Despite being the clear odds-on favourite for the Crystal Palace job for some time, Steve Cooper now looks set to remain in Swansea for a third season.
The Welshman was understandably a target for various clubs, after guiding cash-strapped Swansea City to back-to-back play-off appearances. In his first season, the club finished sixth, losing to Brentford in the semi-finals. He went one better last season, knocking out Barnsley to reach the play-off final, before the club were defeated once again by Brentford.
After Roy Hodgson stepped down as Crystal Palace boss, the club instead opted to appoint former Arsenal and France midfielder Patrick Vieira, awarding him his first managerial job in English football. The Frenchman, who made 107 appearances for ‘Les Bleus’, has been without a job since he was sacked by OGC Nice in December 2020. His only other role in management was with New York City FC, who he managed from November 2015 to June 2018, when he left to join Nice.
Cooper was also strongly linked with a move to Fulham following Scott Parker’s exit. Parker left to replace Jonathan Woodgate at fellow Championship club Bournemouth, leaving Fulham in search of a new manager. While Cooper’s name was touted by many bookies, the West-London club chose Marco Silva, formerly of Hull City, Watford and Everton. Silva was sacked by Everton in 2019, with the club in 18th place in the Premier League.
The most likely explanation for Cooper’s surprise stay is the lucrative compensation fee required to take him away from South Wales. Reports suggest that interested clubs would be forced to pay £4.5 million to prise the 41-year-old manager and his management team away from Swansea. Considering Palace’s bare squad and Fulham’s recent relegation, it made sense that the clubs would opt for managers without clubs, to avoid paying compensation fees.
This is good news for Swansea City, as they look to go one step further this season. While their style of play under Cooper is a far cry from their free-flowing football under the likes of Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez, Cooper has exceeded expectations with the club. Prior to this season, his most expensive signing was Jamal Lowe, who joined the club for £800,000, despite selling Oli McBurnie for an estimated £20 million, as well as losing Daniel James and Joe Rodon for an initial £15 million and £11 million respectively.
Cooper’s excellent links through his time as England Under-17 manager has allowed him to bring in several promising young players on loan from big clubs, including Marc Guehi from Chelsea and Rhian Brewster from Liverpool. In retaining his services, the Swans will likely continue to utilise the loan market, while bringing in young players to develop at the club.
Now that it looks extremely unlikely that Cooper will leave the club, it is imperative that they focus on improving the squad, with the Championship season a little over a month away.
Swansea’s first signing of the window was Scottish forward Kyle Joseph. The highly rated 19-year-old joined from Wigan on a four-year deal in June, for an undisclosed fee. He has made seven appearances for Scotland Under-19s, and scored five goals last season for the Latics in League One. Joseph joined Wigan’s academy at the age of 13, and made his professional debut in October 2020.
On 1st July, the club added a new goalkeeper. 19-year-old Nicholas Defreitas-Hansen joined on a free transfer from Everton. The young shot-stopper has represented the USA at youth level and is also eligible for Brazil and Denmark. He will join up with Swansea’s Under-23s for the upcoming season.
A day later, Swansea confirmed their third signing of the season. After weeks of speculation, they finally completed the £1 million signing of Joël Piroe from PSV. The 21-year-old is the second striker they have signed in this window, with more potentially incoming. Much like with Joseph, Piroe is inexperienced, having made just 29 senior appearances for PSV and Sparta Rotterdam. Early on in his career, Piroe was highly rated, with links to the likes of Juventus, Arsenal and Manchester City, but the young Dutch forward has struggled to live up to the hype that surrounded him in his teenage years. The bulk of his career so far has been spent with PSV’s reserves and youth team, although he has made 26 appearances at youth level for the Netherlands. He remains a bit of an unknown commodity at club level, so the Swans will have to carefully manage their expectations of him.
