Sunday, 22 February 2015

Garry Monk: Doing What Needs To Be Done

Nathan Lewis on why pragmatism may be just as important as pretty football

There have been numerous points throughout this season where the frustrations of Swansea fans have boiled over; most notably throughout the barren spell that was January. In recent weeks, there has been a murmuring that ‘The Swansea Way’ of possession-based, completely in control football is beginning to be eroded under Garry Monk.

It is a small minority of fans that are making noise about losing faith in the manager undoubtedly, but it seems pessimism has taken hold of the collective Swansea consciousness recently. The recent defeat to West Brom was particularly alarming, with intensity and drive seemingly completely lacking. If you were to ignore the league table, you would think that we are bracing ourselves for a relegation fight similar to last season.

Look at the table however, and you see that Swansea City currently sit 9th in the Premier League. Ten wins, seven draws and nine losses is not a horrendous record and we are three points away from the infamous 40-point total that traditionally secures survival. The 2-1 win at home to Man Utd secured our first ever double over the Red Devils, while there seems to be considerably more fight and intensity from the Swans when compared to the general atmosphere under Michael Laudrup.

Have we consistently played fluent, possession-based, attractive football this season? No. Have we dropped out of the top half so far this season? No. The style and panache which we have become accustomed to in South West Wales is important, no doubt, but if the results are favourable, is it less of a concern? Under Laudrup, we had no end of possession, total control in terms of the ball in a large majority of games, yet it all fell a bit flat and we ended up in a relegation battle that had previously seemed unthinkable.

The difference between the respective reigns of Garry Monk and Michael Laudrup in my view, is a willingness to adapt, and play pragmatic football. Travelling away to Southampton, with what seemed to be a paper-thin midfield, Monk chose to adopt a defensive, safety-first approach before grabbing a late goal to secure all three points.

A similar story emerged at home to Man Utd. We had 36% possession, but a solid defensive performance resulted in the Manchester side having just three shots on target. Once again, a late winner from Shelvey (or Gomis…) secured all three points in a match which wouldn't have been previously been earmarked as an opportunity for a win.

Would I love to see the Swans playing attractive, slick, fluent football week-in, week-out? Absolutely. But if solid, safety-first football keeps us in the top half of the Premier League, I’m happy. If the Swans can keep doing what they need to do to win, perhaps we’ll have more and more reasons to be optimistic.

You can follow Nathan on Twitter @NathDavidLewis