It’s always the same when looking at the Premier League’s perennial crisis clubs. Newcastle, Sunderland and Aston Villa appear to be permanently standing on the edge of disillusion, albeit the Black Cats seem to be making strides in the right direction thanks to Big Sam Allardyce. So who will replace Sunderland (at least for the time being) as the Premiership’s third crisis club? Step up Swansea City.
It’s difficult to get one’s head around the collapse in form that Garry Monk’s men have suffered. After all, the Swans started the season relatively strongly, with draws at Chelsea and Sunderland and victories at home to Newcastle and Manchester United propelling the Welsh club to 4th at the end of August. But since then, they’ve only accrued 6 points from 10 games. Alarm bells are ringing.
These 6 points weren’t all bad. An away victory at Aston Villa was a relief, and the club also earned impressive draws at home to Everton and Spurs. But the club’s only point since their trip to the Midlands was a regrettable encounter at home to struggling Bournemouth, where the Swans had to come back from 2-0 down to salvage a point.
So apart from Steve McLaren, Garry Monk is surely the most under-fire manager in the English top flight. Coming from a club which takes pride in its fine management, this tumultuous period could be disastrous. The club have only had three managers in their consistent top-flight spell, and all have been excellent.
Under Brendan Rodgers, the club finished 11th in their debut Premiership season, and with the Great Dane Michael Laudrup, Swansea finished 9th and also won the League Cup. But Laudrup was controversially axed early in 2014 and was replaced by club veteran Garry Monk. Eyebrows were raised at this decision, as Laudrup had achieved a lot in his short spell at the club, and Monk had no prior managerial experience. Fan reception was immediately raucous though, as Monk guided Swansea to a 3-0 win over bitter rivals Cardiff in his first game.
2015 went even better, and Monk established Swansea as Premiership stalwarts with an impressive 8th place finish, despite losing star striker Wilfried Bony to Manchester City in January. Swansea did not blow their money like many a club would, and coaxed the best from Bafetimbi Gomis, who had previously been misfiring. One expected even more shrewdness from the South Wales outfit for 2015/16, but right now, this isn’t the case.
Chairman Huw Jenkins is a smart character, as when Laudrup was sacked, in hindsight it was seen as a correct and brave call. So if he were to plunge the knife into Monk, would Jenkins nail it twice? Who would he call in to replace the popular Monk? The manager market is hardly flowing at the moment, with Tim Sherwood or possibly a Rodgers return viable options if an experienced Premiership manager was sought. Alternatively he could pounce abroad; Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is always linked to English clubs. Or Jenkins cut risk it with a virgin manager. Lee Trundle anyone?
This is the dilemma. If Monk were to go, it could prove unpopular now and potentially tragic. But if the subsequent manager fired Swansea back in form, it would be lauded as another fine stroke of adept club management. But if Swansea were to further flounder and perhaps even get relegated, how much of a ridiculous move would sacking Monk be? After all, Monk steadied the Swansea ship after Laudrup’s departure and has really grew in stature since his debut on the touchline.
He’s dealt with the departure of Bony incredibly, was instrumental in the return of fan favourite Gylfi Sigurdsson, and also masterminded the potential transfer coup of the summer with the arrival of Andre Ayew on a free. For some parts of this season, these players amongst others have been exquisite. Gomis scored four in four to kickstart his season, whilst Ayew and Sigurdsson have 8 goals between them. So where has it gone wrong?
Last time out, the Swans were unlucky to fall to an on-song Liverpool side, and only lost due to a contentious penalty decision. Compared to the flat performances of Newcastle, where they appear to turn up a defeated team each week, Swansea still have heart. They’ve been defensively gritty for the most part, so all they need is a little bit of magic from Ayew or Jefferson Montero to turn this mentality into points. Monk admitted that he held talks with his players recently to distil the fact that gritty performances don’t always work. At least he’s realised that he’s in trouble.
Up next for Swansea are two tough fixtures. Leicester at home and Manchester City away. It is difficult to see the Swans picking up anything more than a point against the top two, yet two losses could see the departure of Monk. After all, it’d then be a single point taken from a possible 21. This isn’t form a manager hangs onto their job by. But equally, Swansea then face West Ham and West Brom at home. These seem like great games to restart their season.
With tough games ahead then, it’d be foolish to get rid of Monk before the Etihad clash. No manager would obtain any better result, and Monk clearly has the tactical nous to turn things around. When Swansea have played well, they can pass any team off the park. Ayew, Shelvey, Gomis and co. will link up efficiently soon. They play best under Monk’s easy-on-the-eye style of football, so a new manager would simply slow everything down and break any existing links in order to bring his own brand of football to South Wales.
For now at least, I think one can trust Huw Jenkins to stand by his man. He’s not the kind of chairman to make snap decisions, as these types of decisions aren’t what made Swansea the club they are today. Only when the Swans are being consistently being played off the park week-in week-out should Jenkins kick Monk out of the footballing monastery.