It’s been well documented that Swansea City have basically been playing the game as well as possible for a side that haven’t been blessed with the advantages of huge wealth or stature. From getting the fans financially invested in the club (literally, as shareholders) to having a clear vision of a style of playing that transcends the playing staff and even the manager, the Welsh side have taken as many steps as they can to make sure sustainable success and progress.
Although the club has changed managers semi-regularly (from Kenny Jackett and Roberto Martinez through to Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup, none spent too many years in charge), the fact that Swansea’s owners are committed to a certain style of play meant that even with new staff, things didn’t have to be torn down. This meant that the club could continue climbing with just slight tweaks.
The latest alterations by Danish manager Michael Laudrup have involved retaining the club’s attractive offensive game while adding a bit more directness. As the table below shows, Laudrup hasn’t made wholesale changes. Swansea still, unusually for a mid-table side, dominate the ball, but slightly less than they did last season. They are now much quicker to put shots on target, and as a result score more often.
[table id=179 /]
This season Swansea don’t press as much because they don’t want the ball as much, really their high possession is due to being much more technically gifted then a lot of the sides that they face, such as Stoke or QPR. When they come up against large sides that plan on using the ball themselves Swansea are lenient.
[table id=180 /]
* Home and Away average this season
Looking at the table above, it’s clear that this season if a side wants the ball Swansea will let them have it, as opposed to last season where possession meant everything. A benefit of not having the ball as much is that the Swans can focus on maintaining their shape in their own half, which is why they are conceding less goals. When they do get the ball back they have players with pace and decent technical ability to break quickly.
[table id=181 /]
From the table above, it’s clear that Michael Laudrup’s changes are having the desired effect. Swansea have progressed, this season at least (and one must not forget this is the Dane’s first season), from being a hard to beat team to a team that can take points off the best. Last season against the top eight sides in the Premiership they only took 0.81 points per game, this season they’ve already improved that by 0.19 and have several more games to further increase the average.
Michael Laudrup is continuing on the good work undergone by his predecessors, averaging 1.37 points per league game as opposed to Brendan Rodgers’ 1.24 last season. Rodgers himself improved on the season before because he guided the team through the Premiership with aplomb. It’s this kind of progressive planning which shows that managerial changes can improve a side, but only if there’s foresight involved.
A parallel can be drawn with Liverpool, where despite all the chopping and changing since Rafael Benitez’s departure, the squad has remained stuck at around 1.4 points per game. This is because everything keeps getting torn down and having to be rebuilt from scratch, rather than continuing to improve on solid foundations.
Of course Swansea isn’t impervious to a blip in form – every team goes through them. But the prudent actions of everybody concerned with the club should make sure that such dips are temporary.
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