Swansea City was on a nice trajectory – promotion in 2011, a triumphant 2012-13 League Cup run that included wins over Liverpool and Chelsea and then a ninth place finish last season. The Swans also earned plaudits for a fluid, possession-oriented style of play developed under Brendan Rodgers and continuing under Michael Laudrup.
But it proved unsustainable. A glut of new players, the distraction and pressure of a dozen UEFA Europa League matches and, ultimately, a breakdown in the relationship between Laudrup and the club chairman left Swansea hovering near the relegation zone. Laudrup was fired in February and replaced by defender Garry Monk, who traded his jersey for a suit and led the club to 12th place with four wins in its final seven games.
Monk, 35, signed a three-year deal in May and appears to have the backing of both the players and club officials. He was active this summer. While midfielder Jonathan de Guzman appears to be on his way out, Monk reinforced the squad with the likes of striker Bafétimbi Gomis, who played for France at Euro 2008 and scored 22 goals last season for Olympique Lyonnais, and Ecuadorian winger Jefferson Montero, who started each of his country’s three games at the World Cup.
Swansea will visit Manchester United and Chelsea in the first month of the new season. If Monk’s charges weather that storm, then the trajectory looks promising once again.
EPL storylines: Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City
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KEY ARRIVALS: G Lukasz Fabianski (from Arsenal), F Bafétimbi Gomis (from Olympique Lyonnais), M Gylfi Sigurdsson (from Tottenham Hotspur), M Jefferson Montero (from Monarcas Morelia).
KEY DEPARTURES: D Ben Davies (to Tottenham Hotspur), D Chico Flores (to Lekhwiya), F Michu (to Napoli), G Michel Vorm (to Tottenham Hotspur),
PLAYER TO WATCH: Wilfried Bony – or his replacement. The powerful Ivorian striker joined Swansea from Vitesse and netted 25 times last season, his first in England. His 16 league goals ranked sixth. The question is how long he’ll remain at the Liberty Stadium. Liverpool has been his primary suitor, according to reports, but the transfer fee could top $31 million. If Bony stays at Swansea, his form and commitment will be scrutinized. If he leaves, that’s a heavy hit.
KEY STAT: When Swansea won last season, they often won big. Five of its 11 EPL wins came by three goals or more – only Chelsea, Liverpool and the two Manchester clubs had more. That helped the Swans post a 0 goal differential despite an 11-18-9 record.
: Liberty Stadium (Built in 2005; Capacity 20,750)
The second-newest stadium in the EPL is also one of the smallest. The bowl-shaped venue located near the River Tawe sits on the site of a former athletics stadium.