First, the dismal outing versus QPR, a game which started so well with Danny Graham's contentious opener but broke down into a chippy, desperate affair, all sandpaper and bad temper. Graham really ought to have had a penalty towards the end of the game, but as make-up calls go (or non-calls, as was the case), QPR ought to feel at least a little compensated for Graham's borderline handball.
Swansea really needed to step into the new year with a strong stride, so facing a potentially title-challenging Spurs side was always going to be tough. However, as it turned out, the game provided the spark the team needed after the negation and frustration of the Rangers game. Swansea thoroughly deserved the point they earned, out-shooting and out-possessing Redknapp's charges.
Stephen Dobbie finally got his first start since the season opener; given the lack of action, his touch was always going to be rusty, but his presence seemed to fire the Swans attack, which for the first time all season looked decisive, focussed and direct; not in the undesirable long-ball sense, but in the very desirable getting-the-hell-on-with-it sense. Shots-a-plenty, and a tangible desire to score goals produced a draw and a point, the first time Swansea have given up the first goal and not gone on to lose. It also happened to be the first time they've played with so much intensity in attack. Co-incidence?
The best was yet to come. A scheduling quirk pitted Swansea against Villa soon enough after their first meeting for memories of that game to still be fresh (about as fresh as the stud marks on Graham and Dyer's ankles). In that game, Villa had literally beaten Swansea out of two points, putting on a Van Bommel-esque display of streetwise thuggery for which a judging panel of Andoni Goikoetxea, Billy Whitehurst and Julian Dicks would have awarded seven out of ten any day of the week. In an act of poetic justice, this time round Nathan Dyer pounced on a mistake by Stephen Warnock (who had cut Dyer down in the previous fixture), broke through on goal and surprised everyone by not putting the ball forty feet over the bar. Instead, Dyer managed to slide the ball into the far side of the net for the early lead. As the game progressed, Warnock's day went from bad to worse as Dyer routinely undressed the full back like a topshop dummy all game long.
Later on, Wayne Routledge amazed even himself by opening his Premier League Goalscoring account on just the 116th time of asking, pouncing on a rebound after playing Scott Sinclair in beautifully. The game saw Swansea take the momentum they created in the game versus Spurs and build on it impressively; it was hard to remember a Villa chance at the other end or anything like sustained pressure from the Midlands club. The game belonged to the Swans, as did the precious three points and a sense of vindication.
After so much league excitement, the FA Cup fixture versus Barnsley might have seemed like a come down. Not so. Surprisingly, Brendan Rodgers chose not to mix up the squad wholesale, preferring instead to make only one or two changes. Orlandi got a start and looked dangerous, and the decision to play Danny Graham over Lita or Moore apparently paid off with a two goal return, one a highlight-reel belter we'll all be seeing for some time. My guess is that Rodgers was using the game as a platform for Graham to build on his confidence; he has already proved he can score at Premier League level, so to go back to wailing on a Championship team ought to have reassured him all the more.
In fact, it was hard to imagine that just this time last year, a game against Barnsley would have been just another league fixture, close-fought, with no easy win. In this game, the Swans outclassed their opposition; for as well as Barnsley played, the Swans carried themselves with a gloss and swagger which betrayed the difference in their league positions. It was a nice reminder that not only are the Swans a Premier League team, they are learning quickly how to both look and play like one, too.