Talking Tactics: Possible Formations and Squad Depth
Now that Paul Clement`s squad is confirmed for the 2017/18 Premier League season ahead - following the transfer window closing and the Swans completing some deadline day signings, I thought it would be worth taking a quick look at some of the different formation options that Paul Clement now has available to him.
Clement was looking limited in terms of starting eleven personnel, and with a lack of squad depth and losing Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente, he also lacked some solid and experienced substitutions to turn to when needed.
On the opening day of the season for example, only Chelsea had less Premier League experience (minutes played) on their bench than we did - as we drew 0-0 at Southampton.
Some fans and media pundits suggested that his late round of subs was a hint to the board - indicating his lack of options from the bench and the need to get some business done before the end of the month.
Clement has adopted a 3-5-2 in 2 of the three games so far, and he also switched to a 3-5-2 in the second half at Southampton - so you could say that that`s Clement`s initial choice of system - so we`ll look at that one first.
With Bony and Sanches arriving on deadline day, our starting eleven in a 3-5-2 system looks much stronger already. Having had difficulty with our top 2 and the ball "sticking" with the frontmen, Bony is now available to provide some much needed hold-up ability. He can drop deep, receive possession and wait before bringing other team-mates into play. Abraham can them benefit by making attacking runs off the last defender.
With Bartley injured, van der Hoorn stays in the back three in the formation above, with Mesa playing the deep-lying role. He was out of the starting eleven at Crystal Palace almost a fortnight ago but might Clement be tempted to give him another opportunity at home this weekend?
Sanches is unlikely to start on Sunday as he`s coming in as a young, newcomer to the Premier League and by the sounds of things, Clement has hinted that he`ll feature but won`t start against Newcastle United. And after his assist at Palace, Clement may want to stick with Leroy Fer in midfield for the time being.
We asked our twitter followers recently what formation they preferred after we signed Bony and Sanches, and the poll suggested that the majority would like to see Clement go back to using a back four and a midfield diamond.
Clement used a 4-3-1-2 to great effect at the end of last season, but below I`ve gone with a 4-4-2 diamond - simply pushing the wide midfielders further forward and making it a more attacking and positive system. This also provides better link up with the forwards, as there`s room for a central attacking midfielder. Leroy Fer would suit that more advanced position far better than playing deeper in midfield, and we usually see his attacking contribution when he`s given the freedom to push further forward and into the attacking third.
With the Swans having plenty of strength in depth in midfield, the 4-4-2 diamond (or 4-3-1-2) also allows for an extra midfielder on the pitch.
4-2-3-1 attacking alternative:
Paul Clement has yet been able to take advantage of having good strength in depth to make some positive and influential substitutions during games. He tried to be bold against Manchester United, but we lacked the attacking creativity to make it work, possession was lost too often and this gave the opposition too many counter-attacking opportunities.
Whilst I don`t expect Clement to adopt a 4-2-3-1 formation from the start of games, it`s definitely an option to switch to if we need to chase a game in the second half.
With Wilfried Bony now available, this frees up Jordan Ayew, who can play out wide, and with Narsingh on the opposite flank, the Swans finally have some decent pace in the side on both flanks.
In the midfield, it`s a case of pick the best three-man combo. Again, I only see Fer as a true central attacking midfielder after we didn`t replace Sigurdsson directly. Sanches is more of a central midfielder - almost box to box - and that`s where I believe he`ll play for us this season.
The best, and simplest way to look at our strength in depth is simply to see us line-up with two entirely different teams on one graphic.
Arguably, our strongest team is in a 4-4-2 diamond formation in white at the bottom of the graphic below, with an alternative 4-2-3-1 line-up in red at the top. I didn`t use a 3-5-2 formation - simply because we only don`t have central defenders!
Looking at both sides, we have enough options up top and in midfield, but it`s at the back where we start to look weak. The left back position in particular has to be taken up by midfielder Sam Clucas - who Clement admits is an option if left back if we need it.