Tactical Match Analysis: Swansea City 2-0 Leicester City
Detailed tactical match analysis as Swansea City get another vital win under Paul Clement against fellow relegation rivals Leicester City.
It`s a fourth league win since Paul Clement put pen to paper on the day we got another crucial win against one of our other close rivals - Crystal Palace, and from going from 4 points adrift to four points clear of the bottom three, it really is remarkable just what the former Bayern Munich assistant coach has done at the Liberty Stadium in such a small space of time.
We`ve seen some tactical philosophies that have been evident and consistent since Clement`s arrival that we`ll try and demonstrate in this analysis, but it`s not just some good tactics and good organisation that the 44 year-old has brought to the team, but an entirely new and fresh mentality that deserves arguably more credit than anything else.
Why? Because this team were rock bottom less than two months ago, completely lacking self belief and confidence that they can go out onto the pitch and produce a winning performance. So many managers out there could have got this Swansea team playing in a better and more organised defensive shape than the previous manager did, but it`s a different challenge altogether trying to get the players - from day one - to believe that they can play a quicker and much more positive way of playing.
Clement also deserves credit for quickly inspiring the players to do more running in games, only the defeat at home against Manchester United under Bradley and the narrow defeat against Liverpool under Francesco Guidolin come close to the running stats in all of the League games managed by our current boss. Some games see them running 6 or 7 kilometres more and that too has been a big factor in the improvements.
In a nutshell, the Swans produced a good enough display, got the goals at the crucial times and got the win thanks to a professional and solid performance. It was nothing better than that or anything special, but it`s refreshing that we can say that we didn`t play particularly brilliant yet we scored twice, won the game and kept a clean sheet. Many more of them to follow hopefully!
Leicester`s lacklustre performance
We`ll get this out of the way now.
Leicester meanwhile were far worse and we can`t ignore their lacklustre display in this analysis, even though we`d prefer to focus more on our positives. They showed plenty of evidence as to why they are struggling near the bottom of the table and haven`t scored a single League goal in the current calendar year.
In terms of application and the energy levels, they were the complete opposite to those of last season, which was a big factor in their title success. They didn`t look interested for a lot of the game, lacked defensive organisation and changed nothing from what worked well last year. It was predictable, constantly trying to play long balls for Vardy who has to be running in behind to make any use of them, not with his back to goal as you can see below.
Swansea`s sound team shape made it difficult for Leicester to play shorter passes and be more patient in their build-up play, but you`d still expect a title-winning side to show more creativity in their attacking play.
Another common problem for Leicester during the game was their complete lack of midfield and the large distance between their back and forward lines - allowing the Swans to dominate the midfield.
Swansea apply good pressure on the front foot and Leicester have to kick long and direct once again:
Leicester also started to ignore shorter passing options when they were available, opting to kick long, aimless balls forward that our defence were dealing with every single time.
In the second half, chasing a two-goal deficit, their play was still far too slow, they were delaying passes and were then forced backwards as Swansea gained the confidence to push forward and press.
In the screenshot below, Drinkwater - one of the stand-out performers for Leicester in their title-winning season last year, delays a pass across the pitch, he could have played it quickly enough to help the ball across to the right, but he instead gets caught in two minds, before playing it back to Morgan in defence.
With the ball going backwards into Leicester`s half, this allows Swansea to push up and apply pressure, as they always do as per Clement`s game plan and instructions for each phase.
Swansea`s higher press puts Leicester under pressure, and they eventually kick a long ball upfield and concede possession.
Leroy Fer also deserves special credit for his increased contribution in games. He was out of favour under Bob Bradley having been a regular under Guidolin. His lack of desire to track back and offer pressing and closing down was a big negative of his, but it`s great to see Clement inspiring him to be more of a chaser than a watcher when the other team have the ball.
He was often the player breaking out of the central midfield three to apply pressure and it was moments like this where he helped to relieve any possible attacking pressure, but helping to press and forcing Leicester back into their defensive third.
Swansea`s difficulties to get out of their half in possession
Leicester`s high press started quite well, they made it difficult for the Swans to pass out from the back and to get into the opposition`s half, as you can see below:
Their midfield structure and front two also made it difficult to penetrate when we managed to cross the half way line:
As you can see above, the Swans need a couple of players to drop deep into the shaded area, while below shows a similar situation. Llorente had been the player often dropping deeper to add midfield support, but he was very rarely doing this against Leicester -as he operated in a higher position with Sigurdsson and Routledge moving inside to join him.
But some clever and quick passes amongst the likes of Mawson, Cork and Carroll allowed them to get around Leicester`s high pressure, which then tallied off - giving the Swans more space to move forward. This was particular when we scored our opening goal, which suggests that the attitude and confidence amongst the players isn`t quite right.
Leicester make it easier for Swansea to move forward
Swansea`s difficulty in moving the ball forward started to become easier and easier, Leicester`s structure became less effective, they didn`t cut off the passing routes out wide, and this was often our method forward into the attacking third.
