As Brendan Rodgers heads to south Wales to face his old club at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday, for all the talk about how his Liverpool revolution is taking place, it might just be worth asking: how much are Swansea City actually missing him?
Because from the outside, it appears to be not that much. Rodgers jumped ship from Swansea to take over at Anfield in the summer, a decision few connected with the club would begrudge him given what the Northern Irishman had achieved at the Liberty, the stature of the club he was leaving for and the size of the compensation package negotiated into his contract by the ever-astute chairman Huw Jenkins.
And the common view was that without the man who won the 2011 Championship play-offs and who guided City to a very accomplished mid-table finish in their first ever Premier League campaign – done in some style, too – that the Welsh side would start their natural slide back from whence they came.
Add in a bout of second-season syndrome that lots of newly-promoted clubs suffer from and there weren’t many pundits expecting much from Swansea this campaign. But what has changed, with the exception of swapping Rodgers for Michael Laudrup?
Swansea look just as comfortable at this level as they did last year and I don’t think there will be many fans, though grateful for what Rodgers did, pining for his return.
Laudrup has made tactical tweaks, brought in his own players, who are now pivotal to how the Swans operate, and the Dane seems to have the confidence of the entire squad to the point that after a 3-1 Capital One Cup victory at Anfield, he was moved enough to say it was now ‘his team’.
Of course, Laudrup is following on from several Swansea managers in making their own adjustments to a vision that started with Roberto Martinez and for that, Jenkins himself must take credit: he gave Rodgers a chance to prove himself after being sacked by Reading because he knew it was a good fit for the club.
But still, as Laudrup welcomes Rodgers to the Liberty Stadium one place and one point above him in the table, the former Mallorca boss will not feel haunted by his presence.
It is Rodgers feeling the pressure of history as he tries to get Liverpool to resemble something approaching the team they were in the past, but it says everything about where the Reds stand that a quote of 21/20 looks far too short for them to win at Swansea. You can get 5/2 on a home win, but I think the draw is the call here at 12/5.
I think Rodgers is (very) slowly making an impact at Anfield. The Reds are hard to beat with their full quota on the pitch – they have lost three league games, which is the same as Manchester United and Arsenal and two less than Tottenham – and are now actually unbeaten in seven Premier League games, with a run of three wins and four draws to their name.
And 13 points from 21 is not a bad run considering that includes away trips to Chelsea and Everton, and I think they can keep that run going against a Swansea side that have won only twice at home this year, against West Ham and Wigan.
But with six draws from 12 games, Liverpool aren’t winning enough games to consider backing them at 21/20 away from home, especially at the Liberty, where Swansea themselves have only lost once, a 3-0 reverse to Everton.
So with Swansea drawing three of their five home games, the identical record to Liverpool on their travels, I think the 12/5 on the draw is the way to go.
Last season, the matches finished 0-0 at Anfield and 1-0 to Swansea at the Liberty and with both managers keen for midfield domination but perhaps lacking genuine creativity at the top end of the pitch, I expect another tight encounter and 12/5 looks good enough for me.