One day, surely, Swansea City will stop improving, stop surprising, and find their level. But for now, at least, their progress continues, with three away wins this month and a creditable draw against Liverpool. They are still waiting to find their upper limit, as is their best player, the remarkable Michu.
The Spanish forward has scored his third, fourth and fifth goals of the season in Swansea’s last three games, contributing assists or near enough in the football lessons handed out at Valencia and Crystal Palace last week. Even in this, the most systematic, coherent and organised team in the Premier League, there is still an indispensable man, a player different from all of his team-mates but somehow embodying all of Swansea’s qualities in himself.
Sunday, in the 2-0 win at Palace, saw another example of Michu’s great gifts. For an hour he played as an attacking midfielder, behind Alvaro Vazquez. He opened the scoring, finishing a move he started, before making the second goal with a delightful turn past Danny Gabbidon, setting Vazquez up to create for Nathan Dyer. Just like in Valencia, when one goal and one assist helped Swansea to their 3-0 triumph.
For the last half-hour, though, he went up front, able to use his athleticism and his instinct for finding space to spearhead counter-attacks that should have brought more goals. There are not many in the league as comfortable at No 10 as No 9 but Michu is one, which for his manager is a delight.
“I don’t look at him as just a goal-scorer,” Michael Laudrup said after the win. “He’s not even a centre-forward. He’s an offensive midfielder, who can score goals and can play as a forward. But I don’t have that [negative] picture of him if he hasn’t scored for three games.”
Laudrup need not worry – Michu shows no signs of slowing down. His team-mates certainly recognise his contribution and spoke effusively about him after the game. “He’s a top player,” said the defender Ben Davies, again picking out his flexibility. “But it’s not just the goals that he brings to us, it’s the link-up play and how hard he works. He’s a pleasure to play with. I think he has two different roles and when he plays in the hole he links up the play extremely well. You can only learn off him.”
Michu is one of the few players in the Premier League who make the game look easy, but like the very best, it is allied to his own ferocious hard work. “Watching him in training it is easy to learn off him,” said Davies. “He is a relaxed person, but when it is time to work he is there to put his best effort in – he makes it look easy out on the training pitch.
“From the moment he started training with us we could all tell he was going to be a big hit. He has adapted well, he’s very relaxed and I think that shows on the pitch with just how cool he is in front of goal.”
Michel Vorm plays at the opposite end of the pitch from Michu but with similar intelligence, speed and anticipation. The Dutch goalkeeper, who starts the moves that Michu finishes, knows how good he is and how much he gives. “He is not the type who thinks ‘OK, last season I scored so many goals so this season I will be a bit more relaxed’. He is working so hard for 90 minutes, he is unbelievable. It is such a joy when you have a player like that in your team.”