Huw Jenkins: The Swansea Slayer

Swansea are bottom of the table and seemingly destined for relegation to The Championship. Simmo looks at why the Swansea chairman, Huw Jenkins, is to blame for the clubs pitiful demise. 

I feel sorry for Bob Bradley – if you were to ask most neutrals then they would probably say the same. The job he took on at Swansea really was a mission impossible.

Looking through that Swansea team it is difficult to see any other outcome other than their relegation to British footballs second tier. I can’t think of a single player, bar the goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and playmaker Gylfi Sigurðsson, who would get into any other team in the Premier League.

The demise of Swansea City is a sad one. When they were promoted under Brendan Rodgers they were an exciting, dynamic outfit that looked to play good expansive football. Players such as Scott Sinclair and Ashley Williams had excelled in the Championship and took their good form into their debut season’s in the Premier League.

It really was refreshing to see a newly promoted team play football out from the back. This was largely down to the philosophy that Brendan Rodgers instilled in the team. He believed that his teams should play in a particular way. It was brave and certainly admired. Rodgers’s reputation soared to the extent that he took over the reins at Liverpool in the summer of 2012. Huw Jenkins acted quickly and sealed the services of ex Denmark and Barcelona legend Michael Laudrup.

Laudrup’s appointment was seen as a bit of a coup, and indeed he was able to use his substantial connections within the game to convince a host of players to join the Swans during that summer. Players such as Michu, Pablo Hernández and Ki Sung-yueng arrived with burgeoning reputations.

At the beginning of his tenure, Laudrup looked to be building on the good work done by Rodgers. Whilst Rodger’s teams had often been exciting to watch, they lacked the defensive nous to succeed on a weekly basis in the Premier League. Laudrup looked to rectify this, and added steel to the Swansea backline through signings such as Chico Flores. Laudrup had looked to have taken the Swans to the next level. He was establishing them as a Premier League team and was picking up some very impressive results along the way.

Under the Danes stewardship, Swansea won the 2013 League Cup by beating fourth tier Bradford City 5-0 at Wembley. But even Laudrup’s success was not enough to prevent him from being fired. Poor form and alleged wrangling over contracts and signings led to Jenkins dismissing him in February 2014.

His replacement Garry Monk was a popular choice amongst fans. Having been with the Swans for a decade, he knew the way in which the club worked, and most importantly, was familiar with the squad of players available to him. As a young English manager, the Premier League can be a daunting place. Indeed, a host of far more established names have fallen victim to the trials and tribulations of England’s top tier. Monk, however, took it like a duck takes to water. He looked assured, tactically astute, and most importantly strong enough to deal with the pressures of the role. What’s more, he made what can sometimes be a difficult transition, from team mate to manager, look effortless.

Monk really did look like he had all the credentials to become a top Premier League manager. That was until Jenkins once again wielded the axe. A poor run of one win in 11 games led to Monk being ‘relieved of his duties.’ Jenkins will look to justify his decision by saying that Monk had accomplished all he had been brought in to do. When he replaced Laudrup there had been an almost instant upturn in form. Monk steered the ship to safety, but as soon as it entered difficult waters Jenkins was more than prepared to make his manager walk the plank.

The appointment of veteran Italian, Francesco Guidolin, was not seen as particularly inspiring. However, the 2015/2016 season proved to be a good one for veteran Italian coaches. Guidolin took Swansea back to basics and led them away from the relegation zone. They sealed Premier League survival with an impressive 3-1 win over Liverpool. Guidolin’s appointment had proved to be a successful one. He won seven of his 15 league games, including impressive wins over Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham.

Under Guidolin, Swansea started the new season well with a 1-0 win at newly promoted Burnley. However, he had lost the services of his inspirational captain Ashley Williams to Everton in the summer. The signing of Mike van der Hoorn for £2 million From Ajax was not the sort of signing that gave Swansea fans a great deal of confidence. Elsewhere, Andre Ayew joined West Ham in a £20 million deal. A sizeable income, however, nearly £16 million of that money was reinvested in the young Spaniard, Borja Bastón, a player who had made fewer than 40 appearances in Spain’s top tier.

