Swansea and Laudrup: The Perfect Partnership

Bradford City v Swansea City - Capital One Cup FinalInitially, it may seem strange to suggest that Michael Laudrup’s suitors, Real Madrid and Chelsea, share the same managerial set-up as Swansea City.

After all, Swansea have been the antithesis to both of these clubs in the past six years: not sacking a single manager in that period and creating the stable foundations for meteoric progression and unprecedented silverware.

Madrid and Chelsea, on the other hand, have made a combined ten managerial appointments in the same six years.

This is all the more remarkable given that Swansea had to deal with the chaos of losing, arguably, three of the most influential managers in their history.

However, because the Swans retained the same coaching staff, key players, hierarchy and core of loyal fans, their success and philosophy seamlessly continued, too.

Remarkably, the wider picture of Chelsea and Madrid outside of dispensable managers is somewhat similar, but it is a much different philosophy: one centered on short-termism and evaluation through silverware – one that Laudrup, inadvertently, is already fulfilling at Swansea.

Admittedly, the argument can be made that Swansea’s environment is less of a pressure cooker and more of a stepping stone, which led to all three of Laudrup’s predecessors being poached.

However, that would be a disservice not only to the dedicated, impressive work of Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa, Brendan Rodgers and Laudrup, but also to Swansea’s shrewd chairman Huw Jenkins.

Jenkins realised that philosophy, much more than proven managerial clout, was the most important factor in creating a blueprint that has seen Swansea leap from seventh in League One in May, 2007 to League Cup winners in February, 2013.

Of course, Jenkins has taken gambles: Martinez was a rookie; Sousa had a poor spell at QPR; Rodgers struggled at Watford; and the nomadic Laudrup had not stayed at a managerial club outside of his native Denmark for more than 20 months.

However, in creating a sustainable blueprint and philosophy that has seamlessly transferred from one nationality and managerial style to another, Jenkins has given Swansea a clear identity and the basis for not only Premier League survival but, also, further progression.

Laudrup, though, has taken Swansea to another level and it is telling that rumblings of discontent within the dressing-room over his ‘lax’ training methods and tactical tweaks in September soon dissipated.

The irony of that is that Swansea are more ruthless, swift and in-sync than they were under Rodgers and for all the pre-match talk of Bradford’s physicality and Swansea’s second-string’s 5-0 defeat to Liverpool, Laudrup’s tactical nous and decision making pulled through in glorious fashion at Wembley on 24 February.

garry-monk-464307798The Dane has struck the delicate balance between success and sentimentality, encapsulated in bringing on the long-serving Garry Monk in the second-half against Bradford – who co-lifted the League Cup alongside Ashley Williams.

Also, in using Ki Sung-Yeung – the £5.5 million summer signing from Celtic – as a reinvented centre back in this game, Laudrup gave Swansea an extra outlet for even further tidy distribution, phased attacks and an extra runner.

It was the perfect example of the trust Swansea have in Laudrup as here he was, in the first domestic cup final of their history, making a bold tactical experiment. Would this have been possible at a European powerhouse?

After all, having been scarred by hierarchical interference and backhandedness at Mallorca, Laudrup clearly sees the Swansea project as the perfect balance between stability and success.

Sure, Laudrup is unlikely to stay at the club beyond next season but he is not the type of manager to unethically push for a move and clearly wants to leave a club a legacy beyond their first trophy win for 100 years:

There will always be rumours but this time it’s positive rumours about one club or another club. I can only sustain what I’ve said before – my intention is to stay here, I have one more year on my contract. And that’s it.

Laudrup’s appointment of Morten Wieghorst as his assistant on 7 February reflects this already evident legacy, with Wieghorst believing in the same philosophy and having the abilities, in Laudrup’s eyes, to “manage Swansea.”

As a result, Laudrup’s influence is sure to remain in spirit at Swansea when he eventually departs and Wieghorst’s potential will strike a chord with Jenkins, who was fixated by the romantic idea of bringing former assistant Graeme Jones back to the club as manager last summer.

Admittedly, the argument can be made that Laudrup may have taken Swansea as far as he can and winning the first managerial trophy of his career with the Swans is the perfect climax.

However, it must be remembered that Laudrup brought in Chico Flores, Pablo Hernández and Michu for a combined fee of just £9.5 million and these three Spaniards have been pivotal to Swansea progressing to that next level.

With European football on offer and a tangible philosophy to buy into, there is no reason why Laudrup cannot attract similar names of this calibre and having already convinced the likes of Michu to commit to the club, something even more special could be afoot next season.

Of course, in 2013/2014, there will be those who will argue that Swansea may struggle with two-game weeks but that is not the point.

The fact that Swansea’s fans can now start dreaming of Malaga, Milan and Marseille is testament not only to the incredible journey Swansea have undergone since 2007, but, also, how Laudrup has relished the stability, philosophy and warmth of life at the Liberty Stadium.

The Author

Ciaran Kelly

Sports writer and author of José Mourinho: The Rise of the Translator, featuring exclusive interviews with key figures not synonymous with the traditional Mourinho narrative and Johan Cruyff: The Total Voetballer, an ebook which peaked in the Top 40 of Amazon's top 100 Sports Books' chart. I have also written for Britain best selling football magazine, FourFourTwo and other British publications. I am a fully qualified reporter with an NCTJ Diploma in Journalism and a Masters degree in Sports Journalism from St. Mary's University, London.

One thought on “Swansea and Laudrup: The Perfect Partnership

  1. As much as I totally agree with your article Swansea fans have become accustomed to expecting the worse to happen. We fully expect ML to leave this summer however I do believe he is a man of honour and currently fully intends to fulfil his contractual obligations. He doesn’t need the fame, the money or the glamour but he might want to accelerate his path to the top of the tree. Every manager wants to manage at the highest level and he will argue that he has served his apprenticeship and has proven he has the technical knowledge to manage the very best. Many managers struggle to cope with high profile players because they never achieved the same level as them, that cant be said for ML who as a player should be regarded as one of the worlds greatest.

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