Despite Jose Mourinho winning the Premier League Manager of the Year, down in South Wales Garry Monk has made quite the impression in his first ever full season as a manager, breaking records left, right and center and doing so in style, as Swansea fans have grown accustomed to over the years. I’ve been trying to write something about our wonderful manager all year, but I’ve lacked the words. Hopefully there’s enough hyperboles to describe him this time.
Firstly, the success that Monk has had despite a moderate squad overhaul is quite remarkable. Among the players let go last summer were Michel Vorm, Chico Flores, Ben Davies and Pablo Hernandez. Michu also left for Napoli on loan to link up once again with former Swan loanee Jonathan De Guzman. During the 13/14 season these players made a combined 169 appearances in just the Premier League, Monk had a job to replace these players. He did that job extremely well and managed to achieve a record points total in the meantime.
I’ve never seen Swansea do this well, when it comes to recruitment. Granted, I’m only 19 but I’d say that every player Monk brought in last summer (and in January) has made an impact and had a successful first season in South Wales. For instance, Lukasz Fabianski was announced as Garry Monk’s first signing as Swansea manager. ‘Flappyhanski’ dubbed by many, the Pole proved his critics wrong, he was named as Players’ Player of the Year and was named in Whoscored’s best European XI of the season. Bafetimbi Gomis was Monk’s second signing and despite a rocky first few months, he stepped up his game and finished the season with seven league goals, a decent return for someone only playing regularly from January onwards. Monk brought Gylfi Sigurdsson back from Tottenham, played him in his natural #10 role, which resulted in a fantastic return of seven goals and ten assists. Federico Fernandez and Jefferson Montero became valuable members of the first team, adding stability and flair. Even the January additions made a huge impact, Jack Cork and Kyle Naughton look as if they’ll make the squad even stronger for next season.
Not only did Monk achieve success despite a player overhaul, he also changed the system during the season. For years we’ve employed a straight forward 4-2-3-1 formation, until January when Monk changed to a system that I’ve never seen before. (Before/after shown below)
We also showed that there is a ‘plan B’ for the first time in years, Monk has demonstrated that the beautiful Swansea passing game is still there, as always. This year we’ve learnt to play without the ball, with our backs against the wall and relying on our defence to win games. This was put on public display in the win at the Emirates, which Monk deserves a huge amount of praise for.
Something I don’t think Monk has received enough plaudits for is how he handled the Wilfried Bony situation. The Ivorian was by far our best player last season, practically saving us from relegation single handedly. It was widely reported by several trustworthy media outlets that Bony had a release clause in his contract worth around £19m. Garry Monk managed to convince Bony to sign a new contract, ridding that clause. Allowing us not only to get an extra £10m from Man City, but we kept our best player for an extra six months than we probably should have. Remarkable work.
Michael Laudrup loaned Ki Seung-Yung to fellow strugglers Sunderland last season, and he made a huge impact and was one of the main reasons why they completed a miraculous recovery to stay in the league. This meant Garry Monk had a massive decision to make, to keep the Korean, who underperformed in his first year in Swansea, or sell him on to another Premier League team. Monk not only kept him around, he offered Ki a new contract, promised him regular football and in return the once-outcast was named Supporters’ Player of the Year, and notching up eight goals in the meantime.
These are several scenarios that Monk has had to solve, and I personally don’t think he could have done any better. Doing these and breaking our previous points total, Brendan Rodgers finished with 47 points in 2012, Garry Monk knocked that out of the park and finished this season nine points better. A deserved Manager of the Year candidate, and some might say he should have won the award.