Swimming to Safety

Swansea City have looked destined for relegation for most of this season, with some fans already writing them off before Christmas when Paul Clement was sacked after winning just three games.

Then in stepped Carlos Carvalhal. The Portuguese manager has taken charge of 17 clubs since 1999, in an interesting career that reflects the man himself.

“If you do not play to win, then you can’t win and you can’t draw. All the time, even when I was with very small teams and we played the very strong teams, we always thought we could win and I prepared my teams to go and win,” he says. That’s why I love his approach, because you should always try to go down as a brave man rather than one that turned up without having a real go to win the game. And that’s exactly the approach Swansea have taken under his guidance.

The Swans have taken 14 points from seven games since Carvalhal took over, including wins against Liverpool and Arsenal, rising from rock-bottom up to 15th in the table.

A new face always seems to help Premier League clubs as they breathe new life into their squads. “He is a gentleman and he is witty. Sometimes he tells us the stories and makes us laugh, they are very funny… When we have a laugh, we laugh, but when we work, we have to concentrate. I want to keep this happy atmosphere and we will stay up,” says Ki Sung-yueng. Aside from his tactics and positive football philosophy, Carvalhal’s character has been a big hit in Wales.

He’s been spotted riding his bike around Swansea by fans, and treated the press to his homemade tarts last week. But it’s his colourful analogies that make his press conferences some of the most entertaining.

He’s compared subbing Tammy Abraham and Andre Ayew on to ‘putting all the meat on the barbeque’, said he would be looking for sea bass and lobster but might have to settle for sardines in the transfer market, and compared Liverpool to a Formula 1 car stuck in London traffic. But his latest remark after the 1-0 win over Burnley sums up the current situation at Swansea:

“When I arrived we were deep in the ocean, where it is very dark and just stones, no fishes. We couldn’t see anything. After we started winning, after the big games against Arsenal and Liverpool, we had only just got our noses out of the water to breathe. Last week was the first time we smelled the fresh air. In this moment we are maybe starting to swim a little. We can now look to the coast, we know the direction to swim to achieve what we want.”

You rarely see a Premier League team that throws in the towel, and I’m am sure if they keep their momentum going and the focus doesn’t dip they will definitely be the team that came from rock-bottom and survived the battle of staying up.