Michael Laudrup: back to the drawing board at Swansea
By Graham Hill
Michael Laudrup may have been one of the game’s greatest ever players - but now the former Danish superstar is facing a managerial dilemma. Laudrup built his reputation with Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid. But it is in South Wales where his standing as a top flight manager will be decided.
Laudrup arrived at Swansea City to fill the gap left by Brendan Rodgers who had taken the club into the Premier League and established a mantra of attractive, flowing football. And Laudrup appeared to complete a seamless transition when he took over after Rodgers moved to Liverpool.
An impressive 5-0 win at QPR on the opening day of the season was followed by a home win over West Ham. Swansea, it appeared, were on the up. Since then however, things have taken a turn for the worse.
Laudrup’s side were beaten by an Aston Villa side who had been struggling early on. Swansea then lost to David Moyes’ vastly improved Everton.
And Laudrup, like so many managers before him, found it impossible to take the beautiful game to Stoke City and expect to overcome Tony Pulis’s physical brand of football. Three defeats in a row and suddenly things were not looking so rosy for Laudrup. Before the Stoke game, Pulis joked that he was once told you were not considered a proper manager until you had been sacked three times.
It is a little early to be asking those sort of questions of Laudrup clearly. But he will have to have a rethink. His players are struggling to understand why it has all gone wrong. But Laudrup will refuse to change his principles - keeping faith in the belief that his way of playing will eventually be successful.
He said: “At Stoke it was the third game in the league when we did not score. I think that's more of a concern to me than the two goals we conceded. The thing is we have to score as well because if you don't score, it is impossible to win in football. Three games without a goal was a little bit strange for us after scoring 10 in our first three games, but again that's football and sometimes you've got to find out why.
"The way we play the passing and movement, I won't say it's everything, but it's important to the way we play. I think it's something we really have to look into. In other games we have created chances.”
Laudrup dismisses suggestions that Swansea have already been "found out". The Swansea manager said: "I think in football if teams say they can put high pressure on Swansea, we can still play out there.
“There’ll aways be space because if teams put pressure on us high up the pitch, we should still have space behind their back four, especially if you have pace. So I think it's not that simple to say 'they know how to play us'. We have to admit we have not been playing as well when we have the ball as we were in the first games and so we have to go back to that.
"You could say we could put another man in midfield, but it's about the players we have. That's why you have your style. We have one style, Stoke have another. If you took three or four of our players and put them in the Stoke team, they could not play and the other way round. Nothing is right and nothing is wrong, it's just not that easy.
"We have to do this because it's what we know. We have to find solutions when things are not working and the solution for me is, first of all, when we have the ball, is to play a little faster and move a little more. Maybe not always pass to the nearest man. Home is different, teams sit back more, waiting for the counter-attack.”
Even Laudrup’s players are saying Swansea are a team of individuals.
But midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung believes they will find their way eventually. He said: “If you lose games, a lot of opinion is coming. We’re not individuals. But I think we are just a little bit confused because we won the first two games, and now we’re starting to lose them. It’s important we don’t get used to losing.”
Ki says Swansea will go back to the drawing board. He added: “We know how to play football - but sometimes we have been struggling physically. We have to analyse what we’ve done wrong and look at what we can improve on.”