We kept on rolling at the Liberty, as it finished Swansea 1 Spurs 3 for our fifth away win in a row in the Premier League.
It was another excellent performance. The key theme throughout was Swansea controlling possession by packing the centre of the park, but being exposed by passes to get in-behind their full backs.
Spurs set up and tactics
After going with the twin striker approach, Tim Sherwood changed up the system here. As we looked at in the Tottenham tactics for Swansea vs Spurs, the Welsh side are renowned for packing the middle of the park with four or even five men. Their wide players tuck in and their centre forward drops off in order to create a massive overload in this central area.
With this in mind, Tim Sherwood had us play in a 4-1-4-1 without the ball in order to counter a narrow Swansea side. Then when possession was regained, the formation moved to a 4-3-3 with Aaron Lennon playing wide and Nacer Chadli given licence to move inside.
The most interesting part of the Spurs set up though was the positioning of Nabil Bentaleb. I’ve looked at us conceding possession between the lines in our twin striker system under Sherwood against sides like Arsenal and this was a move to attempt to sure up this area.
In the defensive phase, Bentaleb was positioned in front of the back four.
As we can also see here, Swansea often overloaded the centre with their wide players – Pozuelo and Routledge – playing narrow. Wilfried Bony would also drop off to drag our centre backs around, trying to create confusion.
This was effective by Swansea, especially in the first half and Moussa Dembele often had to drop deeper to help Bentaleb out as this area was being overrun.
Swansea start getting between the lines
Swansea started well and it all stemmed from them being able to get players between our lines of defence and midfield.
There were just two minutes on the clock, as Alex Pozuelo got free to feed in Wilfried Bony for his first shot of the match. Five minutes later Jonjo Shelvey got open with Wilfried Bony coming deep. The former Liverpool man saw his shot batted away by Hugo Lloris, but that was two warnings of Swansea getting players in between the lines in the first 7 minutes.
Despite these warnings, Spurs didn’t learn. With 20 minutes on the clock, Bony coming short in to this space saw him get free to receive the ball; turn and run out our defence, but fire wide.
This was a warning for his shot a few minutes later that cannoned off our bar. Bony was allowed to receive the ball from Shelvey, turn and drive forward once again.
After all this in the first 30 minutes, Tottenham then played much more compactly.The 4-1-4-1 formation without the ball stayed. However, after trying to unsuccessfully close Swansea’s defenders down from passing the ball around, they were given space. Emmanuel Adebayor and the four midfielders dropped off and engaged the first pass in to midfield instead.
After being overrun in this central area, we were now much more equipped to deal with Swansea in here, forcing them in to many losses of possession. This was through poor touches, but also tackling, as time was no longer being allowed to pick the pass to the player between the lines.
Nabil Bentaleb was being overrun, as he was being forced to fight fires in the first 30 minutes. After the switch to play deeper and restrict the space, he and Moussa Dembele pretty much had the area on lockdown.
This now allowed us to gain possession in good areas and launch attacks of our own.
Central containment gained; attack wide
With us gaining some control of the central area, it allowed us to get forward and attack Swansea’s weakness. With their wide players tucking in to get as many bodies as possible centrally, they rely on width from their full backs. This can often see Ben Davies and Angel Rangel caught up field.
As looked at in the Tottenham tactics for Swansea vs Spurs, teams have had plenty of joy attacking Ben Davies left back zone. That is where our first two goals came from.
Lennon, who received the ball from Emmanuel Adebayor, pulled Davies out from his left back position. He then fed the ball in to Christian Eriksen, who put a return pass in to the space behind the Swansea full back.
Eriksen was excellent all afternoon and by following his pass, he created an overload out wide. This allowed him to be completely free to receive the return from Lennon, as Ashley Williams started to reatreat to his centre back position after Eriksen played the pass.
The Dane’s pinpoint cross picked out Adebayor who had made a great run to get in to the centre to nod home, 1-0.
After the interval, the second arrived from the same zone. This time the ball was worked wide to Chadli on the left before coming back across the formation to Michael Dawson. The skipper had popped up on the right, but Spurs were really seeking to stretch Swansea at this point.
Dawson supplied the pass to get Kyle Walker in-behind in the left back zone and his cross was put through his own net by Chico Flores, 2-0.
After the second goal, Moussa Dembele was sent through by a ball over the top and could have made it 3-0, if he’d laid an easy square ball to Emmanuel Adebayor. This was our best chance from this rather minor tactic to go quickly and vertical over Ashley Williams if he was caught up field. Both Adebayor and Nacer Chadli were sprung in to space by doing this prior to Dembele’s chance.
The best play was still coming through the full back zones though. Minutes later a third was added as this time we hit on the counter from the right back zone. It was a nice pass from Eriksen to spring Rose in order to cross for Adebayor, as Swansea were once again caught with players centrally and the full back (Rangel) up field.
Three goals scored and all from attacking the full back zones.
Swansea did pull a goal back, ironically from the first real long vertical pass trying to get Bony in-behind. It was neat finish, especially after his other efforts had come from dropping off to pick up the ball between the lines, turn, run and shoot.
Swansea 1 Spurs 3 overall
“It took a while get used to how they play,” said Tim Sherwood afterwards and that was true until we switched to playing much more compactly without the ball. Rather than trying to stop Swansea moving it around at the back, we engaged them on the first pass in to midfield and this helped us to contain a narrow Swans side.
Having slowed them down centrally, we were able to get more of the ball and then move it in to wide areas to expose them, especially in the left back zone.
The switch in formation from a 4-1-4-1 that moved to a 4-3-3 with the ball worked well here. It’ll be intriguing to see if this was just a one off or if it is retained for Man City?
Final score: Swansea 1 Spurs 3.