Quarterly Report – Swansea City: The Spanish flavour of the EPL
The English Premier League has always been associated with a direct, fast approach play involving long balls and crosses invariably leading to lots of 1-on-1 battles for the ball.
Swansea City broke away from those traditions by playing possession football, more associated with Spanish clubs rather than English.
This season, the Swans signed a new manager in the form of Michael Laudrup, who changed their style slightly but continued his predecessor’s legacy of possession football. While they lost Joey Allen and Gylfi Sigurdsson, they received some excellent replacements in their side with minimal money required. Spanish attackers Pablo Hernandez and Michu joined the side along with the versatile Korean midfielder Ki Sung Yong.
As of now, Swansea are at the middle of the table with some excellent results, coupled with a few frustrating draws. While they have been competitive against the top clubs, they have been outplayed by the likes of Stoke City and Aston Villa.
While Swansea retain their ability to keep the ball, Laudrup has changed their approach in the final third quite a bit. Gone is Brendan Rodger’s patient build up approach on attacks, replaced with a risky approach involving such speed that the opposition does not get the time to adapt their shape.
The new Swansea philosophy infuses a core midfield passing unit with high wingers and a center forward that drops back to maintain the passing tempo.
The wingers play high up the pitch and cut inside to play passes through the centre of the pitch, a tactical fitting of the characteristics of Hernandez, Dyer and Routledge. Michu plays as the centre forward, playing passes and scoring goals and when the situation warrants, Graham is played as the proper striker.
The Spanish game play requires a lot of pressing upon the midfield to dominate possession where the players energetically close down from the front, with the wingers moving in to close down passing range for the centre-backs, while the defensive line quickly moves up the pitch to prevent any space from opening up behind.
While this sounds like their strength it actually turns into a weakness when they play against opponents who are lethal with their attackers. Take the case of Manchester City; they played very well against City in the first half but got noticeably tired in the second half allowing Tevez the space and time to shoot from long range.
Another weakness lies in their defence where their attacking full backs never track back in time especially when playing against very fast paced sides like Aston Villa and Everton. Till now they have conceded an average of 2 goals per match.
Leon Britton is Swansea’s pivotal midfield passing player. If he is marked by the opposition, Swansea struggle to maintain their usual passing tempo.
The most important aspect Swansea need to improve is their deep midfield where Britton keeps all the possession. Once you place a marker on him, the passing rate of Swansea significantly decreases.
Swansea are a team to look out for in the future, but at present they do not look like consistent performers. Laudrup’s style encourages high scoring encounters but still their defence needs to tighten up when playing against teams who have a lot of pace.
One thing is for certain, Swansea will play the way they play, be it against Reading or be it against the giants of Manchester. Every match will be a competitive affair to savour.
Till then, Hasta Luego!!!