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May 8, 2014

Monk hiring has pros and cons

Garry Monk's interim tag was removed as he signed a three-year deal to come Swansea's new permanent manager.
Garry Monk's interim tag was removed as he signed a three-year deal to come Swansea's new permanent manager.
In news which has come as a surprise to absolutely no-one, interim boss Garry Monk has been officially appointed Swansea City manager on a two-year deal. Monk, a former Swansea defender, has been groomed for the position for a while, but is still earning his coaching badges, so chairman Huw Jenkins' decision to fast-track the 35-year-old to the top might be construed as rash.

- Report: Swans hand Monk three-year contract

Jenkins' experience with former manager Michael Laudrup might have made the chairman cautious about rolling the dice with another unknown quantity, and led to an early promotion for Monk instead. There is a sense among some supporters that Monk could have used a few years either as an assistant to an experienced manager or as a manager of a lower-league club before taking control of a Premier League team. Others, meanwhile, are happy to see the former club captain make the progression he was earmarked for. Here's my take on the move.

Reasons to be cautious

Monk has never managed at any level before, nor has he been an assistant manager, so he'll have a lot to learn -- and he'll do the majority of that learning on the job. After taking over from Laudrup, Monk managed to keep the Swans safe from relegation, but that should have been the minimum expectation, given the superiority of the Swansea squad over many of the other relegation-threatened teams.

Although Monk was an experienced veteran as a player, he is still very much a junior on the other side of the touchline. Monk does not have relationships with players from previous managerial jobs who he can entice to Swansea in the manner which Laudrup did, so recruitment might suffer.

Tactically speaking, Monk has not faced any real challenges yet: his side have continued to play the same style of football as they did under Laudrup. Although part of the reason for Monk's appointment was to keep Swansea playing 'the Swansea way', will the young manager be capable of tactical flexibility when it is required? Can he coach this side to do something other than the obvious when the situation demands?

Reasons to be optimistic

Jenkins has not faltered in his managerial appointments so far, and his track record suggests Swans fans ought to trust his decision. Monk is Swansea through-and-through, having been with the club for a decade, and he already has many of the players on-board: Ash Williams, Neil Taylor and Jonjo Shelvey have spoken positively of the manager, while Wilfried Bony has not only played better under Monk than he did Laudrup, but has also stated his desire to stay with Swansea for the duration of his three-year contract.

The Swans scouting system is vastly underrated, and while Laudrup brought Michu to Swansea, it was the Swans' own network that unearthed Bony. Monk's untested transfer acumen will be greatly aided by Swansea's excellent scouting department.

It is likely an experienced assistant will be brought in to help Monk, while coach Alan Curtis' invaluable insight remains on tap.

Monk in numbers

With just 13 Premier League games under his managerial belt, there isn't sufficient data to take the numbers too seriously, but they are still interesting. Monk has four wins, three draws and six losses in those 13 games. Those figures project to 12 wins, nine draws and 17 losses for 45 points over a full 38 game schedule. The club took 47 and 46 points in its last two seasons.

Monk stacks up well when compared with the Swans' previous two Premier League managers, Laudrup and Brendan Rodgers. The following chart compares the Swans' points per game, goals for per game, goals against per game and goal difference per game under each manager. Best figures are displayed on a green background, worst are displayed on red:

The Swans are scoring more goals under Monk than ever before in the Premier League, and it's not just because of Bony -- Laudrup still had a prolific Michu, after all. The real reason is that Monk's set-piece execution is significantly better -- a 288% improvement in goals scored from set-pieces compared with Laudrup's Swans alone (0.62 per game versus 0.16), and Rodgers' figures weren't any better either.

Finally, here's a look at where the Swans' points come from. This table shows each manager's points per game versus the top ten and bottom ten sides in the table:

Rodgers' figures are very interesting: his side were actually better against tougher opposition. Since Rodgers, Swansea have become a side that take the majority of their points from the weaker teams, and it looks like that trend will continue.

It'll be interesting to see what small changes Monk will introduce to the squad given a summer to prepare -- I just hope his wardrobe is one of them. Garry, you've earned the suit now.