So it’s a sooner-than-expected reunion for Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers with his former employers at Swansea City courtesy of the Capital One Cup and with a quarter of the season elapsed, it is a good time to take stock of how things have gone for both clubs.
For Swansea, in many ways it has been so far, so good. Rodgers led the club to success not witnessed for over a generation by winning the Championship play-offs in 2011 and then securing a comfortable mid-table position in the Premier League, all done with an easy-on-the-eye style that showed you don’t have to be Stoke-style long ball merchants to survive in the top flight.
(That said, I think people need to rein it in with the ‘Brendan Rodgers Philosophy’ line now, not least because it sounds like some shady prog rock band who supported Emerson, Lake and Palmer in 1976).
The man who replaced Rodgers, Michael Laudrup, has carried on the work of the Northern Irishman in pretty decent fashion. The Swans have taken 11 points from nine games – one more than Liverpool – and sit comfortably enough in 11th place, seven clear of the relegation zone.
Laudrup, who pulled off a masterstroke with the signing of Michu, has had to put up with mumblings of discontent which, true or not, hardly bode well for the club. Yet at the moment, the Dane looks like he has the squad onside and given that avoiding relegation is the number one priority, there looks to be three worse teams than Swansea at least.
Swansea being above Liverpool doesn’t look good for Rodgers, even at this early stage, but the fact there has been no sense of panic from the supporters at just two league wins from nine matches shows that the ex-Reading boss has the trust of everyone and will be given the time he needs as he looks to get Liverpool back in Champions League contention.
And he will need time, too, as well as money – although if the latter isn’t forthcoming then there is little that Bob Paisley could do, never mind Rodgers, to reverse the slump of the last few years.
While the top four remains a pipe dream, winning a trophy would go some way towards showing that progress is being made, although as holders of this cup, how bothered Rodgers will be about retaining it is open to question.
At odds of 12/25, Liverpool are a bit on the short side, while similarly, Swansea are 5/1 and don’t look as big as they could be and with the draw at 16/5, none of those prices are particularly appealing.
The reason I say that is because betting on the League Cup is notoriously dodgy business and with the team that Liverpool are likely to play (there could be as many as 11 changes from the 2-2 draw at Everton), backing them at that price is a venture into the unknown, especially with their below-par home record over the last 18 months.
Laudrup has always taken the cup competitions seriously wherever he has been, winning the Danish Super Cup with Brondby and reaching the final of the Copa del Rey with Getafe, and he is sure to play a strong team. But the Swans’ away record is too poor – only Queens Park Rangers lost more league games on the road last season – to get truly stuck into that 5/1 price.
So instead, I’ll be going for goals and the 31/20 on over 3.5 is as good a play as any. Whenever Rodgers has changed the Liverpool team, goals seem to have followed and Swansea have been among the goals too, with three of their nine games seeing four goals or more.
Swansea won 3-2 at Crawley in the last round and in what should be an open and attacking game, I’d rather be on goals than the results at those prices.