If anyone thought that Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup was going to be an easy touch in the Premier League, then this week has dispelled that notion.
The former Danish international may appear placid (as well as suave and debonair) but the way he is playing hardball over the transfer of his midfield lynchpin Joe Allen will have Swans fans delighted.
Liverpool’s pursuit of the talented 22-year-old, who was part of the Team GB football squad at the Olympics, seems to have angered Laudrup, not to mention his chairman Huw Jenkins, who believes Brendan Rodgers, the former Swans manager who swapped south Wales for Anfield this summer, has reneged on a deal not to buy any of his former players for 12 months.
It has left Laudrup negotiating tough and he has come out fighting by suggesting that if the money Liverpool paid for players last year is anything to go by, Allen is worth the £15million it would take to trigger his release clause and that the Reds should just put up or shut. And he has a point, doesn’t he?
Swansea had a brilliant home record last season for a newly promoted club, losing just four games and conceding only 18 goals.
The problem for Swansea, and perhaps the reason Laudrup has come out all guns blazing, is that a mooted transfer that has rumbled on all summer is in danger of becoming a saga, just at a time when rumours over some of Swansea’s other prize assets are starting to get a little louder.
But if Allen’s move to Merseyside is somewhat inevitable, Laudrup will be loathe, as has been mentioned in the press, to lose Ashley Williams, Scott Sinclair and Neil Taylor as well and what has so far been a steady pre-season for the Swans – the squad that finished 11th last year under Rodgers remains intact – could be in danger of unraveling.
Swansea’s next pre-season outing is against Championship side Blackpool at the Liberty Stadium and will be Laudrup’s first home match in charge. His men are 3/4 favourites to get a win, with the Tangerines priced at 31/10 and the draw at 12/5.
Ian Holloway did another fantastic job at Bloomfield Road last term, blending a mixture of exciting youth (Matt Phillips) with experience (Kevin Phillips) and the Seasiders were unlucky to lose the play-off final against West Ham United in May. There is no reason why they can’t expect another tilt at promotion – their 2-0 victory over Everton on Sunday showed they are in good nick – but I think they may be on the end of a defeat when they travel to south Wales.
Swansea had a brilliant home record last season for a newly promoted club, losing just four games and conceding only 18 goals (fewer than Manchester United) in posting the 9th best home record in the division. By contrast, Blackpool can be erratic away: the Seasiders lost more games (eight) than they won (seven) and recorded a -1 goal difference, conceding 38 goals. Swansea are back from a testing tour of the US, which did great things for their fitness, and having picked up a couple of decent results on the way, they are worth backing to see off a Blackpool side playing their second game in three days.
Recommended bet: Swansea to beat Blackpool @ 3/4
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