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Garry Monk’s Excellent Work Flying Under The Radar

The Boot Room

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Since Kenny Jackett left Swansea in February 2007, the Welsh side have made intriguing and inspired appointments for their managers. Current Everton boss Roberto Martinez got his start at the Liberty Stadium and led the club to the Championship before heading off to Wigan and Merseyside. Paulo Sousa proved nothing more than a season long stop gap but still almost guided Swansea to the play-offs. Brendan Rodgers led the Swans to the promised land when he took over and kept them there with some wonderful football. Michael Laudrup was a legendary player and led Swansea to the League Cup and into Europe where they won at the Mestalla 3-0. So, when Laudrup was sacked with the club two points above the relegation places in February 2014 it was arguably Huw Jenkins’ biggest decision in his time as chairman. Would he go for a short-term fix to avoid the drop before going for his main target in the summer? Would he find someone with a similar footballing philosophy to his previous managers?

Jenkins stuck to form and went outside the box when he chose former club captain and still player Garry Monk. A rock at the heart of Swansea’s defence for nearly a decade, Monk had risen through the leagues with Swansea but was starting to feature less and less in the Premier League. He had been expected to join the backroom staff in a reshuffle that was supposed to aid Laudrup but instead he was thrust into the hot-seat and expected to thrive.

And thrive he has. While Monk may not have instilled the same attacking flair of past bosses or lead the club to trophies or Europe, he has brought about a real sense of stability to Swansea which is arguably something that might have been lacking in the managerial department. The average shelf life of Swansea manager in the last few seasons has been eighteen months to two years and as Monk approaches that marker, there looks to be no sign of a departure nor another club swooping in for the Swans boss which is hardly surprising as Monk’s work in South Wales has been largely ignored.

Monk took over a squad that was struggling badly for form and belief with Laudrup’s final few weeks in charge looking increasingly desperate and ragged and with no chance of changing it at all, Monk led Swansea from two points above relegation to nine and twelfth place last season, one place behind manager of the season Tony Pulis’ Crystal Palace. He was unfortunate to see his side knocked out of Europe last season by a Napoli side that was stronger on paper and led by a Champions League winning boss in Rafael Benitez. This season alone, Monk has beaten Manchester United and Louis van Gaal twice and saw Swansea equal their Premier League points record this past weekend at Everton (a game Swansea viewed as two points thrown away) with the club in eighth place and still having six games to play.

It’s not just on the pitch where Monk has proved himself. Transfer wise, he has pulled off some superb dealings. Gylfi Sigurdsson floundered at Spurs and Monk was quick to snap up his former teammate which has been a masterstroke.  Ecuadorian Jefferson Montero has frustrated more than entertained but has the ability to be a difference maker in big games (see the win at Old Trafford) while Argentine Federico Fernandez has been a very able replacement for Chico Flores. Bafetimbi Gomis is no Wilfried Bony but Monk was able to convince him to stay when he was struggling and has been rewarded with some decent performances from the Frenchman while Jack Cork and Kyle Naughton look to be very solid buys to add depth to the squad. Monk has also brought back Korean Ki Sung-Yeung into the team after he was unwanted by Laudrup and has been rewarded with some excellent performances. And Ki is not the only player who looks revitalised under Monk.

Jonjo Shelvey has long been touted as a future star with big emphasis on future. Now 23, Shelvey finally looks to be making a consistent breakthrough under Monk and is starting to become a decisive influence for the Swans. Lukasz Fabianski was rather justifiably nicknamed “Flappyhandski” by many during his time as back-up at Arsenal but the Pole has been a very good replacement for the departed Michel Vorm and has 11 clean sheets this season (only Simon Mignolet and Fraser Forster have more). Wilfried Bony’s form under Monk was good enough for Manchester City to spend £28 million on the Ivorian while Neil Taylor has returned at left back after his long injury lay-off and the departure of Ben Davies with some solid performances. Monk has found himself able to get players playing for him and the club in the way he wants them to and that is not something every manager is able to do at such an early stage of their career.

One of the big factors that has helped Monk is his familiarity at Swansea. The majority of the squad are former teammates of the Swans boss which gives him an instant respect in the dressing room which will also permeate through to new signings. He’s also loved by the fans for his tenure with the club which means that he will get what few managers need and what is deemed such a precious commodity – time. Monk has had time and freedom to manage his way and the results are showing. Swansea have quietly crept into eighth place based on a solid defence that has only conceded 40 times all season in the league (only bettered by the top six) despite only scoring 38 times.

And that there is perhaps the biggest criticism of Monk’s time at Swansea. The lack of goals is fine when the defence plays well but what happens if the defence begins to falter? Where do the goals come from? Wilfried Bony scored nine by January and is still Swansea’s top scorer so who is the next man Monk has in mind to get the goals? This is the big test that Monk faces now. How does he get rid of the problems and elevate Swansea into the top six or seven?

