FA Cup: Third round
League Cup: Winners
Mich-who? That was the question on most Swansea City fans’ lips at the start of the season. The player responded emphatically with a brace and an assist against QPR on his debut. Known as Miguel Michu, he joined the better known new manager Michael Laudrup at the Liberty Stadium for the new campaign; two changes which were arguably the main catalyst to the success that the South Wales outfit enjoyed last term.
A Swansea after Brendan Rodgers was, in many eyes, going to be a hard act to follow after their debut season in the top flight brought a respectable 11th placed finish. Laudrup’s appointment was one met with curiosity and intrigue. A 10-year apprenticeship in management came to a close at Mallorca, with whom he introduced a brand of football that had convinced chairman Huw Jenkins to bring him to England’s top flight.
A League Cup victory, ninth place in the league and Europa League status has only strengthened that conviction. Armed with an exceptional knowledge of players and the continental transfer market, Laudrup added Pablo Hernandez, Chico and Jonathan de Guzman to a revamped squad that also included the £2m bargain Michu as they emerged from August unbeaten in all competitions.
It was however a turbulent autumn in the league. Following August, they took five points from a possible 21 between September and the beginning of November, with notable defeats against Everton, Aston Villa and Stoke City. But in a team where their Spaniards were gradually acclimatising, Swansea were like a fine rioja; they got better with age.
In hindsight, had it not been for Gary Monk’s last gasp goal against Crawley Town in September in the League Cup, the Swans’ season may have been turned on its head. In the rounds that followed they swept aside Liverpool, Middlesbrough and Chelsea, before humbling Bradford 5-0 in the final.
In the run up to the final, Swansea’s performances and results in the league were markedly better. De Guzman came into his own and developed a knack for scoring important goals from midfield, the link-up play between Hernandez and Michu was flourishing and even Wayne Routledge seemed rejuvenated under Laudrup’s leadership.
It seemed the players had embraced the great Dane’s footballing philosophy, and no one was benefiting more from this than Michu. The tall, yet deceptively skilful striker was scoring for fun.
Two late goals at the Emirates Stadium against Arsenal in a 2-0 win was followed up a fortnight later with a poacher’s effort to equalise against eventual champions Manchester United. He was gaining a reputation for scoring key goals in big games.
Birmingham City eventually capitulated after their League Cup win in 2011 and were relegated. It seemed silverware had the same effect on Swansea, who collected only two wins in the last 11 games. Their good mid-season form, coupled with the fact that teams around and below them also struggled, meant Swansea finished a very respectable ninth.
Michu is now the answer, and no longer the question.
Manager – Michael Laudrup: The hawks will no doubt circle the Swans in the summer, and Laudrup has insisted more investment will be needed if his side are to improve for next season.
Player of the Season – Miguel Michu: With 18 goals in all competitions, including one in the League Cup final, it will be interesting to see if the player can build on this and become a genuine cult hero in the future.
Turning point – Third round win against Liverpool in the League Cup: The 3-1 win against Liverpool at Anfield at the end of October inspired a surge up the table and instilled new found belief in the squad.
Any other business: The manager will no doubt have his eye on other La Liga bargains and after replacing Scott Sinclair and Joe Allen so competently, fans shouldn’t worry too much about the potential departure of defender Ashley Williams.