Swansea City today announced that Garry Monk has been appointed manager on a three-year deal. The former Swansea captain and defender was promoted to interim manager in February after Michael Laudrup was sacked by the club.
In his short spell as interim manager, Swansea defeated derby rivals Cardiff City. Plus, Monk was able to help keep the Swans in the Premier League for another season.
In August, Swansea will kick off its fourth consecutive season in the Premier League, and will be the only Welsh team in the English Premier League.
As a Swansea City supporter, I’m pleased with the board’s decision to appoint Monk as full-time manager. I do have one reservation about the appointment, which I’ll share in a minute. But the promotion of Monk to the full-time position for the next three years is a positive step by the club. It’s a sign that the system is more important than the manager (the system at Swansea is to play a possession-based passing style of soccer, while the wages are kept low in order to keep the club profitable and working within its means). Monk knows and understands the system, and will continue to try to help the club punch above its weight in the demanding top flight of English football.
My one reservation is whether Monk will be able to attract as many up-and-coming footballers to join the club as Laudrup would have done. Monk, while he’s proven he’s a competent manager, does not have the same cache as the Dane. As a result, Swansea City Chairman Huw Jenkins and the board may have to work harder than ever before this summer to convince some footballers to join the Liberty Stadium club.
Looking back at the 2013-14 season for Swansea City, it’s been the toughest test for the Swans since being promoted to the top flight in 2010. Despite some nervous times in the past few months with the word relegation being on the tips of the tongues of most Swansea supporters, the lowest the Swans dropped all season (outside of the first three games in August) was 15th in the league.
The reality is though that if Swansea had not defeated Newcastle United and Aston Villa in the last two weeks, the Swans would be in a relegation fight until the final day of the season this Sunday.
Over the course of the entire 2013-14 Premier League season, Swansea played well in the vast majority of its matches except for one match (West Ham United away), which ended up being the game that set Laudrup’s sacking into motion. While clubs such as Arsenal and Tottenham, just as two examples, lost several matches this season by scorelines of 5-1, 6-3, 6-0, 5-0, 4-0, etc, it was very rare this season that Swansea were completely outplayed or outscored against. The vast majority of defeats the club did suffer were by a solitary goal. And the heaviest defeats Swansea encountered were 4-1 against Manchester United (on the opening day of the season when Swansea were by far the better side in the first half) and 3-0 against Manchester City (in another game where Swansea were the better team in the first half).
In hindsight, despite Swansea’s dance with relegation, the 2013/14 season was a positive one for the Swans. Highlights included the 3-0 win against Valencia at the Mestalla in the Europa League competition, a 0-0 draw against Napoli at the Liberty Stadium in a game that Swansea dominated, and the win against Manchester United at Old Trafford in the FA Cup.
The biggest difference between Swansea of this season compared to last was the team’s inability to record any shock results against teams in the top 8 of the Premier League. The Welsh team had no wins against any of the top 8, while during the 2012/13 season, the Swans beat Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates, defeated Chelsea over two legs in the League Cup, tied Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea in the league, and — of course — won the League Cup. The best Swansea could do in the league against the “big guns” this season was draws against Arsenal and Liverpool.
With Monk in permanent charge as manager, the club will have the time it needs to rebuild the team this summer. Changes will need to happen in terms of letting players go and bringing new talent in. But the club, especially Monk, needs to take a long hard look at the club’s two most important areas to improve in, which are (1) how to defend better against set pieces, and (2) how to get more goals out of the club’s midfielders. While Jonjo Shelvey, Leon Britton, Nathan Dyer, Wayne Routledge, Pablo Hernandez, Jonathan de Guzman and Jose Canas are all accomplished players, none of them are the type of footballers who are going to score goals on a consistent basis to help relieve the pressure that has been put on Michu and Wilfried Bony.
In the meantime, hats off to Swansea City for remaining true to its principles and by promoting a player into the permanent role as club manager. The Swans still have a long way to go next season, but they’re heading in the right direction to make it another season of punching above its weight once again.