End of season report: Swansea
The 2013-14 season has been, without doubt, Swansea's most turbulent year since the club joined the Premier League. They returned to European competition for the first time since 1991, with manager Michael Laudrup taking the club all the way to the knockout phase of the Europa League before being relieved of his duties and replaced by then-player Garry Monk. Swansea's league performance suffered under the weight of the extra European fixtures, but the club were able to avoid the pull of the relegation plug-hole, finishing a respectable 12th with 42 points following a late surge.
Wilfried Bony. The Ivorian striker cost the club a record 12 million pounds when he joined from Vitesse Arnhem last summer. If the price represented a gamble, the striker has been worth every penny. His 16 league goals in 34 appearances compensated for the loss of last season's top scorer, Michu -- who missed most of this campaign through injury -- and were vital in the Swans' efforts to retain their Premier League status.
It's safe to say that Laudrup's plan for Alvaro Vasquez to act as cover for Bony didn't really pan out. The young Spanish striker struggled to find his feet in the top flight, looking lost and shorn of confidence in his handful of appearances. Of the players who featured more regularly, Chico Flores blotted his copybook with some laughably unsporting antics and reckless defensive mistakes in a handful of games. Flores has arguably been better than Ashley Williams last season, though. By the end of this one, understudy Jordi Amat had taken his place in the starting lineup.
This season was a sharp learning curve in squad management for the Swans, who had to deal with more fixtures and more injuries than in either of the past two seasons while effectively carrying deadwood in an already small squad. New boss Monk hasn't had time to make many tactical tweaks to the well-established system, but the biggest changes are likely to come on the squad sheet rather than the tactics board anyway. Swansea will want to make sure they have 25 players who can play next season instead of carrying a half-dozen passengers. Many changes are likely this summer.
Final Grade: B+
Given everything the club has endured this season, 12th place with 42 points is a remarkable achievement. However, those same totals still technically represent the club's worst Premier League season so far, if "worst" isn't too strong a word. The only way to survive is to improve every season, and this season's relegation battle -- wide open for so long -- only reinforced how difficult the division can be for the underprepared, overworked or poorly managed. Swansea were only ever one of those things, and they won't have as demanding a schedule next time. Assuming the club pays due diligence to recruitment this summer, next season could be their best yet.