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13 Feb 2018

Swansea City: Is Carvalhal the saviour?

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Life before Swansea

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Lacking options

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Better buy British

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Thinking outside the box

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A fresh start

(Photo credit: Christopher Elkins)

Brought into the club on a six-month contract just before the new year, Carlos Carvalhal has had a dramatic impact in South Wales. 

With only one defeat from the eleven games he’s been in charge, Swansea have averaged two points per game in the league and recorded a record FA Cup win for the Club when they put eight past Notts County last week.

This run has not only proven enough to lift Swansea off the foot of the table, it places them fifth in the current form table over this period and has seen them record memorable wins over both Liverpool and Arsenal.

But what has been the secret formula for his success with the Swans?

Life before Swansea

Carvalhal’s reign at Sheffield Wednesday came to an end on Christmas Eve following a long run of poor results and unattractive football. 

With only six wins from 22 league fixtures and a stretch of seven winless games which culminated in three successive defeats, it was felt by everyone concerned that the Portuguese managers time was up.

The two seasons prior to this negative spell had seen Carvalhal guide the Owls into the play-offs both times. However, he was unable to attain Premier League football having lost the final to Hull City in 2015/16 season then the semi-final to Huddersfield last year. 

All of this was relatively unexpected from a manager who had spent three years in the managerial wilderness prior to the summer of 2015. 

Despite having managed 15 clubs prior to his arrival in Sheffield, including Beşiktaş and Sporting Clube de Portugal, Carvalhal had become an almost forgotten figure in the world of football. If stories are to be believed, Swansea had long courted the 52-year-old and were contemplating appointing him in 2015.

Lacking options

At the time of Paul Clement’s dismissal, few managers with Premier League experience were available. The initial favourites to take over included a diverse range of options from the experience offered by Tony Pulis to the promise of Ryan Giggs and Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill. 

While the Dutch pairing of Ronald Koeman and Frank de Boer were also available at this time, neither were truly considered as likely candidates.

But while it could be argued that a lack of managerial options helped to steer Swansea in Carvalhal’s direction, this may not be entirely true.

Swansea retained the services of the previous manager Paul Clement for as long as possible, looking to provide some stability at the club after a spate of unsuccessful tenures at Swansea. 

When it became clear that Clement was unable to inspire a response from his charges, Swansea begrudgingly dropped the axe, paving the way for a fourth full-time managerial appointment in two years.

Better buy British

It seems a well-worn path for Premier League clubs to choose managers who have the 'vital' ingredient of Premier League experience to help them retain their top-flight status.

Sam Allardyce is currently earning more than the managers of Juventus, Atlético Madrid and even Paris St Germain despite the fact he has not won anything more prestigious than the Football League Championship play-offs (twice) after failing to win automatic promotion. 

Despite being pushed out of the England manager’s position after a single game amid corruption allegations, Premier League clubs still apparently formed a queue to acquire his signature. 

With the likes of David Moyes, Alan Pardew and Paul Clement all returning to management this season in spite of their various failures in recent years, there’s a general trend for clubs opting for seasoned stalwarts. 

Thinking outside the box

But if the reasoning for this is to choose a British manager, then why would a club presently opt for Mark Hughes rather than trying to tempt a young manager such as Gary Rowett from Derby County instead? 

Choosing a 'proven manager' with Premier League experience is a misconception that’s slowly being exposed this season as West Brom and Stoke are beginning to find out.

Meanwhile, fans of Everton and West Ham were hardly enamoured when their current bosses were unveiled last year.

It’s true that managing a club at the bottom of the Premier League requires unique traits which are not necessarily pertinent at lower-league or elite clubs. 

Newcastle United’s surprise capture and retention of Rafa Benitez has proven the Champions League-winning boss to be much more than a cheque-book – an accusation often thrown at some contemporary high-profile managers.

But what is needed to get a club out of trouble?

A fresh start

While tactical knowledge and man-management skills are a fundamental part of a managers requisite abilities, relieving the pressure on the player’s is also a key factor. This is something that was having a debilitating effect on the pitch for the Swans, worsened by their need to play an accurate passing style.

The lack of expectation to succeed saw Swansea duck out of the spotlight when Carvalhal was appointed last December, many people believing they were already fated for Championship football.

Perhaps more than anything else, the upbeat and jovial nature of Carvalhal has been behind the Swans resurgence. Having become worn-down in his role with the Owls, the new Premier League challenge has breathed new life and energy into the manager’s demeanour. 

Likewise, his personality has already sown it’s way deep into the club and it’s fans alike and lifted the gloom which had descended on the Liberty Stadium.

Fourteen points from seven games may only have lifted the Swans to a point above the relegation zone, however, there’s a completely different aura surrounding the club now which none of the other clubs in the bottom half of the table can match. 

Whether this is the result of years of planning or a cheaper option that the board jumped at, he’s certainly earning his money far more than some of the more established choices that rival clubs choose this season.

What do you think? Can Carlos Carvalhal turn things around at Swansea in the long term? Get in touch by commenting below.