Defeat But Plenty Of Positives For Swansea City
Swansea City suffered an agonising defeat at Manchester City this afternoon but there was still plenty of promising signs and reason for optimism for Paul Clement and his side.
The first half was a rather forgetful one for the Swans, at one point - Guardiola`s side had 82% possession, while we were camped in our own half for the vast majority of the opening 45 minutes.
For all their dominance and possession, they really should have had the game wrapped up by half time as Clement`s side didn`t have a single shot on goal.
The Swansea head coach admitted after the game that his side were far from their potential in the first half, but it was impressive how he managed to inspire a much improved display after the restart. They were far more positive on the ball and started to have spells of possession as they looked to get forward and create some openings. After a corner or two within the first 5 minutes, they had already done more in the final third than in the entire first half.
Clement maintained his 4-5-1 team shape and line-up, and why not - it had got him vital wins against Liverpool away and then Southampton at home, but Manchester City proved to be a far tougher test - their quicker movement and interchanging passing caused all sorts of problems early on in the game. A common problem in midfield saw two or even three midfielders getting sucked in to close down the likes of De Bruyne, allowing the hosts to then use the open space in wide areas. With the likes of Carroll and Fer getting sucked in, there was far too much space in wide areas and even in the inside channels to exploit.
But as you`d expect from a top coach like Paul Clement, this was later eradicated by ensuring only one player pressed, as the 5-man midfield line was narrowing far too often.
Manchester City`s quality in possession and some issues for Swansea`s midfield in particular allowed them to keep the ball for long periods, and with us sitting so deep in our own half, we literally barely entered their half of the field for any length of time.
But the positives of the performance come from the fact that we turned it around so much in our favour after the break. It was quite remarkable actually. What was particularly impressive, and has been almost since Clement first arrived, was how forward-thinking we`ve now become. There were moments in the second half when the outside central midfielders Leroy Fer and Tom Carroll were under pressure in possession, but instead of playing safer and risk-free backwards passes to the defence, they looked forward to play long passes into Sigurdsson or Llorente - and they were often accurate too.
It`s details like this that are going to help us win more games to ensure we finish outside the bottom three this season. Small details like this that saw us with possession on the edge of the final third, rather than having to build from the back again.
Talking of Carroll and Fer, both players produced good performances. They both contributed defensively and like I said, they possess the ability to play long, direct passes forward to help us create chances. Yes, they were getting sucked in earlier on, but this problem was soon solved - much to the benefit of the team.
Defensively, it`s not worth mentioning the right side of it, Fernandez and Naughton - with the latter looking particularly vulnerable far too often, while Fernandez could have done better to stop Silva before he created the opening goal. But Mawson and Olsson on the left were far, far better. Olsson is still impressing me far more with his attacking work than his defensive contribution, but Mawson was the standout performer for me and deserved man of the match. He made a superb block in the second half to prevent City from doubling their lead, and he just looked far more composed and solid than his Argentinian partner alongside him.
While the home side should have converted their possession into 2 or 3 goals, they didn`t - and after an excellent second half, we really were worthy of getting something. Having conceded the first, and having an appalling record when doing so, it was a big test of character for us to avoid a heavy defeat, but we somehow found the equaliser, but Sigurdsson couldn`t win us yet another point after some disappointing defending in injury time.
Despite the defeat, there`s still promising signs under Paul Clement, who has already done wonders with us. We look far more capable going forward, we play in a solid and well balanced shape but most importantly - our mentality is far stronger. Our heads didn`t drop today, we didn`t concede defeat after the first went in - I`m sure 5 games ago we`d have lost that game by a far bigger margin.