Match Analysis: Swansea City 1-2 Leicester City
Detailed tactical match analysis as Swansea City suffer their fourth home Premier League defeat against Leicester City.
The scoreline might suggest something of a close game at the Liberty Stadium, but it was anything but. Paul Clement referred to it as another "marginal defeat" but Leicester wasted clear chances throughout, while the Swans also had to rely on goalkeeper Lucasz Fabianski to keep the score down.
After an improved, winning performance against Huddersfield the week before, we were more upbeat about another decent result and performance against the Foxes, but it was anything but. There were some worrying signs in this performance, as well as our manager getting it badly wrong tactically.
The midfield shape in particular was non-existent, and his comments after the game about being caught between pressing and sitting in a defensive block couldn`t have been more accurate, but this was happening within the first few minutes, and it was something that needed correcting from the touchline early on.
Swansea`s poor midfield shape and ineffective pressing
Like Paul Clement said after the game, we knew what to expect from Leicester, in fact everyone in the crowd I`m sure knew what style Leicester would bring. An energetic, dynamic display where they look to play pacey and long, direct balls forward for the likes of Vardy to chase off the shoulder of the last defender.
We produced a good pressing performance against Huddersfield that stopped them from playing out from the back, it suited that particular style, but our pressing game plan was all wrong against a side like Leicester.
And this was evident after about 35 seconds. There were so many examples of our poor pressing - leaving space behind the midfield that I must have deleted about 8-10 screenshots of almost-identical situations.
The screenshot below is from about 35 seconds into the game. The Swans have lost possession in the final third. Two of the three central midfielders are behind the ball chasing back, while Okazaki is about to receive possession in behind Leon Britton.
Within 2-3 passes, Leicester are already approaching our final third and are able to create a very early goalscoring chance.
4 minutes into the game, Okazaki is in acres of space through the middle, as Leon Britton is returning back having been involved in a pointless, and completely ineffective high press - leaving the defence without any protection.
This problem of a high press is more evident in the below screenshot. I say a high press, a higher press than normal for the likes of Leon Britton - playing as the deep-lying midfielder - to be involved in.
In previous games, Leon Britton, or whoever was playing the deep-lying role before him, was playing a strict deep role - and managing the space in between the lines - in the shaded area. However, the club skipper was continuously pressing high, allowing Leicester players to move into this large area of space.
In the example below, there`s just no need for Britton to push forward and press. Renato Sanches is already pressing, and Leon Britton has to stay deep to manage the shaded area in front of his defence.
The pressing was also ineffective in the final third. Below, Tammy Abraham and Jordan Ayew were two players not short of effort and desire, but it was mostly wasted in these situations.
Firstly, Leicester are easily able to play the ball around them out from the back, and secondly, having been in such high positions, they weren`t available to press in the middle third. As a result of this, the central midfielders were pressing in these positions instead, leaving the space behind them.
You can see what I mean below. Abraham is running back from a high press position, who needs to be pressing the Leicester player on the ball. Instead, both Leon Britton and Tom Carroll press the same player, leaving a queue of Leicester players waiting for the ball behind them.
Swansea`s poor pressing led to a poor midfield shape:
Two out of three central midfielders are in Leicester`s half "pressing". Both Ayew and Narsingh, part of a three man attack, are actually behind the two central midfielders (Sanches and Britton). There was just no real structure to us at all. It was baffling really considering how we`ve shaped up before under Paul Clement, who prides himself on team shape and organisation.
But against Leicester City, a very direct side, what on earth are we doing here? There was no real 2 lines of 3, and Leicester were finding large areas of space time and time again, it was surprising then that their first goal came off our own player.
The distance between the three central midfielders was also poor at times, as Carroll and Sanches tended to move into very wide positions to add support for the full backs. Sanches was almost playing as a left winger in the second half.
Leicester were able to create some good chances before their opening goal, crosses weren`t stopped and players weren`t getting picked up inside the box:
Where`s the midfield!?
There`s not one central midfielder in this screenshot, as Mawson competes for a long aerial ball. If he loses out, the defence is very vulnerable.
The midfield continue to press, despite the obvious problems it`s creating, this needed to be stopped via the touchline but it kept happening time and time again.
One direct pass, which bypasses at least 2 of Swansea`s three central midfielders, sees Leicester attacking with 4 players running into space:
Below is another example of a poor team shape, and ineffective pressing (essentially by the wrong players in the wrong positions)
Carroll goes to press, he misses out, then Britton goes to press, but it`s pointless again as MAhrez simply plays a first-time pass to Okazaki.
Looking at the Leicester players here, all but one have plenty of space to receive the ball. Ideally here, Abraham needs to drop back - forming a three man press, allowing Carroll, Sanches and Britton to drop deeper - limiting the space in our own half.
Here`s a rare screenshot of a line of central midfielders, but it`s too high, as Leicester can simply play lofted balls over their heads.
Leicester open the scoring
Swansea were guilty of coming to a halt for Leicester`s first goal, assuming the ball had gone out of play. Mahrez continues though, Naughton fails miserably to stop the cross and the cross comes off Fernandez`s head and flies into the net.
Swansea`s poor attacking play
Swansea never really showed any evidence that they were capable of getting back into the game. Their attacking play was far too slow and predictable. The ball just kept being played into wide players, where Leicester had us covered easily.
Our slow build-up play allowed Leicester the time to get every outfield player back behind the ball, and we simply resorted to hopeful crosses into the box that were always cleared away.
There was also a lack of movement and player runs. Just look at the example below, not one player beyond Narsingh in possession (except Abraham who`s out of the picture). Against Huddersfield, it was the full back receiving the ball in these positions and having Narsingh or Ayew ahead of them to pass to, but this wasn`t happening against Leicester.
Renato Sanches complained of a lack of movement in the second half, trying to instruct Carroll to make a run through, but in the end he has to make a simple backwards pass to the midfielder.
We were constantly too static, lacking any movement, and this meant balls played backwards before a midfielder simply lofted balls forward. Below, Carroll`s only option is to play a long lofted pass forward, while Abraham is surrounded by five Leicester players.
Swansea also struggled to play the ball through the middle, as Abraham is under pressure and unable to hold up the ball, with nobody in close proximity to work off.
In the end then, the Swans simply tried to play in crosses via the full backs:
Leicester`s second goal
Leicester`s second goal and game killer was inevitable, but it occurred in embarrassing fashion. Tom Carroll played in another poor set piece, a free kick close to the penalty area, that was cleared away by the first man. Narsingh fails to win the loose ball in the middle, and Mahrez can then help start the counter attack.
Albrighton brings the ball forward into our half, before playing it across to the opposite side as Mahrez plays a first time squared pass across the penalty area that Okazaki finished easily.
The Swans got a goal back via Sanches` corner. Ayew got a flick at the front post and Mawson did well to turn and fire into the far corner of the net, but we never looked like getting a goal from open play. Leicester really should have restored their 2-goal advantage but continued to waste some chances. Vardy went through on goal but Fabianski stopped well with his feet, but their lead never looked in doubt at any time.
It really was a worryingly, poor performance from the Swans that was poorly setup against a side like Leicester, who looked in a different League to us in all honesty. Like I said, the scoreline flattered us as we rode our luck throughout.
Huge improvements are needed to avoid another long, difficult season near the bottom.