Garry Monk is one of just three Premier League managers to do the double over both Manchester United and Arsenal. He has only had one full season in charge of Swansea. That, if not the new heights he helped the club scale under his guidance, best illustrates how quickly the Englishman has adapted to management.
Many wrote Monk’s Swansea off before the start of last season, wrongly assuming that a 36-year-old who had so recently been one of the lads would fail to make the transition to cut-throat decision maker.
Instead of relegation, the Welsh outfit finished eighth in the top flight and accrued the most points of their four-year Premier League stay.
A telling trait of Monk’s time in the dugout was his individuality. It would have been easy, having worked with Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez – two of the clubs more successful managers – to just revert to their type.
Although The Swansea Way, of possession-keeping, attacking football, is still evident, Monk has made his Swans a more resilient bunch. They may have scored less goals than previous campaigns but they conceded less, lost less and crucially, won more. No longer is the club a blind servant of the passing game that they once were, sometimes to their cost.
However, during a summer in which the workaholic manager will pour over ways to improve a squad that Ladbrokes make 12/1 pokes to finish in this season’s top six, improving their efficiency in the final third may be a chief priority.
If it isn’t, it should be. Swansea, for all their passing, possession and attacking, finished last term with the second worst percent of possession in the final third. Their mark of 36.5 percent was only “bettered” by Sunderland, while the side had the fewest touches in that area of the pitch, over 400 less than their closest rival.
Although at the outset this seems a strange statistic, it actually makes sense. Swansea’s passing midfielders – Leon Britton, Ki Sung-yueng, Jonjo Shelvey and the on-loan Tom Carroll – all operate from a deep position.
The signing of Gylfi Sigurdsson, a superb acquisition with seven goals and 10 assists, was a move to make the Swans more of a threat at the sharp end, but beyond him there are little, if any, options to play off the striker and create. For a club that forge the majority of their chances in the centre of the pitch, that is a serious shortcoming.
Two Premier League players could help add depth in that department, both of whom are reportedly on the market this summer.
Stephane Sessegnon was a marginalised figure at West Brom once Tony Pulis arrived at the Hawthorns. Rumours are circulating that the Beninese man is on his way out in the Midlands and the Swans would do well to announce their interest.
A livewire player capable of creating with his mazy dribbling or incisive passing, Sessegnon made 263 successful passes in the final third during his 28 appearances last season, or put another way, completed 83.2 percent of his pass attempts in that area of the pitch.
Both of those marks would have put him in the top end of the Swansea squad and his ability to play on either wing, as well as through the middle, makes him a valuable commodity.
Another man unsure of the future at his current club is West Ham’s Stewart Downing, a player who helped define the creation of Sam Allardyce’s West Ham Way in the early part of last term, before seeing his performances tail off in disappointment.
Despite an ineffective second half of the season, the former England winger managed 462 successful passes in the final third of the pitch, a full 180 more than Sigurdsson.
In addition, Downing was one of just 10 midfielders in the league to register over 1000 touches in that area of the field and laid on eight assists, just two fewer than Swansea’s Icelandic creative hub.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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