How Graham Potter can revitalise Swansea City
So, Swansea City has its man. Graham Potter, formerly of Östersunds FK, is charged with the task of rebuilding a club that has sagged under the weight of short-sighted player recruitment, short-term managerial appointments and the desperate need to cling to Premier League status. In the process, the Swans have lost their identity.
The Welsh club used to adorn back-pages for doing football the right way. A club owned by the supporters – in part – playing a brand of the game that appealed and excited.
The “Swans Way” became almost synonymous with a side that thrived under Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez. Yet when Huw Jenkins and co. sold the club to a consortium of Americans, including actress Mindy Kaling, what had been spun as a promise to take Swansea City to the next level soon turned into an identity-stripping nightmare.
Having flirted with relegation for a few years, Swansea’s exit from the top-flight was inevitable.
But if one good thing has come of it, it is that the board recognise the need to rediscover who the club is. In appointing Potter, Swansea is attempting to return to their core values.
Potter’s magic at Ostersunds
When the Swedes faced Arsenal in the Europa League last season, Potter went from unknown to unmissable. A swathe of stories documented his incredible stewardship since 2011, but succinctly put, the 43-year-old led a team from the regional tiers in Sweden to their equivalent of the Premier League and clinched a Swedish Cup along the way.
Their Europa League run also included knocking out Galatasaray in the qualifying rounds and drawing 2-2 with Atletico Bilbao.
What characterised Ostersunds’ performances was an expansive, possession-based style approach: Slick passing and quick movement. The Swedish team were also tactically versatile, switching formations mid-game to match their opponents.
Swansea fans can expect a return to the easy-on-the-eye style that had defined them up until three seasons ago. Not only this, but Potter’s tactical intelligence will make a refreshing change to the often limited, one-dimensional nature of the team under Carlos Carlvalhal, Bob Bradley, Paul Clement and Francesco Guidolin.
Needs backing, support and time
In each of the last three Decembers, Swansea has sacked their managers. If the club is serious about returning to what made them so unique, he must not be the fourth.
The Championship is a tough, gruelling league and it will be a surprise to see the Swans make a swift return to the top-flight. Though Wolves and Fulham showed you can escape the rigours of the second division but playing attractive football, Swansea’s hierarchy shouldn’t expect to see instant results.
After all, managerially speaking, Potter has no experience of the English game. The Englishman played for Birmingham City and Stoke City, including a raft of lower league sides, and does at least have an understanding of playing in the English pyramid.
But as Frank Lampard may soon find out, playing and managing doesn’t always translate.
Potter’s appointment signals the start of a project. If Swansea are to truly regain their identity, the board must stay patient.
Swansea’s poor player recruitment has been a contributing factor to their decline. Potter needs to spend in the summer, but he must identify the right players, rather than being lured in by big names – in the same fashion that Paul Clement was attracted by Renato Sanches’ reputation, rather than seeking out a proven Premier League midfielder.
The new Swans’ boss will have to coax out the best from his current crop of strikers, should they not move away from the Liberty Stadium: Andrew and Jordan Ayew have the potential to set the Championship alight, but need the right guidance. Wilfried Bony’s future looks murky, despite the club re-signing him just last season.
Lukasz Fabianski and Alfie Mawson look set to depart so the priority will be to bring in a defender and goalkeeper who can fit in straight away. Even if Potter’s preferred style is predicated on a passing game that pleases, he will need to bring in a midfielder capable of anchoring an attacking intent with defensive diligence.
Like most new signings – be it managerial or player – Potter’s arrival has been treated with optimism. It suggests a genuine intent to find Swansea’s lost soul and should be lauded as a refreshingly ambitious and brave decision. But Potter needs backing, time and money if his Swans are to spread their wings once again.