Swansea City are climbing casually up the table. Last season’s relegation battle and loss of form under Michael Laudrup has well and truly changed by manager Garry Monk.
This season they’ve been a little more direct than usual, playing to the considerable strengths of the now-departed Wilfried Bony and now Bafetimbi Gomis, whose form is on the up, and who scored a wonderful goal at the weekend.
They have done well all season to stay out of the relegation scrap that is heating up at the bottom, but they haven’t threatened to do a Southampton either and challenge for Europe.
But they are now in 8th place and only 7 points behind Saints. And if Arsenal can still catch Chelsea at the top of the table, then surely the same applies to Swansea – surely they can still catch Southampton.
Of course they’d have to put together a sensational run of form, and it would be a huge surprise, but why not make it their aim for the last few weeks of the season. With Southampton’s recent form, 7th place could still be on, and if Liverpool were to finish 5th and beat Arsenal in the FA Cup final, then 7th place would be good enough for a European spot.
And it’s this sort of quietly brilliant performance that vindicates Huw Jenkins’ decision to install the novice Garry Monk as manager. The Swansea chairman hasn’t made many errors, and his managerial appointments – and sacking, with regards to Laudrup – have been right time and time again.
Michael Laudrup managed to win a League Cup in his time in South Wales, but he was sacked last February, just less than a year after that triumph. Most people at the time thought it was harsh, he brought Swansea not just a trophy, but also into Europe. He played some good football and the team seemed to be progressing even further from where Brendan Rodgers had taken them. Although they were struggling last season, it still seemed harsh.
But Laudrup had let the team stagnate, and with Swansea under relegation pressure it was the right time to let him go.
But what happened next is a lesson for the rest of the Premier League. Garry Monk, a former Swans captain, and a man who has spent the last 11 years at the club and played for them in League One, the Championship and the Premier League, was appointed manager, and he duly led his team away from the relegation zone, and right up to 8th place with 7 games to go this season.
Monk, along with Tim Sherwood at Tottenham, were the two highlights of the season for anyone who loves to see young, British managers being given a chance, and this season if Sherwood can keep Villa up, and Monk can continue the charge with Swansea, those two will be highlights again this time around.
Monk’s Swansea will battle hard in the next 7 games and see how high they can finish. If they manage to gain enough ground to make up those 7 points, then who knows, Europa League football might be returning to the Liberty Stadium again next season. It’s a tall order, but stranger things have happened in football, and Swansea just need to keep winning as much as they can.