When agreed to take the job late on Wednesday night, the initial plan was that he would watch yesterday’s game at Vicarage Road and then start work as the new manager next week, most likely for the arrival of on Tuesday evening.
But Carvalhal was a man in a hurry. “Time is our enemy at this moment,” as he memorably puts it. So the plans changed. He told Huw Jenkins that he wanted to come straight to Swansea to start coaching the team. Even though it meant getting up at 4am on Thursday to drive from Sheffield to Swansea. Carvalhal and his team had to study Swansea’s last game – a 5-0 defeat at Anfield, which Carvalhal attended – to prepare for the match, to speak to his new players and to start to teach them about his own idea of football.
Swansea have tended to play 4-3-3 recently but Carvalhal had other ideas. He wanted to come to Watford and play a narrow 4-4-2, with wide players Renato Sanches and Sam Clucas tucked in to “confuse” Watford, with strikers Jordan Ayew and Tammy Abraham pinning back the Watford full-backs. Carvalhal needed time, but only had 48 hours of it.
“We put players in roles that some of them never did exactly before,” he explained afterwards. “But with time, the team grows. It is not easy to train one idea, but in the game, they grew in confidence, and in the dynamic.”
But it worked. Swansea beat Watford 2-1, thanks to two goals in the last five minutes, from Ayew and Luciano Narsingh. It took a few tweaks to get them there, as Carvalhal threw on two wingers, Narsingh and Nathan Dyer, and moved Sanches inside. The result, Swansea’s first away win for four months, was a vindication of Carvalhal and his decision to bring everything forward. “I feel compensated for what we did,” he said. “It is a small step in the very difficult path ahead.”
Carvalhal has seized control of the situation and all of a sudden their season feels very different. Yes, they are still up against it, still bottom, with a thin squad and not much money to improve it. But they have a new manager with a clear plan and the conviction and charisma to pull it off.
He was asked in the aftermath of the win whether his team needed a miracle. No they did not, he said. Safety was entirely in their own hands. “It‘s not a question of miracles,” he explained. “I was clear that miracles are something that doesn‘t belong to the person to do. It depends on divine things. These are the things we can do, it‘s from ourselves that we can solve the problem. We don‘t need a miracle, we need exactly commitment, organisation, belief. To take risks, like we took today.”
Having just two days to prepare for the Watford game, Carvalhal and his staff now have the same amount of time to start learning everything they can about Tottenham for Tuesday night’s meeting. They started on the bus back to Swansea on Saturday evening. “You can imagine how many hours we must work to be inside everything,” he said. “On the bus, it’s Tottenham, Tottenham, Tottenham. Let’s try to prepare in the best way for Tuesday. It’s the way we work.”