Need to know: Swansea
LONDON (AP) — Five things to know about Swansea going into the 2013-14 English Premier League season:
Manager Michael Laudrup broke Swansea’s transfer record to sign Ivory Coast international Wilfried Bony from Vitesse Arnhem for 12 million pounds ($18.5 million) as he prepares his side for football in the Europa League this season. Bony enjoyed a prolific campaign with Vitesse last season, scoring 36 goals in 36 games. Laudrup will hope he can form a strike partnership with Michu to help maintain Swansea’s push for honors in four competitions.
STRENGTH IN DEPTH
Laudrup also strengthened the defense and midfield. Jonjo Shelvey signed for the Welsh club from Liverpool and will look to develop his potential with more playing time in midfield. Winger Jonathan de Guzman has returned on loan for a second season from Villareal and defensive midfielder Jose Canas joined from Real Betis, as did Alejandro Pozuelo. Laudrup has also brought in Jordi Amat from Espanyol to provide another option in the center of defense.
EUROPA LEAGUE OUTSIDERS?
Swansea is competing in Europe for the first time in its history but might be viewed as a team capable of reaching the latter stages of the Europa League. There is not much experience of European football in its ranks but its high tempo passing style is difficult to play against. Swansea proved tough opponents for any side in the Premier League last season, as evidenced by its 2-0 triumph at Arsenal. While its squad is new to Europe, its manager is not; Laudrup played for Barcelona and Juventus, has managed Spartak Moscow and Real Mallorca and is widely respected across the continent.
IT’S A WORLD CUP YEAR
Swansea’s side is littered with players who are on the cusp of making their respective national sides. Should the side enjoy another successful season, it may receive an international call-up in time for the 2014 World Cup. English midfielder Leon Britton has a reputation as one of the most accurate passers in the league and made 44 appearances last season. Winger Nathan Dyer also impressed, scoring twice in Swansea’s League Cup final victory but faces competition from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of Arsenal and Ashley Young of Manchester United to make the England squad. Michu will hope another prolific season means he breaks into the Spain side. Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque tracked his progress last season, when he scored 22 goals, but was never called into the team.
TOUGH START TO THE SEASON
The new season will be a time for optimism for Swansea fans but the team has a tough start. It opens its campaign against league champion Manchester United before facing Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal in its next five games. It will be a busy start to the season too; Swansea has a Europa League qualifying fixture against Petrolul Ploiesti to play over two legs in August but Laudrup will be aware that starting well against the league’s tougher sides will give his team a lot of confidence.