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Tuesday, 13 August 2013 00:00

Swansea season preview: Michael Laudrup's side must stick to tried and testing philosophy of patient progress

The south Wales club can‘t be complacent as they start their third season in the Premier League
by Alex Ballard

Football comment: Having comfortably shrugged off lingering relegation fears during the oft-dreaded second season in the top flight, Swansea City have every reason for optimism as the new campaign approaches — but they would be well advised not to look too far ahead.

A League Cup triumph and a ninth-place finish marked a season of significant success and progress for the Swans under incoming manager Michael Laudrup last year.

His side won over plenty of pundits and punters alike on their way to Wembley, while for much of the campaign they were in touching distance of former Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers’s struggling Liverpool in the upper reaches of mid-table.

But though no-one could either deny or begrudge City their hard-earned increase in standing and stature, perhaps best illustrated by their recent £12 million move for in-demand striker Wilfried Bony, Laudrup and co would do well to heed a note of caution too.

Though certain media outlets would opine otherwise the Premier League is a division currently short on genuine quality, particularly in its lower reaches.

A quick glance at last term’s final table says it all, with a gap of just five points separating Newcastle in 16th from the Swans in ninth, suggesting that very little separates a large number of teams.

The addition of a goalgetter here or a solid defender there might serve to bridge such a small gap and, while Swansea haven’t rested on their laurels this summer, a number of other sides have also strengthened and City could well find themselves embroiled in a mid-table ruck as the campaign unfolds.

Spanish sensation Michu will be absolutely key to their fortunes and while his club may have overcome the cliched yet often apt “second season syndrome,” it will be interesting to see how the former Rayo Vallecano forward gets on this year.

The surprise package of last term, Michu can expect plenty more attention from defenders this time around. Though his talent may shine through, it’s hard to envisage him matching the 18 goals he bagged in his debut year at the Liberty.

Perhaps with this in mind, Laudrup has brought in prolific striker Bony from Vitesse Arnheim.

The Ivory Coast international hit the target 46 times in 65 games and, though splashing some serious cash on a striker from the notoriously porous Dutch league is somewhat of a gamble, Swansea’s new number 10 has the potential to be another exciting addition to the club’s ranks.

Laudrup also forked out £6m for Liverpool’s Jonjo Shelvey, a playmaker who just might thrive with regular football at the heart of an expansive side, while swelling the ranks of his squad with a host of purchases from La Liga, including Jose Canas, Jordi Amat and Alejandro Pozuelo.

Villarreal’s Jonathan de Guzman is also sticking around after extending his loan spell at the Swans. With the possibility of a 19-match Europa League campaign on the horizon, Laudrup will need bodies in order to keep his side fresh and competitive.

All in all it looks as though an exciting season is on the horizon for Swansea though they face a tough start in the Premier League with their first six fixtures including clashes against Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal.

Some pundits — and presumably some supporters — have gone so far as to back Laudrup’s men to break into the top six this term but in the cold light of day they’re not quite at that level just yet.

Starting the season free from the unwelcome moniker of relegation favourites shows just how far this footballing side from south Wales have come.

But while the Liberty Stadium support would be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief at the prospect that they have now well and truly “arrived” in England’s top flight, they might also be well advised to temper thoughts of flying too high, too soon.

Prediction: 12th.
Key man: Michu.

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