As with Norwich, Swansea achieved a fantastic league position last year with a squad largely comprising Championship players. Brendan Rodgers’ success was not only keeping the team up, but keeping the team up playing the possession-based game they carried from the division below. To have the third most possession and the second best pass completion rate in the league with a newly promoted side is an incredible accomplishment. The bad news for Swansea is that Rodgers’ reputation grew with his team’s success and resulted in a move to Liverpool.
Rodgers’ successor Michael Laudrup has an unenviable task. Replacing a successful manager is one thing, but having to follow a widely lauded style of football with a limited pool of players is something else. Laudrup certainly has an association with a passing style, both in terms of his previous managerial roles and his playing career, but whether he can continue imposing the style on this Swansea side is a big ask. It will be interesting to see what formation Laudrup settles on, whether he keeps Rodgers’ 4-3-3 or introduces something different. It may be that the squad’s suitability and familiarity with a 4-3-3 system makes it worth sticking with.
Nonetheless Laudrup appears to relish the challenge ahead of him. Although he has admitted not knowing too much about the club, he will surely enjoy the chance to manage in the Premier League. So far he has looked to Spain for reinforcements, including Michu who was the top scoring midfielder in La Liga last year with fifteen goals for Rayo Vallecano. Last season Swansea were much more potent when Gylfi Sigurdsson, a January recruit, added a goal threat from midfield to compliment the passing control of Joe Allen and Leon Britton. With Sigurdsson joining Tottenham, Swansea will need Michu to settle quickly to support Danny Graham, Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer in attack. Laudrup will also need to replace Allen following the midfielder’s move to Liverpool, but in Mark Gower and Kemy Agustien the club already possesses players familiar with the system and who both featured last season.
It will probably be a tough season for Laudrup and his players, and they may well find themselves in a relegation fight that they were never involved in last year. This would test both the team’s commitment to their passing style and Laudrup’s commitment to the job, having walked out on a number of clubs in a relatively short managerial career. If both stay loyal, the team could continue to develop, but if one should waiver then Swansea may find that passing only gets you so far.