So the season is only two weeks in and I’m already getting carried away and making any number of bold statements based on the form shown over a grand total of TWO matches. It’s just what I do and at the end of the season I’ll probably look back on my early season declarations and shake my head in shame. Like the season I told anyone that would listen that Amr Zaki was about to be one of the most formidable strikers in Europe.
Following in a long line of early season knee-jerk observations, I thought I’d bring you my latest and give some reasons why Swansea are fast-becoming my “second team” and why they should be yours too…if having a second team is your thing.
One thing I’ve noticed is that most people who have a second team, usually do so because of how mediocre their “first team” is. As an Aston Villa fan, it’s safe to say that’s the major reason for me. Reasons to support a second team usually derive from admiring qualities in other teams that you probably won’t be seeing in your own any time soon. Over the seasons my second teams have swapped between Arsenal for sticking to their philosophy of sexy football; and Fulham for consistently punching above their weight and generally being likable. This season though, I think I’m going to add Swansea to the mix after watching their first two games and here’s why:
1) Style of play
For all English football culture generally admires attractive, free-flowing football; it remains extremely distrustful of it when it comes to the business of getting results. Despite all he’s achieved, one of the criticisms Arsene Wenger gets levelled at him is his lack of a ‘plan B’ when the attractive, tiki-taka football doesn’t put points on the board. Back in the mid-2000’s however, when silverware was being produced to go with the finest football the Premier League has witnessed, talk of a plan B at Arsenal was an alien concept. Fast-forward a few seasons and Arsenal’s trophy drought added fuel to those that argued a high-tempo and physically direct style of play would ultimately overpower tiki-taka when push came to shove.
Most people have conveniently forgotten now, but back when Barcelona were in the infancy of their current dominance, many commentators remained unconvinced and questioned what Barcelona’s plan B would be if they couldn’t break teams down with slick passing. Barcelona’s answer was simple: keep passing. This summer, the same question was levelled at the Spanish national side during the European Championships and the Spanish side’s answer was the same: keep calm and keep passing. We know what came next. At its most basic, it’s a simple ideology for anyone to understand: we have the ball and you don’t, and as long as it stays that way you can’t hurt us, so go ahead and knock yourselves out trying to get the ball back.
Swansea obviously aren’t Barcelona, but the approach the club have adopted is indebted to this philosophy and is seeing them play some of the best football in the Premier League right now. During the match against West Ham, I started counting the Swansea passes during a passage of play and lost count somewhere around 35. It was a joy to watch a Premier League team, not named Arsenal, playing this way and those 35 passes were more than just sideways and backwards passes.
After their first two games, Swansea have scored eight goals and conceded none, showing they not only have teeth going forward but are displaying increasing solidity at the back. Much tougher tests than QPR and West Ham await but it looks like they’ll be more than equipped to deal with the other mid-table contenders.
2) Nathan Dyer
I’ll be honest, before last season I hadn’t even heard of Nathan Dyer but by the end of the season he’d made some impression. It can’t be anything but a positive to see a young English player develop his game in a team that plays the style of football Swansea do. Being a pacey winger is one thing but having the intelligence to go with that pace is another. Dyer not only has the pace to skin defenders, but the intelligence of knowing when to keep possession with the vision to play defence splitting passes from deeper positions. Last season a lot of the Swansea shine was on Brendan Rodgers, Joe Allen, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Scott Sinclair. Those four are gone now, apparently for bigger and better things, but Dyer remains and is showing he’s got no qualms about stepping up to be “that guy”. If he continues in this vein, an England call up can’t be too far away.
3) Michael Laudrup
When Brendan Rodgers left Swansea in the summer, you’d be forgiven for wondering if Swansea were going to be the latest name added to the list of Premier League one-season wonders. However, Swansea showed exceptional shrewdness by bringing in Michael Laudrup, a legend as a player who’d attracted attention as a manager for the free-flowing, attacking football he brought to Getafe. Credit to the Swansea chairman for not going down the common route of journeyman, yo-yo managers forever bouncing between the Premier League and Championship; and instead getting a manager that shares the club’s philosophy of how they want the game to be played. Strangely, some bookies had Laudrup as the preseason favourite for first managerial sacking of the season. Here’s a tip punters: Mark Hughes.
This summer we’ve seen Joe Allen move to Liverpool for £15m. Stephen Fletcher to Sunderland for £14m. Jack Rodwell to Man City for £12m and Matt Jarvis to West Ham for £10.75m. Swansea paid just £2m for Michu. That’s right, £2m for a 26-year-old attacking midfielder who scored 15 goals in La Liga last season. Two things make Michu the odd one out from those aforementioned players: a) none of the others have scored more than 13 league goals in a season and b) he’s not British. By the way those 13 goals scored by Stephen Fletcher were scored in Scotland too. Michu has opened this season with 3 goals in 2 games and is already screaming “buy of the season”. Liverpool showed last season that there are plenty of suckers more than willing to pay the “hype-tax” on British players, so it’s good to see Swansea using common sense in the transfer market.
5) The kit
This one might look like I’m clutching at straws, but that white Adidas number with the gold stripes is a sharp number; and something you’d expect Real Madrid to be wearing as opposed to a small team from South Wales. Well, if you’re going to set your stall out to play the kind of football Swansea are, you really should look fly while doing it.
6) Fantasy football players
Again you can say I’m clutching at straws with this one, but fantasy football is a matter life or death for a lot of us out here. Any of you with a fantasy team, will probably have clocked by now that Swansea players are dead cheap and are getting mucho points. Stick Swansea players in your team and you’ll soon be following Swansea results as closely as you do your own team.
7) Player names
Okay, so I am definitely clutching at straws now but if the players in your team have names like Chico Flores, Angel Rangel and Michu they’d better be ballers. Luckily it looks like they are.
How many more reasons could you possibly need to make Swansea your second team? It’s a no-brainer! Like I said at the beginning, I’m probably going to look back at some of my early season boldness in May with my head firmly in my hands; but I get the feeling it won’t be because of the Swansea thing. Let’s compare notes in May.
Have a look at Tiki Taka Football From Swansea City AFC!!