Ignore The Media, Bob Bradley Was A Gamble That Never Paid Off
Posted by Matt Walters | Published on December 29, 2016
Bob Bradley has been sacked by Swansea City after only 11 games and 85 days in the job. He won just two of those games and conceded 3 or more goals in 8 of his matches in charge. However, a writer from Fox Sports claimed recently that Swansea were just too much of a mess for Bradley to fix during his time in South Wales. It is just one of several questionable claims coming from across the pond.
When Bradley was hired in October with Swansea in 17th. Francesco Guidolin had only managed a single win in the 2016/17 Premier League season and had seen Swansea’s normally solid team drop in quality. With reports that he had lost the dressing room, Guidolin was sacked following defeat at home to Liverpool and immediately replaced by Bradley. The appointment was met with raised eyebrows but most fans were keen to see how the American would get on.
His first match was a trip to the Emirates where individual errors admittedly cost him the game. (I’m looking at you, Federico Fernandez). His home debut was a very much winnable game against Watford. The match was a dull game and ended 0-0 and came with a rare clean sheet for Bradley. Things were looking good ahead of a Monday night trip to the Bet365 Stadium. The game ended 3-1 to Stoke with the hosts hitting the post on three occasions. Another 3-1 defeat to Manchester United followed, a team who were winless in 4 games at the time and managerless as Jose Mourinho watched on from the stands. The next game needed improvement. Swansea lead for 48 minutes at Goodison park only for a late collapse as Everton’s Seamus Coleman’s header looped over Lukasz Fabianski in the 89th minute.
Now with 2 points out of a possible 15 and bottom of the league for the first time since the opening day of the 2011/12 season, the pressure was on Bradley as relegation rivals Crystal Palace visited the Liberty. The game was jaw-droppingly poor in football quality but equally high in excitement. Palace lead 1-0, then Swansea lead 3-1, then Palace lead 4-3, then Swansea won 5-4. It was the American’s first win but there were some questions that needed answering. Why was Angel Rangel – a defender – brought on while Swansea were 3-1 and dominating? Why had Swansea conceded 4 goals to the worst Premier League team in 2016, two from corners? The win was scrappy but it was a confidence-boosting win. At least you’d expect so. The following game saw Swansea concede as many goals as they had scored against Palace without reply as Spurs took them apart. A reply was needed and it came as Swansea pulled off their only wholly convincing performance under Bradley in a 3-0 win at home to Sunderland.
A convincing win, a confident team, next up; West Brom – a team Swansea have beaten more times in the Premier League than any other. The game seemed straightforward enough. A Salomon Rondon hat trick and Wayne Routledge consolation goal later and the Swansea crowd was turning, only Hull’s poor results kept Bradley off bottom spot. Relegation rivals Middlesbrough were next, one of the poorest attacking units in the full pyramid of English football. A 3-0 defeat followed. Despite it all, the Boxing Day fixture against West Ham at home was sold out which meant that a full stadium of angry fans watched a frankly pathetic performance with the Hammers putting 4 goals past Fabianski. That was it. There was nobody left in the city who thought that Bradley could stay any longer. The board realised this and he was rightly sacked.
Of course, football is a business of results but sometimes results can be deceiving so here are a few facts and stats of Bob Bradley’s time in SA1. During his 11 games, Bradley made 36 change to his starting XI between games with goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski the only constant starter, the back 4 was a pick and mix except for the one position that Swansea fans wanted to see changed. Neil Taylor’s form has come under serious scrutiny in recent months after the emergence of Stephen Kingsley. Not that it stopped Bradley from picking him every week. The attack was also subject to change with attacking midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson played on both wings and as a lone striker, Premier League winner Nathan Dyer blatantly ignored and record signing Borja Baston – a notably tall and slow striker – played on the wing to accommodate notably short and defensively-minded winger Wayne Routledge.
Considering this, while Bob Bradley’s work ethic and commitment cannot be questioned, he was – simply put – not good enough to manage a Premier League team. His tactics were baffling and his team selections random. His performances were poor and his results even worse. His tenure of 11 games is the joint 4th shortest in Premier League history and that is a reflection on him as a manager as opposed to Swansea as a club. His achievements previously in his career, particularly his work in Egypt, are undoubtedly impressive but he was out of his depth in the Premier League. When he was appointed manager it was clear that the Swansea board had taken a risk. The risk turned into a blatant flop and anyone who denies it has not watched Swansea under Bradley.
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