2013-2014 Season Summary
Sometimes in the Premier League, success can be a dangerous thing, particularly if you are a club without deep pockets. That was the story with Swansea City last season, as they reaped the reward of a superb 2012-2013 season with a ticket to European competition for the first time in over 20 years. Those added matches to their schedule stretched their squad thin though, and with their superstar from 2012-2013, Michu, missing a huge chunk of last season, the Swans found themselves at times in the middle of the campaign lingering just above the relegation zone. They managed to advance from the Group Stage in the Europa League but bowed out in the Round of 32 to Napoli, so they were left with a damaged side that now needed to focus on getting their mojo back in the PL. This led to a managerial change. Despite a new boss however, the Swans improved only just and it had very little to do with Michu, who was ineffective after returning from injury. The star of last season was the signing of Wilfried Bony, who developed into a top class striker with 16 league goals (25 in total) and carried the club to some results that helped steer them closer back to a mid-table finish. Swansea are once again the only Welsh side in the top flight, after a one year cameo by Cardiff City went south.
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So will the Swans continue to fly South or is a Renaissance in Wales on tap? Let's see -
The managerial change referred to above occurred back in February when Michael Laudrup was dismissed and Swansea promoted from within as veteran center back Garry Monk, who was still an active player upon his hiring, was given the position, though there was little he could do from a personnel standpoint, as the January window had closed and he could only act more as a caretaker. Now, with a bit of tactical seasoning under his belt, Monk has made some significant changes to his roster this summer, all of which will be discussed below. The jury is still out on how effective Monk can/will be as a manager, as there is just too little a sample (3 months as manager of anything) to go off of.
The Michel Vorm era is over, as he heads off to Tottenham to serve as a backup to Hugo Lloris. Vorm's career at the Liberty stalled out after such a fantastic first season when the club was promoted back in 2011-2012. Since then, his stock has hit a steady decline, though to be fair, he has shown enough in the Premier League to not count him completely out. Gerhard Tremmel is left behind, but the veteran may continue on as just a backup, because Lukasz Fabianski has moved over from Arsenal. When asked about the move, Fabianski said he agreed to it because he wants to be a #1. With Vorm out of the picture, that is exactly what appears to be in the cards. He has a lovely price tag in the Yahoo game, though you may want to avoid Week 1 as they open at Old Trafford. It sets up nicely after that though. Swansea then have two straight at home to Burnley and West Brom, so if things go predictably, Fabianski's price will dip even further after Week 1 and he may be a bargain in Weeks 2 and 3.
Being a defender himself, one would think Garry Monk would focus much of his attention to the Swans defense, and to make upgrades wherever possible. Instead, he apparently thinks highly of his former teammates enough to stick with the same unit minus Ben Davies, who, like Vorm, is off to White Hart Lane. This leaves for now Neil Taylor as the Swans only true left back in the first team, and he has experience as a regular, occupying the role before Davies' emergence. Unless there is another signing by Monk, Taylor looks set to join regulars Ashley Williams, Angel Rangel and Chico in the back. Swansea used to have the reputation as a tough place for opponents to play but last season put a dent into that reputation. Still, given a tasty fixture, there is reason to invest. Taylor is priced at a juicy 3.33m, hilariously 2m cheaper than....Garry Monk, who can be had in your squad TODAY for the low, low price of 5.45m. On the fringes are Dwight Tiendalli at fullback and Jordi Amat at center back, both who filled in here and there last season. Kyle Bartley, a youngster loaned out last season, presents a possible candidate in defense down the road.
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With the Swans locked into a 4-3-3 formation, they rely heavily on their central attacking midfielder for production, with the two midfielders laying behind focusing more on possession and defending. This was the Michu role for a couple of years. But you, me, and Marty McFly are set to go back in time. Michu has been loaned off to Napoli, hopefully with the opportunity to regain his sizzling form, and who has come to replace him? None other than Gylfi Siggurdson, the Icelandic hero that came out of nowhere in Swansea's promotion season a few years back and became fantasy gold. The hope here is that Gylfi can excel in the same environment once again,with the freedom he had before with Michu out of the way. Because he was on the fringe at Tottenham, his price tag at 7m is an attractive one. Let us not forget there is still Jonjo Shelvey as well, who had flashes of brilliance last season and will hope to play a regular role. Jonathan De Guzman's status is still up in the air as to whether he will be loaned out again by Villareal, but if he is not, then Shelvey should stand to benefit. Ki Sung-Yueng is back in the frame after a loan spell with Sunderland and adds another weapon to Garry Monk's arsenal. Leon Britton and Jose Canas will see pitch time but are not fantasy relevant.
Yahoo has, much to a fantasy manager's liking, classified all of Swansea's wingers as midfielders, so a separate paragraph is deserved for them. The big change here is the signing of Jefferson Montero, the Ecuadorian winger fresh off his contribution for his country in the World Cup. Montero looks to be a replacement for the departing Pablo Hernandez and could wind up being an absolute steal for Monk in the summer signing period. An introductory price of 6m should raise a few eyebrows - that is cheaper than all the mids mentioned above, and he is playing farther forward. He is definitely one to monitor. Opposite him we should expect Nathan Dyer to retain his spot. Capable of a nice haul here and there, Dyer is just not consistent enough to be an attractive fantasy option unless his price takes such a huge dip one is willing to take a chance on him in a pinch. Wayne Routledge should continue to serve as depth, as he can play either side of the wing, and has plenty of experience deputizing for injured teammates.
The biggest question for Swansea City in their offseason has yet to be answered, and we are less than three weeks away from opening day. What lies ahead for Wilfried Bony? It is no secret, other clubs with deep pockets want his services and they are willing to pony up some serious cash after Bony impressed so well last season. He started ahead of Didier Drogba for Ivory Coast in the World Cup, validating his emergence as a top class striker. We never got to see Bony and Michu play together much with the latter in any kind of form, so one is left wondering how lethal Swansea's attack could be if their CAM and striker are on the same page. That will be the question with Sigurdsson coming in, should Bony stick around.
There is reason to expect he will not stick around though. Swansea stand to make a very nice profit after a one year investment in Bony and it appears they have already spent the cash on his inevitable replacement - Bafetimbi Gomis, the young French striker who arrives from Lyon. Gomis comes with a pedigree that suggests he is not serving as depth for Garry Monk, he is to be the new talisman if the strong possibility of Bony's departure rings expectedly true. Gomis debuts in the Yahoo game at 7m, but until Bony leaves and with only three coveted forward roles to fill, it may take some time for Gomis to enter one's thinking.
With no European competition to worry about this season, Swansea can focus once again on racking up points in the Premier League, and even if Bony departs, could challenge again for a spot 6th or 7th in the table should they be lucky in the injury department and the new signings fulfill at least a significant percentage of production that is expected of them. Because of their moves this summer, the Swans have loads of bargain players and mid priced prospects to choose from. Personally, I think the best of the bargains are Neil Taylor in defense and Sigurdsson in attack, though no one is on the radar until Week 2. I want to see how badly, if at all, the Swans get Louis van Mauled at Old Trafford in Week 1 first.