Just 11 months after winning Swansea’s first ever major trophy and weeks after guiding them through the Europa league group stage, manager Michael Laudrup had to be unsackable, right? Well Huw Jenkins, Chairman of the South Wales club, clearly thought differently after dismissing him last week.
It is an incredible fall from grace for Laudrup, who was linked with the vacant manager’s post at Real Madrid and Chelsea last summer, but it is a parting of the ways that has been coming, and one Swansea had to make.
Since beating Bradford 5-0 to lift the League cup last spring, Swansea has won just eight Premier League games since. That is relegation form and the Swans currently sit just two points above the bottom three. Laudrup’s team have taken just one win from ten games and have slowly and discreetly been sucked into a real dog fight to preserve their Premier League status.
Laudrup can’t really have any complaints. Yes, he has achieved remarkable things during his brief stint at the Liberty Stadium but it was obvious for any outside observer that his mannerisms on the touchline were different. He looked less motivated and was clearly enjoying himself less. In a team that is struggling to perform the manager needs to radiate optimism and it is obvious Laudrup wasn’t.
A summer departure was on the cards as relations between him and the board became strained. This started the previous summer when it was thought he would leave in protest over lack of funds available for him to spend. After being convinced to stay he has hardly impressed with his signings of late. With the money he has been given he has slowly quashed the strong unity in the dressing room that was built upon its British core and replaced them with foreign players who don’t have the same battling qualities. His first signing was Michu, who proved to be tremendous success, his last was Liverpool and Bolton reject, David Ngog in a sequence that epitomises Laudrup’s Swansea career. A thrilling start and an underwhelming finish.
Victory against Cardiff on Saturday has generated fresh optimism that the board may have made the right choice. Cardiff put in a limp performance but the attitude shown by the Swansea players was full of fight and heart. Laudrup would probably have kept Swansea up due to the quality at his disposal and the number of poorer teams scrapping with them. There is also a valid argument that his departure will only increase the likelihood of them going down. But in the long run his position was untenable and his departure inevitable.
The board has been brave to act when they have and should be commended for that. However, sacking their manager just days after the closure of the transfer window hints at poor planning by the clubs hierarchy. Wouldn’t it have made sense to have made the decision two weeks ago and give the new manager funds to sign the players he wants?
Despite the apparent rashness of the move, many teams in the past have left key decisions too late and suffered as a result. Now they have to name a successor quickly, they can’t afford to take as much time as West Brom over the appointment of Pepe Mel. Gary Monk has had a great start in his caretaker role and could be given the job until the end of the season. This would be a popular choice and by making a quick announcement it would show he has the boards backing.
Although this move could backfire, you can’t accuse Swansea of taking too much time and waiting for things to play out. They saw the situation only getting worse and have acted, as opposed to hoping things would change.
However, this will matter for little should Monk or whoever the board chooses not turn things around quickly and maintain their Premier League status. The board will look fools. But by making this decision early they have given the new man a great chance to ease the pressure. For the first time since entering the Premier League Swansea have entered a difficult phase where tough questions are now going to be asked of the players and the new management. It will be fascinating to see how they react in the final months of the season.