Swansea City’s 2016/17 campaign may go down as one of their worst in recent memory, and certainly the worst since their return to the English top flight in 2011.
The Welsh side drifted between three managerial regimes and looked destined for the drop before the appointment of Paul Clement, an English coach who had worked under Italian boss Carlo Ancelotti during his time at Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.
Clement’s arrival immediately fixed the Swans’ defence, while players such as Fernando Llorente and Gylfi Sigurdsson provided the magic to keep the Welsh side in the Premier League, scoring unforgettable goals at Anfield and Old Trafford respectively.
Last season also saw the Icelandic creative midfielder sign a new bumper contract with ‘the Swans’, making him the highest paid player at the club.
However, it was always going to be tough to keep such a talented footballer at a club that was always expected to struggle.
Swansea’s early-window signing of Las Palmas’ Roque Mesa as the team’s new creative hub already showed signs that the Welsh club was preparing for the jewel to be ripped from their crown.
The £45 million they eventually received from Everton is most likely, even in this crazy transfer market, an extremely generous valuation of the player.
The question remains whether the money will be spent right.
There is no denying that Sigurdsson was incredibly important in Swansea’s survival last season, but the extent to which he is replaceable almost entirely depends on the tactical approach Clement’s side will take next season.
Despite developing a reputation for expansive football under the respective management of Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup, many expect the Swans to be taking a far more conservative approach – especially against top-half opposition – given the lack of resources compared to some of their potential opponents.
In those games, a deeper-lying creative midfielder like Roque Mesa would be perfect in aiding quick counter attacks and instantaneous transitions of play.
The issue for Swansea will come when they play against sides around them in the table that they may struggle.
Not many teams will have the intention of playing a defensive game against Swansea, but if they do find themselves being confronted with a side happy to concede possession, their current roster doesn’t contain many names with a reputation for being able to provide a moment of magic against a resolute defence.
As such, Swansea’s games against their potential relegation rivals may just end up being the most important this season, and any disadvantage in those ‘six pointer’ matches may give Clement a few problems to worry about.
To contextualise how much money the Swans have to spend this season, it is important to place their wealth relative to the opponents around them.
After the sale of Sigurdsson, the Welsh outfit have a net profit of £42 million pounds. This makes them one of only four clubs, alongside Tottenham, Stoke, and Burnley, to have a net positive with just under two weeks remaining in the transfer window.
Newly promoted Huddersfield Town and Brighton & Hove Albion, two sides widely tipped to go down, currently run net losses of £37.4 million and £40.3 million respectively.
If the Welsh club look to match the net spending of these two clubs – who have a high probability of being in the relegation battle alongside them – the total amount they can spend in the closing days of the transfer window comes close to the £80m mark.
While a sum of that nature would be eye-watering just a few years ago, the context of the inflated transfer market limits the Welsh club can do with that amount of money.
Factoring in the forces of supply and demand, clubs are likely to increase their prices for players with the knowledge that Swansea have the money to spend.
However, if Swansea bought in the replacements before Sigurdsson’s departure, hoping to recoup the money spent by cashing in on the Icelandic star, it is unlikely they would receive a high price given their demand to sell.
Paul Clement and Swansea are certainly prepared for the turbulent market, but they only have limited time to secure players that may necessary for their survival in the Premier League.