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Whoscored: Pleasant early Prem surprises

Southampton 5 days ago
Read
 Posted by Max Hicks
Aug 8, 2014

Spanish Swans set sail for exit

Michu has left Swansea on loan for Napoli -- and he's not the only Spaniard to depart this summer.

Toward the end of last season, after Michael Laudrup had been sacked and then-player Garry Monk was promoted to manager, I mused about the potential fallout in the squad. In the aftermath of the sacking there had been plenty of talk about supposed factions which included separate tables for Swansea's eight Spaniards at meal times -- seven of which Laudrup had brought to the Liberty. It only seemed reasonable to suspect that Laudrup's players wouldn't want to play under Monk.

Alejandro Pozuelo and Jose Canas were early casualties, completely marginalised by Monk. Elsewhere, Michu struggled last season mostly due to injury but when he did return late in the season he cut a miserable figure; an inauspicious omen of things to come. After three forgettable games of pouting, coasting and a stubborn refusal to shine, he allegedly picked up another injury -- this time conveniently on the training ground, out of public sight -- and didn't appear for the side again. I think it suited both the player and club to believe he really was injured and I suggested in my blog posts of the time that I doubted he'd be back.

Pablo Hernandez was one of the few of Laudrup's Spaniards to noticeably improve under Monk, having been pulled from the wing and handed the No. 10 role instead. His skill may have been missed but Gylfi Sigurdsson's arrival negates that and at least in Qatar there'll be plenty of sunshine for Pablo to enjoy when his hamstrings inevitably give way again.

As for Alvaro Vasquez, Monk was so underwhelmed by the Spaniard that he preferred Leroy Lita -- a man who hadn't played for Swansea in almost two years -- instead. And then there was Chico Flores.

As a player, Flores is as good as he was bad, and good only marginally more often. I always felt he'd be better served as a defensive midfielder, where a more steady back four could protect against his mistakes. Chico loves to get forward and loves the ball at his feet but he is poor in the air.

Despite his height, Chico would rather flail a high boot at a bouncing ball than head it away and he has never truly asserted himself physically. Contrast with the way Kyle Bartley -- a player of similar build -- throws himself about the pitch and there's really no comparison. Flores reads the game well enough, makes good interceptions and has a decent turn of pace but is always one significant brain cramp away from costing the Swans.

Comparisons with David Luiz are well-founded; both players' eccentricities are generally regarded as disadvantages rather than benefits. His play-acting certainly won't be missed and although it's nice to have "colourful" personalities around, I'd rather see extravagant attacking players -- where unpredictability is an asset -- than defenders who have ideas above their station.

PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEWS

As we count down to kickoff on Aug. 16, ESPN FC previews all 20 teams in this season's competition. Can Burnley, QPR and Leicester stay up? Will the new signings of Alexis Sanchez, Diego Costa and Adam Lallana help usurp Man City's crown? Will Manchester United get back on track under Louis van Gaal?

That might sound like a harsh summary and there's no denying that on his day Flores is dominant. Here's a quick test, though -- name a game from last season where Flores was awesome. If you said Stoke, you've proved my point. Truly dominant players aren't defined by one standout performance, but by many. How many stand out games did, say, Wilfried Bony have last year? Lost count? Me, too.

Only Jordi Amat remains of Laudrup's Spanish contingent, with Flores set for the exit door. Compared to the others he was the quiet, professional one and unsurprisingly the most reliable. Monk favoured Amat over Flores at the end of last season, so I'm not surprised the latter is expected to leave soon. If Monk can entice Federico Fernandez to replace Chico, then Swansea will have a significantly stronger defence.

It seems fitting in a way that as the last of Laudrup's want-away Spaniards leaves, Swansea will host a Spanish club when Villarreal come to town on Saturday. A send off to signify the end of the Swans' Iberian romanticism as new faces get ready to take them forward.

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