Premier League preview - Swansea
Premier League: 9th
FA Cup: Third Round
League Cup: Winners
Swansea approach the new Premier League season with things looking rosy - Europa League football on the horizon, Michael Laudrup still at the helm after an early summer blip, star man Michu still at the Liberty Stadium and a new club record signing, Wilfried Bony, to partner the Spaniard.
It’s long been an upward trajectory for the Swans. They settled in well to the top flight under Brendan Rodgers and then, when Rodgers decamped to Liverpool, actually became stronger with the appointment of Laudrup. Combining European action with domestic duties will be another test but Swansea have shown time and again that they take such challenges in their stride.
Laudrup has spoken of mid-table consolidation as the aim for the year and with the extra exertion of the Europa League, it would be a relatively proud achievement. Newcastle displayed last season how hard it can be to juggle the Thursday-Sunday-Thursday schedule and as long as Swansea aren’t mired in the bottom half of the table at the turn of the year, they should have a trouble free campaign.
The Swans had an encouraging pre-season, and Laudrup will be confident his team can prosper again this term after recruiting wisely. Impressive striker Bony already looks at home in the team after scoring a handful of goals, and will create a profitable relationship with last year’s top scorer Michu.
Pinning down Jonathan de Guzman to a new loan deal was also crucial to Laudrup’s summer strengthening policy, and the all-action midfield linchpin will undoubtedly repay that faith again, after scoring in the Capital Cup final win last campaign. Add to that a raft of other La Liga bargains including free transfer Jose Canas, it appears the Dane’s eagle eye has been working overtime.
Jonjo Shelvey is perhaps Swansea’s most intriguing arrival - the former Liverpool midfielder has something to prove after being cast aside by Rodgers at Anfield and now, out of the shadow of Steven Gerrard, has the opportunity. Shelvey has shown great potential in flashes and if he flourishes under Laudrup, could prove an inspired piece of business.
And while the exit door has been as busy as the entrance, there have not been any big names on the way out. Laudrup has thus far retained Ashley Williams despite links with the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal, an encouraging signal to anyone who worried the Swans’ most crucial would be vulnerable to clubs with heftier transfer budgets. Instead, Swansea look far stronger today than a year ago.
The addition of fierce rivals Cardiff City to the Premier League will add extra intrigue to the Swan’s fixture list, with the two clubs reportedly competing for several of the same targets in the transfer window. The rivalry between the two clubs is fierce and the south Wales derby will be a welcome addition to the league schedule and, if a mid-table berth is Laudrup’s aim, the prize of local bragging rights will give the supporters something to shout for.
Manager - Michael Laudrup: The falling out between Laudrup’s agent and Huw Jenkins, the Swansea chairman, at one point threatened the Dane’s future but all was resolved, at least where Laudrup came in. But the feeling persists that another impressive year could see the former Getafe boss targeted by a European giant.
Key signing - Wilfried Bony: Bony arrives with a big reputation and a bagful of goals for Vitesse Arnhem, but the list of high-price Premier League failures from the Eredivisie is fairly long. If Bony proves to be more a Ruud van Nistelrooy than an Afonso Alves, Swansea are in for a treat.
Key departure - Alan Tate: Tate has only left on loan but it is confirmation that he’s not part of Laudrup’s plans, and that signals the progression Swansea have made in recent years. A veteran of more than 300 games for the club, the Yeovil loanee no longer merits a place in Laudrup’s upwardly-mobile team.
Keep an eye out for…Ben Davies: Davies was thrown in at the deep end last season when Neil Taylor suffered a horrendous injury, but the 20-year-old coped admirably. Indeed, Taylor was barely missed, a testament to the talent of the youngster and a harbinger of greater things to come for the youth team product.
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