If the past 14 months are anything to go by, Garry Monk is more than capable of building on his impressive start at the Liberty Stadium. So why, with young and English being in vogue in the Premier League, are more clubs with managerial issues looking towards Monk? Maybe it’s because he’s still relatively new and in his comfort zone. Or maybe it’s because he’s not the fashionable choice, a solid and hard-working manager that gets the results in a low-key manner. And that’s the way Swansea fans would like it to remain.

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West Ham United

Marlon Santos joining West Ham would be ideal solution to defensive woes

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Photo: Getty Images.

There will be a summer of change at West Ham United this summer and with James Collins leaving the club there will be a spot opening up in defence. Reports from Spain indicate that the man to fill it could be Barcelona youngster Marlon Santos.

The Brazilian joined the Spanish giants permanently last summer after impressing for their B team and earning a first team debut in 2016/17 and spent pre-season with Ernesto Valverde’s first team before being sent out on loan.

Now, reliable Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo say that West Ham are interested in taking the defender on loan next season after he has impressed in France, playing for OGC Nice, making 27 appearances during his loan spell.

(Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

The 22-year-old has also been linked with Leicester but with West Ham believed to be leading the chase, it would be a wise move from Manuel Pellegrini to seal a deal as soon as possible.

Strong in the tackle, Santos would also bring some much needed pace to the West Ham defence. Replacing the likes of Collins and Jose Fonte who departed in January, the arrival of a fleet-footed defender would be a welcome turnaround at the London Stadium.

It may also suggest a change in style, with the former Fluminense youth product known for his ability on the ball, often looking to dribble out from the back to get his team transitioning from defence to attack.

Pellegrini is clearly putting the building blocks in place to build a side in his own image, and bringing in Marlon Santos would be a cheap and sensible addition to fix a major problem area.

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Tottenham Hotspur

Malcom would add another dimension to Tottenham’s attack

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Photo: Getty Images.

After an impressive 2017/18 campaign, Tottenham are already beginning to plan for 2018/19 and are keen to make a statement in their first season in a new look White Hart Lane. One way they may do so is with the addition of Girondins Bordeaux forward Malcom.

Sky Bet currently list Tottenham at 7/2 to sign the Brazilian, just behind favourites Manchester United in the running at 3/1, and such an acquisition would bring an exciting new element to Mauricio Pochettino‘s attacking set-up.

Predominantly playing on the right wing, Malcom may offer more width than many of the options within the Tottenham squad, but much like Heung-Min Son and Erik Lamela, he likes to dribble on the ball and cut inside, offering a direct threat rather than looking to cross into others.

The 21-year-old scored 12 goals in 35 Ligue Un games for Bordeaux this season and whilst not exactly prolific, would help to add goals to the Lilywhites’ midfield and reduce the reliance on Harry Kane.

(Photo credit should read NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP/Getty Images)

He also has some similarities to the likes of Christian Eriksen as a superb set piece taker who likes to shoot from distance, helping to add another dimension as Tottenham look to break down more defensive sides who sit deep in hope of frustrating them.

With huge potential to develop even further, Malcom may not come cheaply but would represent an interesting project for Pochettino to get even more out of him. Whilst he bares many similarities to Erik Lamela when he arrived in north London, if he can avoid injury he could go on to become the player Spurs had hoped to see Lamela become.

His pace and threat would add a much needed option into the Spurs attack, complimenting the playmakers like Eriksen, Dele Alli and Lucas Moura and supporting the goalgetter Harry Kane. Strength in depth is key in Tottenham’s quest for silverware and Malcom would be a step in the right direction to achieving it.

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Newcastle United

Fulham promotion opens up £15m exit for Aleksandar Mitrovic

The Newcastle United star is likely to move away from the club this summer.

Mathew Coull

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Fulham won promotion to the Premier League yesterday with a 1-0 win over Aston Villa in the Championship play-off final. The Cottagers scored in the first-half through Tom Cairney to rightfully take their place back in the top-flight of English football.

It was a tremendous performance and in the summer Fulham will be looking to bring in some new faces to help them stay in the top-flight. One of those faces, will not be necessarily new. Aleksandar Mitrovic has been brilliant for Fulham since joining on loan in January.

The Serbian striker has scored 12 goals since his arrival at Craven Cottage and will no doubt be wanted permanently at the club.

Is this good news for Newcastle United?

There has been plenty of talk regarding the Serbian’s exit from St James’ Park in the winter. Many fans on Tyneside are wondering whether the club should have kept him at Newcastle, considering his goal record in London.

(during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Watford at St. James Park on November 25, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

However, it is clear that Rafa Benitez is not a fan of the player and the Spaniard certainly made things work without him.

The best thing for Newcastle right now is to sell him and ensure they bring in enough money to cover the cost of his original signing.

Fulham represent their best option to do so. Newcastle want about £15 million for the player, according to the London Evening Standard, which is the fee they paid for the Serbian in 2015.

Fulham will no doubt want to bring him to the club this summer, but would not have been able to bring him to the club had they failed to secure promotion to the Premier League.

The Cottagers can now afford the player and Mitrovic’s price-tag is unlikely to be a problem with the bonus they will receive for heading into the top-flight. Newcastle must be pleased that Fulham earned promotion, as it will allow them the best opportunity to move Mitrovic on without a major loss.

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