Well before Swansea City secured a first major trophy in their 101-year history with a League Cup demolition of Bradford City, probing questions were raised about life after Brendan Rodgers.
Why people chose to fear the worst is curious when you consider the replacement’s football philosophy. “Sometimes the easiest thing in football is a simple five or eight yards, it can be the most effective.
A man synonymous for embarking on a mazy run made that tactical judgement – Michael Laudrup.
But the sentiment is precisely the same passing model Rodgers brought the club success with, and so it has proved under new management also. The club’s predecessor could not resist the greater challenges that lie ahead with Liverpool, prompting the Welsh outfit to draft in an esteemed figure of the game.
The former Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Ajax legend, for some, is the most technically gifted player to have ever graced a football pitch. On the surface it appeared a real coup, only heavy doubts lingered over a poor track record at both Getafe and Spartak Moscow.
One could argue much of the work Rodgers’ had done meant the Dane could experience a smooth transition into English football. But any astute football fan would be aware of the second year blues syndrome that has curtailed many teams over time.
The club lost arguably its two most important cogs, Scott Sinclair and Joe Allen in the summer. Attacking midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson decided he wouldn’t extend an impressive loan spell, and the ‘transition’ for Laudrup became an increasingly fraught one.
For those who feared a struggle would incur, they need not worry, as the travelling party at Loftus Road were given a sneak preview into the club’s impressive campaign. A 5-0 drubbing of Queens Park Rangers in front of a parochial support on the first day of the campaign is no mean feat, and much of the damaged stemmed from a tall Spaniard.
The Swans paid £2 million for Miguel Perez Cuesta – nicknamed Michu – from Rayo Vallecano and there was little fanfare, rather he was labelled a relative unknown. Even 15 goals in 37 appearances in the La Liga – making him the most prolific midfielder – failed to stir the English media. Two goals on his debut set the tone for an emphatic first-year in the division.
Power, technique an overt passion for the game saw him become an instant hit at the Liberty Stadium. His 21 goals from 40 appearances in all competitions – 17 in the league – have helped guide Swansea to remarkable heights.
Pablo Hernandez was another inspired signing from the new boss, who moved to the club from Valencia for a club record fee of £5.5 million. The tricky winger started his Swansea career in blistering fashion, playing a significant role in the final third. A divine assist for the first goal in the League Cup final epitomised the player’s ability, and vindicated Laudrup’s decision-making.
The final piece of the jigsaw is Jonathon de Guzman, who came on a season-long loan deal from Villarreal. Quick, pacey and strong on the ball, all hallmarks of an effective attacker, and the 25-year-old exemplified this type of play throughout the term. Two goals in the cup final was just reward for the newly capped Netherlands international, and Swansea will be desperate to retain his services this summer.
Three direct replacements for the outgoing contingent and it’s blindingly obvious the new trio have been an upgrade.
Last season’s highly credible finish of 11th place will be trumped by a guaranteed finish of ninth, or even eighth — quite simply an amazing achievement.
European football will descend on the Liberty Stadium next season, and in doing so will reaffirm their standing as one of the league’s most confident outfits.