Swansea will have been pleased to see the back of 2013/14. They may have reached the latter stages of the Europa League but they lost almost half of their games in the Premier League – finishing 12th after a grudging stare into the face of relegation – Michael Laudrup left after talk of inner turmoil in the squad and their biggest January signings were Marvin Emnes and David N’Gog.
The season was so inconsistent for Swansea that it was difficult to see them as anything more than a middling team, struggling with the burden of extra games in Europe. A mid-table finish was almost certainly a permissible objective in August last year but the nature in which it was achieved left fans exasperated.
A major problem was that the star man of Swansea’s return to the Premier League in 2012, Michu, was injured from mid-December to mid-March. The Spaniard scored just two goals in 17 games and has now departed for Napoli.
But the absence of Michu was stark, with Swansea only winning three games across the months of December, February and March. A strong January – with three wins from six – went some way to saving them but injuries to key players coupled with those extra games crippled a thin squad.
The one big positive from last season was perhaps the emergence of striker Wilfried Bony, scoring 16 goals to become the reliable talisman that a £12m fee should surely command.
Last season: 12th
Ins: Marvin Emnes (Middlesbrough, undisclosed), Lukasz Fabianski (Arsenal, free), Bafetimbi Gomis (Lyon, free), Jefferson Montero (Morelia, undisclosed), Stephen Kingsley (Falkirk, undisclosed), Raheem Hanley (Blackburn, undisclosed), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Tottenham, undisclosed).
Outs: Ben Davies (Tottenham, £10m), Michel Vorm (Tottenham £5m), Alejandro Pozuelo (Rayo Vallecano, loan), Curtis Obeng (Stevenage, loan), Gwion Edwards (Crawley Town, loan),Daniel Alfei (Northampton Town, loan).
Swans legend Garry Monk is in charge, and Swansea have sought to rebuild this summer. While the losses of Ben Davies and Michel Vorm to Tottenham are huge, bringing Gylfi Sigurdsson back to the Liberty Stadium is a shrewd move. Jefferson Montero adds serious pace to the wings and Bafetimbi Gomis was a consistent goalscorer at Lyon. Monk is clearly looking to improve their firepower.
Swansea need to fill out their squad before the window closes later this month, but do have an impressive core to build on. Lukasz Fabianski may be a ‘keeper with plenty of baggage but he could be a more than suitable replacement for Vorm, and signing him on a free transfer means that there is money to spend elsewhere later in August.
Appointing the 35-year-old Monk, who spent 10 seasons at Swansea before retiring from playing earlier this year, was a sign of stability and recruitment from within, but whether Monk is a good Premier League manager remains to be seen. Fans are hopeful that he can re-unite the squad and re-ignite the flare that was missing so often last season, but most bookies have him down at 10/1 to be the next manager sacked.
Ivory Coast striker Bony was an instant hit for Swansea, scoring two on his competitive debut against Malmo FF in August, and then scoring in the Swans’ opening day 4-1 defeat to Manchester United. He chipped in with vital goals throughout the campaign and was the eighth top scorer in the League.
There are, though, some worrying rumours around Bony’s future, with top clubs apparently interested. He scored two in two games at the World Cup and fees of £20 million are being touted. That money could easily be re-invested into two or three new strikers, but whether they would gel quickly enough is another matter entirely.
If Bony leaves, Swansea still have star performers in centre-back Ashley Williams – who has said this summer that he would like to finish his career with the Welsh club – and Jonjo Shelvey, who proved a lot of people wrong last season with wonder goals and solid performances in a faltering side. Shelvey, Leon Britton, Sigurdsson and Ki Sung-yeung give Monk plenty of options and combinations in midfield.
One to watch
Spaniard Jordi Amat impressed at the heart of Swansea’s defence last season when compatriot Chico Flores was unavailable. He looked solid and dependable, which was a neat contrast to Chico who constantly floundered despite being the more experienced defender.
Amat made 17 Premier League appearances last season, four from the bench, and the 22-year-old should get plenty of games this season.
Having been highly tipped to break the top six last season, no one would suggest similar now, but – without the burden of Europe, and with a few more signings expected before September – they are likely to break into the top ten again.
But teams around them have strengthened, and it is hard to see them jumping above Newcastle or Stoke, while Sunderland, West Brom and West Ham – all of whom finished below Swansea – should improve this season. There could well be quite a scrap in the middle of the table, with very little to choose between so many sides.
Retaining Bony won’t be key depending on how they re-invest the money. Rather, Swansea’s season could boil down to how well appointing the inexperienced Monk goes. They should challenge for the top ten but it’s difficult to see them challenging for the European places again. Use this year to build the solid base before considering loftier ambitions next season.
BPF Prediction: 13th
Written by: Jake Harrison / @Jake_Harrison92