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Analysis - Swansea's 4-4-2 vs West Ham United

Analysis - Swansea's 4-4-2 vs West Ham United

Swansea City missed a big chance to move out of the bottom 3 and up to 16th place after failing to score against West Ham United in Sunday's late kick off at the Liberty Stadium.

After an improved performance the weekend before away at Manchester City, where the title hopefuls needed a deflected shot to win the game in injury time, the Swans - led again by caretaker manager Alan Curtis - were looking to finally end a dire run of results against a Hammers side missing a number of key first team players.

With Wayne Routledge forced out of the game due to injury, Curtis was forced into a change in personnel as well as formation, opting to go from 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 diamond, and bringing striker Bafetimbi Gomis back into the starting line-up.

Again, the Swans looked far more solid as an overfill outfit. 73% possession and a decent, consistent and accurate passing game - helped by the likes of Angel Rangel, Leon Britton and Gylfi Sigurdsson in particular helped keep Fabianski's work limited throughout the 90 minutes. But despite the domination of possession, the problems remain of playing too much football in front of the opposition - and not enough in behind - making it all too easy for the Hammers to keep a clean sheet and gain a point.

Leon Britton's performance

Leon Britton was by far the best player on the pitch, producing an intelligent deploying midfield performance - operating deep in between the two centre backs and helping the team maintain possession for long periods.

West Ham sat very deep and allowed the Swans plenty of time and possession in the first two thirds of the pitch. It was in the final third where they kept things compact, limited the space and outnumbered the home side - making it difficult to get into good attacking positions.

As you can see in the screenshot above, Britton plays as a third centre back if you like, and there are plenty of easy passing options throughout the team.

Britton was constantly on the move (a shame the same couldn't be said for some of his team-mates), and he was always making runs into space to give his defenders a passing option.

Above, West Ham striker Jelavic struggled to keep tabs on Leon as he kept on moving into good positions to receive the ball and move forward. Jelavic lacked support from his team-mates in dealing with this problem, and this continued for the rest of the match.

Jelavic cut a frustrated figure too, below - he pushes forward to close down Ashley Williams - knowing he leaves Leon Britton in space behind him, and he's annoyed that a team-mate doesn't push up and mark Leon - who dictated Swansea's passing game.

When the ball left Britton and moved into the middle third, it was mostly Sigurdsson's quick, one touch passing that helped keep the ball moving. You can see below, his short passes in the middle third of the pitch, all but one being successful.

Swansea's attacking shape

We analysed Swansea's 4-3-3 system at Manchester City, and it worked well against the home side's high defensive line, as the Swans were able to get in behind the defence on quite a few occasions - as they managed 7 shots on target in that game.

You can see below how they mainly played with two central attacking players, with Sigurdsson playing just behind as the creative player.

However, compare that with the West ham game, and Swansea only have 1 player forward, with the other striker - usually Gomis - dropping deeper into a midfield position.

Gomis was often the player dropping into a deeper position, looking to link up the play in the later phases of an attacking move. He doesn't draw a defender out of position as they stick to a disciplined shape, but even though he found himself in yards of space, his passing was inconsistent to say the least.

Out of 32 passes, only 22 were successful - a success rate of just 69%, compared to an average of around 85-86% throughout the team.

Swansea's struggles down the left

With the Swans switching to formations that require the full backs to get forward and provide the width, they're struggling in wide areas. Neil Taylor, in particular, has been mostly excellent in a defensive sense in recent games, but he's not the most confident going forward.

In his defence, he does lack support a lot of the time, but when it is there, he doesn't use it, or he does use it, but uses it too late.

Below, Taylor pushes forward down the left and Ayew comes across in support. He has the opportunity to try and play him in behind the defender, but the pass is delayed. Ayew then has to drop deep and yet again, Swansea play in front of West Ham's back four.

Another example below. Swansea can't make use of the space available out wide with players not committing to making forward runs. There's no reason why Ki or Ayew can't make a forward run down the left flank into the space, with Taylor lifting a pass over into that area. Instead of that, the team prefer to play simple, 'safety-first', basic passes.

Another problem in the screenshot below is the lack of movement within the team - still. This was a constant issue under Garry Monk, and while the passing has improved and we're dominating matches again, we're not going to test teams if the majority of our players are still standing still.

