Our time with Michael Laudrup, Swansea’s Don Draper

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It was easy to believe in Michael Laudrup. Between a legendary playing career, Jon Hamm’s looks, and a philosophy that melts the heart of any ‘play the right way’ aestheticist, it’s no wonder the man was being linked with so many big job openings last summer. It didn’t hurt that his latest team, Swansea City, had just won silverware in England, but even if the Swans hadn’t claimed the League Cup, Laudrup’s mystique would have still created links to Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid. After all, who doesn’t want to hire Don Draper?

As we’ve found out over Mad Men’s last eight years, perfect hair, a bone-cutting jaw, and the charisma to captivate beyond explanations leads to false belief. Now, with Swans chairman Huw Jenkins forced to call time on his Don, Swansea fans are left wondering what will become of their team now that their Draper has been shown the door.

Perhaps that’s too dramatic. Swansea of all teams is used to changing coaches. But as Jenkins pointed out in his announcement, this is the first time in a decade Swans have had to dismiss a boss. Before Laudrup, Brendan Rodgers had brought the Welsh team into the Premier League, using the club as a springboard to Anfield. Prior to him, Paolo Sousa guided the Swans before taking off for Leicester City, and before that, Roberto Martínez made his managerial name by taking Swansea into the second tier. All the while, Swansea maintained an approach that played progressive in addition to winning soccer. All the while, Swansea kept moving up the English ladder.

Laudrup seemed like a perfect fit – somebody whose reputation could match the ambition of a club that had established itself in the first division. Denmark’s greatest player ever — somebody who starred for all of Juventus, Barcelona, and Real Madrid — Laudrup would add a level of panache that could elevate Swans beyond Rodgers’ and Martínez’s success. For a club that had never won a major title, drawing a man of Laudrup’s mystique to the Liberty Stadium was a relative coup.

That coup produced immediate results. He was able to leverage his experience in La Liga, bring in Michu, and win silverware in his first year. If Laudrup was Swansea’s Don Draper, then 2012-13 was his carousel:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoKtk8L77-U width=440 align=center]

Silverware makes you believe, so in the same way we didn’t worry about the empty bottles coming out of Don’s office, it was easy to overlook Laudrup’s problems. A murky past that didn’t add up to his present plagued Don as much as Michael, only where Draper never talked about Dick Whitman or Korea, nobody mentioned Laudrup’s one-season stints at Getafe, Spartak Moscow, or Mallorca. Where Don Draper disappeared to Southern California to hit on Anna’s niece, Laudrup let Swansea regress after claiming the League Cup. Distracted, intoxicated by his Draper-ness, Don lost his edge, just as winning a trophy make Laudrup forget.

Swansea are supposed to be the underdogs. They’re supposed to be Welsh upstarts. They’re supposed to be the feel good story that appeals to the neutral’s hearts. They’re not supposed to be resting on laurels, deserting Pete Campbell to lounge in the California desert. They’re supposed to be chasing Dow Chemical.

On Tuesday, our perceptions finally caught up to reality. Laudrup ceased being the hero. Unable to find new solutions, and with rumors from behind the scenes describing tensions that forced Jenkins’ hand, Swansea could no longer ignore the obvious. The club is two points from relegation. They’ve gone from playing beautiful, flowing soccer to holding the ball with little product. The man they were paying to help them build beyond the mire was guiding them back into it. It was time to move on.

For some, today’s move was a surprise. Had Laudrup been a little less Draper, it wouldn’t have been. It’s been over a season since Swansea played to the standard Laudrup inherited. He pushed the club to its greatest glory, but he was also on the brink of leading them to a debilitating failure. Sterling Cooper  had to move on from their Jaguar high, just as Swansea had to move on from the League Cup. At some point, the lesson’s so clear it’s painful: Not even Don Draper can avoid getting results.

The same year Mad Men debuted (2007), we started to see the cracks in Laudrup. Until then, the then-43-year-old was perfect, building on near rarefied playing success with four successful seasons at Brønbry. But he saw himself as too big for Getafe, never adapted to Moscow, and resigned rather than be troubled at Mallorca. Even before Swansea, he’d become a drifter, his new career an ill fit for an icon.

Swansea were given no choice but to move on. In the process, we’ve come to see a new Michael Laudrup. This wasn’t a coach building toward a place at a bigger club. This was somebody holding on in the face of failure, and as much as we want him to succeed, we’re forced to see him as flawed.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i5SpIxx_A4]

Swansea City 1-2 Watford: Hornets win away again

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  • Richarlison scores late winner
  • Gray gave Watford the lead
  • Watford have three-straight away wins 

Watford beat Swansea City in the final minute at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday with Richarlison netting a late winner for Marco Silva‘s men.

Andre Gray gave Watford the lead but Swansea equalized through Tammy Abraham and then Richarlison snatched all three points late on as the Hornets won 2-1 in South Wales.

With the victory Marco Silva’s men move on to 11 points for the season after winning all three of their away games, while Swansea stay on four points and haven’t won at home this season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]  

The Hornets took the lead through Gray, his first goal for Watford, as the former Burnley striker made the most of a bad mistake from Wilfried Bony.

