Swansea 1 Spurs 2: Pochettino swings game with switches

A gutsy performance sees us once again grind out a win away from home, as our Premier League clash finishes Swansea 1 Spurs 2 at the Liberty Stadium.

Sometimes its better to be lucky than good.  Winning again from a very unlikely position may suggest another fluke result. But for it to happen for the third time in four away matches hints that Mauricio Pochettino may just have something good going on more than just fortune.

With Swansea in the ascendancy and hammering at the door, our head coach made good use of his substitutes bench to change the flow of the game. Something he hasn’t always done.

Spurs set pieces

We opened the game very brightly and put Swansea on the back foot. The two keys to what we were doing was pressing them to force turnovers in wide areas and taking advantage of set pieces.

From the off, Mauricio Pochettino had us closing down early, trying to force turnovers in wide areas. Harry Kane and Roberto Soldado were pushing up on Swansea’s wide splitting centre backs. They were backed up by Ryan Mason and the wide player on that side to try and create turnovers out on the flanks.


Spurs pressing.

When a defender was caught with his back to goal or vulnerable in a wide area, we were looking to close him down and force an error or a clearance down field.

This was a key factor in the early stages, but also in the phase of play that saw Christian Eriksen win the game, which we’ll look at later.

The other factor was set pieces. We took the lead from a corner, but just prior to this, we had regained the ball through pressure and Erik Lamela was fouled to earn a free kick. Christian Eriksen swung the dead ball in and it was cleared for another set piece.

The corner looked as if it was an isolation play run for Harry Kane. The academy graduate was on the edge of the penalty area being marked by Angel Rangel, whilst four other Spurs players littered the six-yard box to make it difficult for the keeper to rush from his line.


Kane isolation corner.

Eriksen swung in an excellent delivery and Kane overpowered Rangel to nod home. The Swansea defender had been done by Andy Carroll last week and must have had a feeling of déjà vu as Kane rose above him.

Swansea between the lines

It’s hard to keep Swansea out of a game due to their possession football and neat passing. After being knocked on to the back foot, they got back in to the match by playing this way, but also by creating turnovers in the middle third.

The Swans were doing some pressing of their own and once they got the ball back, they were moving it to men between the lines in order to create shooting chances.

Gylfi Sigurdsson got free here to lay the ball neatly off to Wayne Routledge who pinged a through ball for Wilfried Bony to run on to. It was a classic Swansea triangle, but the Ivorian saw his shot saved by Hugo Lloris.


Sigurdsson between the lines finds Routledge who hits Bony.

Jefferson Montero then got free between the lines to slip Bony in again. The striker was doing an excellent job of running the channels between centre back and full back, but saw a certain goal denied by a magnificent sliding challenge from Ben Davies.


Montero loose between the lines hits Bony in the channel between FB/CB.

Next it was Sigurdsson once more between the lines, as he found Bony again running the channel between centre and full back. The striker couldn’t capitalise as Swansea continued to open our defence up.


Siggy between the lines hits Bony.

Chances were coming from getting men in to the spaces between our lines of defence and midfield, but also short crosses from getting beyond our full backs. We looked in the Tottenham tactics for Swansea vs Spurs at this and a late scare in the first half saw Bony’s shot deflected wide off Fazio after Rangel had got in-behind Davies.


Chances from through balls (1) and short crosses (2).

Swansea short crosses

After Bony’s chance at the end of the first half, he got the Swans back on level terms at the start of the second.

The passage of play was once more to get a player in to an area where he could provide a short cross. This time it was Wayne Routledge as he played a give-and-go with Rangel and spun in-behind Ben Davies.


Routledge gets in-behind Davies.

Routledge was far too quick as he raced on to the return at the side of our penalty area. Shorter crossing positions should increase their accuracy, as they are closer to their target. Routledge picked out Bony with a short, dinked pass and although the striker’s first shot whacked in to Jan Vertonghen, he made no mistake with the rebound, 1-1.

Swansea were now very much in the ascendancy and Gary Monk was pushing for the go-ahead goal that surely would’ve meant victory. He started to make changes as he took off holding player Leon Britton and replaced him with the much more attack-minded Jonjo Shelvey.

Pochettino switches swing momentum

As Monk started to force the pace, Mauricio Pochettino made several key changes of his own. Ones that arguably halted Swansea’s momentum and put us in a position to stay in the game.

Seeing the switch to bring on Shelvey and the much higher position he was taking up, our coach introduced Benjamin Stambouli for Roberto Soldado. Harry Kane was moved up top on his own and Stambouli came in alongside Nabil Bentaleb to get two players on Sigurdsson and Shelvey to stop them getting between the lines. The change snuffed out many of Swansea’s attacks and Stambouli retrieving the ball lead to Eriksen’s first shot before he fired the winner.

Having introduced one ball winner in to the base of midfield, Pochettino’s second change was to bring another one in to the advanced midfield area. Sung-Yueng Ki was still dictating the flow of the ball through here and Mousa Dembele was brought on to stop him.

The game was now suddenly being shut down in midfield and it allowed us to slow Swansea’s momentum whilst creating chances of our own. With the additional bodies in midfield, we could pressure higher up to push Swansea back. This included the game winner with just seconds on the clock.

Benjamin Stambouli recovered the ball and laid it off to Christian Eriksen. He saw his shot saved by Gerhard Tremmel with Jazz Richards scooping up the loose ball. Richards then pondered on it, allowing Harry Kane to close down, but Mousa Dembele was also closing in. We had been trying to trap in the wide areas and this time it was to prove pivotal.


