Match Analysis: Swansea City 0-1 Newcastle United
Detailed tactical match analysis of Swansea City`s disappointing 1-0 home defeat against Newcastle United, as for the second home game in a row, Paul Clement`s side concede from a corner as the Magpies got all three points in what was an uninspiring performance at the Liberty Stadium.
With all the hype, positivity and excitement ahead of Wilfried Bony`s return and debutant Renato Sanches coming in, you couldn`t help the fans for being upbeat during the week - but the performance left Paul Clement bewildered with what he had seen, and the fans deflated after a display that - annoyingly - featured too many problems that we`ve seen in the previous three games this season.
Clement switches to a diamond
Clement`s switch to a 4-4-2 diamond and his decision to include 20 year-old Bayern Munich loanee Renato Sanches in that system simply didn`t pay off, as the diamond failed to function - mainly in midfield.
The easiest way to try and demonstrate this is using the tactics board below, showing Newcastle in their defensive 4-4-2 shape against our typical shape going forward.
With the ball moving out from the centre backs and usually out wide to the full backs - like we`ve seen in the previous games this season, the holding midfielder (in this case Clucas) hasn`t seen as much of the ball.
With the ball regularly played out to the full backs (which was becoming extremely predictable and more frustrating to watch as the game went on) - this required the two wide midfielders in the diamond to shift out wide to support the full backs.
With Fer keeping his position at the top of the diamond and Clucas keeping his at the base, the midfield was becoming stretched continuously during the game, meaning the distance between the four players was far too much to allow it to function. They were too far apart too much of the time to pass to one another, which meant that the likes of Carroll, Mawson and the full backs were starting to play long, direct balls forward that simply saw us concede possession.
Sanches` disappointing debut and Newcastle`s organised shape
Sanches` much anticipated debut didn`t live up to the hype and expectation - not by any means - but it would be unfair and wrong to simply point fingers at the player himself for a poor performance.
In hindsight, it`s easy to say that Paul Clement made the wrong decision to start him - as the player had only been in the city for a couple of days prior to starting the match. He`d barely had time to settle into a hotel and meet his new team-mates before he was making a Premier League start; no pressure.
The system didn`t help his cause, players were too far apart and he really only had right-back Kyle Naughton for company to pass to. Not only that, but Newcastle made life difficult for him also. However, Sanches too could be blamed for over-thinking things, overly-trying to impress when he needed to play the simple ball and learn a thing or two from Leon Britton - who was ironically sat in the stadium studio watching on as part of Sky Sports` coverage.
It was clear from the start that the Newcastle players were instructed to limit Sanches` time on the ball. As you can see below, they often had a trio of players surrounding him - making it difficult for him to receive the ball and do anything meaningful with it. You can also see the distancing between the midfielders, and how he only had Naughton to pass to most of the time.
There were times during the first half that Sanches was also operating as a secondary right back, coming very wide and deep to receive the ball from Fernandez - and again leaving a huge gap between himself and another midfield team-mate.
Newcastle`s man to man marking and shape throughout the game was excellent. At all times they had at least matched the Swans one to one and it was only on the rare occasion that a Swansea player found himself in some decent space to receive the ball in the opposition`s half.
You can see below that Sanches is under pressure, but there`s no team-mate in the shaded circle to pass to. The likes of Carroll, Fer and the two strikers are all closely marked, while a player is close by to put pressure on Naughton if needed. Some of the blame can be put on Sanches in these situations though, some of them like below were caused by the player taking too long whilst in possession, and allowing opposition players to close him down and force him to concede the ball - either by being dispossessed or being forced to make loose passes.
Newcastle also effectively blocked out Naughton and Sanches, putting them into tight corners on the right side of the pitch - blocking passing routes and forcing them back into their own half.
Full backs lacking options out wide
As we`ve seen in previous games this season, the full backs were again short of options. Down the right, Ayew was sometimes coming wide to offer an overlap option but that left us even more outnumbered through the middle.
In the below screenshot, Naughton is double-marked, Sanches is not even in the picture this time, and there are large shaded areas without a single Swansea City play occupying.
