Oh Football, I Despair: Michael Laudrup Sacked

Posted on February 5, 2014

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Michael Laudrup was sacked by Swansea City Football Club yesterday. In a sport that consistently baffles, where logic is something that older fans talk about existing in their day much like no squad numbers and no injuries, this sacking is particularly perplexing. Just a day prior, Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins stated that the future of Laudrup wasn’t even up for speculation. Swansea aren’t a club known for such rash decisions. What has gone on?

It’s difficult to deny that Swansea are having a poorer season than last. In Laudrup’s first season they were a revelation, finishing 9th in the league and winning the League Cup, their first major trophy. On the surface of things, it isn’t so desperate this year. They are currently sitting in 12th in the Premier League, three points outside of the top half. The Swans have qualified for the final 32 of the Europa League also, where they will take on Napoli. They battered Valencia 3-0 in the Mestalla earlier this season. Heck, they knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup last month, beating them 1-0 at Old Trafford. Looking closer however, cracks appear. In a frightfully congested bottom half of the table, they are a mere two points above relegation. Their form over the last 20 games is poor, losing half of those. Laudrup himself has gone from the picture of confidence to a slightly forlorn figure. John Harston said today that he wasn’t surprised by the sacking at all. In the bizarro-world of football, it isn’t surprising. Logic though, and actual rational thinking, shows that it isn’t just bizarre. It’s downright dumb.

For a club of their size, the extra weight of European football is always going to put a strain on the side. For clubs that maybe didn’t expect to qualify for Europe, the league season whilst playing in the competition has always proved difficult. Just last year, Newcastle finished 16th in the league whilst fighting European battles in the midweek. Stoke and Portsmouth both finished 14th in their seasons in Europe, far worse than their previous seasons. In 2001/02, Ipswich Town were relegated to the Championship, despite a 1-0 win over Inter Milan in the UEFA Cup third round. Europe is tough for smaller clubs. Financially, the Europa League could not be further away from the Champions League and qualification for it means nothing more than some fun away days for fans of the club now. It’s nice for Swansea to play Valencia, it was fun for Ipswich to play Inter and I’m sure Stoke fans loved their away day in Kiev, but financially it isn’t so great. This has hindered Swansea in 2013/14.

Swansea have also been missing their best player. Michu has been injured most of the season, making only 12 league appearances for two goals so far. Wilfried Bony was brought in to lighten the load on the Spaniard, but he has struggled as well, scoring just seven in the league. Bony is a different type of player to Michu, meaning that their style of play hasn’t quite clicked with Bony’s classic striker style. Michu himself has been listless when fit. Any club whose best player is off the pace are going to struggle, as seen with Manchester United and Robin van Persie this season. Swansea minus Michu are very different to Swansea with Michu.

The timing of the decision is ludicrous as well. Sacking the manager just as the transfer window has closed, mere days before a huge derby against your biggest rivals? Whoever comes in has no chance to make any signings and is stuck with what a side that Laudrup put together. Who is the next manager going to be anyway? No candidates jump out. Personally I’d love to see Marcelo Bielsa take the job, but whether he’d be able to adapt to English football I’m not sure. The Swansea past-philosophy suggests that someone like Paul Clement might be in with a chance, but that would be a risky move to say the least. Gianfranco Zola and Roberto Di Matteo will surely be linked with the post, and the latter is certainly someone who deserves another high-profile job. Either way whoever comes in is going to struggle through the rest of the year.

This is a strange decision. It might end up being a brave and correct decision, and I hope it proves true. I like Swansea, a lot, and not just because I’m Welsh. They’ve been a breath of fresh air in the league, and it’s great to see clubs that suffered so much so recently enjoy such success. I can’t help fearing the worst right now though.

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