Swansea`s contrasting energy and desire to Leicester`s
Compare Leicester`s lack of pressing and effective player positioning shown above to Swansea`s and there`s a world of difference.
Below, Carroll is the player to move a long way out of the midfield trio to apply pressure up with Llorente. Pressure like this, and with Sigurdsson often adding in support, forced Leicester to kick long balls from full back positions.
Notice as well how Sigurdsson is looking over his shoulder to see where Mahrez is, the player obviously identified as their danger-man.
Below, Sigurdsson and Carroll work well together in a wide left area, Carroll forces a pass backwards, while Sigurdsson ensures he`s well positioned to block the passing route to Mahrez.
Carroll and Sigurdsson swapping positions
One of the common tactical instructions under Clement has been the swapping of Sigurdsson and Carroll. On the move forward, Sigurdsson would often move into his preferred central position, and Carroll would then quickly occupy his wide left spot. This solved a common problem of the inbalance of the 433. With Sigurdsson not being a winger, he was always coming inside, previously leaving a very limited full back like Taylor on his own down the left flank.
To solve the imbalance, Carroll moves across, and as a left footer himself, he can link-up well with Olsson, as we saw at Liverpool as they helped set up Llorente`s second.
There were times though when this link-up play wasn`t in sync, and there was a situation where Carroll made a run forward, expecting a long, down-the-line pass from Olsson. However, the full back delayed a pass, and was quickly under pressure, forcing him to move inside before being dispossessed and giving Leicester a rare counter-attacking opportunity in the first half. The defence did well to cover for him and eliminate the threat.
Another big difference between the two sides was the quickness of their passing. Leicester looked like the Swansea of two months ago at times, slow with the ball, and taking far too long to decide what pass to make, and by the time they did they were under pressure and had to pass back to the goalkeeper.
The Swans however were playing clever and one-touch passes to help them evade Leicester`s high pressure.
A good example was some of Mawson`s quick thinking and confident play, Cruyff turns and risky but excellent passes to Carroll.
Leicester`s back line was a shambles for most of the game, very rarely operating in a solid, straight line, although they also lacked support from their midfield colleagues in front of them.
This is clearly evident leading up to the free kick that was conceded by Huth. You can see him below, operating in a deeper position, a good 6 or so yards further back than Morgan.
Carroll then receives the ball in space, and the Swans now have four players in between Leicester`s defensive and midfield lines.
Huth is now caught out, he`s yards away and is caught in two minds - whether to drop deeper or make the tackle, in the end he decides to do the latter - causing him to go in late and hard on Carroll and conceding the foul.
Above, Sigurdsson sends in the cross and Huth, again deeper than everyone else - so not playing anyone offside, heads the ball wide left to clear. But the ball falls kindly to Fernandez who has cleverly moved into a wider position, he picks out Mawson with a controlled header and the young defender fires the ball in with a fierce volley. Both Mawson and Sigurdsson free to pick up a loose ball in and around the box is a concern for Leicester.
Going back to Swansea`s previous problem of not having players in the centre to receive shorter passes, they solved this problem - forcing Leicester to go narrow and leaving a passing route wide to Naughton. From here, the full back was able to break down the right in plenty of space.
Swansea`s all-important second goal
Swansea score the crucial second goal just seconds before half time, and it comes from a poor throw out from their goalkeeper.
Carroll intercepts, and this allows us to play an excellent, quick one-touch passing move to let in Olsson to score his first goal for the club.
Carroll plays the ball into Llorente, he passes first time to Sigurdsson who also plays a first time ball in behind for Olsson to chase on to. He runs inside and rifles the ball in past a helpless Schmeichel.
Swansea defend well in second half
Leicester improved somewhat in the second half, they got the ball forward better and showed some variety in their play, but the Swans were equal to it almost always. The only scare came when they were caught out by a long ball (of course), with the team shifted wide where the ball was in play. This left their two strikers in space in front of Mawson and Fernandez.
Slimani was played through by Vardy at the end of this move but Fabianski pretty much had to wake up from an uneventful game to make a great stop.
But the Swans defended well in a good shape when they needed to, outnumbering Leicester in wide areas, and having plenty of players back across the penalty area to block crosses.
Below shows a typical situation as to how the Swans forced Leicester backwards, and as they did so, they pushed up and applied a higher press to force the long hopeful balls to be played.
One final mention also goes out to Jack Cork, who has come on brilliantly under Paul Clement. He`s playing the deep-lying defensive role very well again, sniffing out attacks, clearing loose balls and doing the tidy-up work brilliantly. In the second half, his performance could be summed up by the clever pass he made that got Routledge in behind the defence.
Clement`s impact on some of the under-performers like Jack Cork and Leroy Fer is another impressive feat. Sigurdsson has also hit form and Fernandez no longer looks out of place alongside the always-improving Alfie Mawson.