It seemed glaringly obvious that Guidolin’s team lacked the required experience to maintain their Premier League status. After winning only one of their opening seven league games, Jenkins once again decided that enough was enough.

This led to the appointment of Bradley – one that was unsurprisingly met with a great deal of skepticism. Although he had managed both the United States and Egyptian national teams with moderate success, his last job in football had been in the French second tier with Le Havre. It was hardly the ideal pedigree.

However those who were judging Bradley by his past managerial experience were simply being naïve. Many managers have arrived in the Premier League from lesser know leagues and enjoyed great success. Look no further than Arsène Wenger, who was brought in from Japanese football.

Indeed there was a certain level of arrogance amongst pundits and British football aficionados. What could an American possibly know about the English game? Whilst it is true that Bradley’s results were not great, people focused on irrelevant details, such as him referring to a penalty kick as a ‘PK.’ The vocabulary that Bradley used certainly was not the reason that his Swansea team struggled so much. Bradley was brought in to try and help ward off another inevitable fight with relegation – yet he wasn’t even given a transfer window to bring his own players in. What was he supposed to do?

People will point to the fact that the Swans leaked goals under the American. Yes, this was certainly true. However Bradley would almost certainly not have sanctioned the sale of Williams had he been in charge.

Therefore the problems at Swansea seem to all lead back to one man – Huw Jenkins. He is the man that has now sacked four managers in the last three seasons. He is the man who let Wilfried Bony go, sold Ben Davies to Tottenham, and of course let Williams join Everton. He is the man that seemed to crave rapid Premier League success over a long term and clearly defined project.

His latest appointment, that of Bayern Munich assistant, Paul Clement is again an odd one. Whilst Clement is widely regarded as one of the finest British coaches around, having held positions with Paris Saint Germain, Real Madrid, and of course Bayern, he has only had one very brief experience in first team management, a partially successful half season with Derby County. Once again it is hardly the sort of appointment that gives you much hope of ensuring Premier League survival.

In my opinion Swansea’s six year stay in the Premier League will be over come May. Either way, whoever is in charge when this Swansea side goes down must be given the chance to rebuild. Not since Rodgers has a Swansea manager been in charge for two consecutive seasons. This lack of stability is an inherent problem, and breeds uncertainty right the way through the club. Sustained long term success is only ever really achieved when people are given a chance in the short term. Jenkins has so far been unwilling to do that.

Brendan Rodgers: Would you trust him to spend money at your club?

Agree to Disagree – where the argument you had at the pub last Thursday becomes a well mannered discussion.

These days Brendan Rodgers can be found in the dugout at Celtic Park. He is tasked with taking Celtic to new heights whilst holding off a resurgent Rangers. However, the Northern Irishman arrives with plenty of baggage from his final season at Liverpool. Would you trust him to spend money at your club?

Sam Simmons argues…

No – Brendan Rodgers remains a football enigma – the man who took Liverpool to within two points of a long awaited Premier League title has never really been understood. To some he is a tactical genius, to others a Brent-like caricature.His managerial career has certainly declined since those days when Liverpool blew away opposing teams with their formidable SAS (Sturridge and Suarez) strike-force.There are many who believe that Rodgers was carried through his reign by the mercurial talents of Suarez, a player of such class that nearly all of Rodgers’ fallibilities were hidden from plain sight. Certainly Rodgers managed to get the best out of Suarez and Sturridge by allowing them to have the freedom to attack and play as they so wished without any tactical burdens. However since those highs Rodgers has seen his stock fall to a level where instead of being seen as the mastermind of a near footballing fairy-tale, he is now perceived (and the source of constant memes) as a caricature of David Brent. His insistence on his teams possessing “great character” have been widely mocked and merely reinforced the opinions of many that his near-success at Liverpool was not of his own doing.

