Match Analysis: Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Swansea City
Detailed tactical match analysis as Swansea City pick up their first Premier League point away at Spurs - producing an excellent defensive display in a goalless draw at Wembley.
Unsurprisingly, Paul Clement reverted back to a 3-5-2 system for the trip to Wembley, after the diamond proved ineffective in the 1-0 home defeat against Newcastle United the weekend before.
Below is a basic tactical setup of both sides, showing - in particular - Spurs` average positions - as they could afford to push their centre backs forward in support, as the Swans sat deep with 5 across the back, remaining narrow in the centre to dominate and outnumber the hosts - forcing them to pass out into wide areas.
Ayew was often dropping deep to apply pressure on Spurs` defence as they looked to bring the ball forward, while Abraham had a challenging physical battle with defender Sanchez as he chased long balls forward.
Swansea`s system saw a three-man midfield block, two wide full backs to manage Spurs` wide players and a back three that mainly dealt with Alli and Kane. It allowed them to have a numerical advantage in key areas, out wide and through the middle.
Below, despite Spurs having a line of 5 players across the pitch and in between Swansea`s two lines, the midfield trio block the passing routes to the central players. Olsson closely marks the wide player and the back three can push forward in the unlikely event that either Alli or Kane receive the ball.
Swansea`s three-man block
One of the key elements of Swansea`s shape in an attempt to limit the amount of passes going into the central areas in their own half was the midfield trio being well placed to block passing routes. Sometimes this 'midfield trio` was made up of Abraham, Ayew and Sanches when Spurs were further up the pitch.
As Spurs move forward in possession, the 3-man block is now made up of the three central midfielders, who do an effective job as they force Spurs to shift the ball over to the far left flank. Mawson also pushes up on Alli in case he receives the ball.
Swansea force Spurs to move the ball into wide areas
Swansea`s shape and their central dominance forced Spurs to constantly shift the ball into wide areas - with their preference being the left flank in the first half, and the right in the second.
After the game, Paul Clement said that their aim was to force Spurs wide given their ability to attack and move the ball through the middle effectively with the likes of Alli, Kane and Eriksen.
The screenshot below shows a typical scenario where Spurs have to move the ball out wide. The three Swansea centre backs cover 2 Spurs players, the wing-backs cover the wide players and there`s four central players to cover the two Spurs players in the middle.
With no way down the right either, the ball comes straight back inside:
Spurs constantly in tight areas down the left flank
Spurs preferred to attack via the left flank - possibly because Swansea`s right side of van der Hoorn and Naughton is arguably defensively weaker than their left.
When Spurs were able to get to the by-line down the left, they only had 1 or 2 players in the box, with the Swans having plenty of cover to eliminate any threat to their goal from these positions.
Spurs` best hopes down the left were to win some free-kicks and use the set piece quality of Eriksen, but fortunately he wasn`t able to beat Fabianski from a dead ball situation.
Free kicks shown below, those won by Spurs are shown in blue, with Spurs' direction of play from left to right.
The heatmap shows Spurs on the left, and their busy red area on the left just inside Swansea`s half.
After a poor and quite lethargic performance in the defeat against Newcastle, there were some pleasing aspects of the display at Wembley. The defensive organisation, positional discipline, energy and effort.
Both Alfie Mawson and captain Federico Fernandez led by example, the Argentine in particular who produced one of his best and most solid defensive displays in a Swansea City shirt - making 18 clearances (shown below) as he contributed massively to the clean sheet and point gained.
The below screenshot shows both defenders instructing their team to pick up Eriksen who is unmarked in the centre of the pitch as they realise that this is currently the only aspect that potentially damages their defensive stability in this situation.
The Swans also showed a lot more energy and desire as Clement admitted that their stats - distance covered etc were very low against Newcastle, I can`t imagine it was the same story after this game.
Ayew in particular was excellent applying pressure, while the whole team were quick to get back into their defensive shape on the rare occasion that Spurs were able to quickly counter attack.
Ayew rushed Spurs into making passes at the back and with the central dominance behind him, Spurs were often void of creative ideas in these situations.
Swansea`s defensive shape makes it difficult to attack
Swansea`s focus on defending and sitting deep made it very difficult for them to get forward and create some goalscoring chances.
The centre backs were often looking to play long balls up to the strikers but they lacked support, while Abraham and Sanchez had a tough duel up top.
Not only that, but Spurs applied high pressure on our defence making it almost impossible to bring the ball out from the back without being forced to aim long and direct.
When the Swans were able to get the ball forward in or close to the final third, Spurs were also difficult to break through:
Renato Sanches, who kept his place after a poor debut, produced another inconsistent performance but there were moments that suggested he can develop into a useful player for us, but again - it was never too long before he made a mistake - resulting in possession being conceded.
He started our best counter attacking move in the first half, as he fed a ball through for Carroll, who then released Abraham down the right.
The Portuguese midfielder`s performance could be summed up in the three screenshots below, which covers only 5-6 seconds of the game.
At first, Sanches does well (below), he has four Spurs players around him and he avoided a few tackles to begin with.
But he then plays a pass across to Carroll, but he`s not on the same wavelength - which allows a Spurs player to move forward and intercept the pass in a potentially dangerous area.
What was most frustrating though was the player throwing his arms up in the air and coming to a complete stop, rather than running back to help the team in regaining possession.
He was more accurate with his passes in general though compared to his debut, with 81% success rate, his passes are shown below:
Second half changes
In the second half, Spurs moved Son further forward down the right and they switched their attacking preference in order to get Son involved and into better attacking positions.
Spurs still found themselves in tight, wide areas, but now they were mostly down the right instead:
Spurs were also starting to find some space in the right channel, which provided the opportunity to feed the likes of Sissoko and Son in behind. Swansea`s three-man block is non-existent below, with Sanches out of position - meaning Tom Carroll is more central than he should be.
Below, Spurs finally start to find ways to get in behind the Swansea defence, but they were unable to take their chances from inside the box.
As the game goes on, Swansea drop even deeper, inviting Spurs on as they can afford to push their defenders into the opposition`s half.
With Routledge on the pitch, Swansea often had 6 across the back line:
Fer then replaces Sanches, as the Swans tighten things up in the middle:
Wilfried Bony also came on for the final ten minutes or so to help relieve the pressure as he allowed the Swans to push slightly further up the pitch, play long balls that he could hold on to better.
Spurs later resorted to long balls in the final minutes: