Swansea City chairman Huw Jenkins has perfected the art of hiring managers and the appointment of Michael Laudrup is no different
The art of replacing a leaving manager is a tricky one. Chelsea got it wrong with AVB and then apparently correct with RDM, while Arsenal and Man United have saved themselves the trouble in recent years. The powers-that-be at a football club are involved in all sorts of ways, as negotiators (Daniel Levy) or hate figures (Mike Ashley a couple of years back) but selecting a man to lead the club forward is perhaps the most important aspect of the job, and Swansea’s Huw Jenkins has done it very well indeed.
Following Kenny Jackett’s departure from the club in February 2007, Swansea took a gamble on a young Roberto Martinez. As the Spanish tiki-taka revolution was beginning to unfold, Martinez joined the Welsh club with no previous management experience, but full of ambition and ideas. His success in guiding the club towards the higher echelons of English football was such that his 2009 departure to Wigan was met with serious distaste by many fans (combined with the fact that he had publicly declared his ferocious loyalty to the club).
However, it isn’t promotion to The Championship for which Swansea are most grateful to Martinez. It’s the foundations he laid for the thriving football club we see today.
Martinez played a crucial role in putting Swansea where they are today
Following the Spaniard’s controversial departure, Swansea enjoyed a solitary season with Paulo Sousa at the helm, guiding the club to its highest ever league finish. Leicester City then snapped up the Portuguese boss, forcing Swansea to seek a further managerial replacement. Jenkins turned to another ambitious youngster, in the shape of former Jose Mourinho trainee Brendan Rodgers.
In each of these two appointments, we can observe a clear pattern. The managers are of similar age and, more importantly, a similar footballing philosophy. The Spanish foundations of the passing game laid down by Martinez were adopted and strengthened by each successor. In each case there was no need to take a step back in order to move forward, a situation Liverpool now find themselves in, having pinched Rodgers from the Liberty Stadium to replace Kenny Dalglish.
Rodgers won promotion to the top flight in his first season in charge at Swansea, before registering an impressive debut in top-flight management. However, the positive results were seen by many as a bonus on top of the attractive style of football he encouraged, an unheard of approach for newly promoted teams. Swansea were playing the big teams at their own game and, on more than a few occasions, they were coming out on top.
This wasn’t something that was created overnight; rather it had evolved as a philosophy since those early days under Martinez. It is the Spaniard who was due a hefty chunk of the credit.
Laudrup is the latest man tasked with maintaining the club's progress
So, once again, a larger club has poached Swansea’s manager. Rodgers moved on to Anfield this summer and Jenkins was forced back into the search for a new chief. The result, Michael Laudrup, is not a particularly surprising one.
In comparison to his predecessors Laudrup is very experienced at the management game, with four previous clubs under his belt. However, the key aspect of his approach is what the club were looking for. The Dane has made no major upheavals since his arrival at the Liberty Stadium, forcing no big names out and spending a modest amount on new arrivals.
The only noticeable difference in his tactical approach is a marginally more attacking-minded outlook than Rodgers et al, but the clean sheets in his opening two Premier League games don’t give too much away. The eight goals are a clue though.
As Swansea look to grow and build themselves into an established top-half Premier League team, very little appears to be standing in their way. They have wasted no time with contradictory management ideas and no money with rash purchases, winning plenty of admirers in the process. Theirs is a perfect example of how to break down that top-flight barrier that so many clubs struggle to cross with any real conviction.