The mood is right for Swansea City ahead of Norwich City clash
PLAYED 15, won six, drawn five, lost any concerns which existed at the beginning of the season.
Swansea City's exceptional start to life under Michael Laudrup has made for a relaxed atmosphere on the training ground this week.
"To have 23 points at this stage is brilliant," says Swansea's assistant manager Erik Larsen.
"It gives us a calmness to work on the things that Michael wants to work on — developing the squad in general, the team and the different aspects of the game.
"The results we've had give a lot of confidence to the players.
"They feel calm and happy about the things we do because they can see that we get points."
Swansea's players held their Christmas party last Saturday night, perfect timing given that they had chalked up one of the finest victories in the history of the club that afternoon.
After the joys of success at Arsenal, Ashley Williams and Co get back to business when Norwich City come to the Liberty Stadium tomorrow.
It is a chance to continue a fine run of form — and to strengthen the growing belief that Swansea could do something special this season.
The team who many said would struggle — the respected FourFourTwo magazine, for instance, tipped Swansea to finish 20th in their pre-season special — could even move into the Premier League's top four if they win and other results go their way.
With more than a third of the season gone, no-one can say Swansea's lofty league position is a fluke.
But within the camp, Larsen stresses, nobody is getting carried away.
Laudrup's long-time sidekick does not even want to contemplate when Swansea might reach the 40-point safety mark, never mind how many more they might gather before the season is out.
"I am very basic that way," he says.
"Looking ahead for me is looking towards the next game. 40 points is a huge number, so let's just think about Norwich."
Swansea's sparkling run of only one defeat in their last ten matches means there is expectation — if no pressure — on their shoulders heading into the weekend.
But then the Canaries are going along very nicely too.
Like Swansea, they lost an inspirational manager in the summer when Paul Lambert opted to take on the challenge of reviving Aston Villa.
But like Swansea, they are making good strides under a new boss.
Chris Hughton did not have an easy start to life at Carrow Road.
Norwich lost 5-0 at Fulham on the opening day of the season and failed to win any of their first seven league games this term.
They were thumped at home by Liverpool and walloped at Stamford Bridge along the way, but the tide turned when Grant Holt's goal saw them overcome Arsenal on October 20.
Since then they have beaten Stoke, Manchester United and Sunderland on home soil, and drawn at Aston Villa, Reading, Everton and Southampton.
They head for Wales still looking for a first away triumph of the season, but buoyed by the mixture of resilience and forward power which has seen them climb into mid-table.
Norwich will break a club record should they avoid defeat tomorrow, for they have never before gone nine games without losing in the Premier League.
But then Laudrup will not need to remind his players that West Brom were going rather well when they arrived in these parts nine days ago.
The Baggies had won four in a row, but were blown away by a Swansea side who produced perhaps the best 45 minutes of football ever seen in SA1.
"When we played West Brom we had expectations, but we also had a lot of respect because of their run," says Larsen.
"Now I think it will be exactly the same against Norwich.
"There is a reason why they are in the Premier League, and they are also on a great run.
"We know that any team who can get results in this division over a period of time are going to be dangerous opponents."
Holt, something of a pantomime villain in these parts having had a pop at the Welsh last season, is likely to be a key figure for Swansea to stop.
They did not handle his physicality — nor that of fellow frontman Steve Morison — last season, and that went a long way to explaining why Norwich were one of only three sides to do the double over Brendan Rodgers's Swansea in 2011-12.
Hughton's support cast tomorrow is likely to include threats like Anthony Pilkington, Wes Hoolahan and the Norwegian international Alexander Tettey, who has impressed since arriving from French football in the summer.
Sebastien Bassong, the centre-back who joined from Spurs for £4 million in August, has been influential, and could partner former Swansea target Ryan Bennett this weekend because of an injury to Michael Turner.
The man Michu and the rest will be trying to beat is Mark Bunn because, like Swansea, Norwich are currently without their first-choice keeper — in their case John Ruddy — through injury.
Swansea's chances of making life sticky for Bunn will depend on how well they keep possession and how quickly they move the ball. Because if Swansea create chances, they have proved already this season that they have players who will take them.
The greater cutting edge inspired by Laudrup, after all, has been the biggest factor in their rapid progress so far in this campaign.
"We are delighted for the players because they are the ones do the job on the pitch," Larsen says. "We enjoyed the victory last weekend, but we don't get six points because it was at the Emirates.
"You only get three points there like in all the other stadiums, so we have to try to get more points as soon as possible."
Starting, Swansea hope, tomorrow afternoon.