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Monday, 25 February 2013

Swansea City, The Blueprint (No Jay Z)

I would like to start this post with an apology. To all 12 people who read this blog I’m sorry about the lack of activity over the last couple of weeks. I have had quite a lot going on and as much as I like writing, this isn’t putting money in the bank, (well not yet) so I’ve been occupied by other things but I’m back now so will try harder to post a bit more regularly.

Not to sound too much like a crap Primary school teacher but the topic for today is Swansea City and their manager Michael Laudrup.

As you may have seen Swansea beat League 2 Bradford City yesterday in the League Cup final, winning the 1st major trophy in the club’s history in what is its centenary year. On the day, they won the game comfortably 5-0, but Bradford had already written their fairy-tale just by getting to the final, by the final whistle Swansea had written theirs.
But this was no overnight success.

10 years ago Swansea went into the last game of the season knowing that if things didn’t go their way, they would be relegated from the league. Conference football beckoned. But the Swans were not going down without a fight; they beat Hull 4-2 at the old Vetch Field ground and stayed up. Current squad members Leon Britton and Garry Monk were in the Swansea team that day. This was rock bottom and from this point onwards, the only way was up.
He has been overlooked by much of the media this week but Kenny Jacket got the ball rolling by getting the club promoted from League 2. Next in the manager’s office came Roberto Martinez. It is here that the current Swansea ‘philosophy’ is born. Playing fluid passing football the Swans win League 1 and arrive in the Championship. Martinez moved on and Paulo Sousa came in, the club consolidated in the Championship and Brendan Rodgers entered the story. He guided the club to promotion to the Premier League and then safety in the top tier.

At the end of last season after keeping the club well clear of relegation, Rodgers had his head turned by Liverpool and he was away, moving on to bigger and better things. He hopes. Swansea were without a manager and with such a successful period behind them, had they gone as far as they could? Following Rodgers was going to be a big task; the 2nd season in the Premier League for promoted teams is hard enough as it is. Step forward one Michael Laudrup.
As a player his career took in Lazio, Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Ajax, with a small excursion to Japan in-between. He was a key member of the Barcelona Dream Team in the early 90’s. He won 4 straight La Liga championships with the Catalans, before a move to Madrid where he won another making it 5 in a row. Not to mention the European Cup in 1992 and the Super Cup in 1990. In short, the boy could play a little bit.

As he hung up his boots at the end of the 97-98 season a future as a coach was on the horizon. He enjoyed success at Bromby and Getafe. His teams played easy on the eye attacking football. He had a difficult spell in Russia with Spartak Moscow, followed by Mallorca, where he walked out after the club sacked his assistant. Swansea had either pulled off a masterstroke or things were about to go the way of the pear.
Under Rodgers the Swans played a very patient possession game. And I know this isn’t a fashionable thing to say but they were also at times a little bit boring. Passing the ball across the back 4 keeping passion may be effective and make keep many of you happy but I want a little more entertainment from my teams. That’s not to say that at times they didn’t turn on the flair at times and when they did they were a joy to watch. The 2 highest profile signings in the summer were Hernandez from Valencia (A very classy player) and an attacking midfielder also from Spain called Michu. Who was he?

Swansea started the season well and as they approached Christmas people were starting to take note. It turned out that that Michu bloke was pretty handy and was banging in goals left, right and centre. The other signings had also settled in well. They had developed into a very good team, and in my opinion they are easily better than the Rodgers team.

Laudrup hasn’t tried to reinvent the wheel. There wasn’t a lot wrong with the team that he inherited, so he took the good bits and built on the rest. They are still a possession team but now they have a more direct edge to them. Not content with just keeping the ball now they look at doing something with it. When a player receives the ball he immediately looks to play it forwards. Not a hoof up the field but a measured pass normally along the ground but a pass that will affect the game. They now attack with more pace, more urgency and there is more flair in the final 3rd. Hernandez has played a big part in this area. He is a fantastic player.
So, what’s not to like? Britton and Monk who were there in the dark days are still there, they have some great young players, they haven’t paid stupid money to try and get success and they play brilliant football. Laudrup is a good coach and an absolute gent. What Swansea have done is set the template for teams in the lower divisions to follow. If your Chairman has a plan and makes good managerial appointments, and the club has a sound financial footing there is no reason why your club can't 'do a Swansea.’ The Welsh wonders have shown it can be done, and in the process they have become the 2nd team of millions of football fans around the country. Long may it continue.

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