Swansea City wowed neutrals with a brilliant first season in the English Premier League last year. But it was not their final position of 11th that was really impressive — it was the way they played their football that briefly saw the name 'EPL's Barca' flutter in the media.
At the turn of this season, their manager Brendan Rodgers went off to Liverpool and they lost Gylfi Sigurdsson, Joe Allen, Scott Sinclair and Steven Caulker from their squad — easily leaving a huge gap in the set-up.
But in came Michael Laudrup as new manager and brought with him a flurry of bargain buys, the best of which has turned out to be Miguel Perez Cuesta: fondly known as Michu.
The EPL has seen midfielders Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and most recently Clint Dempsey emerge as one of the top-scorers in previous seasons. But no one expected £2 million worth of Rayo Vallecano talent to emerge as such an outstanding player in England.
He may have scored 17 goals for Rayo in 2011-12, and he maybe Spanish (Fernando Torres is also Spanish and Spain are the world champions too). But transfers based on previous records like this have fallen flat on their faces in previous seasons.
Especially those players that come from another league: Juan Sebastien Veron, Kleberson, Andriy Shevchenko, Diego Forlan, Alberto Aquilani and J. Antonio Reyes among others (Torres to Chelsea deserves another mention, surely).
But Michu seems to be different class.
Packed with the energy of a Gennaro Gattuso, a tall and balanced body like that of Kaka, the ability to break offside traps like Javier Hernandez and Harry Potter's invisibility cloak which helps him secretly emerge in goal-scoring positions, Michu's metamorphosis from good midfielder to top class midfielder has been pleasing. For those who don't watch the sport for the sport, he also has a mane which flies behind him when he runs in celebration.
Not to mention, he came with a transfer fee worth four weeks of Wayne Rooney's wages.
OK, we maybe carried away in our comparison a wee bit, but there's no reason to not mention Michu as one of the best EPL buys this season. Actually, the best. If his form continues, Swansea will continue scoring and Michu could be a strong contender for EPL Player of the Year.
His form may fizzle out as the season progresses, but Michu has been in the EPL dream team forever. And if you know for Fantasy Football, he is a must have.
What also helps him is having a manager who was himself a brilliant attacking midfielder. Laudrup lets his players express themselves on the pitch, and for those who aren't big stars with the media spotlight on them 24/7, this strategy works.
Nathan Dyer, Leon Britton and Jonathan de Guzman provide fantastic support to Michu in midfield in a defensive 4-2-3-1 formation which has made Swansea a fluid team who always look to attack.
This is no lightweight midfield. Out of Swansea's total of 32 goals this season, their strikers have scored just five. That means 27 have come from other positions (Michu doubles up as striker sometimes).
Even in the assists department, only five have come from forwards. The rest (23) have come from other positions.
With bigger clubs like Chelsea, Juventus and Barcelona tinkering with a false no.9 formation and struggling at times, Swansea seem to have mastered it in disguise.
And tell you what, they really have a no.9 in the middle of it all.
First Published On : Dec 4, 2012 17:32 IST