It's easy to mock Arsenal for being happy with fourth, but Nick Miller says the enormous changes coming up at the top mean there is a genuine reason to celebrate...
He is one of a number of solid shouts for players that look old before their time. We also have the final words on lovely D-Beck and a rejection of end of season playoffs...
The first thing they teach you in hack school is that negativity, basically, sells. Plane lands safely is not news. Plane explodes in freak accident while stewardess performs sex act on pilot, is. For all the protests from people declaring that not to be the case - demanding good news stories - the numbers back up the theory.
Of course this means a lot of the time you don't really get the chance to write nice things, but Swansea's Capital One Cup win gives everyone that opportunity.
Michael Laudrup spoke of 'the first trophy' after the match, in a manner that suggests this is just the start of something. Indeed, amid speculation that a bigger fish would come looking for him in the summer, Laudrup said before the game:
"I have ambition but I have never had any special dream to go to a specific team or a top team. Let's say that years ago I had set myself the ambition to become the manager of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea or Juventus, and that I finally arrived after 10 years of trying.
"Let's say I finish second in the League, lose in the semi-finals of the Champions League after penalties and lose 2-1 in the national cup final.
"The club say: 'Sorry, no trophies. Thank you very much, goodbye.' I have done everything for 10 years and then after nine months I am out. You can't live like that."
Tough not to love a man who takes that attitude, isn't it? Of course, make a note of those comments for when one of those big clubs actually does come calling, but for now let's take him at his word.
Plenty of things have already been written about Swansea's achievement in going from the depths of the fourth division to this point, so I won't go over them at too much length here, other than to say it's remarkable how frequently they have got managerial appointments right. Picking a boss is a notoriously tricky thing, and the number of dismissals already this season (roughly one every week since August) displays that rather starkly.
However, from Kenny Jackett, to Roberto Martinez, to Paulo Sousa, to Brendan Rodgers and now Laudrup, Huw Jenkins seems to have a knack of choosing bosses who will move the club forward, a gradual improvement that sees them where they are today. Obviously part of this is down to the way the club is structured, ensuring a continuity that means the change in manager is not quite the upheaval that it is at other clubs. There are no wild shifts in approach with Swansea, no swings in playing style.
Of course this doesn't mean that Laudrup has been a mere cog in the machine - he has done impressive work throughout the season, not least in the final against Bradford.
Managers and players of 'big' clubs playing lower-league opposition are almost contractually obliged to remark before these games that they're not taking the opposition for granted, no easy games, we're treating it like any other etc and so on, but then proceed to vaguely sling 11 players onto the pitch on the assumption that, well, they're better players, so they'll win. Often that works, but these managers and players can hardly be surprised when it doesn't.
Laudrup didn't do that - he made and executed tactical plans to combat Bradford. He quite rightly expected to have the vast majority of possession, so instead of playing either Gary Monk or Kyle Bartley at the back in place of Chico Flores, he picked Ki, knowing that he would be more adept at distributing the ball from the back. Equally, knowing that Bradford's central defensive pairing of Rory McArdle and Carl McHugh wouldn't exactly be fleet of foot, instead of always keeping Michu at the point of his attack, he rotated the pacey trio of Pablo Hernandez, Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer up top as well.
One of the most impressive things about Swansea and Laudrup is how they have got the best from ostensibly average or journeyman players. Nathan Dyer, Wayne Routledge, Leon Britton and the departed Danny Graham would perhaps have failed at other clubs, but Swansea carefully select the right men to fit their side. It's a simple-sounding but hugely difficult trick to pull off.
Finally, hats off to Laudrup who, after witnessing one of his players throw an enormous hissy fit for not being allowed to take a penalty and complete his hat-trick, substituted said player as he still looked for his third. Football isn't often a place where pure comedy thrives, but that one was a doozy.
"It gives me much more pleasure to see how well you can do where you don't have to win all the time," said Laudrup.
"I've been at the top clubs as a player. Maybe it's for that reason I don't have that dream like a young innocent manager just starting out. If one day I'm there as a manager at a top club, then I'm there. If I'm not, I'm not."
From a neutral perspective, hopefully Laudrup stays where he is for a while to come.
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Anyone find it slightly amusing that Swansea took this trophy after previous holders Liverpool after Brendan Rodgers switched clubs? Reminds me a bit of Ibrahimovic and his Champions League luck.- degenrate_mu