Swansea need to rediscover their identity under Bradley

There was a time when 'doing a Swansea' was not a reference to the revolutionary move of becoming the first Premier League club to appoint an American manager. There was a time, not too long ago, when 'doing a Swansea' seemed the objective for getting on for 30 or 40 clubs in the English league system, those who were not the superpowers, but dreamed of establishing themselves in the top flight on a comparatively small budget.

'Doing a Swansea' has not yet joined 'doing a Bolton' or 'doing a Charlton' as an anachronism, just as Swansea are a long way from joining Bolton and Charlton, former role models who have now turned into the epitomes of how not to do things, in League One. Yet the pioneering Bob Bradley has signed up for a club that appears to be losing its unique identity, losing the right kind of reputation and perhaps gaining the wrong sort.

Swansea have certainly been losing games, five of their last six league matches under Francesco Guidolin during a run that has produced one point from a possible 18. They currently sit 17th, whereas 12 months ago they were 11th and at the equivalent stage in 2014 tied for fourth. They are losing managers, and not in the way they were when Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers were headhunted. Firing one manager does not merit the tag of a sacking club but, after Michael Laudrup's 2014 departure, they have now dismissed Garry Monk and Guidolin in the space of 10 months.

Swansea were renowned as savvy buyers. They may still be: after all, they made a profit of £20.5 million in a year on Andre Ayew who, while scarcely the stereotypical Swansea footballer, was a high-class one. That money has been reinvested in Fernando Llorente and Borja Baston.

Although the two Spaniards have only scored one goal between them, the younger and costlier Baston has been limited to 124 minutes of Premier League football and it is too soon to dismiss them as mistakes. Yet Swansea did err in the 2015-16 arrivals of Franck Tabanou, Alberto Paloschi and Eder. While even the best buyers do not have a 100 percent strike rate in the transfer market, theirs has deteriorated rapidly of late.

Misfits have been exiled but so, too, has a talisman of the side. It is damaging that Ashley Williams has not been properly replaced. It appeared damning that the now Everton centre-back wanted to leave. After eight years in the Liberty Stadium, ending up as captain and cornerstone, he felt more than just a player.

The temptation was to assume that Williams, whose head was not turned by earlier interest from Arsenal and Liverpool, would be at Swansea for the rest of his footballing life. Instead, with Leon Britton already 34 and Angel Rangel reaching the same landmark later this month, Bradley may have to consider pensioning off two more pillars of their ascent from the third tier.

Yet, a few months ago, it seemed Swansea would reconnect with their past and rediscover themselves with a reunion. Some close to the club expected Rodgers to return as manager and Joe Allen to rejoin in the midfield. Actually, they are now at Celtic and Stoke City respectively. Instead Guidolin was given a new contract in May and sacked in October.

Swansea had seemed strangers to confused thinking. This reeked of it. The easy explanation is to attribute it to the involvement of the Americans Jason Levein and Steve Kaplan, who bought a controlling stake but, as the long-serving Huw Jenkins remains chairman, that feels a simplification at best. The seeds of Swansea's identity crisis were sown before they bought in.

Much of their appeal lay in their uniqueness. They were the antidote to the big spenders and the knee-jerk reactionaries alike. There seemed an ethical element to Swansea, whether with the Supporters' Trust represented on the board or the passing principles that underpinned their rise.

Now, while Bradley is not a natural fit for their possession-based style of play, their brand of football is already less distinct, a process begun by Monk, and the Supporters' Trust have complained they were not consulted about the newcomer's appointment. The sense of harmony looks disrupted.

None of which necessarily means Bradley is the wrong man, but it does underline the scale of his task. Swansea, who were greater than the sum of their parts, now appear reliant on individuals, principally Gylfi Sigurdsson and the sole consistent source of goals, Leroy Fer. Teamwork and team spirit have tended to be strengths of Bradley's sides and, while Guidolin's teams did not give up, he felt a journeyman manager and some recent signings seemed mercenaries so Swansea could benefit from rediscovering the sense there is something special about the club.

It bodes well that they have a fine recent record against Saturday's opponents, Arsenal, with three wins and a draw in their last five clashes with Arsene Wenger's side. While Bradley aims to prove himself in the world's most glamorous league, Swansea need to show they are not regressing but evolving and that others, once again, will aspire to do a Swansea.