The old adage of being too good to go down has come back to haunt many a team over the years, with sides that should be excelling in a particular division finding themselves in a relegation dogfight.
The bottom reaches of this season’s Premier League makes interesting viewing, with a number of sides that look good enough to finish in the top half on paper being dragged into the mire.
One such side is Swansea City, who look under threat of relegation for the first time since their promotion to the top flight of English football in 2011-12.
The Welsh club have been a revelation since their introduction, with Brendan Rodgers initially leading the Liberty Stadium outfit to an 11th placed finish in their debut stint back in the big time.
Any notions that the wheels could fall off following the Northern Irishman’s departure for Liverpool were quickly put to bed, as Michael Laudrup continued Swansea’s dominance with a ninth-placed finish last season and historic success in the League Cup – their first-ever significant piece of silverware in English football.
However, despite progression through to the knockout stages of the Europa League this term, domestic form has not been as impressive as in recent seasons.
A 3-1 home defeat to Tottenham on Sunday made it eight games without victory for Laudrup’s charges, with only three points taken from a possible 24 – the epitome of relegation form.
A number of reasons can be attributed to the Welsh club’s failings this season. The added responsibility of European competition has bulked up the fixture list and detracted somewhat from performances in the Premier League. A glamour tie against Italian giants Napoli lies in wait, which may be a sign of just how far Swansea have come, but will be in the back of the players’ minds when focus on domestic fixtures is needed.
Laudrup has had to deal with the loss of a host of key players through debilitating injuries, including Spanish talisman Michu. Having the immensely gifted attacker on the sidelines has been a real blow, while other key figures such as Michel Vorm, Jonathan de Guzmán and Nathan Dyer have also been unavailable to the Danish coach.
With 16 matches to play, Swansea sit precariously in 15th position on 21 points, and need to snap out of their recent slumber sooner rather than later.
A flat performance against Spurs will not inspire a huge amount of confidence, but there is still reason for optimism. Firstly, the continued improvement of record transfer signing Wilfried Bony is a real plus for the side, with the Ivorian marksman looking like he can get the goals to fire the side away from danger.
Secondly, Laudrup will implore his side to look at their next three fixtures and play their way out of trouble. Games against sides that are currently below them on the table; Fulham, West Ham and Cardiff, two of which are played at home, give Swansea the chance to effectively salvage their campaign.
Even two wins from the three games would lift the Welsh outfit away from the dangerzone and towards the higher ground of mid-table. However, a continuation of recent mediocre form could see the Swans dragged into trouble in the final months of the campaign. Fixtures against both Stoke and Crystal Palace are set to be played in the near future also.
Swansea’s brand of possession football and their conquering of virtually all of the top English teams at one point or another over the last two years has been a real example for sides that will make the daunting step to Premier League football in the future. However, with the Swans struggling, attacking and aesthetic football will need to take a back seat for the meantime as the club need results – and quick.