Spurs press Richards.

The clearance went straight to Ben Davies who was pushing up from his left back slot. Both he and Christian Eriksen were now between the lines of Swansea’s midfield and defence.


Eriksen and Davies between the lines.

Davies picked out a precise pass to the Dane who had intelligently split the centre backs. This gave him enough time to take a touch, swivel and fire in to the bottom corner, sending our travelling fans once more in to delirium.

Swansea 1 Spurs 2 overall

It was a gutsy performance to hang in there when Swansea were really building momentum and looked as if they were going on to win the game. The Swans were carving out chances and opening up our defence, which was a worry, but they weren’t converting them. Better finishing would’ve seen them run out comfortable winners, but credit to our players for keeping on going and digging in.

After many a time criticising Mauricio Pochettino’s use of his substitutes bench, here he has to be given credit for getting the game back under control with his changes. They were well though out and got a handle on slowing Swansea’s momentum.

Overall it’s another away win and a performance which on the one hand papers over some cracks, but on the other shows great resilience and a spirit to keep on going. With three final minute winning goals in our last four away fixtures, Mauricio Pochettino must be doing something good, proving he is more than just lucky.

Final score: Swansea 1 Spurs 2.

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11 Responses to Swansea 1 Spurs 2: Pochettino swings game with switches

  1. Banner 15th December 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    Thank you for another top quality analysis.
    I always liked Sigurdsson but what’s done is done. A pity we let him go without really using him properly.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 15th December 2014 at 7:14 pm #

      He is a good player. I think he is a better fit for Swansea’s style, but he needs consistently to be played in the centre and he wasn’t going to get that with us.

  2. Jimbo 15th December 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    Thanks for the interesting analysis. A couple of points. There has been some strong criticism on other sites about our center backs. I myself thought they did reasonably well, especially dealing with the aerial threat, and that our issue was more in midfield. And given that our subs did well in controlling the midfield, how do you see the Bentaleb Mason partnership? Also, a massive amount of credit to Kyle Walker who did a fantastic job at controlling a very tricky winger, even if he was a ways from match fit. Do you think he gives enough width to our side, or is it still going to be too narrow with our current attacking setup? Cheers.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 15th December 2014 at 7:27 pm #

      Great questions Jimbo. I’m not 100% sold on our centre backs and there are issues, but i’m not going to beat them up as its not all ther fault. Fazio looks to be improving from how he was a few weeks ago and that’s a good sign that he’s adapting to the pace of the game here. With new defenders (Fazio, Davies), it’s going to take time for them to gel with the rest of the backline amyway, so we can’t expect a resoltue back four just yet. At least Pochettino is playing a consistent pairing in Fazio and Vertonghen in the Premier League.

      People often look at us conceding chances and think it must be the centre backs because its their job to defend. They are partly to blame but Mason and Bentaleb were getting overrun in the midfield in front of them and their inexperience showed. Swansea are no pushovers and they have the third best home record in the Premier League this season, so this was always going to be difficult. Games such as these at tough places needs a more imposing midfield and Stambouli and Dembele’s combative style highlighted this. At home or away to less intimidating sides, Mason/Bentaleb can work as a partnership, but not at all places at this point in their careers, they still have a lot to learn.

      Walker’s return is massive and will provide width for us that Dier, Chriches and Naughton previously haven’t on the right. I’d still ike to see Lennon used to bring in some more width in matches in front of the full back on this side, but Pochettino had very athletic full backs at Southampton and in Walker and Rose he now has two here, if they can stay healthy!

      • anotherwisemonkey 15th December 2014 at 9:14 pm #

        Excellent, balanced analysis. I’m not sure Fazio will ever be good enough for the Premier League because he’s so slow; Bony got away from him 14 times on Sunday. With the return of Walker, though, there is better balance to the side. What do you think about the possibility of dropping Soldado and bringing Chadli back into the side?

  3. Andy 15th December 2014 at 10:12 pm #

    Dembele was subbed first for Soldado. Stambouli for Mason, then Chadli for Lamela.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th December 2014 at 2:26 pm #

      Apologies Andy, I got them round the wrong way round, but the premise of the moves remained the same, to nullify Ki moving the ball forward from the base of midfield and then to stop Sigurdsson and Shelvey – who was taking up an advanced position from what Britton was before him – from getting between the lines.

  4. jimi 16th December 2014 at 6:14 am #

    i was irritated that Pochettino was slow in making his substitution. He should have made the subs immediately for the 2nd half. it was clear that by the end of the 45 minutes, our team was already losing grip of the game. he chose to start the 2nd half with the same 11.

    the team continued to lose grip of the game and hence 1-1. what was he thinking ????

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th December 2014 at 2:27 pm #

      He should’ve made the changes earlier, but maybe he was waiting to see how his half tme adjustments panned out.

  5. brian 16th December 2014 at 10:15 pm #

    Once again ,loved your summing up,with your analysis detail.Its a pity we have not got Bony,his pace running into the spaces,created ,are just what we require.As all our strikers,lack that one ingredient sheer pace.And to be frank,its being missing since,Bales; departure,Townsend has it.But seems too lack the footballing mentality,to use it And as has been pointed out,by many others,his shooting ability,leaves a lot to be desired..

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th December 2014 at 3:31 pm #

      Bony would be a perfect fit for our system as he can drop in short to link the play and hit runners going past him, but then he has great energy to get up in the box to sniff out chances. He’s very good on crosses too. Him or Benteke would be perfect for us.