Carlos Carvalhal is the wrong man for Swansea, who are now destined to go down

by Alex Keble / 13 January 2018, 09:40

It certainly wasn’t the first time Huw Jenkins had surprised the Swansea City fans with a left-field managerial appointment, but they might just be hoping it’s the last; presumably at some point the Swans owner, who has overseen a series of poor choices in the last five years, will learn his lesson and pick a more obvious candidate to lead his club.

Carlos Carvalhal, like so many of predecessors, was barely even an outsider for the job – largely because he is clearly under-qualified.

It wasn’t long ago that Swansea were seen as a model club after developing a possession-based aesthetic that remained consistent from manager to manager. But perhaps overly confident following the successes of Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup, and Garry Monk, Jenkins has continually got decisions wrong in the last few years.

Football has moved on from the tiki-taka style that Swansea adopted nearly ten years ago, and with it Jenkins has had to seek a new kind of manager. He has clearly failed.

Carvalhal was very effective at Sheffield Wednesday, where he achieved successive surprise Championship play-off finishes before a collapse in form this season, but the Owls bare almost no resemblance to Swansea City.

This is a club desperate to rediscover a consistent identity after years of aimlessly treading water under Francesco Guidolin, Bob Bradley, and Paul Clement, yet Jenkins has gone in a totally different direction.

Carvalhal’s Wednesday played conservative football in an old-fashioned 4-4-2, relying on headed goals (they scored 20 in 2016/17, more than any other Championship team) and some pretty basic tactical theory. It is unfathomable that a similar approach will be successful at Swansea, who possess arguably the least talented squad in the division and whose fans expect a certain swagger.

The Portuguese is a particularly strange choice considering defensive solidity – the one thing Carvalhal has consistently coached well – was never really Swansea’s problem. Scoring goals is a far more pressing concern (they’ve netted a mere 13 in 22 league matches so far) and yet over the last three years Carvalhal’s Wednesday scored only 156 goals in 118 league games. 1.32 goals per game is hardly a strong statistical record, reflecting his cautiousness and a general preference for direct football.

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Perhaps the best example of why Carvalhal isn’t the man to bring back the “Swansea way”, or even improve their goals return, is Sheffield Wednesday’s play-of semi-finals against Huddersfield Town last season. Everyone knows David Wagner’s team struggle to create chances and don’t rely on long spells of possession, yet Huddersfield held 54% possession in Sheffield and 68% in the second leg. Wagner comfortably suffocated Carvalhal’s simplistic tactics, restricting Wednesday to just three shots on goal in Huddersfield.

Resource are very limited and the squad is poor, meaning there is no reason to assume Swansea would easily bounce back to the Premier League should they go down – and certainly not without a grand plan like the one Martinez began in 2007.This doesn’t bode well for Swansea fans. Carvalhal has no Premier League experience and appear to be completely at odds with the tactical philosophy once synonymous with the South Wales club. It will take a minor miracle to keep them up.

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