They say of Swans that despite the serenity above the surface of the water, beneath they’re paddling like crazy, but when Carlos Carvalhal took over his game of Swans, they were looking pretty frantic all over.
When Christmas rolled around, as it tends to, Swansea were spending their third successive festive period in the bottom three. Last year’s escape had been narrow, but this years looked all the more daunting.
Not only had Paul Clement managed to win just three of his eighteen Premier League games, his squad looked a darn site worse off than it had 12 months before. The Swans’ two star players had departed in the summer taking 24 goals and 14 assists with them and those brought in to replace Llorente and Sigurdsson weren’t even getting close to cutting the mustard.
Tammy Abraham showed early promise before drifting out of the side, meanwhile Renato Sanches continued to fail to provide even the slightest hint that he might be a professional footballer, let alone a former European Golden Boy.
Roque Mesa made his only impact on English football off the pitch, on account of his criminal moustache and Wilfried Bony remained unable to score some goals for Swansea. In sooth Swansea had taken a side that only survived by the skin of its teeth, taken out the very best parts of that team, and replaced them with fast disappearing, or long disappeared potential.
And so, five points adrift of safety with 18 games left to play and increasingly becoming everyone’s hot tip to go down, Swansea appointed Carlos Carvalhal as their new manager.
Although familiar to Championship aficionados, among Premier League circles Carvalhal was a bit of an unknown entity. In the last two years, he had reached the Playoffs with his Sheffield Wednesday side, but sitting in 15th this time around he had been let go. Meanwhile in his life before England he had taken charge of Besiktas, Sporting Lisbon and Maritimo, thus underlining a pretty solid European CV.
Having turned over 5 managers in less than 2 years and having well and truly pulled the (white Welsh) rabbit out of the hat last season with Paul Clement, everyone waited eagerly to see if Swansea could pull another Houdini. And by-gum they did.
In his first game in charge Carvalhal oversaw a 2-1 away win against Watford, kick-starting a fairly spectacular run of form that has now seen them lose just 3 times in all competitions since that the new year, with two of those loses coming against Tottenham.
Carvalhal has provided a shot adrenalin to a seemingly comatose club, opening up his team to play with more freedom and most importantly, more confidence, confidence which was no doubt sent sky high by back League wins against Liverpool and then Arsenal in January.
Currently Swansea sit in 14th place and although they remain just 3 points off relegation, in the words of their manager, they are out of the deep ocean. Now they can stick their head out of the water and see the coast.
It is worth pondering on Carvalhal’s words, because in many ways his impact in the English top flight has superseded mere sport, his influence has taken on that akin to a Wordsworth or a Shakespeare.
In just a few short months the Portuguese has given us such gems as his post Liverpool press conference during which he explained his tactics by likening Liverpool to a Formula 1 car before explaining that in rush hour traffic, a Formula 1 car can’t go very fast. His Swansea side’s job – put Liverpool into traffic.
Then there was the time he dismissed the notion that possession means anything at all with the insightful analogy that if two people go for a picnic and they take a chicken, but one person eats the whole thing, then statistically they have had half each. Personally, I’m not sure I understand the man, but I do admire him.
Then of course there was the time when Carvalhal compares his sides battle against relegation to throwing a lot of meat into BBQ, and the time when he likened his transfer window ambition to wanting lobster, but only being able to afford sardines.
Oh and there was that time when Carvalhal likened his sides recovery to moving from emergency care to being able to accept visitors. To Carvalhal victories are sweet like honey and good performance put rock and roll on the pitch.
Not since Cantona has someone spoken such pseudo nonsense that sounds so immensely profound and it is such an immense pleasure to be able to listen along. History suggests that Carvalhal’s time in South Wales is limited and perhaps in full knowledge of that, Carvalhal has resigned himself to having as much fun as he can while he’s got the job.
In many ways though Carvalhal’s future is entirely unimportant, sure his fortune will run out at some point and he will find himself out of a job. But that’s just so mundane, so not Carlos Carvalhal.
No, Carlos is writing history with every press conference, interview and probably training session. He is writing himself into English folklore and doing for analogies what Shakespeare did for vocabulary – making it up as he is going along.
They say that love has the power to unite us all, but let’s face it, an against the odds relegation escape beats love every day of the week.
But even today’s great escape is tomorrow’s history and so despite his incredible sporting achievement (which is not yet quite complete), if his legacy were sporting alone Carvalhal would be just one more of those managers on the tip of your tongue while you’re trying to win a few quid down the pub.
But what we absolutely do know is that nothing gives the English footballing community more pleasure than charisma, charm and sheer gobbledygook and Swansea’s Portuguese patron has all three in buckets.
So cheers to Carlos Carvalhal, the man of a million analogies and long may he reign as patron saint of the post-match interview.
Written by Scott Pope
Like O-Posts on Facebook
You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts