22 years on from their last appearance in a European competition – where they were thumped 8-0 by a Monaco side manager by Arsene Wenger – Swansea handed out a spanking of their own last night to Swedish side Malmo. The Swans were comfortable 4-0 winners against a side already half-way through their domestic season and fresh from pulling down Hibernian’s pants a fortnight ago.
Following on from their League Cup success last season, Michael Laudrup has continued to build and fine tune his side ahead of his second season in charge. A dispute during the summer over signings and the influence of the Dane’s agent threatened to end Laudrup’s association with the club. However, both sides appear to have settled their differences which has since seen Swansea invest heavily on new players.
Laudrup has continued to exploit the Spanish market with the trio of Jose Cañas, Alejandro Pozuelo and Jordi Amat arriving from Real Betis respectively. Five players made their debuts for the Swans in the Europa League victory, scorer of two goals – Wilfried Bony – the equally impressive Jonjo Shelvey, while Amat slotted in centre-back alongside Ashley Williams. Pozuelo and Cañas both made cameos from the bench late in the game, with Pozuelo finding the net after some slick passing movement.
Michu, Swansea’s best player last season and scorer of 22 goals, capitalised on a slip from the Malmo defence to get his and Swanea’s account underway, the Spaniard also linked up well with the new man Bony – a £12m summer signing from Vitesse – the 24-year was top scorer in the Dutch Eredivise last season with 31 goals looks set to take the Premier League by storm this season.
The Swans finished 9th place last season with relative ease and in no danger of relegation despite their form tailing off subsequent to their success in the League Cup winning just twice in their remaining 11 games of the season. Laudrup has continued to build on the foundations left by Messrs Martinez, Sousa and Rodgers as the club have become more clinical and less probing than they were under their previous manager.
After a raft of impressive summer signings the Welsh side can again aim for a top half finish in the Premier League, perhaps even finishing high enough to qualify automatically for the Europe League next season, provided they find the balance that comes with playing both European and domestic football.