The revival of Swansea City under Carlos Carvalhal
The appointment of Carlos Carvalhal by Swansea City in late December last year was their seventh managerial change in a span of less than two years. He took charge of the club with Swansea rock bottom of the Premier League table, low on confidence and struggling to score goals with regularity too.
Carvalhal being appointed by the Welsh club was regarded as a strange and unknown choice. He was an unknown quantity. Supporters were also split on the board's decision, especially coming only four days since he lost his job at previous employers Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship.
He was sacked following a poor run of results in England's second tier, with Wednesday stranded awkwardly in 15th place in the league standings.
His route to the top-flight has been a very long one in truth. Having been in charge of 16 clubs previously prior to his Swansea appointment, his average time spent at a job was just one-and-a-half years. There had also been several instances where he'd only lasted half a season before being sacked, while some of his notable stints including Turkish giants Besiktas and Sporting Lisbon in his native Portugal.
Style of play and early results
Carvalhal's model involves an attacking mindset, whilst retaining possession of the ball. For him, having the ball should serve as a catalyst to create chances - in turn, score goals.
At the same time, he values defensive solidarity so as to maintain a balance within the team. Having applied these principles at Sheffield Wednesday, it brought him early success as his side became a very attractive one to watch - they scored many and conceded few too, while keeping clean sheets. He'd reached the play-offs on two different occasions, with the club narrowly missing out on promotion after a defeat at Wembley to Hull City two seasons ago.
His first Premier League game in charge was a tricky one, away against Watford. 1-0 down at the break, Carvalhal's second-half alterations turned the game around. Luciano Narsingh netted the winner in the 90th minute during a frenzied last few minutes, ensuring he'd started his tenure in south Wales with a morale-boosting victory.
However, they were perhaps brought back down to earn after a home defeat by Tottenham the following week. Despite conceding early on and being dominated for sustained periods, they fought hard and were defensively strong - importantly proving that they were not going to be pushovers under new management in the future.
Conquering two of the league's top six
An away draw against Newcastle followed, before yet more tough fixtures at home were on the horizon. Surprising everyone in the process, the Swans prevailed to take six points from a possible six against Liverpool and Arsenal in quick succession - organising themselves well defensively, allowing no easy goalscoring opportunities for their opponents to settle early on.
Crucially, they made use of their chances to score and capitalise on opposition weaknesses. Carvalhal set his team out knowing they were going to be defending for sustained periods in these matches, and had to utilise their speed on the counter-attack.
Having made a combined total of 64 clearances and 28 tackles during their tough double-header, it's clear to see that their backline were under pressure as two of the Premier League's top-six sides were both in search of goals from a winnable fixture.
Given how Leicester have troubled some of the league's better sides, an away point against Claude Puel's side was seen as impressive too shortly afterward - before they thrashed Notts County with a whopping 8-1 scoreline during their FA Cup fourth round replay.
Yesterday's 1-0 win over Burnley was their fourth league victory under their new boss. They had only won three of 18 previous matches before his appointment, which just goes to show how quickly they have risen from adversity and responded accordingly with performances on the pitch.
They will be looking to continue their excellent run of form too with favourable fixtures in the weeks to come, playing against sides in and around their position in the table.
Lukasz Fabianski and his backline have played an instrumental part in the Swans' success of late, alongside the midfield duo of Leroy Fer and Ki Sung-Yeung. Jordan Ayew has improved too, as the team have responded to Carvalhal's wishes and are clearly working hard to earn their starting berths on a weekly basis.
Playing with energy, confidence and have found character which will stand them in good stead for tough moments in the future, it's refreshing to see them like this.