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Bulletproof Monk – why no one knows if Garry is doing well or not

If a furious brick fight with Chico Flores had been one of the last things Garry Monk had done during his remarkable playing career at Swansea, it would have been a peculiar (though hilarious) way to be remembered.

by Andrew Boulton | March 13, 2015

What actually happened was that shortly after he narrowly avoided an industrial thrashing from an angry Spaniard, he was appointed manager of the club he had served so loyally from boggy third tier away trips to Hartlepool, all the way to the Premier League.

And ever since taking over from Michael Laudrup, this country’s most beloved Dane since Bowers, he has done brilliantly. Or awfully. Or just ok. The truth is, like which direction Matt Le Tissier’s hair is supposed to point in, no one really knows.

Monk’s Swansea currently sit in 9th position. Respectable enough, but closer inspection of their record reveals a side about as consistent as the surface area of Wayne Rooney’s forehead. 28 games in and Swansea have won 11 and lost 10. Overall, under Monk, the wins and losses columns are just about split down the middle too.

It may well seem churlish to question a manager whose team sit in the top half of the Premier League, when almost exactly ten years ago they were losing 1-0 to Lincoln City (thanks to a Garry Monk own goal). But nevertheless there is still a question mark over whether Monk is doing a great job. Or at least whether he is doing any more than keeping Swansea trotting ponderously along, like an ageing swan chasing after a fat toddler’s exceedingly breakable arm bones.

Swansea are a team very much nestled into the clammy bum-cleavage of the Premier League’s mid-table. In their 3 seasons in the top flight they have never had anything less than a nine point cushion between their final position and the relegation zone. Currently, they sit 18 points above it.

But Swansea are an impeccably run club with an excellent model of recruitment and financial management. Through that prism of stability, a team that hasn’t won more than three games in a row all season seems as if it should and could be doing more.

And yet Monk’s position is beyond safe, it’s bulletproof.  Hand plucked from coaching the youth team as part of his UEFA A qualification, Monk was thrust directly into the top job when chairman Huw Jenkins decided he’d had enough of Laudrup banging on about how The Killing is loads better than Fireman Sam.

Monk’s ambitions are currently not much greater than the 47 points Brendan Rodgers achieved in 2011-12 and the 46 Laudrup achieved the year after. But despite the steady foundations, Monk’s few critics in the media have suggested there is a whiff of the ‘10th Place Ceiling’ about his tenure – just another squatter in Alan Curbishley’s mid-table bungalow.

We can’t even get a decent picture about Monk’s qualities from how he develops his players. On the one hand Bafétimbi Gomis has made 9 starts since Wilfried Bony’s departure and scored once. Gylfi Sigurðsson meanwhile had an astonishing start to the season, but has not created a goal in his last ten games. And yet on the other hand, Jonjo Shelvey’s development from an angry badger in a wheelie bin to Swansea’s driving force is entirely Monk’s doing.

No one can say the Premier League’s youngest manager is doing anything but a good job. But, in terms of actually taking Swansea forward and building a side that can challenge beyond 9th, 10th and 11th, he’s never had a trickier battle. At least not since someone tried to pluck his eyebrows with a paving slab. Never laugh at a man named Chico my friends.

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