Tottenham tactics: Swansea vs Spurs preview

After beating Crystal Palace, Sunday sees us travel to South Wales for Swansea vs Spurs in the Premier League.

We edged the game at White Hart Lane earlier this season by a single goal, after dominating large parts of the match. The win was our fourth in a row, but three of those victories have been at home.

So, what can we expect from Michael Laudrup’s side and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Swansea vs Spurs this time?

Swansea set up and style

Michael Laudrup lines his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which aims to control possession. They do this through short, intricate passing when on the ball and look to build attacks down the right through full back Angel Rangel. No one on the Swansea team usually touches the ball more than him, as he is often used as a point of attack in a very similar manner to Everton’s Leighton Baines.

When possession is lost, they pressure the opposition heavily in central areas to force turnovers. Defending narrowly in midfield without the ball does this. The Swans pinch their wide midfielders in, so as to get four or sometimes even five men in to this zone.

When possession is won back, the wide players move out again so as to stretch the opposition and make space for their creative players. This gives the likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Jonathan De Guzman room to go to work, but also to run at the opposition with the ball.

Last season Swansea were looking to fashion chances from through balls and attempted very few crosses. This term, with the addition of Wilfried Bony who is good in the air, only Man Utd have attempted more crosses in the Premier League. The problem has been that Bony is really the only target without the aerially strong Michu.

That hasn’t turned Swansea from a through ball team to a crossing team though, as they are still a threat to score from either method, as we’ll look at in a minute.

Control of the centre

The key zone against Swansea is to control the centre. They like top get their midfield trio in here, but also supported by the wide players tucking in, so as to get a sheer mass of numbers in this zone. This gives them a foothold from where they can build, whilst the volume of short passes around the triangles they create wears the opposition down over 90 minutes.

The key to our win in Spurs 1 Swansea 0 at White Hart Lane earlier this season was overpowering the Swans in this central zone. Andre Villas-Boas went with a strong trio of Etienne Capoue, Moussa Dembele and Paulinho as part of a 4-3-3 and they overpowered Swansea in here.


Tottenham tackles, Spurs 1 Swansea 0.

We often won the ball back in central midfield and even when we weren’t able to recover possession, forced Jonjo Shelvey and Jonathan De Guzman to go backwards. These two are the key creative passers for Swansea and they weren’t allowed to get going.


Jonjo Shelvey and Jonathan De Guzman passes played, Spurs 1 Swansea 0.

The Tottenham tactics for Swansea vs Spurs this time should see us look to control this zone once again. The problem for us is since that victory at the Lane, we now use a twin striker system. Emmanuel Adebayor is tasked with dropping in to help the midfield out and he will need to do so with even more discipline and energy here.

Christian Eriksen also drifts in to the centre, which will aid us in this zone. But, it could also leave Danny Rose exposed with Swansea looking to attack down their right through Angel Rangel.

The space we’ve been seeing between our lines of midfield and defence in Sherwood’s new system is also ripe for a team such as Swansea to expose. They excel at getting men between the lines and if allowed to do so will see Jonjo Shelvey have a huge influence on the game.

Man City run a similar system to us with their twin striker, drifting left-sided playmaker and two box-to-box central midfielders. They managed to edge the Swans in a thrilling encounter by controlling this zone, so it is possible with the Sherwood’s tactical set up.

Press the goalkeeper

Swansea build from the back, starting from their goalkeeper. This can be from goal kicks, pass backs or just through the defence shifting play from side-to-side. Whether it is Michel Vorm or Gerhard Tremmel, both keepers like to pass it short.

Teams that have had success against Swansea try to press their keeper in to having to clear the ball downfield. This then can often result in turnovers as the Swans have very few targets to aim for aerially.

Unlikely as it seems, Norwich have always done well against Swansea, as they adopt this approach in order to make their height advantage count. Earlier in the season they forced Michel Vorm in to numerous unsuccessful long clearances.


Michel Vorm passes played, Norwich 1 Swansea 1.

Two weeks ago, Man Utd fell victim to Swansea controlling the centre of midfield and being able to pass it out from the back in their FA Cup tie. The teams faced each other again in the Premier League last weekend, with Man Utd also now adopting this approach with much more success in a 2-0 win.


Gerhard Tremmel passes played, Man Utd 2 Swansea 0.

