Swansea: Now We Can Judge Garry Monk

The truth is that we can't judge the decision to replace Michael Laudrup with a rookie until he's had a summer and a start to the season. They could be in a battle...

Last Updated: 07/08/14 at 12:51 Post Comment

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LAST SEASON
Premier League
12th, 42pts, level GDEuropa League Last 32 FA Cup Fifth round League Cup Third round Top league scorer Wilfried Bony 16 Bookings 58 (12th highest) with three red cards.

Manager Garry Monk (since February 2014, permanent since May; age 35) Odds on being first out of his job 14-1 (6th)

Players in Jefferson Montero (Monarcas Morelia, £4m), Marvin Emnes (Middlesbrough, £1.5m), Stephen Kingsley (Falkirk, undisc), Lukasz Fabianski (Arsenal, free), Bafetimbi Gomis (Lyon, free)

Players out Michel Vorm (Tottenham Hotspur, £4.5m), Gwion Edwards (Crawley Town, £700,000), Alejandro Pozuelo (Rayo Vallecano, undisc), Thomas Atyeo (Aberystwyth Town, free), Daniel Alfei (Northampton Town, loan), Michu (Napoli, loan), Leroy Lita, David Ngog (released)

Club turnover in 2012-13 £67m, 16th=

Wage bill in 2012-13 £56m, 14th=

Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup, Garry Monk. Is the promoted player a break in the sequence of strong appointments by Swansea or a continuation of the excellent stewardship of a club close to ruins a decade ago?

Swansea were 12th when Laudrup was sacked in February, a win away from the top half; on the other hand, such was the compressed nature of the bottom half last season that they were only two points off the relegation zone and three points better off than Cardiff, who were 19th at the time. Nonetheless it seemed cruel on Laudrup, who had 12 months earlier secured the club's first major trophy and ninth place with the 14th biggest budget. His reign ended after a run of one win in ten league games but in his second campaign the effects of a run to the Europa League's last 32, with four qualifying games in pre-season, surely played a part in the weaker league form, and the 3-0 win at Valencia in the group stage was surely priceless. At the time of his sacking he had reached the FA Cup fifth round via a famous victory at (admittedly David Moyes's) Manchester United in round three.

Still, this board rescued Swansea from financial ruin and the imminent threat of Conference football; many may think Laudrup had earned more time but likewise Huw Jenkins and co have a proud track record of their own.

While 56-year-old Alan Irvine at West Brom is remarkably old to get his first job at this level, 35-year-old Monk is at the other extreme. Initially caretaker, his record last season was mixed, with five wins, three draws and six defeats, but that was enough, after a decade at the club starting in League Two, to secure him the job. He had a chat with Jenkins once safety was assured and came away saying: "I've been here for 10 years. They know that I'm never going to do anything detrimental to the club."

He added: "They've got the right to understand what anyone that works for this club [thinks], what their views are on it and what their views going forward are...it was more of a review of what I've done in this season and going forward how I feel about things, what I would do and all this sort of stuff; generally like you would do. You would have that chat and I think the chairman took it on board." Clearly Jenkins liked what he heard.

Whatever happens Monk is part of the feelgood Swansea story but sentiment will not earn him any points. Swansea get to kick off the season, with a lunchtime game at Old Trafford. The second away game is at Chelsea after the international break, so securing at least four points from August home games with Burnley and West Brom will be important for a steady start. September finishes at home to Southampton and away to Sunderland, so there will have been four games against sides Monk can fairly measure his team.

The difficulty is knowing exactly what that team will be. Michu, perhaps the Premier League's signing of the season for Laudrup's first campaign, was a diminished force in 2013-14 and is off to Napoli on loan. But what of the man who replaced him as leading goalscorer, Wilfried Bony? With him, plus the new recruit Batefimbi Gomis from Lyon, Swansea can look to build; without Bony, and a deal looks imminent, they will be hard-pushed to do as well last season unless they can find more goals from within the squad as well as from new recruits.

Jefferson Montero should add speed out wide, while at the very back Lukasz Fabianski looks a very good replacement for Michel Vorm in goal. Monk is looking to add to his midfield in the coming weeks, perhaps with another loan for Jonathan de Guzman, after injuries to Leon Britton and the 20-year-old Jay Fulton.

Monk played only once last season, in the one-match defence of the League Cup at Birmingham, but is steeped in the passing tradition that enabled Swansea to rise through the divisions. Continuity makes sense all the more when it has been proved to work. But the manager and board must know that realistically relegation is a possibility for any of the sides that finished in last season's bottom half; nine of their 42 points came in the last four games.

The dismissal of Laudrup was questionable at the time; it will look more so if Monk struggles and especially if he is sacked in turn. As well as a style of play, Monk is protecting a reputation built on a decade of progressive stewardship off the pitch. It is a considerable responsibility for a 35-year-old but many outside Cardiff will be wishing him well, right from kick-off against a complete Premier League rookie, Louis van Gaal.

Philip Cornwall

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