Much has been made of Bob Bradley’s hire as Swansea City manager. He’s the first American to coach a Premier League team, and as such, carries the mantle of American soccer in the EPL at the moment.
He’s a man that’s led two national teams as well as clubs in the U.S., Denmark and France. His resume warrants such an opportunity, especially at a relegation-threatened club.
That’s who he is on this side of the pond.
In some circles in the United Kingdom, however, he’s a carpetbagger who only got the job because of Swansea’s new American owners.
So, is he a savior or a charity case? The answer, one suspects, lies somewhere in between. And there’s no way to know that now, anyway.
All we can do is look back at his first game in charge of the Swans, a 3-2 loss to Arsenal at The Emirates.
Playing away to Arsenal as a smaller club calls for a siege mentality. That means plenty of men behind the ball, clogging up the middle of the park and looking to break with pace down the wing on the counter.
That’s exactly what we saw from Bradley’s side. Arsenal still got out to an early 2-0 lead, thanks more to mistakes from Swansea players than any tactical edge.
The Swans continued to press, however, finally forcing a turnover from Granit Xhaka, which Gylfi Sigurdsson cashed in for a goal just before the break.
Xhaka was sent off in the second half, but the Gunners managed to hold on to a 3-2 win. On the balance of play, the Swans were a bit unlucky not to take a point.
It wasn’t a win, but it wasn’t exactly discouraging, either.
Bradley is an interesting study for a manger. In the technical area, he’s energetic. He’s constantly on his feet, shouting instructions and encouragement while occasionally chatting up the fourth official.
Off the pitch, he’s more reserved. He comes across poised and prepared in interviews, and he seems unlikely to indulge in media wars like many of his contemporaries.
He also has a history of being protective of his players in the press, which they very much appreciate.
Sigurdsson, for one, seems happy with the new manager.
“The boys really like the new manager,” he told the club’s official site. “Training has been good since he came in — really hard and really sharp. I think we have improved since he arrived and I think if we keep performing like we did in the next few games, we are going to start picking up a few wins.”
Sitting in 19th place with four points in eight matches, survival has to be job No. 1 for Bradley and the Swans. That task begins at home Saturday against Watford.
Three points at home against a mid-table side would go a long way towards quieting the doubts around the American manager.
Until the next bad run of form, anyway.