Second season syndrome. Its a peculiar thing. But for the fans of Swansea City, it must feel like a very real threat. Key departures, in management and in playing squad, have left the Welsh club in need of a new identity and a new edge. For Swansea, this season, in terms of the adversity that they will likely encounter, may feel more perilous and disheartening than the last.
Constituting a Welsh representative in the Premier League for the first time in history, Swansea last season won plaudits both for their mesmeric football and their excellent performances against the might of the division. Mass hysteria and adoration from the footballing cognoscenti likened the Swans to Barcelona, with both clubs sharing a similar style of possession football and metronomic passing. The eleventh place finish that Swansea secured, however, was as much the glorious summation of a rich managerial lineage as it was phenomenal football.
Roberto Martinez laid the ground work for this Welsh revival. It was he who set in place the initial fixation with a fluent 4-3-3 system. Also, it was Martinez who dragged the the club out of League One and illuminated the path to excellence at the Liberty. Though often forgotten in the wider picture of the Swansea revolution, Portuguese Paulo Sousa was also instrumental, as it was he responsible for the clubs consolidation in the Championship during one solitary season in charge.
Provided with a rich opportunity set up by his forebears, Brendan Rodgers arrived. Adding panache and style to the fundamentally-sound structure that he inherited in South Wales, Rodgers guided Swansea back to the top flight at the first time of asking, before going on to morph the club into a force to be reckoned with. In their first season back in the big time, the club were a perpetual thorn in the side of any opponent, with substance to match style and conviction to match imagination.
But now, Rodgers does not remain in the hot seat at the Liberty. A move to Liverpool to replace the dismissed Kenny Dalglish ultimately left Swansea once more with a managerial void. Chosen to fill that void, after much deliberation, was Michael Laudrup, the famed figure of Danish football. However, this appointment represents more risk than assurance. Unproven at such a high level of the game, Laudrup is also, by his own admission, widely unfamiliar with the culture, spirit and expectation of Welsh football. For many, he is a slightly contentious appointment.
Laudrup will not be able to rely upon many of the players with whom Rodgers forged success, however. Most pertinent amongst the summer exodus was midfield starlet Gylfi Sigurdsson, an intrinsic part of the Swansea success last term. A permanent deal for the Icelandic set-piece specialist repeatedly fell through, until eventually he finalised a deal to join Tottenham Hotspur. His midfield partner, Joe Allen, who has garnered rave reviews for his immense passing ability and creativity, also appears to be on the verge of leaving the club, with Rodgers again in hot pursuit of the player. Steven Caulker, too, will be missing from last seasons collection, as Ledley King’s retirement at Spurs ended any potential loan return to the Swans. Thus do Swansea face a dilemma.
Competition for Premier League survival promises to be ferocious in the coming season. Newly-promoted clubs such as Reading and West Ham have invested heavily in the transfer market in a bid to instantaneously become competitive and established, as have remaining Premier League clubs such as Norwich and Queens Park Rangers. Last season, all three clubs promoted from the Championship survived in the Premier League. For the Welsh amongst them, extending by a further year their stay may prove incredibly difficult.
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