Swansea last year were much-heralded for their improvement under Michael Laudrup, and their Carling Cup triumph as proof of their progress, but there was the feeling it was a little overstated at times. The cup success was against Bradford in the final, with the significant game coming against a highly inconsistent Chelsea in the midst of a Rafael Benitez comedown, while in the league, Swansea didn't really look like challenging for much.
This year, the club have made a few big purchases -- Wilfried Bony is the most eye-catching acquisition, who bagged a brace on his debut in a Europa League qualifier against Malmo, and Swansea certainly looked like a better team on the evidence of that game. The club may be looking at challenging for the Europa League spots this year, or they may devote more time to the competition itself having qualified with last season's trophy win. Either way, while the signs are good, they'll need to make more progress this year if the belief in both the club and Michael Laudrup is to be justified.
Last year: 9th
Key player: Michu
Because he cost four pounds, obviously. Much was made of how good an acquisition he was last year, and his goals certainly played a huge part in Swansea's season. Despite his initial displays as a midfielder, however, he was almost playing as a striker by the time the season ended - he'll have a new role this season, and that's to gel with new signing Wilfried Bony. If he can do it, then the Swans have a potentially lethal partnership.
Potential breakout star: Ben Davies
It seems a bit silly to suggest a player who was pretty much first-choice for most of last season will now be a breakout star, but Ben Davies could well play himself into contention for a move to a much bigger club if he has another impressive season. Neil Taylor, a fine left-back himself, was displaced quite easily by the youngster, and his potential could lead him to be talked of among the very best in his position soon if he continues to develop.
Additions: Jose Canas, Jordi Amat, Alejandro Pozuelo, Gregor Zabret, Alex Gogic, Jonjo Shelvey, Wilfried Bony, Jernade Meade, Jonathan de Guzman (loan)
While Wilfried Bony stands out as the main addition, there are some other good bits of business here. Jordi Amat could give them a much-needed defensive upgrade, while Alejandro Pozuelo, who also scored on his debut in the same game, looks like he could be a good signing to watch for the future, if Laudrup can accomodate both him and Michu.
Departures: Kemy Agustein
Loaning a few youngsters (Kyle Bartley among them) aside, Swansea have only lost one rather insignificant player this season, with the club probably looking to increase squad depth in order to have a stab at the Europa League. They don't have too much dead wood around, but there are still a few who could be headed for the exit.
Could still leave: Ashley Williams
Other than some insignificant squad players being jettisoned, the only significant departure Swansea City could face is that of Ashley Williams. The Welsh centre-back has been linked to the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal in this window, and although talk of those moves has gone cool, it seems possible that clubs will panic as the deadline draws closer, so there is still a likelihood an offer too good to refuse will come in.
Rumored transfer targets: None
Swansea haven't been linked to many players lately, having got most of their business done early in the window. Michael Laudrup has declared his squad ready for the start of the season, where they have a difficult opening encounter against Manchester United, but it's always possible there could be one or two additions yet to come. If there are, there's been very little said about them.
Swansea have a very complete squad now, but if anything probably look a bit light out on the flanks. Whether Alejandro Pozuelo will be asked to play out wide remains to be seen. In addition, it'll be interesting to see who comprises the midfield this season -- Leon Britton and Jonjo Shelvey started against Malmo, but Jose Canas could force his way in.
Season prediction: 8th
While Swansea should improve, there appears to be an increasing gap appearing between the top seven and the rest of the clubs in the Premier League. Whether the improvements will be sufficient to allow the club to compete with Liverpool and Everton remains to be seen - they could do so, but they'll have to balance it out with their Europa League challenge this season, which means they may struggle to really take things to the next level.