“I’ve come to a club where the philosophy of the team and mine fits” those were the words of Michael Laudrup in a recent interview about Swansea. As a man who has played for both Real Madrid and Barcelona, the Dane was seen, not only as a coup for the Welsh side – a far cry from the fourth division battling extinction – but as someone who can carry on the continental style of football baton, started by Roberto Martinez which was in turn passed on to Paulo Sousa and the recently departed Brendan Rodgers.
The Swans passing style won them many plaudits last season, as they finished the season with some comfort, finishing 11th in the Premier League and rewarding smart punters who had placed their Betfair football bets on Swansea. Laudrup who has managed in his homeland of Denmark, Spain and also in Russia – has had mixed success to date in his short managerial career from Getafe to Spartak Moscow to Mallorca. This summer, along with losing manager Brendan Rodgers, Swansea also lost Joe Allen, also to Liverpool, Scott Sinclair to Manchester City, while Steven Caulker and Gylfi Sigurdsson’s loan spells both ended at the end of the season.
Second season syndrome is something that is usually whispered about when it comes to a club who gets promoted and stays up, but then for the next season it is forever lurking in the shadows. Many have suggested that after this weekend’s 3-0 defeat to Everton, the club’s worst home defeat since a 3-0 loss to Middlesbrough in August 2009 under Paulo Sousa – the so-called honeymoon period looks set to be drawing to a close for Laudrup. The club began the season with a flourish with 5-0 and 3-0 wins over QPR and West Ham respectively but have slipped a little in terms of back-to-back defeats in the league to Aston Villa and Everton.
Laudrup, speaking after the defeat to Everton said: “It’s never good to lose, especially not in this way, but it can be a good wake-up call for everybody after the start we had.” The game against Everton was interesting in that Swansea were never allowed to settle into their passing game, the Toffees pressed and harried the Welsh side – David Moyes also outthought Swansea under Rodgers on both occasions last season. Similarly with Paul Lambert (now of Aston Villa) was Norwich manager last season and beat Swansea both home and away.
Has Laudrup tried to change things too soon? This summer, the Swans added no less than seven players to their ranks, some of who have worked previously with the Danish manager – Michu who has slotted into the squad with ease was a bargain buy, the flamboyant Chico Flores, midfielders Pablo Hernandez, Ki Sung-Yeung along with Kyle Bartley, Dwight Tiendalli and Jamie Proctor. While Jonathan de Guzman and Itay Shechter have come in on loan deals. Almost all of whom have made first team appearances.
Something that needs to be addressed immediately is Swansea’s lack of plan B when they go behind in games – only three times last season did they gain points having gone behind. There has also been a distinct lack of discipline this season with 10 yellows and 2 reds accrued in five Premier League games where as last season the Swans received just 40 yellows and 2 reds in 38 games.
The honeymoon period might be drawing to a close for the Dane, but arguably, Laudrup’s real test comes in the form of Swansea’s next three games where they will face Stoke, Reading and Wigan before coming face-to-face with two of the big boys Manchester City and Chelsea.