Fernando Llorente is fast becoming the one man who can lead Swansea City to Premier League survival.
His two goals on Saturday took his season’s tally to 11 in 24 league games. Little wonder that Chelsea were keen to sign the 32-year-old Spaniard in January.
Of course, the more goals he scores during the run-in, the closer he will edge to the Liberty Stadium exit door. However, for the time being, losing Llorente in the summer is the last thing on Swansea’s mind.
The club who were odds on to be relegated when new manager Paul Clement arrived in early January, are still involved in a battle with the likes of Hull, Crystal Palace, Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Leicester. That said, Saturday’s fifth win in the past eight games took the club five points clear of the drop zone. And though Clement maintains that it has been a collective charge by his players, it would be folly to overlook the individual efforts of the World Cup winner.
“What he is doing is fantastic. He is exactly what we need,” said fullback Martin Olsson, who scored one of Swansea’s three goals. “If we can’t work the ball on the ground we can look to put the ball in to him and he is always there.
“It’s the same in training, he wins absolutely everything in the air. He is a nightmare to mark when we do attack against defence in training.
“He’s a strong, strong guy. He’s a nice guy too, a really humble guy and he works so hard. The whole team’s style of play suits him and it’s great to have him here.”
Llorente might be in the twilight of his career at the top level, but he continues to score the kind of goals that made him such a favourite during his time with Athletic Bilbao, Juventus and Sevilla.
He rose to head Swansea into the lead after 12 minutes and won the game with a carbon-copy header in the third minute of second-half stoppage time.
In between Llorente’s goals it was a game full of incident. Andre Gray equalised from the penalty spot after referee Anthony Taylor, who has been chastised for spending part of the build up to Saturday’s game on his stag do in Marbella, judged Alfie Mawson to have handled a Robbie Brady corner.
Replays confirmed the ball had struck the hand of Burnley’s Sam Vokes. Neither manager was too critical of the official, although Clement used the incident to claim that video technology for the four officials was now a must.
He said: “Other sports do it. I don’t see it as an issue of money, it is an issue of someone making the decision and getting it done. If we don’t do it, it will continue to cost teams.”
When the game settled down, Gray added his second of the afternoon, on the hour, before Olsson exchanged passes with Gylfi Sigurdsson to bring Swansea level, 10 minutes later.
However, it was Llorente who won the day with his third goal in two games. It is now five in six for the Spaniard.
Burnley captain Ben Mee said his side need to replicate the form they displayed at the end of last season. “It’s important we do that and have the same frame of mind going into games as we did at the end of last season,” he said. [/restrict]