There goes the half-time team-talk
“So, what of it?” may come the question; surely just a bad day at the office? Definitely a bad day—but is this generic excuse a little too comfortable a brush-off for the current state of affairs at the Liberty Stadium?
One only has to think back two weeks—pre-Everton implosion—to find reasons to ask the same question. For an unbeaten away team to arrive at Villa Park, where the home side were winless in 13 EPL outings, was scarcely akin to Daniel into the lions’ den, rather the hamster cage, to be frank. And yet the team bus that headed back to South Wales contained a team that had given a performance as tame as the aforementioned fur-ball.
So, what’s at stake at the heart of the Liberty?
Understanding requires a Spanish inquisition.
Roberto Martinez recruited very selectively to reinforce the squad template he inherited, choosing to reinforce specific gaps in what was already a competent existing core. Even Paulo Sousa followed suit, with Brendan Rodgers adding the nuggets of Danny Graham and Scott Sinclair to smooth the final ascent to the promised land of the EPL. Once there, the same unshakeable team ethic made it a first season to remember amongst the elite.
Naturally, football being football, there were exceptions along the way—the nine-man Carling Cup debacle against Scunthorpe under Sousa, the Championship drubbing at QPR under Rodgers are rare examples—but overall, across the past five years Swansea City has been built and shaped and nurtured on a four-letter word: T-E-A-M.
But once again, at the weekend against Stoke, that was glaringly not the case. Since arriving at the club, Ladrup has made a raft of signings at a total of roughly £15 million.
BetInf.com outlines the changes at Swansea:
Spanish midfielder Pablo Hernandez from Valencia for a fee of 7m; South Korean midfielder Sung-Yong Ki from Celtic for a fee of 7m; Forward Jamie Proctor from Preston; Defender Kyle Bartley from Arsenal for a fee of 1.3m; Israeli forward Itay Shechter on loan from Kaiserslautern; Spanish midfielder Michu from Rayo Vallecano for a fee of 2.6m; Spanish defender Chico from Genoa for a fee of 2.5m; Canadian midfielder Jonathan de Guzman on loan from Villarreal.
At the same time, essential promotion cogs like Garry Monk, Stephen Dobbie, Andrea Orlandi, Mark Gower and others have been sold or sidelined, and now goals have dried up, while the traditionally mean defence and string of clean sheets already seem to be disappearing over the horizon.
Naturally, every manager needs to extend and deepen a squad, particularly in the Premier League environment. Previous Swansea bosses had taken their purring limo to the garage and perhaps added a higher grade of oil or state-of-the-art tyres.
Following three such pallid consecutive defeats, one begins to think that with hindsight, Laudrup’s gone to the wrecker’s yard. Names such as Chico and De Guzman that were talked about with such reverence after early victories over average QPR and West Ham sides are justifiably now having a harsher spotlight shone upon their endeavours.
Certain portions of the copy may strike a familiar, even uncomfortable note with the Swans’ faithful even this early in the campaign...
With no Cavenaghi, no Ujah, and several other players who were marginalised by the Dane–Mallorca went on to face the rest of the season with what they had. But Laudrup just couldn’t pick the squad up. Deflated and playing without confidence, Mallorca only managed to pick up 17 points from 19 games in the second half of the season. On 2012 results alone, Mallorca finished in 19th place. Including 2011′s results, things weren’t much better.
Despite entering May 2011 with the real threat of relegation looming over their heads, Laudrup’s team could only pick up 2 points from a possible 15. They were saved on the final day of the season by results from elsewhere, as they themselves lost.
So despite being credited with "keeping Mallorca up," did Laudrup keep Mallorca up? Or did other teams spare his blushes?
So, with that brief history, back to the shores of South Wales: Three straight defeats, with no goals scored and seven conceded doesn’t chime with the Swansea City legacy. This cannot be a story that’s allowed to run and run.
The Martinez foundations are under pressure—let’s hope all concerned pay careful heed to what’s happening sooner rather than later.