Swansea: They Won't Go Changing...

Philip Cornwall is quite rightly pleased with himself after he predicted success for Swansea last season, & he thinks they will keep on that road this term...

Last Updated: 09/08/13 at 12:24 Post Comment

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LAST SEASON

Premier League 9th FA Cup third round League Cup winners

Manager Michael Laudrup (since June 2012) Odds on being first out of his job 8-1 (3rd)

Players in Wilfried Bony (Vitesse Arnhem, £12m), Jonjo Shelvey (Liverpool, £5m), Jordi Amat (Espanyol, £2.5m), Gregor Zabret (Domzale, undisc), Alex Gogic (Olympiakos, free), Alejandro Pozuelo (Real Betis, undisc), Jose Canas (Real Betis, free)

Players out Kenny Agustien (Brighton, free)

Club turnover in 2011-12 £65m (16th)

Handicap betting to win Premier League +36 points (10th=)

Twelve months ago many were tipping Swansea to suffer. In the aftermath of Brendan Rodgers' defection, the second season but with a new manager was expected to be especially difficult. Swansea have not received enough apologies, bearing in mind how far they exceeded expectations - but none were due here.

You make your fair share of mistakes writing previewing 20 clubs, as you probably notice, but I wrote: "Michael Laudrup is an inspired and potentially inspiring choice to succeed Rodgers, at a time when evolution rather than revolution is needed...Unlike physical approaches to which opponents gradually adjust and which they learn to negate, success based on actually playing football is harder to combat." And so it proved.

As well as Rodgers, Swansea had lost Joe Allen, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Steven Caulker. But they picked up the bargain of the season in Michu - which was handy for anyone who wrote "Michu will be pushing for bargain of the season if he can come close to the 16 goals he scored for Rayo Vallecano" - and all was well. More than well.

The recent BBC documentary on Swansea will have engaged all supporters bar those perhaps of Cardiff, talking through the rise from the brink of the Conference to League Cup winners in a decade without the benefit of a sugar daddy. It is an extraordinary story that shows no sign of an unhappy ending just yet, as Malmo can testify after getting spanked at the Liberty in the Europa League qualifiers shortly after smashing Hibernian.

The risk to this kind of success is the break-up of the team, but the big departure this year was Danny Graham in January, with £5m received for a player who was no longer a regular and who is yet to score for Sunderland competitively. At some point more vital players will leave, and however good the scouting network they will be hard to replace. The manager has been linked with moves and, though the Martinez-Sousa-Rodgers-Laudrup succession suggests the kind of replacement who must be sought, at some point the right man will prove elusive.

For now, a strengthened squad is looking to make an impact not only at home but in Europe, where Petrolul Ploiesti stand between them and a place in the Europa League group stages.

If Michu's goals were something of a surprise, then Wilfried Bony is a rather more obvious source for them, with 46 in 65 league games at Vitesse Arnhem. The £12m signing already has two from the 4-0 win against Malmo and the 24-year-old has been prolific in the Czech Republic and for Ivory Coast. Any transfer of such a size is a risk but at first glance this looks like a sound investment.

It was something of a surprise that Brendan Rodgers allowed Jonjo Shelvey to leave Anfield; how much of a gift to the Liverpool manager's former club this proves may depend on the midfielder's temperament and focus but he has the talent. The central defender Jordi Amat has played all the way up through Spain's age-group teams so seems made for the Swans, and though the former Real Betis midfielders Alejandro Pozuelo and Jose Canas have a less distinguished pedigree, such is Swansea's success rate that one imagines they will fit right in too.

Swansea have built an aura of success by the simple expedient of trying to play the game. It would not work everywhere but the technical limitations of the English game can be exploited from within - or at least from down the M4.

Not that the start to the season is an easy one. Last year's 5-0 opening day victory will not be repeated as the opposition are Manchester United rather than QPR and Tottenham and West Brom are tricky away opponents. The following two home games are against Rodgers' Liverpool and Arsenal, either side of a trip to Crystal Palace. This run will take some negotiating, especially interspersed with European commitments. But Swansea, having risen so far through their model, will not go changing whatever the early results; sooner or later their possession game will triumph, as long as they have the personnel to implement it.

Philip Cornwall

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think Finnegans Wake would have been a better reference point than Ulysses. Far more rambling and incomprehensible.

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Football People On TV: Garth Crooks

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f I recall correctly, Degsy predicted a 100/1 shot correctly the week after his 150/1 Blackpool 4 - 3 Bolton call. I stuck a fiver on it as an idle bet. Paid for a stag do in Munich. Heady days...

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Backing Hull To Beat United 2-1...

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odgers prefers Joe Allen to Lucas? If this is true then I'm setting aside a fortnight to finally learn the rules of American Football and I'll give up on real football.

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