Last season: 11th
Odds to win the Premier League: 2000/1
This time last year we were basking in the fact we were the first Welsh side to get promoted to the Premier League, we had a great season last term, but you can’t dwell on that forever. This summer has been back to reality and has an all too familiar feel about it, after our manager leaving South Wales for a new challenge up north as Brendan Rodgers departed to fill the shoes of King Kenny. And yet again, as when Roberto Martinez left in 2009 Liberty Stadium, security failed to check the cardboard boxes used to empty the contents of Rodgers desk. They must have been pretty big boxes too as he managed to smuggle out assistant manager Colin Pascoe, performance analyst Chris Davies and performance consultant Glen Driscoll.
Anyway, we’re used to this sort of behavior and it wasn’t long before chairman Huw Jenkins does what he does best and started the search for a successor. Then, after what seemed like an age of waiting and speculating Swans fans could barely believe what we were seeing, a Barcelona and Real Madrid legend was stood our pitch having the obligatory photograph holding aloft the clubs latest shirt. Printed on the back ‘Laudrup 10′. A manager who likes his sides to play how he liked to play, flowing attacking football with the ball at our feet, perfect.
Since his arrival Laudrup has worked tirelessly, making five new signings and having to deal with the drawn out Joe Allen saga. A pre-season tour to the US allowed him to get used to the squad and make his ideas known without being in the goldfish bowl of South Wales. Three of the five new signings were on that plane to US and it hasn’t taken them long to settle in.
Chico Flores, a Spanish central defender ws signed from Bolognia for £2m, Laudrup knew Chico from his time at Mallorca and he has slotted straight in next to Ashley Williams. Another permanent signing from La Liga is Michu, signed from Rayo Vallecano where he enjoyed a very succesful 2011/12 season scoring 15 goals from an attacking midfield position. He will fill the gap left by Gylfi Sigurdsson who had agreed to sign for the Swans before Brendan Rodgers departure to Liverpool. Our other La Liga import is Jonathan de Guzman, a Canadian who has represented Netherlands at U21 and U23 level, who was a regular in the Villareal side at the beginning of last season in La Liga and the Champions League but then struggled to hold down a place under new manager Jose Molina in the second half of the season. He will no doubt be a regular for us and fill the Joe Allen shaped hole in our midfield. Our fourth signing is Israeli international striker Itay Shechter, signed on a season long loan from Bundesliga side Kaiserslautern. I can’t see him forcing his way past Danny Graham at the moment but will had more competition and experience to our squad. Finally, our fifth signing is young Arsenal defender Kyle Bartley. Having found it difficult to get a game at The Emirates and being sent out on loan to Sheffield Utd and Rangers he is a welcome arrival as our squad is very thin on quality cover in defence.
With a new manager and so many new arrivals there will inevitably be a number of players who leave the club. Joe Allen is the first and only major departure so far, the club would have loved to have kept him but an offer in the region of £15m from a club like Liverpool is too hard to turn down for both club and player. I’m sure Swans fans will wish him well and hope he continues to develop as a player and hopefully help Wales qualify for Brazil 2014. A player likely to leave soon is Stephen Dobbie. Having spent two successful loan spell’s at Ian Holloway’s Blackpool, they have made a firm enquiry into signing the Scotsman permanently and it can only be a matter of time before he heads back to the bright lights of Blackpool. Another player heavily tipped to leave is winger Scott Sinclair, he is currently in the final year of his contract and refusing to sign a new deal. Swans chairman Huw Jenkins has stated that the club wont make the same mistake they made last summer letting key players run down their contract and leave for nothing. So I expect to see him leave for around £5m before the end of August with Manchester City the favourites to sign him.
Back on the pitch the signs are encouraging. The system that has served us so well and gained many plaudits over the past few years is still in place, all be it with the odd tweak here and there. There have also been plenty of goals during pre-season too, something which Laudrup has been keen to address as he vows to keep the club in the Premier League and avoid the dreaded second season syndrome. The starting eleven is almost identical to last season with the new signings acting as direct replacements for Steven Caulker and Gylfi Sigurdsson who we had on loan, and Joe Allen who followed Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool. Michu has linked well with Danny Graham as well as finding the net himself. de Guzman looks neat and tidy in the centre of midfield, nothing flash, but will look after the ball and bring others into play. My only concern is the partnership between Ashley Williams and Chico. While it’s obvious that Chico has the quality and physical attributes to be a success in the Premier League, its that lack of understanding between the central defensive pair that has seen us leak more goals than we’re used to during pre-season.
Now, with the start of the 2012/13 Premier League season just hours away what do we expect from Swansea City. I for one hope that when the final whistle goes at the Liberty on May 19th next year we are still a Premier League side, that for me will mean we’ve had another successful season. Last season was amazing, we finished 11th picking up memorable victories over Liverpool, Arsenal and eventual champions Manchester City. I have no doubt we will see similar days again this season and I hope we can finish as high up the table as possible. However, with the promoted teams recruiting well, with no real disruption to their squad or management and with rivals such as QPR being able to spend so heavily the gap between the bottom and mid-table will be a lot closer this season. Despite this I am certain we will stay up, it may not be as comfortable as last season and it may well come down to that final home game against Fulham, but I am convinced this time next year we will be looking forward to a third season in the Premier League.
Swans season preview by Swans Blog – check them out:
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