Francesco Guidolin is the first Premier League managerial casualty of the season. He has tumbled over the precipice, he’s through the door, the thread he is hanging by has snapped and the skin of his teeth has torn. Use whichever cliché or adage you like, the capo from Castelfranco is on his bicicletta and it’s ridiculous.
During Swansea’s latest defeat to Liverpool, their third reverse on the trot, Sky Sports commentators chose to add fuel to a fire already burning bright, by mentioning how close Guidolin was to the sack several times, driving the narrative along an exclusively negative path. That seemed bizarre to me.
What they failed to highlight was the good Swansea performance, where similarly to last week’s defeat to Man City, they went toe to toe with one of the Premier League’s most impressive outfits. In fact, Swansea can count themselves unlucky not to have rescued a deserved point at the death.
If Swansea’s owners were looking for positive signs behind an unfortunate scoreline, then there were plenty to choose from. The Swans looked well drilled tactically and more importantly motivated individually. When given the opportunity to play incisive passing football, they didn’t hesitate. Similarly to their City reverse, Swansea found themselves slipping to the wrong side of what have been fine margins and questionable decisions – but overall they deserve much more credit than they and Guidolin have been getting.
Their run of fixtures has been as tough as the come and while one point from games against Leicester, Chelsea, Southampton, Man City and Liverpool is a poor return, there has been enough to cling to for Swansea’s new owners that would indicate a change in fortunes is just around the corner.
The owner’s motivation for change is something that Swansea fans must be questioning. The American duo Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien became the new majority shareholders at the club just two months after Guidolin had signed a new 2-year contract at the back end of last season. Despite most fans having to Google “Who is Francesco Guidolin” after his appointment in January, wins over Everton, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and West Ham had rightly earned the Italian his new deal.
So 7 games in to the new season and with an unfair points return for their performances, you’d have to wonder why the panic button is being pressed. League places can dramatically reshuffle in the opening months of a campaign and a couple of wins could conceivably see Swansea shoot up to the top half of the table.
The Swansea City support seemed to be backing Guidolin, but even though their Supporters Trust owns 21% of the club, they may feel a little powerless since the summer boardroom reform. Chairman Huw Jenkins stock among fans has never been so low and it does appear that Guidolin has been pushed towards the exit for all the wrong reasons.
The noises coming from the Liberty Stadium indicated that the three men at the top of Kaplan and Levien’s list of potential replacements for Guidolin were Ryan Giggs, Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann. The Giggs link seemed a little frivolous and too easy of a connection to make. He is sitting on this arse and is Welsh, so surely he MUST be in the running? Not for me. His lack of experience counts him out, but it’s the other two candidates that point towards the direction the American owners want to take.
It’s only natural that Kaplan and Levien would want to accentuate and improve Swansea’s reputation and profile in their home country and appointing Bob Bradley gives that profile an immediate boost, but what will that Yank-ification mean on the pitch?
Bradley maintains a hero status stateside, but his managerial experience is almost exclusively US-based. Egypt didn’t fancy him for long and managing Stabaek in Norway and Le Harve in France aren’t the kind of names that get pulses racing or C.V’s popping. Even though Bradley became the first ever US manager to guide a team to a Europa League place in a European league, the record is only remarkable given his nationality and not for the actual performance of his team.
When it comes down to it, Swansea have appointed someone who is untried and untested at the level they play at. The most famous American football coach, appointed by new American owners. Their commercially driven motives are as subtle as changing Swansea’s kit to stars and stripes.
In a strict footballing sense, Guidolin deserved much more time and support, something Huw Jenkins might have given him a few years ago. But American owners come to the Premier League for one thing. All Kaplan and Levien need to do is follow the parasitic and sycophantic trail already carved out by their club owning compatriots – too strong? Maybe, but Swansea fans will rightfully be worried about this latest turn of events.