Swansea: Building on success

Michael Laudrup

Image available under Creative Commons via Paul Blank

Last season will be remembered as a watershed moment by Swansea fans across the world.

Just ten years ago the club was in the doldrums, fighting for its existence in the football league. Victory in the League Cup in 2012/13 seemed unfathomable then. Yet to their credit Swansea, under the guidance of local-boy Huw Jenkins and with Michael Laudrup at the helm, have achieved just that.

However, the onus is now on the Swans to consolidate that success this season. Balancing the demands of Europa League football with those of the Premier League will not be easy. This article considers the four key things that Swansea will have to do if they are to have any chance of building on the advances they made last season.

1. Resolve the future of Michael Laudrup

Replacing Brendan Rodgers with Michael Laudrup last season has turned out to be a master stroke by Jenkins. With a clearly identifiable approach to how football should be played, Jenkins has demonstrated an ability to deal with the turnover of managers at Swansea as they depart for challenges elsewhere.

In Michael Laudrup, not only do Swansea have a manager keen to play attractive, attacking, passing football, but they also have a globally-recognised figurehead, with a reputation respected throughout the world.

Recent stories of a breakdown in relations between Laudrup, his agent (Bayram Tutumlu), and Jenkins have given Swans’ players and fans alike cause for alarm. It is hoped that Laudrup’s assurances that he will honour the contract extension he signed only in March ring true and that Swansea can begin to plan for the rigoursof the season ahead, sooner rather than later. In the event that differences prove irreconcilable, Swansea fans might take heart from Jenkins’ track record but this may be only a small consolation.

2. Keep Michu

Michu was a revelation last season. Snapped up from under the radar of the bigger clubs, the £2m signing from Celta Vigo was integral to Swansea’s success last season and can consider himself unlucky not to have been shortlisted for the PFA Player of the Year award. In the Premier League alone Michu was responsible for 38% of his team’s goals (33% in all competitions) and 7% of his team’s assists (9% in all competitions). Moreover, he is clearly a man for the big occasion – his goal against Chelsea in the Semi Final of the League Cup created the opportunity for his club to win that landmark trophy, and the Spaniard also notched in a one-sided Final against Bradford City.

While rumours linking the Spaniard with a move away from the club have subsided since a new four-year contract was signed in January 2013 Swans’ fans can be forgiven for fearing he might get caught up in this summer’s transfer merry-go-round. Michu is a player that Swansea simply must keep hold of.

3. Strengthen the squad

Balancing the burden of both European and domestic football is not easy, not least because of the number of games to be played and the frequency of games to be played, with teams consistently required to play on a Thursday and Sunday, minimising preparation time between games.

Last season Liverpool, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur each played 54 games throughout the course of the season. None of these sides enjoyed a lengthy run in the domestic cups. By way of comparison, Swansea played 47.

Moreover, Newcastle used 36 players during these games, Tottenham 32, and Liverpool 28. Swansea used just 25 players during last season. Perhaps moreso than any other, this statistic indicates that Swansea need to add depth to their squad if they are to manage the strains of European football next season.

It is understood that moves are afoot to bring in the highly-rated Jonathan de Guzman from Villarreal on a permanent basis following his impressive loan spell (7 goals, making him second highest goalscorer, and 10 assists, joint most with Hernandez and Routledge) at the Liberty Stadium last season.

While the return of Neil Taylor will be a welcome boost, it is obvious that the club needs to recruit further; a goalscorer to ease the burden and reduce the reliance on Michu should be a priority (only seven teams scored less than Swansea in the league) and if the rumours linking Ashley Williams with a move to Arsenal materialise then defensive reinforcements capable of stepping straight into the first team will be essential. Regardless of whether or not Williams is sold Swansea will still need to recruit additional quality in the middle of the park, on the flanks and at the back, if only to provide greater competition for the likes of Nathan Dyer, Leon Britton and Chico Flores. Without these additions next season could be a frustrating one for Swans’ fans.

4. Start the league season well

Given the demands that Europa League football will place on the club, it is imperative that the Swans begin their domestic campaign well and get points on the board early.

Swansea will first play in the third qualifying round (1st and 8th August) before kicking off their Premier League campaign at home to the Champions on 17th August. Assuming the Swans progress, they will play nine Premier League games and three Europa League games before their clash with bitter rivals Cardiff City on 2nd November. Those games include trips to Spurs, West Brom, Palace and Southampton, as well as home ties against Liverpool, Arsenal, Sunderland and West Ham.

Swans fans will be hoping that they can pick up at least four wins from those opening ten fixtures, and be well-positioned in the Europa League as they head into the business end of the group stages in November. If they are not, it is likely a choice will have to be made over whether or not to sacrifice their European commitments for domestic stability.

To continue their remarkable progression, then, it is clear that Swansea need to act quickly to add quality and numbers to their squad. Resolving the future of Laudrup is essential to this as he is undoubtedly a big draw for players to join the club.

Should Swansea fail to add this quality and start the new season well, many Swans fans might feel this was a lost opportunity for their club to capitalise on their recent success and consolidate their status as a solid and attractive Premier League outfit.

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Comments

  1. Flash in the pan…
    Will do well to even survive this year.
    Michu will never have a good a season as he did last season.
    Cardiff will be pissing themselves come the end of the season!
    COYG!

  2. Swans fan says:

    Regarding point 4.
    – you cant spell Millennium
    – the game wont be at the Millennium Stadium anyway, it will be at the Cardiff City Stadium

  3. Swans fan – fair points, well made. Expect an amendment soon!

    How are you feeling ahead of the new season? Optimistic?

  4. Cardiff fan here and have to say I think the Swans have strengthened well and will be OK this season. They still have to qualify though but if they do I think they will manage the extra games well. Not sure who Hugh jarse is supporting COYG?? Nor do I know what he’s talking about! As a Cardiff fan I think the pressure of the derby will be a leveler despite Swans having superior squad. I think Cardiff can scrape staying up, picking up some ‘surprise’ wins at home. Swans should do better though so don’t see how us ‘bluebirds’ will be pissing ourselves!

Trackbacks

  1. […] BH: Although not technically “new” signings, I’m keen to see the role that Chelsea’s young stars play this season – Lukaku and De Bruyne in particular seem set to play a bigger part for them. In terms of new recruits, Manchester City have spent big, and Negredo could be a real force. And I wonder how quickly Bony will find form, to take the pressure of Michu in a Swans side competing in Europe. […]

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