Last season Swansea City finished tenth in the Championship and though at no point was there any realistic push for the play-offs the campaign as a whole was viewed positively.
After burning through ten managers in five years and experiencing relegation from the Premier League in 2017/18, this was a year to right themselves and in appointing Graham Potter they had a highly-rated coach who could do just that.
Furthermore, following a succession of loan spells elsewhere Oliver McBurnie was scoring for fun, dispatching 24 goals across all competitions by the season’s end while racing here, there and everywhere was Daniel James, a revelation no less.
The future looked bright indeed.
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It was a calamitous summer then when the Swans lost all three to the Premier League, withPotter charge at Brighton, McBurnie joining the Blades for a club record £20m, and James – their brightest spark – heading to Old Trafford.
Granted the coffers were given a timely boost but it very much felt like the Welsh outfit had returned to square one and the ambivalence that now was pervasive across the fan-base only grew to concern when the club appointed Steve Cooper as Potter’s replacement.
Cooper’s CV at academy level was impressive, having won the World Cup with England’s Under 17s and with a sterling reputation at Liverpool coaching their youths. This though was his first managerial role. This was a huge risk.
It only got worse too, or at least more concerning. On the opening day of the season all hope of signing quality cover for the departed McBurnie and James vanished and instead crept in a worrying suspicion that Cooper planned to reinstall prized flop Borja Baston as the team’s focal point up front, while promoting Bersant Celina to creator-in-chief.
Since joining in 2016 for a club record £15m Baston has routinely disappointed, so much so that he’s been loaned out to Spain on two occasions. Celina for his part had previously shown flashes of inspiration but only that.
In the event Swansea won their opening game 2-1 at home to Hull with Baston getting on the score-sheet. In the event he hasn’t stopped scoring since and his record now stands at five in five, while Celina has been largely excellent and effective.
At the time of writing the Swans have played six league games and two EFL Cup fixtures. They have won seven, including a statement victory away at Elland Road last time out, and drawn the other. And it’s hardly as if they have squeaked them either.
Explanations for this startling early transformation lie in a number of factors. Cooper’s retention of Swansea’s 4-2-3-1 from last term has been shrewd, with the only adaption being a more rigid structure up front. This has helped Baston. This has helped Celina.
A well balanced midfield of Matt Grimes and Jay Fulton meanwhile – who compliment the other perfectly – has led to a solid framework out of possession but with Fulton offering additional threat to Swansea front four when going forward.
Disciplined displays from Connor Roberts and Jake Bidwell in the fullback positions have also been a key element; their decision-making in when to provide support down the flanks is a reflection on Cooper’s erudite coaching.
There is another reason too; an altogether more miasmic one. Sometimes the stars align. Sometimes things just fit. And judging by Swansea’s sublime start so far that certainly applies here.
How far it takes them only time will reveal.