Potter's magic steadies Swansea ship
Photo: Christopher Elkins, CC BY 2.0
Swansea have long dreamt of a quiet Christmas. Just like the ones they used to know. Not the last three wherein they sacked their manager in December, forcing Garry Monk, Bob Bradley and Paul Clement to wait for the Uber driver in the Liberty Stadium carpark's snow.
This Christmas, things are more settled in SA1. Graham Potter was appointed manager in June, following the Swans’ relegation to the second tier. Despite a turbulent summer, he's brought some long overdue stability to the Liberty Stadium.
The Swans sit ninth in the Championship after back-to-back wins against Brentford and Sheffield Wednesday. This represents a successful first half-season for Potter who has returned to the exciting football associated with the club before its steady decline.
Furthermore, the former Ostersunds boss delivers on limited resources. The club’s wage bill was slashed during the off-season. No less than 15 players departed with only a half-dozen arriving. Potter squeezes the very best out of those available, leaning heavily on the club’s young players.
Joe Rodon, Connor Roberts, Oli McBurnie, Matt Grimes and Daniel James cemented their places in the side this campaign. They all fit the mould Potter desires; young, hungry, able to deliver the manager’s possession-based attacking philosophy.
Rodon and Roberts particularly epitomise Potter’s style. Lifelong Swansea supporters, the pair grew up playing the 'Swansea Way’ within the club’s academy set-up. Each is comfortable in defence and attack. Both are adept at transitioning from the former to the latter.
McBurnie thrives, too. The striker works tirelessly, with eight goals to show already for his effort. He's quickly become a fan favourite in a breakthrough season.
Potter's focus on youth makes Swansea the fourth-youngest Championship squad. Promoting youth not only brings energy and enthusiasm into the squad, it creates a familial bond with the supporters. These really are their lads as opposed to mercenaries brought in to play the part.
In the season's early weeks, Potter made a habit of rotating his squad, especially in goal. Erwin Mulder and Kristoffer Nordfeldt fought for the shirt. Mulder appears to have won that battle. Potter's established a more settled formula in the outfield, as well, over the past two months.
Despite this, predicting Swansea’s starting line-up remains a challenge. Forgotten men Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer earned opportunities at redemption. After being frozen out for months, the veterans are back and making important contributions. Routledge scored twice in the two matches since his return.
Some argue it should have happened sooner but after being starved of opportunities, both are now hungry to impress. That’s what Potter wants in his players. Hunger.
In the January window, the manager must want to add players who fit his mould. A handful of surplus players still earn bumper wages, namely Wilfried Bony and Luciano Narsingh. Moving them quickly in the New Year frees up funds to supplement the new squad.
Swansea are still evolving. Potter admittedly makes tactical mistakes at times. It's part of the learning process. Their current status as outsiders to make the playoffs exceeds all expectations. The club and supporters won’t mind if the season ends with a mid-table finish. The rebuild is the priority.
Stability is very much on the menu at Swansea. Graham Potter is the right man to serve it.