Tactics: Possible 4-3-3 Formation vs West Ham United
Swansea City are in great need of switching things up on Saturday following last Saturday`s lacklustre home defeat against Watford, as they face an out-of-form West Ham United.
Paul Clement is starting to feel the pressure slightly after his side lost their third consecutive league game, the first time that`s ever happened in our history. Not only that, but the performances too haven`t been anywhere near the level that we expect from a team that - on paper at least - looks a lot stronger compared to how it looked this time last season.
Clement will need some time to change the system slightly and to bring in the new signings and make it work, but we`re getting closer to that 10-game point, which seems to be the agreed benchmark and time where it`s finally fair to judge teams on "where they`re at".
The first word that comes to mind when thinking about our performances so far is "negative". 3-5-2 - or should that be 5-3-2 - isn`t favourable at home. A 3-4-3 is more ambitious, but Clement`s 3-5-2 where a team sits too deep on its own soil is never going to be popular.
His lack of boldness and ambition isn`t either. There still appears to be a lack of trust from Clement in his team to go out and attack teams - get on the front foot and get an early lead to give us a platform to build on in a game.
Some fans mentioned the lack of atmosphere at the Liberty Stadium after the defeat to Watford - and whilst the team isn`t solely to blame, it would make a hell of a difference if we actually started games off at a quick pace, created an early chance or two and won a corner to excite the crowd early on.
But the pre-match chant fades away and the groans kick in as passes are misplaced and we`re inviting pressure in our own defensive third.
Paul Clement has preferred a 3-5-2 system in away games, and they`ve helped us to a 100% clean sheet record so far after 3 games on the road, but whilst it`s always welcoming to see us hold the other team to zero goals, I can`t see us winning many more away games if that`s going to continuously be our main aim away from home.
With West Ham showing a leaky defence so far this season and their manager being under pressure once again, I believe it`s one of those away games where we need to show a bit more ambition and belief in our own ability.
Not that I want it to happen as I still believe Clement can turn things around, but you can imagine if Alan Curtis returned for yet another temporary spell as caretaker boss, that he`d focus on getting us back to a possession-based, passing game - and it wouldn`t take an awful lot of time to do that.
I was hoping that Paul Clement would be aiming to get us back to at least edging back into 50%-plus possession in games, particularly at home - but that`s still barely the case.
Therefore, what system can he switch to - to help get us playing with more positivity, creating more chances whilst maintaining a good defensive structure.
To me, a 4-3-3 is our best option. 4-2-3-1 is something we had great success with, but we still don`t currently have the right mix of players to make that work. Whenever we have used it in the last 2-3 seasons, we`ve lacked defensive cover and have leaked goals.
The main reason for choosing a 4-3-3 is that you still have three central midfielders - providing defensive cover. Starting Mesa is also key, he helped us keep the ball better in the second half against Watford and drove us forward to create chances.
Up until now, Clement has preferred narrow systems that rely on the full backs for attacking width. In 4 of the 6 games I`ve analysed so far, we`ve always seen problems in wide areas where the full backs have nobody running beyond them into space, which forces them to move the ball backwards.
A 4-3-3 could help solve this issue, the front two - Ayew and Abraham - have been moving into wide areas to help solve this problem anyway so it`s nothing new for them. But in a 4-3-3, they`d already been in or near these wide areas and ready and available more often than not to receive forward passes from the full backs, rather than the likes of Naughton and Olsson having to wait for the availability of team-mates in front of them.
A 4-3-3 also allows for it to become a defensive 4-5-1 system too when needed, as Ayew and Abraham can drop deeper to form this shape.
The possible problem with this system is the lack of physical strength from a defensive point of view in midfield. You could swap Sanches for Fer, but this system would depend on the team being dynamic and keeping possession well for long periods to make it fully work. After all, Michael Laudrup said that the best form of defence is attack.
Another issue that this could help to solve is the distance between players - which is stopping us from playing a possession-based game. It becomes very difficult to keep the ball for long periods if the spacing between players is 20 yards or more. Players are having to play longer and more difficult passes along the flanks, often ignoring the defensive midfielder and any routes through the middle.
So looking at the below system, with the wing backs still offering the width, you'd then potentially have 6 players - all closer together in the middle of the pitch to help play a better passing game. You can even see Bony dropping deeper to receive possession which would temporarily create a diamond.
One other alternative option for the below would be bringing in Narsingh, dropping Bony to the bench (who didn`t look fully fit against Watford) and playing Abraham through the middle. Then, you`d finally have some pace in the side on both flanks, Narsingh is on his strongest side, with the option to either make wide runs or move inside, while Ayew can cut inside from the left and look to take shots on goal or be creative with crosses or key passes, but it would be good to see more creative attacking play through the middle channel, rather than constantly trying the same things down the flanks, which is becoming rather boring and predictable.
What do you think? What system and starting eleven should Paul Clement go with at West Ham on Saturday? Let us know in the comments below!