There was much discussion at the beginning of the summer about two things in regards to Swansea. Michael Laudrup might want out to pursue a “bigger” job and Swansea intended to be very aggressive on the transfer market with at least one “big name” signing coming in. Most clubs outside of the Champions League places say things like this if they’ve had a big year the year before – and Swansea winning the League Cup would qualify. What differentiates Swansea from most other clubs in this situation is that they seem to have come through on their big words.
The Swans entered the season concerned about life after Brendan Rodgers, Gylfi Sigurdsson, and Joe Allen and fearing regression after their first season in the Premier League and the real possibility of relegation. Enter Michael Laudrup who picked up right where Rodgers left off (and looked a lot better doing it) and Spanish import Michu who added goals to Swansea’s passing game and it turned out there was nothing to fear. Swansea capped a successful second season in the Premier League with a ninth place finish in the league and a huge 5-0 win over Brentford in the League Cup Final. The League Cup win secured Laudrup’s men another major milestone, a spot in the Europa League for 2013-14. Throw in that they, unlike most of their Premier League brethren, managed to show a profit on their most recent financial statements and the Swans entered the summer in great shape.
The Swans haven’t lost anyone of import so far this summer. There has been a persistent rumor that Ashley Williams will leave for either Arsenal or Liverpool which would be a major blow due to his quality and the current injury status of his first choice partner, Chico Flores, who is struggling with an ankle injury. If Swansea can keep hold of Williams then the only mild disappointment will be the admission – via a loan to Birmingham – that last summer’s move for Kyle Bartley was a mistake.
Looking at their moves, Swansea appeared to have two major goals on the transfer market: bringing in a difference-making goal scorer and adding young depth all over the pitch. Both missions appear to have been accomplished – all for just a shade over £20 million. Here’s a quick summary of some tidy work from the Swans so far this summer:
Jonathan De Guzman (Villarreal, loan) – With Michu – ideally a second forward/attacking midfielder – moving further up the pitch in the absence of a competent lead forward Swansea needed another attacking midfielder and loanee De Guzman did a nice job creating last season. His return, again on loan, will provide continuity in the attack.
Wilfried Bony (Vitesse Arnhem, £12m) – If Swansea’s summer is deemed a success come May then it will mean that Bony has proven a strong supplement to Michu’s goals. One of the more sought-after names on the transfer market this summer, his capture was a positive statement about Swansea’s place in the footballing world. If he can score something on the order of 15 league goals, and he appears to have the physical skills to do so, then Swansea should be competing with Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham for Europa Cup spots.
Jose Canas (Real Betis, free) – Jose Canas isn’t going to change the balance of power in the Premier League by himself but when you can get a 26 year-old potential starter that fits your system on a free, that has to be viewed as a great signing.
Jordi Amat (Espanyol, £2.5m) – He’s 21 years old and has 3 years under his belt in La Liga, one as a first choice starter on loan last season with Rayo Vallecano. Assuming Ashley Williams stays, he is an upgrade over last season’s options as a deputy center back.
Jonjo Shelvey (Liverpool, £6m) – It’s hard to know what to make of the former Liverpool player’s potential in the Premier League. He had a successful loan spell in the Championship but he has never had an extended run of starts for Liverpool to validate or negate his status as a top prospect. With Steven Gerrard in front of him in the pecking order and a number of recent midfield acquisitions also arriving it’s easy to see why this has been the case. Because of this, Swansea have essentially purchased a £6 million lottery ticket. If Shelvey flops, he will likely be sold off to a Championship side for half that fee or less. If he can translate his loan form to the Premier League they’ll have a player they couldn’t have afforded without taking this sort of risk.
Alejandro Pozuelo (Real Betis, undisclosed) – Another move for youth (21 years-old) and depth. The Spanish attacking midfielder was at the fringes of the Betis side last season after coming up through the ranks at the club. It is unlikely that he’ll make an impact this season unless there are a rash of injuries but with a season of reserve and cup matches he could grow into a solid contributor in Swansea’s passing system by next season.
Jernade Meade (Arsenal, free) – If you notice a trend here, Swansea are picking up young players on the cheap who have played in a system similar to theirs. Meade played mostly left back coming up the ranks at Arsenal moving up occasionally to a midfield role. Like Shelvey and Pozuelo he is a lottery ticket that came relatively cheap. If any of the three pay off over the next few seasons – either in the form of an on the field contribution or a profit in the transfer market (or both) – then all three transactions will have to be viewed as a successful low-risk portfolio of moves.