Michael Laudrup - Genius at Work
Although the term "genius" is vastly overused in the game, it can`t be ignored when talking about a player and a person such as the Great Dane himself. To say he had quick feet and an incredible range of touch and passing would be like saying a cheetah has decent pace - an under-statement.
People have combined hours of footage to display his incredible ability online and you can watch some of it later in this article. Laudrup wasn`t a defensive midfielder, an attacking midfielder, holding midfielder, or even a box-to-box midfielder. He was just the All-round midfielder. He could do it all - whether it was tackling, dribbling past players as if they were never there, shooting from distance or threading a defence-splitting ball through an eye of a needle to create a goal, Laudrup could do it.
A career like that then would be incredibly difficult to replicate as a manager in terms of honours won. It`s not too often that footballers can replicate their honour-rich careers when they turn their attentions to managerial roles. Many of the top managers today didn`t have comparable playing careers when it comes to trophies, while some of the game`s top players never made it as managers.
Michael Laudrup certainly hasn`t come even close to doing so either, and maybe he never will. Not because he lacks the ability or motivation, but because he himself has admitted that he`s not looking for a quick route to the top, because he`s won it all before as a player.
Alternatively, he`d prefer to get the satisfaction of developing players - watching them improve under his guidance, and the tough challenge of gaining success at a small club like Swansea City. He`s won almost all there is to win as a player, but he`s a long way off getting anything close as a manager.
Regardless of that though, he`s still proving to be as much of a genius as a manager as he was when he was a player back in the 90′s. The Dane might not have arrived in South Wales with the most encouraging managerial record for Swansea fans to get excited about, but it just proves that you shouldn`t judge a new manager before he`s even taken charge of his first game.
Super signings with limited funds
So far, he`s done what his recent predecessors have - added something extra to the squad than the man before. Brendan Rodgers developed Roberto Martinez`s team further in 2011 to deliver promotion to the Premier League. They then enjoyed an excellent debut campaign in the top flight, but towards the end of the season they became somewhat predictable and found it difficult to create chances and score goals. They needed something extra up front, whilst remaining solid at the back, and you don`t have to look any further than the bargain buy of the century Michu to prove that Laudrup has delivered this.
How on earth he managed to sign last season`s top midfield goalscorer in La Liga for £2.2m I just don`t know. It`s not just the low transfer fee that`s impressive and quite astonishing, but the fact that he beat a host of clubs to securing his services. For some reason, Spurs didn`t sign him when he was available on a free before his excellent goalscoring year in 2011/12, while other sides didn`t take a gamble on the Spaniard last Summer after netting an impressive 16 goals from midfield. Hardly a gamble or a risk, to sign Michu for a couple of million - which is peanuts in today`s market - given his goalscoring form.
One of very few drawbacks to taking the vacant manager`s job at Swansea City is the limit of transfer and wage funds. A number of other managers would take their interest elsewhere, but it didn`t put Michael Laudrup off though. In fact, he reveled in the act of bargain-buying - showing off his eye for the right players at fees no more than £5.5m, using his reputation and character to attract the likes of Chico, Michu, de Guzman and Hernandez - all with experience of playing in Europe`s top tiers.
Laudrup`s signing policy
Laudrup`s signing policy is an interesting and admirable one to say the least. It has been the key factor to signing the right players for fees within the club`s small budget.
The typical profile of a Laudrup signing to play in the first team is a common and consistent one. They`re all around 25 or 26 years old - around their peak of their careers. They`ve also all had experience in Europe`s top Leagues. Chairman Huw Jenkins was keen to see the squad contain more players with experience of top flight football, rather than their previous philosophy of giving inexperienced players their big chance. Laudrup also likes to look at clubs who are struggling financially, which enables him to quickly sign players at very low cost. Many of the clubs the Swans have brought from since his arrival have been in financial difficulties - the likes of Rayo Vallecano, Genoa and Valencia. You can also add Celtic to that list with Ki Sung-yueng.
Replacing key players
Whilst the main focus of his super-signings has been on Michu - and rightly so of course as he was needed to replace Gylfi Sigurdsson`s goals after joining Spurs. Another important move was replacing Caulker - another Spurs player who formed an excellent and solid defensive partnership with Ashley Williams. The loanee left a big hole at the back, which had to be filled, and preferably not by Garry Monk who isn`t getting any younger and is lacking pace. However, the club skipper has always performed well when called upon and still remains a good backup option from the substitutes bench.
