Swansea City appointed Carlos Carvalhal as their new manager earlier this week in a move that surprised many, as it happened just days after he was sacked by Championship club Sheffield Wednesday. Leon Britton had been in temporary charge of the Swans, but he was never likely to secure the job on a full-time basis. The Welsh club are currently rooted to the bottom of the Premier League and their new manager will have a huge task to keep them in the top-flight.
Carvalhal joins on an initial contract to the end of the season with an option of an extension. This raises questions as to Swansea’s motivations of appointing the Portuguese manager. He doesn’t have any Premier League experience, which makes him an odd choice if the club’s aims are to remain in the division. If they were giving the job to him with the aim of staying up, but were prepared to keep him regardless of their fate this season, it would make sense. He would be the perfect man to lead the club after relegation due to his recent success in the Championship.
It could be that Swansea don’t want them to tie themselves up with a manager longer than six months due to their uncertain future. That would make sense, but it sends the wrong message to the dressing room as they are already hedging their bets with their new manager. Carvalhal’s stock has been hurt by his failure this season, as he left Sheffield Wednesday in 15th position after back-to-back play-off campaigns. That could be part of the reason for the contract, but the Portuguese manager has a wealth of experience and is a good appointment.
The new Swansea City manager has had a long and varied journey to the Premier League. He has managed 16 clubs before taking over at the Liberty Stadium and that wealth of experience will stand him in good stead to attempt his biggest challenge yet. Notable former clubs include Braga, Sporting Lisbon, Besiktas and Istanbul BB. Although he hasn’t managed in the Premier League, he has managed at big clubs and for that reason, it isn’t as big of a risk as many think it is.
During the start of his managerial career, he was very much a journeyman and he didn’t stay in jobs very long. He had 15 jobs in 14 years before taking over at Sheffield Wednesday and although he didn’t win many major trophies, there were some notable achievements. Carvalhal took third-tier Leixoes to the UEFA Cup after finishing runner-up in the Taca de Portugal. He later won the Taca da Liga with Vitoria Setubal and it was these accomplishments that saw him move up the coaching ladder.
Interestingly, he took nearly three years out of the game after leaving Istanbul BB and it looked like he could fade away from top-tier management. Then, Sheffield Wednesday came calling and gave him a great opportunity to enhance his reputation in England. Foreign managers aim to manage in the Premier League and in the current game, a stint in the Championship is useful in achieving that. Carvalhal is a great example of that and BBC Sport report quotes that suggest he believes he belongs at the highest level:
“I believe that me and my staff, our place is in the Premier League. It may be my first time in the Premier League, but I was working at Sporting, with Besiktas and I played with Braga in the Europa League.
“I am a coach that if you saw my profile I will change the club, you will see that.”
The Portuguese manager clearly believes that he has done his apprenticeship in this country and deserves a Premier League job. These comments display self-belief and that will go a long way in winning the dressing room over. During his time at Sheffield Wednesday, he developed a good team spirit and a style that suited the big games. Last season, his side did the double over Newcastle United, the team that would go on to win the division.
It was in the matches against the bottom-half teams that Wednesday struggled. In the Premier League, there are no ‘easy’ matches and that could suit Carvalhal. He will rarely be trying to break down a team determined to sit deep and it could be that a step up to manage a relegation-threatened team will suit him.
That said, his Wednesday team often played a physical style and it will be difficult to replicate with his new club. Carvalhal would set up in a 4-4-2 and look to focus the majority of attacks down the flanks. Fernando Forestieri was often the deeper of the front two and the player capable of producing a moment of magic to turn a game on his head. The rest of the team were functional and hard-working, with the flair being produced by the Argentine and the two wingers. In the Championship, it worked well. However, he won’t be able to do the same with Swansea City.
The Swans have a squad that doesn’t suit any one style of football. They have moved away from the possession-based style that saw them become so popular when they first arrived in the Premier League, but they haven’t got the players to thrive in the system Carvalhal used at Sheffield Wednesday. Their midfielders are too lightweight and their wingers don’t create enough for the strikers. Furthermore, they lack a creative spark like Forestieri to link the midfield and attack.
This is going to be an interesting period for Swansea City and Carvalhal. It is a risk to appoint a manager that has just been sacked by a Championship club, but the Portuguese manager has shown enough during his career to suggest he could do well in South Wales. He will need to find a new way of playing and it will be fascinating to see how he sets his team up. Many expect the Swans to be relegated and that means that the new manager has nothing to lose. This is a great opportunity for him and it is now up to him to prove he can cut it at the highest level.