The Hairdryer

Swansea’s ‘unheralded genius’ has made first mistake with Laudrup axe

The Hairdryer

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It seems like a lifetime ago that Michael Laudrup, his stock high after winning the League Cup with Swansea, was strongly linked with the Real Madrid job.

In the end Jose Mourinho's replacement was a man with a glittering CV in Carlo Ancelotti, while Laudrup stayed at Swansea, tasked with maintaining their status as a top-half Premier League side while they embarked on a European adventure.

That was a year ago. Only a month back Laudrup was linked with another big move, this time to Tottenham. The Dane publicly stated his intention to see out the project at Swansea - at least for the season - and the untested Tim Sherwood was trusted with the job.

So much for loyalty in football.

Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins is the unheralded genius behind the Welsh club's rise, but he seems to have got this one wrong.

Back when they were in the Football League's bottom tier, Jenkins developed a set-up based around attractive, passing football, and employed the staff to execute that plan.

Roberto Martinez is often credited with that work, but - not taking anything away from his ability as a manager - the Spaniard was simply the right boss at the right time. Previous coaches - such as Kenny Jackett - laid the groundwork, and subsequent coaches - like Paulo Sousa and of course Brendan Rodgers - maintained the overall philosophy of the club.

Laudrup fit that extended brief. He also went where no other Swansea coach had gone before, by winning a major trophy.

Yet, a year after that triumph and the subsequent Madrid links, Laudrup finds himself alongside Martin Jol, Malky McKay, Andre Villas-Boas, Ian Holloway and Paolo bloody Di Canio on the season's managerial scrapheap.

There were no signs that Laudrup had lost the dressing room, although there will be belated rumours to that effect.

The team, while underachieving relative to their 2012-13 exploits, were not exactly tanking, although a congested bottom half of the league means that, lying 12th, they are only two points clear of the relegation zone. Indeed, it was pointed out that this year's win ratio was only 5 per cent lower than it was under Brendan Rodgers before he was poached by Liverpool. A victim of his own success, perhaps.

It is always difficult to juggle an overachieving side with European commitments - Roy Hodgson's Fulham's run to the Europa League final was coupled with an indifferent season domestically, and many a surprise continental qualifier has been drawn into 'second-season syndrome'.

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Jenkins has always viewed Swansea as an ongoing, long-term project though, and that perhaps is where Laudrup did not fit.

While he insisted he would not leave the club mid-season, it is telling that Laudrup did not commit to a contract extension. Indeed, he was widely expected to depart in the summer, believing his abilities would be a good match for one of Europe's more ambitious clubs.

Yet, by curtailing his own ambition when more premium jobs became available, it appears Laudrup effectively signed his own death warrant at the Liberty Stadium.

It is understandable that Jenkins would seek to establish a long-term successor to Laudrup. But Garry Monk? A man still registered as a player, with no real coaching experience, let alone time in a top job?

Is Garry Monk really the solution, both to lead Swansea to Premier League safety and a Europa League run in the short-term, and to develop the 'Swansealona' philosophy in the long-term?

Changing a manager mid-season with no clear reasoning is a dangerous folly. To do so immediately after the transfer window shuts seems reckless - at least bring in a new man while business can be done.

One thing in Jenkins' favour is Laudrup's record. After cutting his managerial teeth at Brondby, his Getafe and Mallorca teams played good football. Spartak Moscow less so.

But after leaving Brondby, he has never lasted more than two seasons. Indeed, this spell in Wales is his longest managerial run in one of Europe's bigger leagues: in Russia he was sacked after seven months.

My Spanish colleague Ivan Costello sees Laudrup as "unlucky":

"Michael Laudrup needs to return in Spain, with a club like Valencia, Real Betis or Sevilla, and recover his passion with the Spanish way of life. It is only due to bad luck that he was sounded out to coach Real Madrid but was fired from Swansea City months after."

Our Russian office was less glowing of Laudrup (Igor Zelenitsyn: "The Spartak of Laudrup was the most boring team in Russia and his dismissal was 100% correct"), but it does seem that - whatever the reason - he does suffer from 'second season syndrome', like a footballing equivalent to American terror-drama Homeland.

Perhaps Jenkins, aware that Laudrup has fly-by-night tendencies and was actively seeking a bigger club this summer, simply wanted to assert his dominance? Perhaps Laudrup's demeanour was rubbing off on his players?

We will never truly know. But to offload a coach who brought the club unprecedented success, without arranging for a clear, strong replacement (sorry Garry), strikes me as even shorter-term than Laudrup's wandering eye.

Reda Maher (@Reda_Eurosport)

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