Below is another example of Newcastle`s effective marking and Naughton`s problems down the right. Other than going backwards, Naughton`s only alternative option was to try and play the strikers in down the wide channel.
The Swans then soon resorted to playing hopeful balls forward from deep, but they were never effective when aimed at either Abraham or Ayew.
You can see once again, Newcastle`s numbers behind the ball and how they sat back with two close lines to crowd Swansea out.
Swansea`s on-going midfield problems
After the game, Paul Clement commented that his side "had the overload in midfield" but I simply couldn`t see it. Newcastle completely nullified us in the middle and we really found it difficult to get through the middle as the below screenshot demonstrates.
With Naughton once again in possession, Newcastle are well set up here to block passes to Clucas, Sanches and Fer, and there`s also the potential for a counter attack if they win possession, as Newcastle`s three most advanced players here could run through into the space, leaving Clucas back-pedalling. For most of the game, Newcastle were relying on counter-attacking opportunities to look for goalscoring chances - they did so with pace and managed twice as many shots on target during the game than we did.
As the half went on, and like in other games - our frustrations grew - we began attempting more risky forward, direct passes which most often didn`t come off. Below, Clucas tries to pick out Carroll - who`s surrounded by 3 Newcastle players. The pass doesn`t get through and the midfielder is then soon under pressure from the counter attack that follows.
Clement swaps Leroy Fer and Renato Sanches
At the start of the second half, Paul Clement swapped Leroy Fer and Renato Sanches. Sanches was physically struggling under pressure in a deeper role, so it was no surprise that having lost the ball far too often in more risky positions, he swapped the pair, as Fer could physically handle the pressure a lot better.
However, Sanches saw even less of the ball in a more attacking position. As you saw in previous screenshots, the triangle of Fer and the two strikers were man-marked very closely and completely outnumbered.
In the second half, there was little change and improvement from the Swans going forward. Newcastle remained in their disciplined defensive shape as the game looked to be heading for a goalless draw.
In comparison, Swansea`s man-marking and defensive shape was also very good for the most part, as both sides looked to be cancelling each other out in that respect.
One minor positive note in the second half was how we kept the two strikers more central during the game - rather than having one (or sometimes both) moving out wide to support the full back(s), leaving only one player inside the box for the inevitable deep cross that was about to be put in.
Midfield spacing remained a problem throughout though - limiting Swansea`s options going forward as our play became more and more predictable.
Swansea did finally create a clear chance around the hour mark, and it was Leroy Fer playing a low pass through for Abraham - running off the last defender. The striker rounded the goalkeeper but his final shot was blocked on the line.
You can see in the screenshot below just how narrow Newcastle`s defensive shape is.
Wilfried Bony finally came on with 20-25 minutes to play, but Newcastle quickly made an effort to mark all three frontmen tightly, and we couldn`t really get Bony into any good positions in front of goal.
The winning goal
Paul Clement had turned around our set piece defending last season when he came in, as it wasn`t until the final game in May that we conceded a goal from a corner (or non-direct free-kick). It was something of a minor miracle that we went five or months without doing so - whilst adopting a zonal marking system.
However, this season we`ve conceded twice as many goals from corners in 2 home games games than we did in 5 months last season, and Clement says he needs to assess the details to improve that form.
The zonal setup is shown below, as three Swansea players stand in a zone near to the penalty spot, with another four players on the edge of the 6-yard area.
As the ball is about to be played in, the setup slightly changes (below), and it`s the job of the likes of Bony, Abraham and Clucas to block and stop Newcastle players from getting free runs towards goal.
And as the ball comes in, while Abraham and Bony help to stop Newcastle players nearest the ball, there`s a decent gap behind them, allowing the goalscorer to get a clear run through.
Below shows the Swansea defenders - Mawson, Fernandez etc all ball-watching and Mawson - nor Olsson are aware of Lascellas coming through unmarked to head home the winner.
With our record so poor in games when we do concede from a corner or an indirect free-kick, I`m sure Clement will work on where we`re suddenly gone wrong in that department and get it back to the levels it was at last season.