Tottenham tactics: Spurs vs Swansea preview

After our trip to Georgia, Sunday sees us return home for Spurs vs Swansea.

We did the double over Michael Laudrup’s impressive side last season, but with new signings Wilfried Bony and Jonjo Shelvey, they will be a different proposition.

So what can we expect and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Swansea this time?

Swansea set up and style

Under Brendan Rodgers the Swans played good passing football that sought to retain possession. The one problem was that most of their play was from side to side due to the midfield base of Leon Britton and Joe Allen.

Last season, Michael Laudrup brought in Sung-Yeung Ki for the departed Allen. The South Korean immediately made them more incisive due to his ability to move the ball vertically up the field.

This term has seen the addition of Jonjo Shelvey to compete with Ki for the position alongside Jose Canas or Leon Britton. Whereas Ki moves the ball forward through passing, Shelvey can also shift it up field through dribbling.

In the first half last week against Man Utd, Shelvey played in the advanced midfield role of Laudrup’s 4-2-3-1 behind Michu. In the second half, with new striker Wilfried Bony in the game, he dropped back in to the pivot. His ability to pass the ball forward from here was still evident from this deeper position.


Jonjo Shelvey passes (2nd half), Swansea 1 Man Utd 4.

Whereas we may see a new combination of ball winner (Canas) and vertical passer (Shelvey) in the pivot, some things in South Wales remain the same.

The team still likes to move the ball down the right hand side of the pitch, starting with Angel Rangel. The Spaniard usually touches the ball more than any other Swansea player and combines well with right-sided midfielder Nathan Dyer. Swansea likes to create overloads in this area with Dyer, Rangel and usually the right-sided player from their double pivot.

On the left, Pablo Hernandez replaced Scott Sinclair last season. Whereas the Englishman used to cut inside and shoot, the Spaniard comes infield looking to slide in through balls.

Up top, Michu looks set to step back in to the advanced midfield role with Wilfried Bony arriving. I’ll look at Michu next, but Bony has good movement in the penalty area – as he showed to get open for his goal last weekend – but can also pick out a pass.

With the Ivorian installed as a genuine goal threat, Swansea looks a more dangerous force than with Danny Graham or Itay Shechter last term


The Spaniard is Swansea’s most dangerous player with his ability to arrive right on cue in the box.

He can play as a centre forward, but looks better in the advanced midfield role so that he can time his runs to arrive coming on to the ball.

Wherever he operates, he plays very centrally. His aerial power means that he can be the focus for any long balls forward from the back – not that Swansea play many. But he is also a major threat to score from a cross or a corner.

If we go back to our trip to the Liberty Stadium at the back end of last season, we can see in just how a narrow corridor Michu operates. He not only drops in to take possession between the lines, but then also is the focus for through balls.

This allows him to get most of his shots off deep inside the area, closer to goal with a higher chance of scoring. His goal on the day arrived from a corner.


Michu passes received and shots taken, Swansea 1 Spurs 2.

Against Man Utd last weekend, we can see Michu again operating in this narrow central corridor. The diagonal through balls in to or towards the area are evident, as is his aerial ability from corners.

Three of his four shots in the game came from close range. He also had the ball in the net from a few yards out, but it was chalked off for offside.


Michu passes received and shots taken, Swansea 1 Man Utd 4.

The Tottenham tactics may see us try out the new zonal marking system from corners due to Michu’s ability to lose his direct marker. Whilst this would make clearing corners easier by marking areas, if it breaks down like against Espanyol, then we could be in trouble.

In open play, Paulinho and Moussa Dembele will have their hands full with the Spaniard. Both Spurs men alternated from picking up the advanced midfielder against Palace last weekend, but both are strong enough to handle Michu’s strength on the ball.

Swansea score through the centre

Swansea’s love of a through ball, just like the short pass from Pablo Hernandez to Wilfried Bony against Man Utd, sees them try to score this way through the centre.

This was very much how Swansea played last season. They did also look for Michu with crosses, but only three teams attempted fewer balls in to the box in the Premier League.

This was reflected in how they created their best chances and scored their goal last weekend.


Swansea chances against Man Utd.

However, what was different in the match with Man Utd was that the Swans attempted a staggering 37 crosses, the most in the Premier League last weekend. The majority came from the right flank where they build their play, but the more accurate ones came from Ben Davies overlapping down the left.


Swansea crosses attempted against Man Utd.

This could be a one off given Swansea’s love of possession and passing or it may signal a new intent this season with both Michu and Bony being good in the air. Something to keep an eye on.

Swansea concede through the CBs and behind the LB

Swansea score from through balls, but they are also vulnerable from passes played in behind their centre back pairing. What’s more, they also concede chances when you can get in behind left back Ben Davies. As highlighted above, his tendency to get forward and cross means he can be caught up field.

Man Utd exposed this perfectly last weekend. Robin van Persie opened the scoring with an acrobatic overhead kick after a lofted pass over the top of the centre backs. Danny Welbeck added a second after Ben Davies was caught out of position pinching in to the centre. Antonio Valencia came in from Davies’ left back zone unmarked to square for a tap in. Man Utd’s fourth was notched after Wayne Rooney threaded a pass through the channel between the centre back and left back for Welbeck to finish once more. Three of Man Utd’s four goals were created to expose the area in behind the Swansea centre backs or left back.

In Swansea 1 Spurs 2 at the Liberty Stadium last season, we did something similar.

Jan Vertonghen burst through and in to the space behind the centre backs to open the scoring.


Jan runs the channel to get in behind centre back Chico Flores.

Vertonghen then found Bale in a similar amount of space in behind the centre backs to make it 2-0.


Vertonghen puts Bale in behind the centre backs this time.

We tried to expose this space all afternoon and the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Swansea this time should see us try to do the same.

Pressure Michel Vorm

To have success against Swansea, you have to stop them building from source. That means pressuring Michel Vorm to have to kick long rather than allowing him to distribute the ball directly to his full backs.

Norwich have a good record against Swansea and one of their tactics has been to do this. Man Utd also did a fairly decent job last weekend, winning any long balls that Vorm was forced to play.


Michel Vorm passes played against Norwich and Man Utd.

To be fair, Spurs have also tried this to a degree when we’ve faced Swansea.

In our 2-1 victory at the Liberty, Aaron Lennon closed down Michel Vorm just prior to our second goal.


Aaron Lennon closes down Michel Vorm.

Vorm’s miscued clearance wound up with Vertonghen who threaded the ball in behind the centre backs for Gareth Bale.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Swansea on Sunday should see us try to force Vorm long whenever we can.

Spurs vs Swansea outlook

We have a good record against Swansea, beating them on their two trips to the Lane in the Premier League.

Containing Michu is vital to any success, as is pressuring Michel Vorm and forcing him to kick long to create turnovers. This disrupts the Swansea rhythm and stops them settling in to the tiki-taka passing that they are renowned for.

Aside from Michu and Bony, Jonjo Shelvey could be an under-rated player with his ability to move the ball forward vertically from midfield. It’ll be interesting to see who picks him up between Sigurdsson, Dembele and Paulinho.

After being cross averse last season, whether the Swans attempt a similar number of balls in to the box this week will also be something to keep an eye on. This goes against their philosophy, but may be a new addition to their attack this season.

Swansea does concede chances from passes in behind their centre backs, which could see Roberto Soldado profit. Left back Ben Davies can also be exposed and Aaron Lennon will be a key player here.

Spurs vs Swansea prediction: Spurs 3 Swansea 1

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