Michael Laudrup’s Spanish brigade and the white duckling
The Spaniard from Rayo turned out to be Laudrup’s trump card, as the Dane in a very Guardiola-esque way converted an attacking midfielder into a full No.9. This might seem the order of the day today, but Laudrup’s call over Michu also meant that the club’s top scorer from last season Danny Graham was completely ignored and eventually disposed of.
Unsurprisingly, a key part of Laudrup’s set-up was a player very similar in style to Pep, ‘Ki’ from Celtic. His presence in midfield next to Britton meant that Laudrup’s next transfer from Spain, Jonathan de Guzman, had a very dynamic role at the head of the midfield triangle.
A team that presses well in midfield always needs pace upfront, and this was ideally provided by the duo of Dyer and Routledge.
Apart from all the tactics that Laudrup introduced, Neil Taylor’s injury at left back meant that the manager needed to promote 19-year-old Ben Davies and bring in free-agent Tiendalli to cover up.
One look at last season showed that Swansea lost their sting especially when Michu was injured or suspended, as Shechter was the only other option because he was an out-and-out striker which rarely suited the Swans style.
Michu is pretty fast, a good header of the ball and is suited to breaking the offside traps while starting from deep positions. The second half of the season saw Laudrup playing Michu much more advanced in order to latch on to the good crosses from Rangel and Dyer. Just like we saw his impressive goal at Old Trafford.
But the Welsh outfit still needs an out-and-out striker, whose presence would allow Michu to run into the channels more easily. Enter Wilfred Bony of Vitesse Arnhem, scorer of 30 goals in his last 31 games, and a target for Liverpool, West Ham and Spurs.
Swansea’s £13 million bid seems to have done the trick for now. Apart from the usual stresses of the Premier League, Swansea’s silverware last season has seen them gain a spot in Europe next season.
To avoid calamities similar to those at Newcastle and Spurs last season, Laudrup seems to be gearing up pretty well. And, here again the Spanish sense seems to be working up.
With his midfield already fully packed, Laudrup has now captured three more Spaniards: Alejandro Pozeulo, Jordi Amat and Jose Canas.
Out of these Amat seems to be the most important one as club captain Ashley Williams looks set to leave Wales. This would see Amat pair up with Chico at the back, thus completing the Spanish armada at the back.
It is the capture of the other two, Pozeulo and Canas that indicates the direction of Laudrup’s thinking. Pozeulo is an attacking midfielder in pretty much Michu’s mould, and with the further signing of last season loanee Jonathan de Guzman, Laudrup’s midfield has options into the third tier of substitutions.
Jose Canas is a traditional defensive midfielder and is often seen sitting firmly in front of the back four and allowing the other midfielders to attack. This creates a direct competition between him and club star Leon Britton whose passing rates are comparable to the likes of Xavi and Alonso.
Even if one can try to make sense of these signings as part of the Guardiola mentality, Laudrup’s recent signing of Jonjo Shelvey from Liverpool for £6 million is the icing on the cake. Shelvey is by definition a tough tackling attacking midfielder, and the young Englishman has a knack of long range shooting, pretty similar to De Guzman.
Further, Shelvey has often been experimented by Rodgers at false No.9, a position that now has Michu, Pozeulo and Bony. Shelvey’s signing was followed by encouraging remarks by ex-coach Brendan Rodgers, but the Englishman’s playing time amidst his Spanish teammates seems to be threateningly low in prospect.
Swansea’s signings this season, though surprisingly similar, have been pretty low-key. They have got the quartet of Shelvey, Amat, Joseulo and Canas for within £10 million.
But the biggest hurdle for the Welsh club was successfully evaded when Michael Laudrup extended his stay at the club amidst many contrary rumours. Though Laudrup is not a household name in football management, he has done a pretty thorough job of carrying forward a club on its ideals, which turned out to be similar to the ones he preached in his playing career.