Ask people to describe Swansea’s style of play and most would detail the free-flowing, possession-based approach that has been the hallmark of teams under managers such as Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup over the last decade.
Some have even dubbed them “Swanselona” over the years, a reference to Swansea’s passable imitation of Barcelona’s preferred style.
Bob Bradley has to decide if it’s time for a change.
The American coach was hired by Swansea last week, taking charge of a team that has lost five of its last six games in the English Premier League under the fired Francesco Guidolin and languishes in 17th place.
Bradley arrives with a reputation for preferring a more pragmatic, direct style of football, which would be at odds with what Swansea typically produces. A shift in approach might just be what the team needs to stay up this season.
The 58-year-old Bradley said in his presentation press conference that he likes “good, passing football” and that Swansea has been a team that is “fun to watch,” but it’s not helping at the moment. Taking the game to Manchester City and Liverpool in the last two rounds, the Swans were brave but ultimately lost both matches. They haven’t kept a clean sheet since the opening round.
Next up is a trip to third-place Arsenal on Saturday, something of a daunting introduction to the Premier League for Bradley. Tightening up and being harder to beat might be the name of the game for the new coach.
“Whenever there’s a change, at any club, it’s a fresh start for everybody,” Bradley said Thursday. “You can see that on certain faces, that’s clear. Even at a time in a season when it’s been difficult, when there’s been managerial change, you see enthusiasm and a certain amount of excitement.
“That doesn’t automatically mean because you’ve changed some things, everything’s going to come together right away. But, it’s a start.”
Arsenal has won its last five games in all competitions and can be a devastating force when the team’s sprightly attacking unit – containing the likes of Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez – is given space to perform. Sanchez, in particular, is thriving as a so-called “false nine” up front in the absence of injured striker Olivier Giroud.
But Arsene Wenger’s team can struggle and get frustrated when teams sit back and defend in numbers. Bradley, an experienced, savvy coach who has watched the Premier League from afar for years, values teamwork highly and that will be needed at Emirates Stadium.
“I believe he is equipped to deal with what is requested of him,” Wenger said on Thursday, when asked if Bradley would be a success at Swansea.
Bradley will look to continue Swansea’s good recent record against Arsenal, with three wins in their last five meetings – most recently a 2-1 win at the Emirates in March.
“It is a tough first game (under Bradley) but we don’t mind playing that,” Swansea defender Neil Taylor said. “We would be probably written off even if we were in form.”
Here’s what else to look out for this weekend, when the Premier League resumes after the international break:
MANCHESTER CITY VS. EVERTON
It’s a first managerial meeting Saturday between two disciples of Johan Cruyff: Pep Guardiola and Ronald Koeman.
Koeman acted as a mentor for a young Guardiola when they played together under Cruyff at Barcelona in the early 1990s, with both players central to the style desired by the late Dutch great.
Now they are two of the most respected coaches around. Guardiola, in his first season in English football, has guided City to first place in the league with six wins from seven games while Everton is in fifth place in Koeman’s first season at Goodison Park.
LIVERPOOL VS. MANCHESTER UNITED
Wayne Rooney would love nothing more than to score against Liverpool on Monday. He may not get the chance.
Rooney has started on the bench for Man United’s last two league games and was also dropped by England this week, demoted to a substitute’s role against Slovenia on Tuesday.
The former Everton forward has previously said he “hates” Liverpool, comments which are regularly brought up to add an inflammatory edge to what already is traditionally the biggest game in English football. Northwest rivals United (20) and Liverpool (18) have more league titles than any other teams in the country.
Liverpool is in fourth place, three points ahead of sixth-place United.
Boosted by a 2-0 win over Manchester City last time out, second-place Tottenham protects the league’s only unbeaten record when it visits West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, when it’s also Chelsea vs. Leicester, Bournemouth vs. Hull, Stoke vs. Sunderland and Crystal Palace vs. West Ham.
On Sunday, Middlesbrough hosts Watford and Southampton is at home to Burnley.