The Tottenham tactics for Swansea vs Spurs need to see us looking to close down Gerhard Tremmel and force him to kick long at every opportunity. We did do this on our last visit to the Liberty, a 2-1 win in the Premier League. Aaron Lennon got to Michel Vorm in the lead up to our second goal and forced him to scuff a clearance.


Aaron Lennon closes down Michel Vorm.

How Swansea creates chances

As mentioned earlier, Swansea traditionally creates chances from through balls. This was something they did to great effect when being edged out by Manchester City in their last home Premier League match.


Swansea chances created against Man City.

However, this season, the Swans are also set up to cross through Wayne Routledge and the full backs. Their target is usually Wilfried Bony, who is exceptionally good in the air for a player of his size, but can also hit the ball first time across the ground. This was how they got back in to the game against Stoke recently, turning around a two-goal deficit.

swansea-vs spurs-chances-vs-stoke-3-3

Swansea chances created against Stoke.

The Tottenham tactics for Swansea vs Spurs will need to see us overpower the Swans in central midfield in order to limit their opportunities to play through balls. Their deliveries from wide areas usually come from the right flank. This will see a tough assignment for Danny Rose if he is left exposed by Christian Eriksen getting caught drifting in field.

How Swansea concedes chances

Michael Laudrup’s side may have become more direct from the days when Brendan Rodgers used to coach the Swans, but his team still concedes in the same ways.

That is firstly from defensive errors. Passing the ball around so much at the back can lead to being caught out by pressuring the goalkeeper and back four.

Secondly, with the full backs pushing on, they still continue to give up chances through these areas, especially Ben Davies’ left back zone.

Man City exploited both full back zones, but the left back area in particular in their 3-2 win. Everton were the previous side to triumph in the Premier League at the Liberty and they too also created from the left side of the Swans defence.


Man City and Everton chances created against Swansea.

The Tottenham tactics for Swansea vs Spurs need to see Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker in particular attack the left back zone.

Swansea vs Spurs outlook

The Liberty Stadium is never an easy place to go, but with Michu out and also Jonathan De Guzman potentially sidelined, Swansea will be limited.

They still have players who can hurt us though, with Wilfried Bony coming in to some good form. They also excel at getting players between the lines, which is our biggest weakness.

The team news that Paulinho remains out, whilst Jan Vertonghen is not ready for a return should see the te same starting XI as against Palace.

This will be a tough game, but should see us emerge by the odd goal in three.

Swansea vs Spurs prediction: Swansea 1 Spurs 2.

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2 Responses to Tottenham tactics: Swansea vs Spurs preview

  1. Basil Monday 17th January 2014 at 11:53 pm #

    G’day Mark, with our weakness between the lines plus Swansea’s ability to attack this area what make you of Tim Sherwood’s preference for Bentalab over Capoue? The latter has seemed a solid defensive midfielder when injury free. He can’t be overly happy being overlooked for a 19 year old in a World Cup year. I’m just wondering if this decision is purely tactical (Sherwood’s desire to play a double six) is Capoue carrying a nagging injury or is there a clash of personalities? With the available personnel how would you set up vs the Swans?

    Cheers mate, always a great read. Bet Spurs tactical analysis I’ve found on the web.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th January 2014 at 4:58 pm #

      Thanks Basil. I’m not sure what’s up with Capoue, i’ve read the various rumours that he’s not in Sherwood’s plans and that he supposedly has an attitude – not sure i really buy that but not seeing what happens on the training pitch then can’t really tell. I don’t think he was injured and he was seriously solid on his last performance at Old Trafford.

      Sherwood seems to want to play two box-to-box midfielders in his system, so that kind of rules Capoue out given he likes to float in front of the defence and break up attacks. This also worries me about Sandro getting in when he’s back, as he isn’t in this mould although he can get forward, but that’s another story.

      Against possession teams that look to get inbetween the lines (Arsenal, Everton, City, Liverpool, Swansea) i’d prefer a Capoue type to be in there over a Bentaleb just because the latter can get caught too high, as i highlight in this analysis of him.

      Sherwood will go with the twin striker approach with Ade and Soldado. For me, controlling midfield is key and i’d rather have a starting body in there rather than relying on Adebayor to have to drop in. Therefore 4-2-3-1 would be my shout. Lloris – Walker if fit, Dawson, Chiriches, Rose – Capoue, Dembele – Chadli, Eriksen, Lennon – Adebayor.