Many do have sympathy with Rodgers; he lost Suarez during that summer of 2014 and was unable to find someone of the same calibre to replace him. That task was always going to be difficult, but Rodgers did not help himself with his transfer dealings. During the same summer he spent over £100 million on new players. When talking about Tottenham the previous season Rodgers had said that “if you spend more than £100 million, you expect to be challenging for the league.” The reality was Liverpool did spend that amount and did not come close to the league; in fact they finished a disappointing 6th.

The following summer Liverpool spent nearly £80 million more, and by the time Rodgers was sacked in October, Liverpool were 10th in the league and seemingly destined for another season of mid-table mediocrity. The owners had seemingly grown tired of his pretentious press conference jargon. They were after more than vacant words.People will still defend Rodgers however. They will argue that his transfer expenditure is outweighed by the enormous sales of Suarez and Sterling (the sales of those two players alone accumulated nearly £125 million).

Yet Rodgers proved during his 3 and a bit year tenure at Liverpool that he could not be trusted with money.Rodgers spent over £10 million on no less than twelve players. Of those, four were bought for £20 million or more. This list reads: Fabio Borini (£10.4 million), Joe Allen (£15 million), Daniel Sturridge (£12 million), Mamadou Sakho (£15 million), Adam Lallana (£25 million), Lazar Markovic (£19.8 million), Dejan Lovren (£20 million), Alberto Moreno (£12 million), Mario Balotelli (£16 million), Nathaniel Clyne (£12.5 million), Roberto Firmino (£29 million) and Christian Benteke (£32.5 million).

How many of those players can constitute a success? Two have left the club (Borini and Allen), and three more seem destined to leave (Balotelli, Benteke and Markovic). Another cannot seem to defend (Moreno), two more have been inconsistent at best (Lovren and Sakho). Lallana still cannot seem to find his best position, and with only 13 goals in 90 Liverpool games has been somewhat underwhelming. Then there is Sturridge. No doubt a wonderful player but also extremely injury prone (he has missed nearly 50% of all Liverpool matches since signing in January 2013).

If that wasn’t enough to demonstrate Rodgers failures in the transfer market then further analysis is even more damming. The £13.5 million spent on Spanish duo Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas was money wasted (both returned on loan to Spain within a year). Oussama Assaidi was bought in but also sold (albeit at a profit). Then there was the truly baffling signing of Tiago Ilori for £7 million from Sporting Lisbon in the summer of 2013 (yet to play a league game for the club). The £4 million signing of Liverpool born Southampton striker, Rickie Lambert, was heralded at the time; three goals in 36 games saw him shipped out a year later.

Despite all of the negativity there has been the odd success story. Philippe Coutinho, the prodigiously talented Brazilian playmaker was bought for a meagre £8.5 million (a fraction of his true value), and Emre Can, the German midfielder, was signed for £9.5 million. Both are integral to the future of Liverpool Football Club and are seen by many as examples of Rodgers’ legacy.

Nevertheless, Rodgers is rarely remembered for those occasional success stories. The reality is that his stock fell considerably during the last year of his reign. How many owners would trust Rodgers with a large budget now? How many would consider him to be too high risk?

The answer is one that we’ll likely never know.

Mike Franchetti argues…

Yes – Did Brendan Rodgers deserve to get sacked by Liverpool? Probably. Is he a tactical genius? Probably not. Is he responsible for some of Liverpool’s biggest transfer flops? Absolutely not.

People slate Rodgers in a variety of creative ways. He isn’t helped by the lousy TV show Liverpool commissioned which did absolutely nothing for his image as the ‘Brentmeister General’ of the Premier League. He is often deemed ‘lucky’ to have stood on the touchline watching Luis Suarez evolve into the greatest goalscorer in world football. There’s also his interviews which can be hard to follow and sprinkled with baffling defenses of his players’ performances.

