At times, Montero’s pace and prowess was evident last term, but arguably his most compelling display in a Swansea shirt came against Chelsea at the weekend.
Up against one of European football’s most uncompromising and able defenders Branislav Ivanović, the Ecuador international left the Serb chasing shadows on countless occasions and was the main attacking outlet for an expansive and impressive Swansea side.
Montero’s performance, where he repeatedly skipped past Ivanović and terrorised the Chelsea backline, will have Premier League managers sitting up and taking note for two reasons.
Firstly, the South American may well have exposed a weakness in the Blues backline, with other teams potentially set to mimic Montero’s perplexing of Ivanović in future games against the champions
Secondly, most teams in the division, if they have not already, will now have sat up and taken note that the Ecuadorian will be a major threat the next time they face Garry Monk’s men.
Swansea will hope that their well-deserved point against Chelsea will be the start of an excellent campaign, with wildcard Montero a rising star in the Welsh outfit’s attacking armoury.
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