Swansea City have found an unlikely star in the opening weeks of the season, one who has undergone a remarkable transformation.

If anybody had suggested 12 months ago that Jake Bidwell would become one of Swansea’s most important players, they would have been laughed out of town.

Bidwell was not a fans’ favourite for most of his first season at the Liberty Stadium.

He would often look sluggish, offering little in attack and regularly struggling defensively. Many supporters saw him as a weak link and questioned whether he had the necessary quality to thrive at the Swans.

This was the story of Bidwell’s season up until the Championship was suspended in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, at which point his fortunes began to change.

Perhaps the break helped recharge his batteries and perhaps the absence of fans enabled Bidwell to play without pressure after the restart but one change in particular has made a massive difference to his performances.

Manager Steve Cooper’s decision to switch to a 5-3-2 formation in the final month of last season benefitted the entire side but arguably nobody gained more from this alteration than Bidwell.

As Swansea’s system changed from four to five at the back, Bidwell’s role altered from that of a conventional left-back to a rampaging wing-back.

The new tactics gave Bidwell more freedom to get forward, meaning he could provide an attacking threat out wide. Bidwell found a new lease of life and gave Swansea a new dimension in attack.

This didn’t mean he neglected his defensive duties. He still pitched in and helped reinforce Swansea’s solid rearguard.

Bidwell played a pivotal part in Swansea’s late charge for the play-offs. Not only has he sustained that form into the current season, he’s built on that progress and is by now one of Swansea’s key players.

His early season stats are quite astonishing for a left wing-back. Excluding penalties, he has played a decisive role in all but one of Swansea’s goals.

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He recently scored his first ever goal for the club, getting on the end of a cross at the back post to break the deadlock against Millwall. This was fully deserved after getting himself into similarly dangerous positions in previous games without any reward.

But it’s his creative attributes which have really caught the eye.

Not only has he provided more assists this season than any other Swansea player, he’s also among the leading assisters in the entire division. Only Bristol City striker Chris Martin has set up more goals this season than Bidwell.

His latest assist demonstrated perfectly how valuable he has become.

In a match where Swansea never really got going, he provided the impetus to grab an equaliser against Coventry.

He made a purposeful run down the left wing, sliding in to retain possession before cleverly dragging the ball back into the path of Andre Ayew who finished the move in style.

Bidwell has now become an essential component of this side, providing both defensive protection and cutting edge in attack.

He has arguably been Swansea’s top performer in the opening weeks and the improvement he’s shown is staggering.

Today’s clash with Bristol City is another chance for Bidwell to show how far he’s come.

It’s just over a year since Swansea last visited Ashton Gate. As is often the case when these two teams meet, it was not a classic but Bidwell was responsible for the game’s most memorable moment for all the wrong reasons.

With the game drawing to a close and the scores tied at 0-0, Bidwell committed a needlessly wild and cynical challenge on Niclas Eliasson. The referee showed him a red card which in turn led to a three match suspension.

The tackle was ugly and although it was never likely to cause Eliasson any kind of serious injury, it summed up many of Bidwell’s worst traits from his early days at the Swans. The tackle was uncouth, reckless and was the result of a lack of focus as well as a short fuse.

It also appeared very lazy, rashly taking out his opponent instead of trying to keep up with his run and compete with Eliasson legally.

That typical Bidwell bite hasn’t gone away. Out of the entire Swansea squad only Ben Cabango and Marc Guéhi have committed more fouls than the former Brentford and QPR man this season.

However that trademark toughness is now better-controlled.

Bidwell’s current role demands more responsibility and in turn he has become a more mature and dependable figure which is important in a side which still contains a lot of youngsters.

It’s a pleasure to see Bidwell blossom and it’s also a lesson for us fans that sometimes players take time to find their place at a club.

Some footballers hit the ground running when they join a new club, some take a few months to settle and some take even longer.

Bidwell just needed to find a role within a side which gets the best out of him. Now that he’s found that role both he and the club are reaping the rewards.