Other holes that had to be filled from last season were in midfield. Scott Sinclair left for a much-improved wage at Manchester City whilst compromising his frequency of games, while Joe Allen joined Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool. Their departures delivered just over £20m into the club`s account, with around half of it spent on their replacements - Pablo Hernandez and Ki Sung-yueng. You could say that it was actually only a quarter of it was spent to replace them, as Jonathan de Guzman, who has played a bigger part this year than the Korean, arrived on loan.
Settling new signings into the team
The vital holes were filled in with equally, if not better replacements. Surely the latter as the stats themselves prove this. But signing players is the easy bit, compared to slotting them into the side with effect. If there were any doubts in Laudrup`s ability to do this in a relatively short time, then they were quickly ruled out on the opening day of the season - which went like a dream for Laudrup and his new signings. The Swans achieved their biggest win in the Premier League, a 5-0 thrashing against QPR, who now look concealed for relegation. Michu grabbed a brace, a long-range, low effort spilled by Robert Green, before a sublime curling shot from the edge of the area. Wayne Routledge also enjoyed a rare start where he provided two assists, providing an excellent replacement for Scott Sinclair, which asks the question - why wasn`t he used more often last year?
Journalists and pundits across the country almost exclusively tipped Laudrup to be an embarrassing failure at the Liberty Stadium, believing Rodgers` departure together with Sinclair, Allen and Sigurdsson`s would prove just too difficult to overcome. The opening day 5-0 win at QPR didn`t prove them wrong, as it was only one game, but it went a long way to suggest that we could yet again build and improve despite suffering yet another managerial setback.
After going unbeaten in the first three games, which included two wins, Laudrup refused to get carried away and correctly predicted a blip would soon arrive as his new players still adjusted to a different league. The blip didn`t last long though, and again Michu and co would soon cause havoc for the likes of Newcastle, Arsenal and West Brom, whilst holding Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool to draws.
Over the course of last season, much was said about Swansea`s high possession and exceptionally high passing accuracy - so much so that it was compared with some of the best teams in Europe - La Liga giants Barcelona no less. This year however, Laudrup has shown that Rodgers` obssession with the above deflected away the need for a more attacking threat and more goals. Significantly, our passing and possession stats have dropped, but it`s irrelevant when it`s delivered a more direct, attacking and effective style of play.
Squad rotation expert
It seems any member of the squad can come in, do a good job and know exactly what role to play and how to play it.
Another key aspect of Laudrup and his qualities as a manager is his ability to keep all of his playing staff happy and to improve morale via a number of methods. Arguably the most impressive one is rotating his squad, he really is an expert at that. Along with most other managers, he uses the cup competitions to give first team opportunities to the fringe players to keep them motivated, but Laudrup appears to be mainly unrivaled with his knack of getting results when fielding a severely weakened team. His squad is hardly blessed with excellent strength in depth either, but it proves how crucial team spirit is to a team, and having every single player suited to a particular style of play. It seems any member of the squad can come in, do a good job and know exactly what role to play and how to play it. The likes of Dwight Tiendalli, Gerhard Tremmel, Garry Monk and Ki Sung-yueng are some of the players to contribute to Swansea`s route to the Capital One Cup Final - the club`s first ever, and he could also deliver European football next year for the first time since the early 90′s.
It`s not only in the cup competitions that Laudrup has made a number of changes to his team. To cope with the busy festive period, which extended into January due to their cup games, the Swans boss continually made 5, 6 or even 7 changes in each game to keep his squad as fresh as possible. Despite losing Hernandez and Michu during that time and a lack of consistency of starting line-ups, the side have lost just 2 League games since the beginning of December, winning 3 and drawing 5.[up until end of Janaury]
Laudrup`s wholesale changes to the team recently haven`t affected results, but this doesn`t seem to have received the praise in the media that it definitely deserves.
What has though is his personality and honest assessment of games and his side`s performances. He`s not one to ever dwell on the match officials or whether they have cost his team a result, but preferring to concentrate on the game itself.
Michael Laudrup`s managerial style is certainly one to admire, given his qualities outlined above and the personality to match.
The Swans have pulled it off yet again, appointing yet another manager to build on the work of his predesseccor. You do wonder how they could find an adequate replacement for when Laudrup finally does depart, and that`s likely to be within two years as he has admitted that he is surprised by some of the loyalty shown by Premier League managers.
A first ever Cup final, possible European football next season and a mid-table (so far) position in the Premier league after just 7 months in charge at the Liberty Stadium. That says it all.
Vital Swansea would like to thank Come On You Swans.com for the article.