Swansea’s Passing Machine Set to Continue
For those tipping Swansea City to sink like a stone following Brendan Rodgers’ departure, it is worth highlighting Graham Hunter’s book, Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World.
Swansea have been compared frequently to the Spanish giants throughout their inaugural Premier League campaign, where Rodgers’ values of patient, passing football are to be applauded.
In his book, Hunter provides an in-depth insight into the foundations of Barcelona’s footballing philosophy, particularly through the influence of Johan Cruyff. Cruyff, of course, left as manager in 1996 but his lasting legacy is the magnificence of Barca’s style of football under a former student of the Dutch legend, Pep Guardiola.
Guardiola, who embodies Barcelona’s spirit like no other, may have left last month but the club’s footballing values will remain forever. Schooled in La Masia and flourishing at the Camp Nou, Barca’s footballing ethos is engrained in the club’s history.
This is what has been instilled in South Wales ever since Roberto Martinez stepped through Swansea’s door with the club ailing in the third tier. As much as Rodgers deserves praise for Swansea’s superb 2011/12 season, one must not discount the influence of his predecessors – Paulo Sousa and Martinez.
A masterful 2007/08 saw Swansea promoted from League One as champions before an eighth place finish in the Championship the following year saw Martinez head for the Premier League at Wigan Athletic.
He was replaced by Paulo Sousa, who retained Swansea’s passing principles but implemented a stronger defensive discipline; they scored 63 goals under Martinez in 2008/09 conceding 50 goals, whereas in Sousa’s sole season in charge scored just 40 goals but let in only 37.
Sousa’s Swansea, in spite of their lack of potency in front of goal, finished the season seventh but it was Rodgers, will all the ingredients finally coming together, who made the breakthrough.
The key game of their inaugural Premier League season came back in January; a 3-2 victory at the Liberty Stadium in which the Swans not only outfought, but outplayed their supposedly superior opponents in the shape of Arsenal.
Swansea reached half-time with 61.2% possession, yet in that dramatic second period, having defended stoutly for most of the half, still maintained 55.3% over 94 minutes.
But it does not end there. Swansea completed 424 of 527 passes while Arsenal completed 337 of 428 – the Swans therefore completed almost as many passes as Arsenal merely attempted during the whole game.
This is the standard that new manager Michael Laudrup, who once starred for Barcelona in Cruyff’s Dream Team, must abide by. With Rodgers putting all the pieces of the jigsaw in place last season, Laudrup may be in charge of his own South Welsh passing machine.