Can Michael Laudrup continue Brendan Rogers' good work?
Last Season: 11th
In: Michu (£2.2m, Rayo Vallecano), Chico (£2.2m, Genoa CFC), Jonathan de Guzman (loan, Villarreal)
Out: Joe Allen (£15m, Liverpool)
If they were an Olympian: Jade Jones. The new Women's -57kg Taekwondo champion exceeded all expectations. Hugely impressive and pleasant on the eye.
"No man is bigger than the club", an age old footballing mantra that Swansea will desperately hope is proved right this season as the club begins life without Brendan Rogers. Rogers' masterminded the club's recent success and few teams were as representative of their managers values and beliefs as Swansea. With Rodgers now in charge at Anfield, and Joe Allen gone with him, this season represents a massive challenge for the club to avoid seeing all the clubs good work undone.
New manager Michael Laudrup, has quietly established an impressive managerial record on the continent and has experience of managing clubs in big leagues with fairly low expectations. He did well with Getafe, taking them on good runs in both European and domestic cups, and he managed to keep Mallorca in La Liga despite serious off field problems. At both clubs Laudrup won plaudits for his attacking style of play and so in many respects Swansea he is a perfect fit for Denmark's greatest footballer.
The loss of Allen is a blow but one that you could sense Laudrup was prepared for almost as soon as his arrival was confirmed. He had spoken of the difficulty in keeping players wanted by bigger teams and he already seemed resigned to loosing at least one player to Anfield. The last minute switch by Gylfi Sigurdsson to sign for Tottenham was also a blow but again Laudrup had sensed which way the wind was blowing.
Regardless of how well Laudrup has come across over the departure of these key players, the loss of 2/3rds of Swansea's midfield is certainly a cause for concern. However Laudrup has brought shrewdly and he has not even got his teeth into the £15m that Liverpool paid for Allen yet.
Attacking midfielder Michu has arrived from Rayo Vallecano and the Spaniard was one of the most impressive players in La Liga last term, finishing as the highest scoring midfielder in Spain with 15 goals. Michu will be used as the most advanced midfielder in a like for like switch with Sigurdsson and Laudrup has already lavished praise on the prospective partnership between Michu and last seasons top scored Danny Graham.
Swansea have also signed Jonathan de Guzman, an enterprising attacking midfielder from relegated Villarreal. De Guzman can play slightly deeper and is a likely to step in to replace Joe Allen, although Laudrup has also been linked with another loan move for Josh McEachran, who failed to get in the team last year but would be an ideal replacement for the departed Allen.
Laudrup's most successful period as a player came at Barcelona and the Camp Nou philosophy of possession football and 4-3-3 are deeply ingrained in his coaching ideology which was surely a deciding factor in the club's decision to hire the Dane.
The major concern for Swansea is the same as that at Norwich. To avoid being a one season wonder and instead being able to build on the excellent work instituted by a now departed manager. The core of the side from last term is still at Swansea, although the loss of Steven Caulker who has returned to Spurs is certainly a loss. Laudrup has sought to fill the gap in central defence by signing defender Spaniard Flores, more commonly known as Chico, from Italian side Genoa. Chico seems like an ideal fit for Swansea, for whom ball playing defenders are absolutely essential. Chico has played in both La Liga and Serie A, although the more frantic and uncontrolled pace of the league may take a little while to get used to.
Elsewhere Laudrup will be hoping that midfield metronome Leon Britton and quicksilver wingers Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair can replicate last seasons performances. Danny Graham's fitness will be important as the other centre forwards at Swansea are not in the same class as the former Watford man.
Given that it will take time for the club to adjust to the departures of Rodgers and Allen and the arrival of Laudrup, the club's opening fixtures are good. 7 of their first 8 opening fixtures are either against teams who finished in the bottom half last season or have been newly promoted. Swansea's home form last term was excellent with the Swans taking points off Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool at the Liberty stadium. The away form was more of a concern but did improve as the season went on.
Many neutrals will be hoping that Swansea can repeat last season's successes or at least survive another season. Whether they can or not will depend heavily on the club getting off to a good start as otherwise pressure will very quickly begin to mount on Laudrup and his new signings.
Predicted Finish: 12th
Key Man: Michu. Gylfi Sigurdsson really kick started Swansea after he arrived last January and new signing Michu will be hoping for a similar impact. Michu's finishing can be wayward at times, as he has only recently been converted into a goal scoring midfielder. The Spaniard is hard working and deceptively strong which should aid his adaption to English football.
Underrated: Neil Taylor. Whilst not possessing the electric pace of Gael Clichy, nor the set piece expertise of Leighton Baines, left back Neil Taylor was one of the league's best full backs last year. Very important to how Swansea pass their way out the back, Taylor is a willing runner and is always keen to push high up the pitch which not only provides the Swans with width but also creates space for winger Scott Sinclair to drift infield.
Watch out for: Jonathan de Guzman. The Canadian born Dutchman was excellent for Villarreal last term, impressing in the Champions League against Manchester City in particular. A set piece specialist, de Guzman could turn out to be one of the bargains of the season.