Two hours later there was just as much to discuss but with brows rather more furrowed. If a scrappy defeat by Newcastle proved anything, it was that one cannot microwave oneself a hero and on this evidence patience will be required if the loanee from Bayern Munich is to become a leading man in the battle to stay in the Premier League.
Paul Clement may find himself straining for positives when he apprises Carlo Ancelotti, his friend and Bayern counterpart, of Sanches’s debut this week, though his undercooked performance was not without mitigating factors. Sanches had arrived at Swansea’s Fairwood training ground only on Friday after fulfilling international commitments with Portugal, practising twice before being thrust into a side that had won comfortably at Crystal Palace last time out. A footballer gets through occasions like this on common sense and fumes but neither was enough here and, if Clement, who dispensed with the three-man defence that prevailed at Selhurst Park and started Sanches on the right of a midfield diamond, felt the feelgood factor around his presence would give his players an added spark, then it was a gamble that backfired.
“He’s a player that will get better and better the more he gets to know his team-mates, the system and the culture,” a frustrated Clement said. Perhaps Sanches’s colleagues were as wrong-footed as anybody by his deadline day transfer. “A little bit, yeah,” Leon Britton told Sky before kick-off when asked if he was surprised to be joined by one of Europe’s most trumpeted young talents. They will need to make him feel at home quickly and it was Kyle Naughton, the right-back with whom Sanches played in tandem, who handed out a series of pre‑match instructions as the teams lined up.
Sanches speaks little English but might have benefited if Britton, on the sidelines with a back injury, had been on hand to deliver a more practical lesson. His early touches of the ball were greeted by a palpable buzz but, with too few exceptions, he was wasteful in possession; perhaps the grass on a drizzle-sodden pitch in South Wales did him no favours but passes frequently sold their intended recipients short. While Mikel Merino delivered his latest lesson in midfield control for Newcastle, Sanches looked leaden and struggled for rhythm in a side that cried out for ingenuity.
That will surely improve with fitness and understanding. Those attributes were particularly lacking when Sanches, with his last significant involvement, led a counterattack with 40 yards of clear grass ahead of him only to slow up, stumble and cede the chance. Shortly afterwards he was replaced by Wilfried Bony; perhaps that vacancy for a hero could be filled another way but Swansea’s returning centre-forward had little encouragement in a 25-minute cameo during which Jamaal Lascelles’ goal turned a tepid afternoon into something worse.
Should Sanches be sharpened up by a week of training, he might find the open spaces of Wembley, where Swansea play Tottenham next weekend, more profitable. But even that might be too much expectation too quickly. There is a risk that, as a putative big fish in a pond of this size, he will be expected to produce every time he has the ball but that would be to disregard the lack of certainty at this stage about how good the 20-year-old is or could be. Any bet on him is still one on potential.
At this stage Sanches might be best advised to keep things simple. Newcastle did that well, looking organised and lucid in a showing that made light of the absent Rafael Benítez’s dissatisfaction at their transfer-window inactivity. Swansea are looking for a new way after the departures of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente. While Sanches and Bony score highly in visceral, emotional terms, Clement faces a difficult task in ensuring they make a comparable impact to their predecessors.
“I thought he did some good things and did some things that were not so good,” Clement said. Sanches had experienced nothing like this before: a league that often rejects the individual merits of its constituent parts and defers to disorder. He will need to adapt quickly if he is to become the talisman Swansea require.
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