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Swansea boss Clement leaps to defence of under-fire Llorente

Swansea boss Clement leaps to defence of under-fire Llorente
By PA Sport

20/04/2017 at 22:51

Swansea boss Paul Clement has defended Fernando Llorente against accusations that the World Cup winner does not work hard enough.

Llorente is relegation-threatened Swansea's top scorer with 11 goals, five of them coming since Clement was appointed manager at the start of January.

But the Spain veteran was singled out for criticism by Frank Lampard in his role as a Match of the Day pundit last weekend.

The former England midfielder questioned Llorente's body language after Swansea lost 1-0 at Watford, saying: "You wonder where he is in the head."

Lampard also pointed to data which suggested the Spaniard had sprinted only 19.2 metres in the 81 minutes he was on the pitch at Vicarage Road.

But Clement made a strong defence of Llorente's work rate, even though Swansea's own statistics indicated the 32-year-old did not make one sprint against Watford.

"We do look at the stats and believe it or not that is 20 metres more than he has done in other games," Clement said.

"They (the BBC) are taking their data from one source, but our data is from the GPS trackers the players wear in the back of their shirts.

"At Liverpool - where he scored twice - he sprinted zero metres, it was the same against Watford.

"That figure would not have been mentioned if we had won at Watford, or played differently.

"It was never an issue in the game against Burnley (where another Llorente brace included a last-minute winner). Burnley, he sprinted at 34 metres, his highest sprint stats under me is 65 metres."

Standing 6ft 4ins tall and weighing over 14 stone, Llorente's game has always been based on strength and aerial power rather than pace.

It has served Llorente well in a career which has taken in Athletic Bilbao, Juventus, Sevilla and, now Swansea, and seen him win domestic titles in Italy and European trophies in Spain.

Llorente has also won 24 international caps and was a member of Spain's 2010 World Cup-winning squad in South Africa.

"If I want someone running in behind it would not be Fernando," Clement said.

"You want them to work as hard as you can and covering high-speed running distances, but in previous games we have worked really hard in games.

"You cannot look at a player in isolation, but I don't get the feel that Fernando does not care or is not showing passion. That's not true."

Llorente's start at Watford was his first in a month after niggling ankle and leg injuries.

And Clement admitted ahead of Saturday's crunch home game with Stoke that Llorente needs to be fitter in the final few weeks of the season.

"Fernando has come off the back of some good performances where he's really made the difference," Clement said.

"But then he's picked up his injury which led to another injury and a frustrating time.

"He wasn't 100 per cent at Watford. He said after the game he didn't feel at his best, and that's obviously had an impact on the way he played.

"He does need to be fitter, but then t he question is a bit like the dilemma we had at West Ham.

"Do we start him or bring him on at half-time? He's very important either way."

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