So is the honeymoon period over for Michael Laudrup at Swansea City?
A dream start to the Dane’s tenure at the Liberty Stadium is in danger of fast becoming a distant memory as signs creep in that the Welsh club could well end up suffering from a dose of the dreaded second-season syndrome after all.
Many predicted that would happen after Brendan Rodgers defected to Liverpool, but two wins from their first two league matches – a 5-0 battering of Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road and a 3-0 home victory over West Ham United – suggested that Laudrup may be able to keep the club going in the same direction, especially when the quality of football on display was equal to anything produced under Rodgers last term.
The former Brondby coach may well end up consolidating last year’s 11th-placed finish, but things haven’t gone to plan since the opening weeks and there has been enough evidence that will alarm Laudrup as he tries to avoid getting stuck in a rut.
A draw at home to Sunderland was a decent enough display, but defeats to Aston Villa and Everton have been poor, especially the loss to the Toffees on Saturday, when the Swans were comprehensively outplayed and could have been beaten by more.
Crawley’s home form has been iffy. Town have lost their last two, and heavily as well: if a 5-2 defeat to league leaders Tranmere on Saturday wasn’t concerning enough, the preceding 3-0 defeat to crisis club Portsmouth was a poor day at the office.
To add to that, Joe Allen and Scott Sinclair (sold), Steven Caulker (returned to parent club Tottenham) and Neil Taylor, who has picked up a season-ending ankle injury, will play no part for the Swans this term after being so influential last season and Laudrup has plenty on his plate as he travels to Crawley Town for this Capital One Cup third-round tie.
A cup meeting away from home with a side who have started life in League One in decent nick has ‘banana skin’ written all over it for Laudrup, but despite a dip in form there are reasons to suggest that Swansea have enough about them to to negotiate a tricky-looking test and get back on track with a win at Broadfield Stadium.
The Swans are 11/10 to do exactly that, with a home win priced up at 9/4 and the draw at 12/5, and I like the odds-against quote about the Welsh side here.
Crawley have begun their first-ever campaign in the third tier in fairly impressive fashion under new boss Richie Barker, who replaced Sean O’Driscoll, the manager who took over from the controversial Steve Evans and then left for Nottingham Forest without even taking charge of a Crawley match.
The former Bury boss has kept the club’s forward momentum going and the Red Devils lie in eighth position in League One, just a point off the play-off places at this early stage of the season.
But despite that, Crawley’s home form has been iffy. Town have lost their last two, and heavily as well: if a 5-2 defeat to league leaders Tranmere on Saturday wasn’t concerning enough, the preceding 3-0 defeat to crisis club Portsmouth was a poor day at the office.
And with both managers taking a different view of this match – Laudrup talking up its importance as Barker stated he didn’t want it to be come ‘a distraction’ – I think there is value in Swansea’s extra class telling at 11/10.
Recommended bet: Swansea to beat Crawley @ 11/10
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