After back-to-back Premier League defeats, we returned to winning ways with an excellent performance, as it finished Swansea 1 Spurs 2 at the Liberty Stadium.
Swansea set up and tactics
This was a game that went pretty much according to the Tottenham tactics preview despite the difference in personnel for the home side.
Swansea lined up in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation and attacked heavily down the right. Instead of playing through Angel Rangel, they went with Dwight Tiendalli down this side, but the Swans’ right back was again the most influential player.
On the left, Pablo Hernandez played his usual role of coming in field looking to link the play and slide in through balls for Michu to run on to. The number nine played very narrow, as we’ve often seen and we’ll look at further in a minute, but this didn’t limit his effectiveness.
In the middle of the park was the main area of interest, where Jonathan De Guzman dropped back alongside Leon Britton. Sung-Yueng Ki usually plays here and provides incisive vertical passes, but he was on the bench after being away with South Korea. With De Guzman moving back, Wayne Routledge came in to play behind Michu and the former Spurs man was at the hub of creating some of the Swans best chances.
Although the move did get a lot out of Routledge who is usually better out wide, it also hindered the influence of De Guzman and we exposed him on both of our goals.
The Dutchman’s through balls are a key part of the Swans attacking play, whilst his defensive play is a bit suspect. Wayne Routledge was buzzing around the area, slipping in chances for Michu and cutting balls back. De Guzman was struggling to get in to the game, failed to track Jan Vertonghen twice and was replaced by Ki on the hour.
Michael Laudrup had commented that Spurs may be suffering from a ’FIFA virus,’ but his changes seemed to indicate he was the one more concerned about fatigue. Had De Guzman not played twice for Holland and Ki been all the way to Seoul, the pair may have started in their preferred positions and this game could have been quite different.
Spurs expose De Guzman
Despite Laudrup’s comment about us suffering from our players being involved in the international break, we started much the better side.
As looked at in the Tottenham tactics, teams have had success doing two things against Swansea.
First of all, by attacking them straight down the middle. Secondly, by pressuring their goalkeeper to not allow him to easily pass the ball out to the full backs and instead having to kick long. Both of these factors were heavily involved in us racing out to a two-goal lead.
We went one up much like with our opener at the Emirates against Arsenal, as we went straight over the top with a one-two. Again the move involved Jan Vertonghen, but this time he was on the end of the pass rather than the supplier.
The Dutchman played the ball in to Gareth Bale and drove on straight down the inside left channel. As he moved forward, Jonathan De Guzman stopped tracking him – something he was required to do now that he was playing deeper than usual.
Vertonghen was then able to move in behind the centre back and take the return pass in stride, with right back Dwight Tiendalli slow on the cover.
I’d looked at his movement forward in Jan Vertonghen the 4-2-3-1 destroyer and the Dutchman was once again proving that he could unhinge teams playing this formation.
Whilst his driving run forward saw him score the opener, his movement up field from the back was also a major factor in our second goal.
It started as we’d outlined in the Tottenham tactics for Swansea vs Spurs, with good pressure on Michel Vorm to stop him passing it out easily. Aaron Lennon closed him down and forced a miscued clearance up in the air to Ashley Williams who headed partially out.
Jan Vertonghen had stepped out of defence once more and again De Guzman was late to try and pick him up. Jan had the freedom to drive forward and slide a beautiful ball in to Gareth Bale straight through the centre once more.
Two goals to the good and both from us going right at the heart of the Swansea defence, their weakest point.
Swansea fight back down the right
After a slow start and being knocked on to the back foot, Swansea slowly came in to the game through attacking down their right side. Usually it’s Angel Rangel who dictates the play down this flank, but here Michael Laudrup went with Dwight Tiendalli as his right back.
Spurs had deployed Kyle Naughton at full back, with Gylfi Sigurdsson playing slightly deeper to provide cover for him. Whilst this kept Tiendalli quiet early on, as Swansea came more in to the match, he became more of a factor. Even though Spurs had two players in the area, Swansea often had three, with De Guzman moving out to the right to create overloads with Tiendalli and Dyer.
Tiendalli put in 12 crosses in total, with Michu heading wide early in the second half and Dyer planting one on to the bar when it seemed easier to score.
The Spaniard was playing his usual game of operating very narrow through the centre. With Swansea going down the right and crossing, whilst also sliding in through balls, Michu’s narrow movement meant he was a menace all afternoon.
This played to Swansea’s strengths, as they had a target to aim for whether it was from a cross or a pass played through a channel. This allowed him to get a number of shots and headers away from very close range, which finally resulted in his goal from Ki’s corner.
Michu could have had more than one, but his aim was off target. He headed wide from Tiendalli’s cross and then found Brad Friedel denying him from close range after a short pass from a quick free kick by Ashley Williams.
Spurs play on the counter
After getting out to a quick two goal lead, the second half saw us play much more on the counter, as we looked to soak up Swansea pressure and strike. When we did drive forward with the ball, again we went at the centre of their defence, creating several good chances.
Gareth Bale skimmed the outside post after charging down the inside left channel on a breakaway. Then, Jermain Defoe saw his shot saved by Michel Vorm after Moussa Dembele had driven straight at the heart of the Swansea defence.
With Spurs sinking deeper and deeper it was only apt that Gareth Bale, who had been such a destructive force in attack, provided the key block in defence.
Wayne Routledge got round the back from a ball fed in to him on the run and cut it back for Nathan Dyer pinching in from the right. A sliding Bale, who had moved to the left after the withdrawal of Gylfi Sigurdsson, brilliantly blocked his shot. Although Bale was providing less cover for Kyle Naughton than his Icelandic counterpart, he was there when it mattered most to make a key intervention, preserving the three points.
Swansea 1 Spurs 2 conclusions
This was another solid away day for Andre Villas-Boas and the boys and he gave the team praise after the great result.
“The result proves the winning mentality this team has. It’s never easy to hold on against a team that plays so well, knows how to hold the ball and creates so many attacking options.”
We’ve often seen us go for an early goal on the road, and then playing on the counter in the second half and that was the case here.
We were effective at going straight at the centre of their defence, which is the weak point of their team and where they have conceded the most chances this season.
We also managed to close down Michel Vorm on a number of occasions, stopping him passing short to his full backs. Both of these factors were involved in our goals and Jan Vertonghen’s forward movement exposed Jonathan De Guzman who was slow to react each time.
The Dutchman was playing out of position due to Michael Laudrup’s reshuffle after the international break and that ended up hindering the Swans here. Take nothing away from us though. This was a tremendously gutsy performance, typified by Gareth Bale’s block to conserve the win at the end.
Final score: Swansea 1 Spurs 2.