A poor back pass was picked up by Gray who played it wide to Andre Carrillo and his cross was half cleared but the ball fell to Gray who swept home to make it 1-0.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Swansea struggled throughout the first half with plenty of misplaced passes and Alfie Mawson gave the ball away cheaply in a poor area but Gray couldn’t grab his and Watford’s second of the game.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

After making two half time subs with Roque Mesa and Abraham coming on, Swansea rallied at the start of the second half and they equalized through Abraham.

Bony’s effort was saved by Heurelho Gomes but half time sub Abraham poked the ball home to make it 1-1.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ] 

Swansea improved dramatically after the equalizer with Mesa going close as the Welsh side pushed hard for the winner late on.

However Watford won it in the 89th minute as Richarlison made the most of mistakes from Mesa and Mawson and sent a shot over Lukasz Fabianski and in.

WATCH LIVE: Leicester City vs. Liverpool

Mike Egerton/PA via AP
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Liverpool hopes a better lineup at the same venue will make the difference when it visits Leicester City at King Power Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Leicester beat Liverpool 2-0 midweek in the League Cup, but the Reds didn’t have their top center back duo in Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip. They’ll start Saturday.

The Foxes have red-hot Shinji Okazaki playing with Jamie Vardy up top.

LINEUPS

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan (c), Maguire, Chilwell, Ndidi, King, Albrighton, Mahrez, Okazaki, Vardy. Subs: Hamer, Fuchs, Amarety, Iborra, Gray, Iheanacaho, Slimani.

Liverpool: Mignolet, Gomez, Lovren, Matip, Moreno, Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Coutinho, Salah, Firmino. Subs: Karius, Milner, Sturridge, Solanke, Klavan, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexander-Arnold.

Manchester City 5-0 Crystal Palace: City helps Eagles make history

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  • De Bruyne pulling strings
  • Sterling scores two
  • Sane goal, assist

Leroy Sane’s magical playmaking lifted rampant Manchester City to a 5-0 win over Crystal Palace, whose futility made history at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Raheem Sterling scored twice, while Sergio Aguero, Fabian Delph, and Sane also scored as leaders City moved past Manchester United on goal differential.

Palace remains winless and goalless, the first Premier League team to start a season without a goal through six matches.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Mamadou Sakho‘s attempt to deal with a Kevin De Bruyne cross beat his own keeper, and Wayne Hennessey was happy to see the ball bump off his far post.

Hennessey was then in position to block Fernandinho‘s point blank attempt off a corner kick.

Palace did have a chance thanks to one of its early stars of their slow-starting season, but Ruben Loftus-Cheeks’ shot from outside the 18 bounded off the post.

A tough angle for Aguero saw him chop Leroy Sane’s cutback over the bar from seven yards. Sane was the one who made it 1-0 minutes later.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Sterling made it 2-0 just after halftime, as Sane put it on a platter with a square ball from the left.

He added his second when De Bruyne found Aguero with a diagonal ball and the Argentine cut back for Sterling to touch into the goal.

Play had hardly restarted when Sane was stopped by a sliding Hennessey at the doorstep.

And Sane sent a marvelous, powerful cross for Aguero to head home in the 79th minute.

Delph curled a gorgeous shot home in the 89th minute to put an exclamation point on the result.

Everton 2-1 Bournemouth: Niasse the hero

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  • Niasse scores first PL goals for Everton
  • King gave Bournemouth lead
  • Everton’s first win in five

Everton battled back to beat Bournemouth 2-1 at Goodison Park on Saturday with Josh King‘s strike canceled out by two Oumar Niasse goals.

The Cherries took the lead early in the second half but substitute Niasse made it three goals in two games for the Toffees as the former Hull loanee has been brought in from the cold by Ronald Koeman.

With the win Everton move on to seven points, while Bournemouth have now lost four of their opening six games.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]  

Wayne Rooney suffered a nasty injury as Bournemouth’s skipper Simon Francis elbowed him in the eye as a ball looped into the box.

No penalty kick was given and Rooney had to receive treatment as blood poured out of a wound above his left eye.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Aside from that injury to Rooney neither side created clear cut chances as Everton’s fans started to get restless.

Those groans grew as Bournemouth took the lead four minutes into the second half.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Charlie Daniels picked up the ball on the left and played it into King who ran towards goal and Everton’s defense opened up for him to drill a low shot into the bottom corner.

Jermain Defoe then had a glorious chance but Jordan Pickford saved well down low with his feet.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ] 

Tom Davies and Niasse came on for Rooney and Davy Klaassen to try and get Everton back into the game and that’s exactly what they did.

First Mason Holgate had a header cleared spectacularly off the line from Andrew Surman and then Davies played in Niasse superbly with the Senegalese striker smashing home to make it 1-1.

He did it again late on as a shot from Davies was blocked and the ball looped into the air and Niasse prodded home to send Goodison wild.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin almost added another late on from close range but the Toffees held on to secure their first win since the opening day of the season.