Championship preview: Can Swansea take flight after relegation?
Despite delivering so much promise after winning the League Cup in 2013 with their positive style, Swansea City were relegated from the Premier League last season. Considering the Swans also made the Europa League round of 32 in 2014, that’s a massive fall.
Even so, their relegation took no one by surprise. It was a struggle to survive the past two seasons. The parade of managers hurt the effort rather than helped. Carlos Carvalhal began his reign with a magic touch that did not last too long. Results plummeted; as did the club to the Championship. The Portuguese was subsequently let go, leaving the Welsh side with a rebuilding job.
While the Swans were struggling to stay afloat, a young English manager was making a name for himself in Sweden. Graham Potter led Ostersund to the Svenska Cupen in 2017, earning a place in the Europa League second qualifying. From there, he led them through the group stage into the knockout rounds where Ostersund finally succumbed to Arsenal, albeit not without claiming a famous win in the away leg.
Moving to Swansea was supposed to be a promotion. Starting in the Championship makes it less so. Potter does have the chance to return the club back to the English top flight at first asking. The world would be his oyster if he did, but financial limitations will make it difficult to find a pearl.
He has impressed the board and received positive reviews from players, but additions are necessary. Without them, success is a long way off.
Swansea has not had the best of transfer windows. There is a reduction in income from Premier League TV money. Also, Championship football is less attractive to top players. Naturally, many want out.
Players such as Roque Mesa, Kyle Bartley, Andre Ayew and goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski have already left. The club received a combined £17 million for the group, including a £1 million loan fee for Andrew Ayew. Others are set to leave before the transfer window closes, but only £2 million has been spent to bring in youngster Joel Asoro.
Defenders Mike van der Hoorn, Kyle Naughton, and Federico Fernandez remain at the Liberty Stadium. Midfielders Leroy Fer, Sam Clucas and Tom Carroll, as well as attacker Wilfried Bony, are also part of the squad. They form an experienced core for the Welsh side.
However, with one Ayew brother already gone, the other is likely to leave, too. In midfield, free agent Ki Sung-Yeung has moved to Newcastle United while Spaniard Roque Mesa has returned home. Defender Alfie Mawson is set to leave for either Fulham, Burnley or West Ham in the Premier League. Borja Baston Gonzalez has also secured a move to Deportivo Alaves. The unsettled striker spent last season on loan at Malaga.
Club legends Leon Britton and Angel Rangel are both 35. Britton retired. Rangel’s contract was not renewed. Both were in the League Cup-winning squad. They leave after 15 and 11 years respectively with the club.
Young central midfielder Adam King has been sent on loan to Peterborough in League One. Renato Sanches is back at parent club Bayern Munich after his forgettable period on loan at the club. New signing Joel Asoro is expected to provide firepower up front, but the 19-year-old’s inexperience could be a huge risk.
With numerous first-team players set to leave the club before the close of the transfer window without adequate replacements, it seems the club hierarchy is banking on Potter getting the best from the remaining group. He has done it before but it is hardly a sustainable model.
The squad needs strengthening in every third to have any chance of bouncing back to the top flight immediately. Fans may have to settle for a mid-table finish. They certainly don't want to follow Sunderland further down the pyramid. With the opening match of the season just days away, now is the time to bolster the squad.