Today, where so much money rests on the result of a team’s soccer season, the number of clubs that aren’t being managed with the idea of sustainable competitiveness is crazy. Players come, players go. Even top clubs such as Arsenal or Manchester United are constantly faced with the threat of superstars leaving, while Real are forced to spend viciously every few years to attract the next set of galacticos. Very few clubs can build around the talent currently at their disposal in the knowledge that it will be there for years to come.
Far better then, to have a club-wide philosophy that maximizes the resources of whatever playing style the club chooses to adopt. Keeping the same management team is obviously a plus, but as long as the newcomer keeps the team moving forward in the same vein, refinement is achieved without taking two steps back for every one forward. Consider Tito Vilanova at Barcelona, who has continued work started long ago by the Dream Team of Johan Cruyff. Or even the evolution of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, who have adjusted their playing style slightly year by year, while maintaining the same principles of technical football that were brought into the club in 1996.
A lot of my previous articles have stressed that the teams who outperform expectations are ones that have a strategy their club revolves around, a strategy hard to imitate. You cannot magically recreate La Masia and start a Barcelona-style conveyer belt of talent. The seeds for that resource were laid long ago and it would take a tremendous amount of money and time to replicate. To use another more drastic example, Lionel Messi probably wouldn’t be considered the best player in the world if he played for Stoke City. Is that a slight on Messi? No. It’s not his fault he’s 5’7″. Stoke have a system (one that’s worked well for them) revolving around long balls and physicality. Messi is no good if the ball is constantly going over his head. Similarly, to take advantage of Messi, Stoke would have to either spend a lot on good playmakers or change their entire youth setup to develop one.
All of which leads us to Swansea. An example of a club that started finding the process of finding what was right for them under Kenny Jackett, and keeping that style constant through Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa, Brendan Rodgers and now, Michael Laudrup.