We’ve all heard the story. 10 years ago Swansea were nearly dropping out of the football league, and Valencia were at the very top of European football, having recently won La Liga and gotten to consecutive Champions League finals under Rafa Benitez. I can’t be bothered to unload all the tired underdog clichés that have been associated with Swansea, so I won’t. What I will say is that if Swansea keep it up, they can easily go the whole way in this competition. Where’s why:
Swansea deserved their win against Valencia
One thing that’s certain after last night’s display at the Mestalla is that Swansea weren’t lucky. This wasn’t even the win of a plucky underdog relishing their day out, this was a performance of pure class, by players who spent most of the night in autopilot. Michu and De Guzman’s goals were both brilliant in their own way; the first as a textbook exhibition of teamwork and clinical finishing, and the second a moment of stunning individual skill. Swansea also have plenty of height and pace in their team, and a physicality that accompanies their undoubted flair. This was key against Valencia, as Swansea’s ability to win 50-50s against relatively slight midfielders allowed them to keep possession and control the game on the front foot.
They Have plenty of squad depth
In addition to the relatively established names; Bony, Michu, Britten, De Guzman, Williams, Pablo and co. Swansea have plenty of young and underrated players in reserve. Angel Rangel has been in the team for years, but has shown on several occasions that he fully deserves his place in the first team of a Premier League side. New signing Pozuelo also looks an absolute steal at a rumoured 425k. The 21 year-old Spaniard has was lively yesterday, with plenty of pace, passing and an exceptional first touch. From the Welsh club’s academy, there’s also young full-back Ben Davies, who looks a ready made player.
They have a continental style of football
The ‘Swansea way’ as it’s increasingly being dubbed, is tailor made for European football. Not only is a neat passing style arguably more effective in the slower pace of Europa League compared with the English game, it’s also less fatiguing for the players. This should make balancing commitments easier for Michael Laudrup’s side, who might yet be weakened by being forced to divide themselves between so many competitions simultaneously.
They have a manager who’s a natural winner
He might not have much pedigree winning things as a manager (last year’s League Cup aside), but his record as a player speaks for itself. As part of the original Barcelona wonderteam of the early 90s, he won the club’s first European Cup, in addition to countless other honours for top European clubs including Juventus and Real Madrid. In short Laudrup knows how to win things, and he’ll have imbued this mentality into his players.
They’ve done it before (sort of)
They’ve got form in cup competitions - No one expected them to win the League Cup last year, but in the end they made it look easy. On top of that, they dismissed strong teams in Liverpool and Chelsea on their way to the final. Barring a freak set of results for someone like Barca or Dortmund, the competition Swansea face in the Europa league will not include anyone tougher than these two teams, so why couldn’t they do it?