Without a doubt the biggest loss for Swansea City is Andre Ayew. The Ghanaian was expected to leave the club after their relegation in 2018, but after a disappointing loan spell at Fenerbahçe, he enjoyed two prolific years for the Swans under Cooper. He scored 15 in 44 league appearances in 2019-20, before bagging 16 in 43 in his final season in South Wales. While the club will save around £5 million per year in wages following his exit, he will be extremely tough to replace. Since leaving on a free transfer, Ayew has been linked with Newcastle United, where he would reunite with former Swans Federico Fernandez and Jonjo Shelvey.
Swansea will also feel the loss of several loanees, starting in goal with Freddie Woodman. The 24-year-old returned to parent club Newcastle after two season-long loans, although he is expected to leave. Woodman has expressed an interest in re-joining Swansea, but he may be tempted by more lucrative offers. Celtic and Arsenal have both been linked with moves for last season’s Championship Golden Glove winner, after he kept 20 clean sheets last season. With Steven Benda as their only senior keeper, Swansea will undoubtedly be keen to bring Woodman back for a third season.
The Swans will have an equally tough task replacing Marc Guehi, who returned to Chelsea in the summer. The highly-rated centre-back was rock-solid for Swansea last season, showing the strength and composure of a far more experienced defender. While Woodman hinted at a return to the club, Guehi distanced himself from a third loan spell with Swansea, with links to Premier League side Crystal Palace in recent weeks.
While he did not have the same impact as Guehi and Woodman, Conor Hourihane will also need to be replaced after his loan spell ended. The 30-year-old Republic of Ireland international returned to Aston Villa after an inconsistent season with the Welsh club. He started his season well, scoring in four in his first five league appearances, but went on to score just one more in his remaining 14 league games.
Swansea are yet to lose any more first-team players, other than Keiron Freeman, who was released after failing to make a single appearance for the club. They also released Declan John, who has since joined Bolton Wanderers, while Barrie McKay left after two loan spells at Fleetwood Town.
The Swans have been heavily linked with centre-back Jimmy Dunne, who is out of contract after leaving Burnley. The 23-year-old has made two appearances for the Republic of Ireland Under-21s, but failed to find consistent football with Burnley, making just three league appearances last season.
He has spent almost all of his senior career on loan, first joining Barrow in 2017-18. There, he made 21 appearances in the National League, scoring twice, before joining then-League Two Accrington Stanley midway through the season. He was a regular with the side, playing 20 times as they finished in first place.
The following season, he had two more loan spells. He first joined Hearts in the Scottish Premiership, before spending the second half of the season with Sunderland, who had recently been relegated to League One. He made 12 appearances in both spells, scoring twice and once respectively. He followed that with a loan spell at Fleetwood Town but struggled to find a regular place in the team.
Last season, he made his senior debut for Burnley, and went on to play seven times in all competitions for the Premier League side. Considering he would be available for free, it is highly likely that Swansea will bring him into the club, considering Marc Guehi’s exit. Dunne has also followed the Swans on Instagram, further fuelling speculation of a move to the Welsh club.
After his release by Bristol City, 23-year-old Liam Walsh is another man who the Swans are supposedly keen on. The former Everton youth prospect joined Bristol City in 2018 but made just 18 league appearances for the club.
In 2019-20, he enjoyed a productive loan spell with Coventry City in League One, making 26 appearances and scoring three goals. However, his final season with Bristol City was blighted by injuries. He missed eight months with a thigh injury before returning in early March. He then picked up another injury at the end of March, which ruled him out for the rest of the season.
Given his injury record, Walsh would be a gamble for the Swans, as they look to add more depth in midfield.
At one point, it looked likely that Swansea would acquire Thomas Henry from OH Leuven. The 26-year-old French striker scored 21 goals for the Belgian side last season. He has registered a total of 42 goals and 12 assists in his 71 games for the club.
He would be an excellent signing for the Swans, but his expensive price tag has all but ended any speculation. Leuven have set the asking price at £5 million, which is more than Swansea have spent in total since Steve Cooper took over in 2019.
With this move now highly unlikely, expect the Swans to look elsewhere as they continue to bolster their attacking options.
