On Saturday, Swansea City secured their first away win since August in Carlos Carvalhal’s first game at the helm. Life has started swimmingly under their new leader, although it’s incredibly early to be speak of a transformation, but can Carvalhal rescue the swans from the dreaded drop?
Paul Clement was dismissed just prior to his year anniversary at the Liberty Stadium, with the club firmly rooted at the bottom of the Premier League table. The Englishman miraculously dragged them to safety shortly after taking charge in January but he was unable to sustain his early success in Wales.
Instead, Swansea City went onto win only three of their opening 18 league fixtures of the 2017/18 campaign. His sacking was inevitable, but more than a few were sceptical when former Sheffield Wednesday manager Carlos Carvalhal was announced as the new manager on Thursday.
The 52-year-old had only just been dismissed by The Owls on Christmas Eve, following a dismal run of one win in eleven EFL Championship matches. The club appointed former manager Clement under similar circumstances last January, after he’d been sacked by Derby County in his previous managerial post.
However, Carvalhal has a much more decorated managerial CV, with previous experiences at Besiktas, Sporting Lisbon and Braga. His reign at Hillsborough began in sensational fashion by guiding Sheffield Wednesday to the EFL Championship play-offs in 2016 and 2017.
They were defeated by Hull City in the EFL Championship Play-Off Final at Wembley Stadium in May 2016. They were unable to reach the final in successive seasons and were knocked out by eventual winners Huddersfield Town.
Can Carvalhal Rescue Swansea City from Relegation?
Swansea City looked lacklustre in the first half against Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday. The hornets took a one-goal lead into the half-time interval, after their high pressing system comfortably combatted the Swans’ attempt of building from the back.
Moreover, they were reluctant in committing players forward and Abraham was regularly stranded in the final third due to a lack of attacking support. They played with a flat three-man midfield in the first half, which made it difficult to apply more players forward.
Carvalhal replaced an ineffective Roque Mesa with Luciano Narsingh at the beginning of the second half. Oliver McBurnie was introduced prior to the hour-mark and Nathan Dyer was hurled onto the pitch with shortly under ten minutes of normal time remaining.
The visitors shifted to a 4-4-2 in the dying stages of the game with the aim of finding a late equaliser. They exceeded expectations and scored twice in four minutes to complete a late fightback. This remarkable victory lifted Swansea City off the bottom of the table and two points from safety.
They have a difficult fixture list in January, with the Liberty Stadium awaiting the visits of Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Arsenal. A series of relegation six-pointers are scheduled in February and March. Brighton & Hove Albion, West Ham, Huddersfield Town, Southampton and West Brom are scheduled as the battle for relegation reaches its climax.
This will be the most decisive and pivotal period of the season for Swansea City and Carvalhal. They recorded eight wins in their final 18 league matches and the Welsh club will have their fingers crossed that they can replicate this level of form to preserve their Premier League status this season.
The 52-year-old will provide the possession-based brand of football that once worked so successfully at the Liberty Stadium. He rebranded Sheffield Wednesday’s style of play and they were initially an organized and efficient opposition.
Unfortunately, Carvalhal was unable to complete his project in Sheffield but he’ll have stronger players at his disposal in the Premier League. The short term goal is clearly to avoid relegation but the long-term future of the club could be very special if they remain patient and allow him to implement his style.