Key man: Michu
Predicted position: 8th
If Swansea’s first season in the Premier League two years ago is something that will be talked in South Wales for decades to come, than last season’s heroics were undoubtedly the stuff of dreams.
Having replaced Brendan Rodgers in the Liberty Stadium dugout, Michael Laudrup guided the Swans to a ninth-place finish in the Premier League and to their first ever major trophy, as they dismantled Bradford City 5-0 in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley.
Not only did Swansea lift their first piece of silverware and qualified for Europe, but they did so without compromising their passing style which, if anything, was further refined and polished under the Danish legend’s tutelage.
The pressure is now on Laudrup and his men to repeat and – why not? – even better last season’s achievements and, at least judging from the way the club has operated in pre-season, the signs are positive.
Having been seemingly on the verge of leaving Wales, Michael Laudrup instead decided to remain at the Liberty Stadium, where he has so far welcomed no less than eight new arrivals this summer, as Swansea look to bolster their squad, bearing in mind they’ll have Europe duties to negotiate with, this season.
The most eye-catching of Laudrup’s new signings is Wilfried Bony, the Ivorian striker arrived from Vitesse Arnhem for a club record fee of £12m, who netted twice in his first two Europa League games for the club.
Bony, who netted an impressive 37 goals in as many games in all competition last season, will be Swansea’s main man up-front this season, meaning that Michu, the club’s undiscussed star performer last season, could play a slightly more withdrawn role.
The 27-year-old scored 22 goals on the back of a £2m from Rayo Vallecano 12 months ago and will again be the Swans’ key player this season, particularly as he’s just at ease in the number 10 role as he was last season when Laudrup deployed him as a traditional striker.
Obviously Michu won’t be able to count on the surprise factor he enjoyed last season, but having retained the Spaniard’s services is so crucial that Michael Laudrup won’t care one jot.
The Danish splashed £5m on former Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, a promising addition to the squad, considering that he’s now been relieved of the pressure of playing for Liverpool, where he clearly underperformed, scoring only seven goals in 59 games.
The England under 21 midfielder, however, is clearly talented and should fit in seamlessly in Laudrup’s passing game.
Jose Canas, Alejandro Pozuelo and Jordi Amat have joined the ever-growing Spanish contingent in South Wales, the former two arriving from Real Betis, the latter from Espanyol for a £2.5m fee.
While Canas was brought in to provide a shield to the back four, thus allowing Ki and de Guzman, who renewe his loan from Villareal, more time on the ball, 21-year-old Pozuelo, an exciting attacking midfielder, could be a contender for a starting spot very soon, judging from his bright debut in Europa League.
Amat, the third Spaniard to join Swansea this summer, will join fellow Spanish speakers Chico Flores and Angel Rangel in the Swans’ back four which, at the time of writing, still boasts captain Ashley Williams.
Williams, who has been linked with Arsenal and Liverpool, has remained at the club so far and retaining their captain would be a huge boost for Swansea ahead of what promises to be a very long campaign.
Just how far Swansea can go, it’s hard to say, but one thing is for sure, considering Michael Laudrup’s football philosophy, it promises to be an entertaining ride.