As reported by Alan Nixon on Twitter, the Swans have resumed their interest in Harry Wilson, after missing out on him last season. The club were in talks with Liverpool over a loan deal last summer, but were unwilling to pay the lucrative loan fee, or cover the majority of his wages. In the end, Wilson joined Swansea’s biggest rivals Cardiff City on loan, where he played 37 times in the Championship, scoring seven goals and registering 12 assists.
However, interest in Wilson is said to be high, with Brentford, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham all linked, while Benfica are supposedly keen on a permanent deal for the Welshman.
This would be an excellent coup for the Swans. Wilson would provide the sort of set-piece ability that the club has lacked since Gylfi Sigurðsson left for Everton in 2017. He would also add some much-needed creativity to the midfield after Ayew’s exit.
Wilson has made 29 appearances for Wales, and would join up with fellow Welsh internationals Connor Roberts and Ben Cabango if he joined the Swans.
Since their relegation in 2018, Swansea have sold many first-team players, relying on their Under-23s and a smattering of affordable signings and loan deals. The likes of Alfie Mawson, Daniel James, Oli McBurnie and Łukasz Fabiański all left for sizeable fees, with only a small percentage of these fees being reinvested into the squad.
Last season, Joe Rodon joined Tottenham for £11 million, while his centre-back partner Mike van der Hoorn left on a free transfer. Bersant Celina and Kristoffer Peterson were also sold, although they struggled for game time under Cooper.
It is likely that Swansea will lose one or two key players this season, with some already linked with moves.
It would not be a Swansea transfer window without Matt Grimes being linked to a Premier League club. The Swans captain has been rumoured to be a target for Newcastle and Southampton. The 25-year-old had a tough start in South Wales after his £1.75 million move from Exeter City. He had unsuccessful loan spells in the Championship with Blackburn Rovers and Leeds United, before dropping down to League One in 2017-18 to join Northampton Town for a season.
He returned to Swansea following their relegation and was immediately thrown into the first team by then-Swansea manager Graham Potter. He has missed just two league games in his three seasons since then, with Cooper naming him captain prior to the 2019-20 season.
Few players in world football have the stamina of Connor Roberts. The 25-year-old right-back hardly missed a minute for his local club last season, even scoring five goals in 46 league outings. He has been one of the club’s best players since their relegation, always providing excellent work-rate in attack and defence, chipping in with goals and assists.
He carried this form into the Euros, playing every single minute in the group stages for Wales. He also scored the second in their 2-0 win over Turkey to all but secure their place in the knockout stages. However, he limped off in the first half in the 4-0 loss to Denmark in the Round of 16. The club confirmed that he will undergo surgery on his groin, ruling him out until the end of September. This could be a blessing in disguise for the Swans, putting off potential suitors.
Although not a regular in the Swansea starting eleven, Dhanda has been an exciting option when called upon. He scored the winner away at Sheffield United on his debut for the club in 2018, Swansea’s first game back in the Championship, but has never found consistent first-team football.
Two weeks ago, Dhanda was linked with Anderlecht. The Belgian side are managed by former Manchester City and Belgium captain Vincent Kompany. As Dhanda only has one year remaining on his contract, it seems likely that the Swans will look to cash in on him before the window closes.
What to expect
Swansea City are an unknown commodity this season, at least for now. Losing Woodman, Guehi and Ayew is devastating for the club. The acquisitions of Piroe and Joseph have potential, but both are inexperienced, so they ought to continue bolstering their attacking options before the season kicks off next month.
The club also need a goalkeeper, a centre-back, a playmaking midfielder and a winger. Woodman returning would be the ideal scenario, while Jimmy Dunne would provide a good option at centre-half. Harry Wilson seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened.
Keeping Cooper in charge is a big deal. After all, he managed to guide Swansea to fourth place without a recognised senior striker, while spending around £2 million and receiving close to £15 million in transfer fees. If the board back Cooper financially, expect Swansea to be there or thereabouts again this season.