Connect in the back of the net

It is not so long ago since Swansea City were being upheld as the model way of running a football club by the Labour Party and the Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore.

The Swans ended the 2014/15 season in eighth place, marking a remarkable rise of 75 places all the way from 16th in League Two, where they were when former owner Tony Petty was ousted in 2002.

It was an ascent that took in the League Cup triumph of 2013 and the Europa League sojourn the following season, while Garry Monk, the much-loved successor to Michael Laudrup, took them even higher.

 

International conundrum

After 4 games of last season the Welsh club sat 4th in the Premier League before the international break stalled their momentum and initiated a period of steep decline.

A 2-1 win over Manchester United was given to them then by Bafetembi Gomis and while Monk would have rued the interval last August, Bob Bradley will be thankful for this one.

United returned to the Liberty Stadium last Sunday and were permitted to take full usage of its name, effortlessly running out 1-3 winners to lay bare the mammoth task the American has taken on in south Wales.

Bradley will need the fortnight’s break to work with his players and to make sure his message is getting across, having overseen 3 defeats and a 0-0 draw since taking charge at the start of October.

 

Listless

A listless defeat at Stoke City, where his players failed to act on his instruction to cut off the space between the lines, preceded the United rout, where lessons appeared to not have been learned.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Wayne Rooney sauntered through the Swans’ defence with ease in the first half and although Bradley managed to coax an improved second period out of his team, the damage was done.

Supporters turned on the board and chairman Huw Jenkins during the game, resulting in face-to-face talks between the Supporter’s Trust and American owners Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan, who hoovered up 67% of the club’s shares in the summer.

The Trust, who possess a 20% stake and who together with 4 local businessmen purchased the club for £20,000 back in 2002 to set the fairy-tale off, feel their voice is being increasingly marginalised by a board who acted to dismiss Francesco Guidolin and appoint Bradley without their input.

The managerial change, though Bradley arrived with clear credentials, was odd given the team is drastically short on quality, a situation arising from a series of rash decisions emanating from an inexperienced and naïve boardroom.

It was muddled thinking to believe that Bradley can get from these group of players what Guidolin couldn’t, especially when the Italian’s final game in charge produced an impassioned display against Liverpool.

 

Unrecognizable

The squad is virtually unrecognisable to the one that Monk advertised himself for the England job with; Jonjo Shelvey was sold to relegation rivals Newcastle a month after Monk was sacked, while Gomis, Andre Ayew and, most costly of all, Ashley Williams departed in the summer.

Guidolin, not before Alan Curtis was installed as the interim option following a muddled attempt to lure Marcelo Bielsa, managed to pull off the Houdini act last season but Williams’ devotion and leadership has been sorely missed at the back this time around, with Martin van der Hoorn and Alfie Mawson, a potential still raw after being promoted from League One with Barnsley, sub-par replacements.

Goals have also disappeared with Borja Baston, perhaps understandably given he has only one year of top-flight experience with Eibar in La Liga, struggling to live up to the billing of his £15 million fee, and Fernando Llorente appearing as a shadow of the striker that bullied defences in the red and white of Athletic Bilbao.

£5 million has got just 1 goal in 10 matches from Llorente and Bradley’s patience snapped against United as he withdrew the Spaniard at half-time.

Leroy Fer, a £4 million capture from QPR, has offered bright glimpses and Gylfi Sigurdsson has once again illustrated his class, but the Icelander cannot be relied upon for regular goals, or to create if his teammates are not on the same level.

The midfield of Ki Sung-yeung and Leon Britton, the long-serving captain who is now beginning to look every one of his 34 years, was bullied against United and it seems to be another example of neglect from the board their failure to stump up the required fee for Joe Allen in the summer, the Welshman reminding Swansea first hand of his ability two weeks’ ago.

Bradley has admitted that the mercurially talented, free-agent Dimitar Berbatov is on Swansea’s radar but it is doubtful that the naturally languid Bulgarian, in the late-autumn of his career at the age of 35, will have too much impact on a desperate relegation scrap.

 

Spineless

The likes of Jordi Amat, Federico Fernandez and Neil Taylor, all integral parts of the Swansea effort in recent years, have rarely featured if at all this season and how much would Bradley yearn for the character of Williams or Shelvey, though having disappointed himself by recently attracting an FA charge for racially abusing Wolves’ Romain Saiss, to form the spine of his squad.

“With the recent uncertainty surrounding the club, the decision has been made in the best interests of Swansea City Football Club and its supporters,” was how the dismissal of Monk was explained, with the board pulling the trigger before they came irreversibly close to missing out on the £85 million worth of prize money from the lucrative Premier League television deal.

Though that money, partnered with the £27 million raised by selling Wilfried Bony to Manchester City, the £10 million that saw Ben Davies move to Spurs and the £20 million brought in by the sale of Ayew to West Ham, has been mistakenly, or not at all, been reinvested into the squad.

There appears to be no escaping those errors this time, having already pressed the manager eject button and the abyss looming closer on the horizon.

 

Growing frustration and apathy

Swansea haven’t won since the opening day of the season and with supporter anger growing at the misdirection the club is taking while Stuart McDonald, the Supporter’s Trust’ representative on the board, has his voice drowned out by green-eyed and hasty owners, the model that the club’s hierarchy prided itself on has been dismantled.

Local shareholders saw no problems with cashing in on their shares to the value of in excess of £100 million in the summer, undermining the past 14 years of work as the American investors swooped in.

Unless Bradley can perform a miracle to prove his employer’s right, the Championship awaits.

 

Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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