Tactical Deconstruction: Did Swansea tactics nullify our left side?

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Passing / Territory Data

Overall, the Blues had more possession (55.4%) and kept the ball better (82% v 75%) than our visitors. Our pass completion was also better in Swansea’s half although Swansea’s retention was superior in the final third (82% v 76.6%). Territory wise, we also bossed things with 56.9% of the game played in Swansea’s half and more than double the amount of touches in Swansea’s final third (278) than they made in our defensive zone (122).

Teams and Approach

The two sides lined up in similar 4-2-3-1 systems with Pienaar for Oviedo the only toffee change from the 5-1 rout at Cheltenham on Monday night.  Swansea had a re-shuffle given their cup heroics on Wednesday night, with Dyer playing quite centrally with Michu behind and Hernandez on the left. It was on the right side where most of the tactical stuff happened, with right back Angel Rangel selected in an advanced right sided midfield role with Tiendalli at right back. Rangel’s role was predominantly to pick up Baines and stop his forward surges, as shown below when he picks up Baines in the right back spot.

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A feature of our game’s this season has been what opposition managers do to counter act the numerical advantage we instigate by overloading down the left side. More reactive tacticians such as  Steve Clarke and Portly Rafa  have deployed a ‘shuttler’ (Dorrans / Ramires)in the midfield zone to track Baines up and down the pitch – a move similar to that deployed by Moyes regularly on Gareth Bale with two full backs doubling up  on their opponent.  Other manager’s like Villas-Boas have played attacking players like Lennon to push him back whilst some like Pardew have opted for the ‘hide under the table, close your eyes and hope for the best’ method. Interestingly,  two of the three sides who have beaten us WBA and Chelsea have been the ones who have best neutralised the Baines threat.

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Overall, I’d say overall Rangel provided more cover to his fullback than Hernandez did for him in the game earlier this season at Goodison  when the Spaniard was repeatedly over-run. Figures wise, Baines/Pienaar on average create 6 goalscoring chances per game between them whilst yesterday they created 11 so I’d say this approach alone didn’t stifle us as we created enough chances to win the game.

Did Swansea ‘park the bus’ ?

Firstly, apologies for the bus cliché.

We spoke in the preview of how there would be few goals in this contest and so it proved. Swansea’s defensive operation is amongst the best in the division and statistically the best on the road with just 9 goals ‘shipped’ all season. Their approach when not in possession was a ‘stand by’ operation rather than an aggressive one, i.e. they looked to induce the opponent to lose possession through positional play rather than persistently look to win the ball back.

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When sides line up in similar formation as we did yesterday, the difference is usually which side can ‘shift’ players more effectively to create numerical advantages in certain areas of the pitch. Moyes approach is heavily weighted on such ‘shifts’ , usually down the left side of the final third.  Moyes said post match that we passed the ball too slowly; this speed is implicit in developing such situations and catching opponents up-field when their shape is compromised. Due to our movement of the ball being too slow Swansea were able to get back into their shape and outnumber us, as shown in the above visual where they have 5 players to our 3 in the key zoned area we look to exploit.

Final word

This was a frustrating afternoon for the Toffeemen against a stubborn, compact opponent. Our best chances where from crosses when we could use our aerial advantage, but sadly our finishing was not at its best. On a positive note we secured our first clean sheet since September – incidentally against the same opponent – in what was the first goal-less Goodison draw in 49 games, a run going back to December 2010. With Arsenal losing and Spurs only drawing it hasn’t been a critical setback  and with our key rivals facing Chelsea and Man United next week our trip to Southampton could represent an opportunity to see us return to fourth spot.


One thought on “Tactical Deconstruction: Did Swansea tactics nullify our left side?

  1. I think the difference was two maybe three players missing. Hietinga had a good game in the previous fixture bringing the ball out of defence and Gibson if I remember correctly was instrumental in keeping and using the ball wisely and moving forward against Neville constantly losing the ball. Miralles had great joy down the right hand side that sadly Vic didn’t, in terms of link up play and another option than our left side.

    Hope we get some loan deals in soon, because I cringed when Naismith came on.

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