Teams and Formations
Jonny Heitinga was preferred to Distin at the heart of defence, perhaps due to the fact Swansea don’t have a quick central striker or have a significant aerial threat as a team. More surprising was Seamus Coleman’s selection at right back. Although this is his ‘natural’ position, it was the first time Moyes has selected him from the start in a premier league game. Up front the much maligned but currently superbVictor Anichebe played through the middle with Fellaini again playing as the second striker. Swansea setup in a 4-2-3-1 but had big problems selection wise, leading to in experienced players being brought in and crucially without defence-midfield link man Leon Britton who was only fit enough to start from the bench.
Much is made of Swansea’s passing game but it was ourselves who bossed things on the ball. After a solid start we had 72% of the ball in the first 15 minutes with 42% of the game being played in Swansea’s defensive third, compared to 7% in our defensive zone. Our hosts passing tempo in comparison was unusually slow. Very few teams have been able to dominate the ball against Swansea, and only on one other occasion since they came up to the top flight have a side had a higher possession total than we did yesterday (52%) against them.
The risk of playing two big physical players like Anichebe and Fellaini in the forward positions is that you will go direct but we played everything on the floor with our passing accuracy (85%) also better than the Swans. Crucially, we made 135 successful final third passes to Swansea’s 44 which led to 64 touches in the Swansea 18 yard box compared to our host’s 24.
The power of the left side is helped substantially by one of the forwards – usually Fellaini – drifting across to the left side to help Baines / Pienaar outnumber opponents (check out Baines goal vs Newcastle as an example) but with Anichebe being more of a left sided player the Nigerain did this job with Fellaini playing more centrally as Jelavic would.
Our approach off the ball was to close down forward passing angles from Swansea, playing aggressively high up the pitch and generally stopping them playing through us, as shown in the below visual. As an example, Vorm is noted for being one of, if not the best, distributor of any keeper in the top flight and being the starting point of Swansea attacks with an average pass completion this season of 79%. Against us it was down to 58%.
Our hosts play very narrow - even their wide forwards are quite insular – and the ball was regularly played into the middle of the park where we pressed and their attacking moves were invariably quashed.
Swansea couldn’t handle our quick passing tempo which led to constant fouling and subsequent free kicks with a foul committed by the home side every 4 minutes. The significant physical advantage we had over our hosts was huge, demonstrated by the fact we also won 60% of the aerial duels. Pienaar in particular was buying fouls for fun and was brought down a massive 7 times, mostly from Angel Rangel who had a shocker although in fairness he was afforded no protection by Hernandez who was hauled off at half time. Only Gutierrez and Hazard have won more fouls in the top flight than the South African this season.
Goals Goals Goals
Swansea’s foul play had a direct correlation with our goals output. The first goal came from a foul down the left side. Fellaini had a hand in all three goals and his aerial threat is colossal. As the ball is whipped in by Baines 2 defenders are sucked in to occupy him – including Anichebe’s marker – enabling the Nigerian the space to slot goal 1. Anichebe’s goal was his second consecutive scoring game in the league– something he has never done before – and the signs are good that his consistency is on the up as is his mental ability to dominate inferior opponents as he did with the hapless Alan Tate, who was put of his misery by Laudrup shortly after the interval.
The second goal owed much to some great cover play by Phil Neville who assisted Coleman a lot from centre mid. His defensive awareness snuffed out a Swansea break and played the ball to Fellaini who showed the importance of his versatility by dropping deep to assist the back four and then playing a delicious through ball which dissected a very flat looking Swansea defensive line. Pienaar then played an ace ball into the middle which Mirallas buried. Goal 3 was again a result of a free kick, this time when Michu clumsily hacked down Baines who then produced another superb centre which was dispatched by the curly haired menace.
Even without the fouls, we created enough chances to win 3 games. We all know the brilliance of the left side but now with Mirallas on the right we are less one dimensional. In total we had 31 shots and our average shots per game this season (20.4) is the best in the division.