Swans must stick with Plan A despite mauling

Posted by Derek Rae

There's something decidedly and reassuringly old school about Swansea City. The Liberty Stadium might be a sparkling model of modernity, but being a Swansea fan means keeping your feet firmly on the ground.

How could it be otherwise for followers of a club that came within a whisker of losing its Football League status (and possibly its very existence) just over a decade ago? Of course there's a certain irony in that fact that an institution so firmly rooted in South Wales and its traditional values, has taken the futuristic route to progress.

Swansea manager Michael Laudrup puts his players through their pacesPA PhotosMichael Laudrup has Swansea playing an up-tempo style



Chairman Huw Jenkins and his board have shown a commendable and unwavering belief in managers with a preference for attacking football. Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa, Brendan Rodgers and now Michael Laudrup are all managers who embody the belief that football doesn't have to be a grind it out, tough it out business.

The Swans were swimming confidently in the deep end of the Premier League at the start of the current campaign, but in the last couple of matches they've struggled to tread water. I made the journey there on Saturday, commentating for ESPN2 viewers in the United States and it was remarkable how completely off their game Swansea were, outthought and outplayed by an excellent Everton side.

The home fans must hope Saturday's 3-0 defeat was a one-off, against a team who bossed both meetings last season. That happens in football from time to time. Certain teams can, it seems, do no wrong against particular opponents. Swansea struggled visibly against the effective high pressing game of the visitors right from the off, and were second best for most of the game.

This was always going to be a tricky task for Laudrup's team. He was not helped by the absence of several key players. Chico Flores, still suspended, following his ridiculously high kick on Sunderland's Louis Saha, was again badly missed in central defence. Alan Tate, his deputy, was given a torrid time by the formidable Fellaini, Mirallas and co.

Neil Taylor who suffered a fractured ankle in the afore-mentioned Sunderland match, will be a massive loss this season. Added to those two, several players were carrying minor knocks and the influential Leon Brittain had spent part of the week in his sick bed. That Brittain was unable to start, adversely hampered Swansea's prospects.

Laudrup, after succeeding Rodgers, lost two crucial contributors in the summer transfer period. I'm talking of course about Joe Allen and Scott Sinclair. Such players can't easily be replaced. But a lot will be expected of Spaniard Pablo Hernandez and Korean Ki Sung-Yueng.

Neither man enjoyed the Everton experience (Hernandez lasted only until half-time) but both look to me like proper Swansea players. Hernandez, at his best can stamp his authority on a game. Ki, who I've seen a lot of with Celtic in the SPL, has the flexibility to play alongside Brittain as one of the two sitting players, or higher up the pitch.

The most important newcomer at the Liberty Stadium so far this season has been another Spanish import, Michu. Playing just behind Danny Graham, Michu has been difficult for opponents to pick up.

On Saturday, quite simply, he and too many other Swansea players were woefully off form. Not the most physical team in the top flight by any stretch of the imagination, they were never able to match Everton in that department.

Many have rightly pointed out that they must guard against so-called second season syndrome. It's true that we've seen many sides tumble back to the Championship two seasons after entering the Premier League, like men possessed by an otherworldly force.

What's lacking is a workable Plan B. However, I'm still of the belief that Swansea's Plan A should succeed more often than it fails. They have the players to make the 4-2-3-1 formation work: still plenty of verve and skill in their ranks.

Laudrup's biggest task this week will be to pick his players up off the floor and ensure that they remain committed to a style of play that has won many admirers.

Before the Everton game, Swansea City, ever conscious of their past, unveiled the Robbie James 'Wall of Fame', named after the former City and Wales player who died at the age of 40 in 1998. Initially 20 Swansea greats have been selected, but the plan is for the list to grow.

How many of the current crop will end up with the names on that wall? More than a few, I suspect.

Laudrup and his players must stay true to their beliefs.

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