But none of these factors explain why his stock has plummeted so far that he now leads a team who struggled past Gibraltar’s Lincoln Red Imps. Rafa Benitez left a fallen Liverpool side before spells with Inter and Real Madrid, whilst Roy Hodgson left behind a sinking ship and eventually landed the England job. By contrast, Rodgers left a broken man and with his reputation in tatters. Above all, the recurring criticism – and one with a reasonable amount of evidence – is that he had an abysmal transfer record. But I disagree.

For starters, Liverpool have previous. Gerrard Houllier’s tenure started well in regards to signings but ended with El Hadji Diouf and Salif Diao costing £15 million collectively, plus a further £15 million on Djibril Cissé – large sums of money back in the early 2000s. Houllier looked to have control over transfers as did his successor Benitez. The Champions League winning manager overlooked some corkers (Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres) but also plugged through a long list of mediocre squad players (Josemi, Antonio Nunez, Jan Kromkamp). It got much stormier at the end of his spell with high profile fallouts over the incoming signing of Robbie Keane and one that never happened in Gareth Barry. The details are murky, but it was clear Liverpool’s American owners were having an effect.

Hodgson came next and whilst he had noticeably less to spend than his predecessors he pulled some pretty dire players to the club – Paul Konchesky and Christian Poulsen come to mind. The second coming of Kenny Dalglish followed and, fresh from the Torres sale, there was money to be splurged. Stewart Downing for nearly £19 million constitutes disastrous business in my book, as does the £35 million punt he made on Andy Carroll.

Against this background of transfer hit and miss, there’s nothing exceptional about Rodgers’ spell in charge. But were his signings even that bad? And how much say did he have in spending the money generated by the Suarez sale?

Two signings from Rodgers’ first year were real successes with Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho quickly becoming key figures in the Liverpool side. Arriving from Swansea, Joe Allen (£15 million) was a true Rodgers signing and it was surprising how few chances he was given to justify his price tag. Nevertheless, the Welshman’s transfer hardly stands out among the great Premier League flops and Liverpool have recouped £13 million in the recent sale to Stoke City.

Getting to the heart of the matter, Liverpool’s unhealthy obsession with Southampton has come at quite a cost. The club stumped up £20 million for Dejan Lovren and a further £25 million for Adam Lallana. Whilst this duo struggled to make an instant impact, both are still at the club and have started to show form. There’s no doubt in my mind that they (along with Rickie Lambert) were poor signings, but why does the buck stop at Rodgers? Liverpool, now under Jurgen Klopp, have just launched another £35 million at Southampton’s Saido Mane.

Towards the end of Rodgers’ spell Liverpool signed Mario Balotelli but I continue to believe this transfer bypassed the manager. The Italian’s name will always sell shirts but nothing Rodgers said indicated a desire to bring the ex-Manchester City striker in as a replacement for Suarez. Finally, at the start of last season, Liverpool signed Christian Benteke for a whopping 32.5 million – a man known for heading goals and holding up play. Rodgers likes to break quick and work the ball centrally, often avoiding traditional wing play. None of it made sense; Rodgers left soon after and ‘Big Ben’ struggled.

There’s no doubt that his final full season was defined by a very obvious struggle to replace Suarez and recapture the club’s 2013-2014 form. However, I’d argue that Liverpool signed the same mixture of gems, disappointments and big money flops as any side from the same era. There are plenty of bad signings that had nothing to do with Brendan Rodgers; Gervinho & Gabriel (Arsenal), Stevan Jovetic, Stefan Savic & Jesus Navas (Man City), Angel Di Maria & Radamal Falcao (Man United), Filipe Luis (Chelsea), Paulo Osvaldo (Southampton), Ideye Brown (West Brom), Roberto Soldado (Tottenham), Konstantinos Mitroglou (Fulham) and everybody Aston Villa signed last year.

Carry on making fun of his interviews, but leave ‘his’ transfer record alone.