Leicester City is a perfect example of a side playing quick and direct attacking football, with as many as four or five players sprinting forward. In the screenshot above though, there are three players waiting for something to happen at the top of the picture. Ayew is barely moving either and Ki is jogging ahead.

Above shows how West Ham can defend narrow, with Swansea lacking any width on either flank. There's an opportunity on the right to get forward, with Jack Cork available on that side, but Angel Rangel isn't there to help the team get near the goal-line.

Another example of the Swans not making use of the space available to them is above. Again, the ball is on the left side of the pitch, Ayew has made a run wide - taking a defender with him to open space through the channel. Ki is out of position, and he should be the one - as the left-sided central midfielder in the diamond, to be on that side making a run through into the shaded area.

Below is the rare moment that Swansea managed to get in behind the defence as Britton plays in Ki, but they couldn't make any use of it.

Average formations

Above shows Swansea's average formation in the first half, with Neil Taylor actually getting further forward than his fellow full back Angel Rangel. Britton is just at the base of the diamond with Sigurdsson at the top - just behind Gomis and Ayew.

Compare that to how the average formation looked like from the full 90 minutes - tells a better picture of Swansea's overall shape.

Gomis is actually operating in Jack Cork's right sided midfield position - as you could see in some of the screenshots further above.

It's Ayew and Sigurdsson who are the two most advanced players in the 4-4-2 - and this has happened in most, if not all of the games Gomis has started in. It was the same when Eder made a rare start against Bournemouth.


Bafetimbi Gomis is one of those frustrating players that you have to endure watching for a full 90 minutes. We have nobody who can come on to replace him as a backup striker, unless you move Ayew into his position and bring on Montero and switch to 4231.

There were moments when the crowd applauded a good pass from him, switching the play to the opposite side of the pitch - for example, but other times when he fails to make a basic 5-yard pass when under no pressure whatsoever. (you can see his passing diagram further above)

Not only that, but smiling after every miss (awful misses I should say) and another offside call is frustrating. He hasn't scored in ages, and strikers should be desperate to score and should look frustrated when they are yet again in an offside position or mis-cue a shot that goes closer to the corner flag than the target.

He was back to his average of 3 offsides in a game against West Ham, although one of them was harsh, as you can see below - he's pretty much level with the last defender as Sigurdsson plays the ball through.

But there's no excusing this one below. A West Ham defender pushes up on Ayew, leaving Gomis in an offside position. He doesn't react nor realise he's in an offside position and simply stays in this position. Eventually, the ball is played up to him and the assistant raises his flag once more. Notice how a defender is keen to push up and apply pressure on Ayew, but not so on Gomis.

These sort of long range, over the top passes from Shelvey suit Gomis. He stays onside for this one, the weight of the pass is perfect from Shelvey and Gomis is through on goal, but the goalkeeper does well to race out and clear the danger.

There were plenty of positives to take from the game, but the Swans need to show a bit more confidence and commit to making more forward runs. They dominated possession with 73% and attempted more than 600 passes but failed to score. Incidentally, Watford had half as many passes against Liverpool but beat them 3-0.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Date:Wednesday December 23 2015
Time: 10:33PM


Two points come from this excellent tactical assessment. The first is that we are not making forward runs or looking for the empty spaces. Secondly we will not play the ball over the top, preferring instead to play safety passes hoping that an opening might happen. Now it seems to me that the players are still under the cautious influence of Garry Monk. No cautious football is going to get us out of our precarious position. Indeed the opposite is needed, we have to start taking risks and committing more men forward. Nothing else will work. Let's try the Leicester way shall we. Anyhow A Merry Christmas to everyone and a Prosperous New Year.
Phil W
24/12/2015 21:39:00
Cheers Phil. The problem I see with Curtis wanting to play a possession based game is the lack of over the top and more risky passing that we need to do to get in behind defences. Too much of our play is in front of the opposition, we managed at City because they play a higher defensive line, West Brom won't tomorrow. Gomis has received a lot of criticism too, I did in the analysis, but the service to him is still not good enough. But at least we're more in control of games now, come out quicker and put some pressure on the opposition early on. Feeling more confident of our survival chances now but West Brom game is massive, really is one we need to win, especially after not beating West ham who were there for the taking.
Vital Swansea City
25/12/2015 19:37:00
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