Flashback: Michu 2012/13
Nice to Michu, one could say. The Spaniard had such a profound effect on the youth, many proceeded to name their Fifa Ultimate Team clubs after the second-striker. In this article, I will explore just how Michu stormed the Premier League as he did with the Swans.
Miguel Pérez Cuesta, more commonly known as Michu, came through the Real Oviedo academy, which had seen previous graduate, Juan Mata, starting to find his feet in England after his move from Valencia. Both of the Oviedo’s graduates ending up setting the EPL alight, with Mata scoring 19 goals and setting up his team mates 35 times in all competitions in the same year. They must be doing something right at Oviedo.
Swansea decided to pick him up for £2 million, after he scored 17 and assisted 4 goals in 39 games for Rayo Vallecano, making him the highest scoring midfielder in La Liga that season. Swansea clearly saw him as a Number 9, and in turn, gave him the number 9 shirt. This was a clear sign of intent by Swansea. Despite playing most of the La Liga season as an attacking midfielder, he went on to actually fill the lone striker spot in the 4-2-3-1 formation that Laudrup favoured. He still featured in both positions, being prolific in both roles; 22 games a CF, contributing 9 goals and 3 assists, and in AM, 21 games, 13 goals and 2 assists (thanks transfermarkt). With little Johnny de Guzmán in behind him, the pair went on to propel Swansea to European football and a League Cup triumph.
You might well be questioning just how Michu did so well in that season. He seemed like an unorthodox play maker who wouldn’t be able to play to the frantic pace of the Premier League. It was this that played so perfectly into his hands. He possessed high footballing IQ, able to find spaces which caused defences all sorts of problems. When playing upfront, he was able to break in behind the defence with well timed runs, even though he was lacking in the pace department.
He could have been best categorised a Defensive Forward mixed with a Target Man, shown by 0.87 tackles per game and 3.42 aerial duels won per game (Squawka). Compare that to some of the best forwards the EPL has seen in recent years, such as Suarez in 13/14, Van Persie of 12/13 and Costa of 16/17, he doubles the aerial duels and is above all of them in tackles per game. His 6 headed goals in the EPL also shows the presence he gave Swansea in the box. Their system varied, but the main fundamentals were the counter-attacking nature of the team, and if the other team sat off, it would be slow build-up, until that first ball into the final third, in which triangles between the striker, number ten and wingers, with the fullback overloading on the outside, meant teams were not able to keep up with them.
Michu would be able to profit off these triangles and one-twos, as would be the spare man charging onto the ball into the box. This is highlighted by the 17 goals from inside the box that he scored. Michu’s scintillating form earned him his first and only Spain call from Vicente del Bosque, in which he featured in a World Cup qualifier against Belarus.
Some may view Michu as a one-season wonder, yet this stellar season from the Spaniard eclipsed that of any Swansea player in Premier League history. From his goal at the Emirates to help them beat Arsenal, and send the home crowd into a mob, to the brace on his debut, there are many moments that still live fresh in the mind of the Liberty Stadium faithful. Being able to witness it is something unique and special, and we should all learn to appreciate Michu’s stint in England a little more.