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English Premier League

Why clubs should take note of Swansea and Garry Monk



Many believed Swansea City’s sacking of Michael Laudrup was odd when the Dane departed on February 4th 2014. Many believed it was odder that he was replaced by Swans’ defender and previous captain Garry Monk. This was a risk. But this risk has certainly paid off.

When Laudrup left the Liberty Stadium, he left having secured Europa League football for the Swans after winning their first major trophy in the club’s history. Swansea’s 5-0 victory over Bradford City in the Capital One Cup Final at Wembley sent the Swans sailing into Europe and gained plaudits for their attractive, passing football.

However, as is regularly the case, Europa League football hindered Swansea and in February of last year, after six defeats from eight games and sitting two points above the relegation zone, Laudrup was sacked. Heads turned and eyebrows were raised when Garry Monk immediately replaced Laudrup. From one day taking part in a training session to the next day leading a training session, the man with more than 200 appearances for the Swans has not just consolidated what his predecessor had achieved, but bettered it.

Monk was thrown straight into the deep end and he had to steady the ship to prepare his side for his first match, a massive match. It wasn’t a match between two massive teams but a massive match for the two teams. A match where three points are irrelevant compared to bragging rights. A match that means more to the fans than to the players. A match that gets the Welsh blood boiling. Bitter rivals Cardiff City were the opponents.

The Englishman led his Swansea side to a triumphant 3-0 win over the Bluebirds. It doesn’t take a lot to pump players up for a local derby, so could Monk pump his players up for the final games of the season to avoid the drop?

Indeed, in his next 13 games, Monk and his side achieved Premier League survival after picking up 15 points. Monk celebrated beating the drop by signing a permanent three year contract with the club as manager prior to their final game of the season, a 3-1 win at Sunderland.

This was now Monk’s side. He had the summer to put his stamp on the team and on the club. What he’s achieved between then and now has been nothing short of spectacular. He has brought Swansea City up another level. He has improved the passing style they have gained such an impressive reputation for and recruited shrewdly. The 36-year-old has been dealt his fair share of cards that have hindered him this season. Wilfried Bony’s £28m departure for Manchester City is the most high profile of these as well as injuries and Monk finding himself in the spotlight after labelling Victor Moses ‘a cheat’ for diving.

Monk has dealt with the challenges superbly and his astute business in the transfer market has gone a long way to contributing to this record breaking season for Swansea City. Monk’s side are just the third team in Premier League history to achieve the double against Arsenal and Manchester United in the same season, have broken their points tally record by nine points and achieved four more wins than they ever have in a Premier League season.

However, maybe the most intriguing record heading into the final two games of the season is their highest ever finish in the Premier League. Their previous record of ninth is within touching distance as they breathe down the neck of Southampton. Whether we’ve focused too heavily recently on discussing whether Chelsea are ‘boring’ and watched in bewilderment at Nigel Pearson’s bizarre press conference outbursts or just assumed that the top seven were a dead cert for contenders for the European places, Swansea City have quietly snuck into the picture and are poised to crash the party.

Southampton’s poor run of form has led to them at risk of losing out on their fight for a Europa league place. Monk has picked up 19 points in the last 10 games compared to Southampton’s 11 and have won twice as many games in the same period compared to the Saints. With the two sides’ contrasting runs of form, Europa League qualification is a real possibility for Swansea City.

If Monk and his men manage to qualify for the Europa League, he will be itching to do it better than Laudrup and continue to prove to other clubs up and down the country that you don’t always have to look abroad for talented managers. With people bemoaning the influx of foreign managers into our leagues, Swansea have shown it’s possible to look closer to home and find a successful manager within the club’s current setup.

Swansea Chairman Huw Jenkins had a decision to make when he dismissed Laudrup. He could have either taken a risk on someone with experience or risk appointing a man who knows the players, knows the club and knows the league. We’ll never know which risk was the better one to take, but what we do know is we now have a hungry, young English manager that has been given the chance and has done exceedingly well.

Dan is a Journalism student at UWE and is an aspiring football journalist. His first ever football match was Southampton's 3-2 win over Leeds in 2003 and he has been a Saints fan ever since.


Jack Wilshere’s injury shows why Arsenal shouldn’t renew his contract

The 26-year-old has been struck down by yet another injury.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

Jack Wilshere will be pleased with the progress that he has made since returning to Arsenal from his loan spell at Bournemouth.

He was initially nothing more than a squad player that was out in the cold at international level too, but the midfielder worked hard to gain more game-time in North London.

Across all competitions, he has played more than 30 matches and his form earned him a call-up to the England squad.

It looked like he was getting a once-promising career back on track, but almost like clockwork, he has suffered an injury to set him back once again.

Gareth Southgate confirmed that he wouldn’t be travelling to the Netherlands for Friday’s match and the quotes were reported by Sky Sports.

“It is not a specific injury and over time they flare up and they need to settle down over a couple of days.

“We are hopeful it will settle down pretty quickly. It’s an ongoing problem and it’s not something new for him. He’s very disappointed not to be involved in the game.

“He’s trained well though but if you think about the journey he’s had in the last two years and his big injuries then he’s progressing really well.”

Although it is encouraging that it isn’t a serious injury, it is a reminder that Jack Wilshere remains a risk for both club and country.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It is difficult to build a team around a player that is susceptible to miss matches and the quote from Southgate is a worry as he refers to an ongoing problem.

Arsenal have had a difficult campaign and they will be planning a rebuild over the next 48 months as they transition away from the Arsene Wenger era.

They will have to make tough decisions on many players at the club and Wilshere’s future will be brought into focus over the next few weeks as his contract expires at the end of the season.

There have been numerous reports regarding contract talks between the two parties and there is hesitancy on both sides.

This latest injury suffered by Wilshere and the comments from Southgate referring to an ongoing problem show why it is Arsenal who need to end this association.

Wilshere can’t be relied on to stay fit and to feature prominently in a busy schedule. Arsenal will have ambitions of challenging at the very top of the game and will likely be involved in European competition every season. They need to have a squad of players that are reliable and the 26-year-old isn’t that.

Aside from that, Wilshere represents what Arsenal have become over the last decade. He is a player that had a lot of potential, but he has failed to fulfil it and been very inconsistent at the highest level. Of course, he isn’t to blame for the club’s problems, but he is also unlikely to offer the solutions.

This season has been a nice farewell campaign for him. It would have been sad if his Gunners’ career had ended after being shipped out on loan to Bournemouth.

He has returned to earn some of his credibility back, but the club need to move on and progress if they are to get back to the top of the English game.

A lot of contentious decisions will need to be made and the first should be the release of Jack Wilshere this summer.

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Manchester United

Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line

The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.

Rob Meech



Luke Shaw
Photo: Getty Images

The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.

Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”

The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.

Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.

From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.

Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.

Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.

This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.

But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.

In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.

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English Premier League

Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week

The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.



Photo: Getty Images

With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.

Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.

In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.

Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.

The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.

Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.

This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.

If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.

Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.

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