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The shackled approach that damned Swansea to relegation

Sunday 13th May 2018

Blanket assertions are always precarious territory. So while Swansea's defensive approach is a protagonist in their relegation, it is wise to first explain that the club's impending Championship status has been a long time coming. 

The Welsh side has lost their identity. There has not been a discernible brand of football played at the Liberty Stadium since Michael Laudrup's departure, who was sacked with his side sat in 12th, albeit two points off the bottom three. For context, his sacking came just a few months after he had led Swansea to a League Cup triumph and secured a 9th placed finish in the table. 

Explaining the decision, Swans chairman Huw Jenkins said at the time:

Michael Laudrup"It is a decision we have taken reluctantly.

"But it's a decision made in the best interests of Swansea City football club and our supporters."

Whether or not that decision was right or wrong does not address the wider problem. At that moment, Swansea had parted from a tradition of sticking with and believing in their managers and fell victim to the pressure to switch and change to secure safety. 

And while Garry Monk steadied the ship for a while, he was eventually sacked for Francesco Guidolin; again, after doing well initially, the Italian bid farewell as Swansea Premier League status looked in peril. In came former USA head coach Bob Bradley and, you're probably bored of the script by now. Paul Clement was then replaced by Carvalhal - who will now leave himself at the end of the season after failing to build on his initial promise. 

Poor manager recruitment spawned from an urgent need to improve results rather than look at long-term stability has undermined Swansea's attempt to maintain top-flight status. When you throw in folly signings - £17 million for Sam Clucas looks more absurd every week - with a growing apathy at the US ownership at the club, given Swans' fans expected significant investment and none was forthcoming, you get a miasma that always precursors failure. 

Even so, when Carvalhal was appointed, that old cliche reared its head once again - namely, a manager bounce. 

Gone was the restraint applied by Clement's disciplined demands and here was a Swansea side back to playing attractive and entertaining football; Carvalhal had dovetailed urgency in attack with steel at the back. Swansea won at Anfield, thrashed Arsenal 3-1 and romped to victory against West Ham, putting four past a hapless Joe Hart. 

But since hammering the Hammers, Swansea have been on a wretched run of form, winless in nine matches, losing six and drawing three.

In that torrid run of form, which ultimately condemned them to relegation, they scored just twice - against Everton and West Brom. 

Bizarrely, just as Swansea looked set to heave themselves out of the quagmire of a relegation scrap, Cavalhal applied the handbrake. Wrenching it with all the vigour of a driving instructor who fears for their own safety as their pupil looks set to collide head-first with a hedge, or worse, the Portuguese hamstrung his side's chances of survival. 

It is the same criticism that was levelled at him as Sheffield Wednesday stalled in their question for top-flight status. The surprise package in Carvalhal's first season in charge, playing expansive and stirring football, Wednesday then played an agricultural and regressive style without much success. 

One wonders whether Carvalhal could have been celebrating a new contract after keeping the Swans up had he maintained the attacking drive that seemed to have driven them out of the traffic of the bottom.

Even if Carvalhal had kept Swansea up, you get the feeling it would be like rearranging deck-chairs on the Titanic. Perhaps this is the wake-up call the board new. Revert back to your roots, hire someone who you will give time. Ensure the Swans return to the stylish football that had been defined for. 

Succinctly, swap short-termism for a long-term vision.

Michael Jones

Football & political writer with a predictable love of everything retro. English Literature undergraduate at the University of Exeter, looking to pursue a career in sports journalism. For a collection of my work, visit. http://mikejonesmedia.wordpress.com

Follow me on twitter: @jonesmichael_97

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