Swansea 1 Spurs 3: central Swans have full backs exposed

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.


Nabil Bentaleb sits 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.


Jonjo Shelvey gets between the lines to turn and shoot.

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.


Leon Britton finds Wilfired Bony free between the lines.

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.


Wilfired Bony gets free and hits the bar.

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.


Nabil Bentaleb tackles 0-30 minutes and 30-90 minutes.

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 finds Lennon in-behind in the left back zone.

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.


Dawson springs Walker in the left back zone this time.

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.


Swansea get caught with players centrally and 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.

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8 Responses to Swansea 1 Spurs 3: central Swans have full backs exposed

  1. lunarsea241 20th January 2014 at 6:08 pm #

    Great pre and post-match report as always, Mark. Also enjoyed reading your analysis of Nabil Bentaleb – it’s fascinating to watch a youth player break into the first team, especially when it so unannounced.

    I was pleasantly surprised (and quite frankly relieved) that Sherwood clearly does have a level of tactical flexibility and acumen as seen in ditching the 4-4-2 for a 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 on Sunday.

    We’ll see just how flexible he is though with team selection next Wednesday – I will be absolutely horrified if either Sandro or Capoue don’t start against City. Spurs have played well under Sherwood, but I think they’ve also been lucky in that their opponents have hardly been clinical in finishing at all.

    City will be a massive test as to how far the team has come post-AVB, and also, just how resourceful TS is as a manager when faced with a potentially season-defining test.


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 20th January 2014 at 6:24 pm #

      Agree on the Capoue/Sandro point, although i think we’ll continue to see Dembele and Bentaleb in there. Interested to see if he goes toe-to-toe with City and matches them with 2 strikers…

      • YouShubes 20th January 2014 at 9:18 pm #

        Agreed that Sandro should start against City. Chadli and Lennon were disappointing and if fit I would like to see Lamela (trickery) and Andros (width) given the chance to stake their claim.

        I love Azza but he can frustrate. Has regularly killed the likes of Evra but seems to bottle it at times.

        One thing I found interesting is that Chelsea seemed to be inspired by our switching to a deeper line http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/25802415 :D

        I felt Daws was lucky to not concede a penalty, and Bony had Lloris clearly beaten with his shot that hit the crossbar.

        And I feel we should give credit to Vlad for his pass to Eriksen whose pass sent Rose on his way. Him and Eriksen have our most impressive summer recruits so far. I really think if Lamela can be given a run of games that allow him freedom to roam, and if Tim can “put his arm around him” we can see why he was so highly rated to River Plate and Roma

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 21st January 2014 at 3:10 pm #

          Thought Lennon did ok, but yes he can go missing in the big matches, especially away from home.

          Chadli needs some time and some matches as he’s been in and out with injury so far. He looked worn out after 60 mins at Swansea and Sherwood rightly replaceed him. I feel he’s the kind of player that once he gets the pace and a feel for the league then he’ll do well. It all looks a bit too fast and a bit too physical for him at the the moment, although he does look like he can glide past full backs when he wants to.

          Chelsea’s deep line and counter attack was just very Mourinho. He knows that his team can’t lose any ground on City or Arsenal and is reverting to the type of stuff we saw from him first time around.

  2. Paulo 20th January 2014 at 9:06 pm #

    Capoue seems to be 5th choice for one of two midfield spots behind Paulinho, Dembele, Sandro and Bentelab…. Reckon he could leave or go out on loan…

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 21st January 2014 at 3:03 pm #

      From media reports sounds like Napoli are keen. Not sure why we’d want to let someone go when they’ve only been here for half a season, unless they are truly unhappy at the club and causing problems in the dressing room.

  3. Chu2ks 21st January 2014 at 10:02 am #

    Excellent analysis, Mark. From my earlier comments, I said how much I’d love TS to move to a single striker system, and he complied.

    My opinion is that he should stick with it, but replace Chadli with Sigurdsson, even though Chadli performed admirably(her really should have put that first-half chance away).

    Bentaleb is almost proving indispensable, and you know what, I’d stick with him and Dembele for the Man City clash-no fear.

    Can’t wait for Vertonghen’s return. What do you think if he played Roberto as one of the three behind Ade?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 21st January 2014 at 3:18 pm #

      Thanks Chu2ks. I’ll be interested to see if his 1 striker system was just a one off, or whether this is his way seeing as he actually had a few days to work on it in training.

      Can’t see Soldado playing behind Ade myself. When they operate together, Ade always comes short and Soldado is looking to run in-behind. Soldado will play as part of a two, i can even see him working with Ade as part of a front 3, but if it’s just 1 striker then Ade’s workrate and hold up play see him start at the minute.