The positioning of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen to get in to the inside left channel sees us twice come from behind to finish Swansea 2-2 Spurs.
Open, entertaining and enthralling. You couldn’t take your eyes off two footballing teams duelling it out at the Liberty Stadium. Twice Swansea went ahead and twice we came back, almost finding a winner as our Premier League clash finished Swansea 2-2 Spurs in South Wales.
There was a ton going on in this game as both teams tried to play football the right way in their own style.
Swansea go to Montero
The return of Jefferson Montero is integral to Swansea getting out of their mini-slump. Earlier in the season, the winger was roasting right backs for fun, but as we looked at in the Swansea vs Spurs preview, he makes their offence tick.
The inclusion of the Ecuadorian in the team brings the best out of Andre Ayew and Bafetimbi Gomis. Ayew can head towards the box with more conviction from his starting position on the right, as he knows the service is coming. Gomis can attack the six-yard box and use his explosive leaping ability.
Swansea made their intentions clear right out of the gate and looked for Montero every time they had the ball. The winger was hugging the touchline in order to stretch out our back four, looking to isolate Kyle Walker 1v1.
Even with his speed, Walker looked fearful of the task, Montero had given him fits in Spurs 3 Swansea 2 last season. It didn’t take long for Kyle to concede a free kick from impeding Montero’s first attempt to dribble past him. Walker had got up trying to jam the Ecuadorian before he could get started. After conceding that free kick, he backed off and this proved his undoing on their first goal.
The move to see them take the lead was a classic Swansea goal, indicative of their style of play under Gary Monk. They moved the ball around at the back to draw on and navigate our press. With four of our players out of the game, they then passed it briskly through midfield, looking early to switch it out to Jefferson Montero.
With Kyle Walker pinching in to keep numbers in the middle, Montero got the ball in acres of space.
This gave the Ecuadorian room to get up to speed and get at Walker before help could come. Walker backed off, wary of giving up a foul, but also tried to play Montero to go to the by-line and not over commit to any challenge that would allow him to jump inside.
This hesitancy and the lag that Walker gave Montero was enough room for the Ecuadorian to act like he was driving for the by-line, twist and then deliver a cross unopposed. He chipped the ball in perfectly for Andrew Ayew to arrive in the penalty area from his starting position on the right and head in to the corner of the net.
Swansea were looking for the one-two punch of getting Montero on the ball to deliver for Ayew and Gomis and they had succeeded in taking the lead.
Seeing how exposed Walker was, plus how hesitant he was to get sucked in and allow Montero to skip past him, Swansea continued to get the ball out to the flying Ecuadorian. He was heavily involved in their second goal. The Swans moved the ball swiftly up to him and he went at Walker again, this time winning a corner.
The corner was whipped in and with no man on the front post, Harry Kane stepped in and sliced the ball in to his own net. No men on the posts are something we’ve seen when looking at defending corners under Mauricio Pochettino. Our head coach likes to play a three-man zone across the six-yard box whilst the rest of the players go man-to-man. This leaves the near post area vacant and open to being attacked.
Swansea had two goals from their persistence of getting the ball out to Montero. This was often at the expense of playing through Jonjo Shelvey and Gylfi Sigurdsson. These two have offered through passing from different levels within the team for Bafetimbi Gomis to run on to, but the insistence of getting the ball to Montero negated their effect. With the Ecuadorian recently returning from a lengthy injury layoff, as he blew out of steam, so too did their attacking impetus.
What the first goal highlighted was Swansea’s ability to negate our press, but this wasn’t the case throughout the match. Any team that wants to take on a Pochettino side has to match it for numbers in the middle of the park as our players often drift infield so that we have 4 or 5 in central areas.
With Montero out on the wing and staying wide even when we had the ball, Gary Monk was giving up trying to match us for numbers in the middle for the sake of having a quick and often open outlet.
This numerical advantage saw our pressing have a big affect on the game as we started to win the ball back and gain territorial control of the match. Dier, Alli, Eriksen and either Chadli or Lamela floating in to create a central four frequently overran Sigurdsson, Shelvey and Ki Sung-Yueng. This saw us often regain possession in the Swansea half. In our attempts to play a high press and win the ball back quickly we also often fouled.
Spurs in the inside left channel
Whilst Swansea were getting the ball out to Jefferson Montero, we were focussed on getting at the inside left channel between centre back Federico Fernandez and right back Angel Rangel. We’d looked in the Swansea vs Spurs preview at how the Swans have given up chances from their right back zone and we seemed to be determined to get players in and around this area.
The chief tormentors were Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen. The Dane floated in to this channel often to pick up the ball.
The Englishman drove forward in to this alley from his deeper starting position.
The pair would combine to earn our two free-kicks that saw us twice level the game up. Both times Eriksen got on the ball and fed it in to Dele Alli’s run through this inside left channel. The first time Alli was fouled by Federico Fernandez; the second by Jonjo Shelvey. On each occasion, Christian Eriksen sent the resulting free-kick in to the Swansea net, wrong-footing Lukasz Fabianski both times. The first was a sighter; the second a thing of beauty.
With us now back in the game, we continued to press Swansea back. Their outlet, Jefferson Montero, was tiring and this stopped them getting out. Rather than replace the Ecuadorian, Gary Monk kept faith that he’d have another trick up his sleeve. Instead, he brought off his two midfield through passers in Gylfi Sigurdsson and then Jonjo Shelvey. He introduced Modou Barrow in an attempt to get some speed on the other wing against Ben Davies. Then he threw on Jack Cork to get some defensive stability as we began to have more space trough the middle third due to his two wide players.
Mauricio Pochettino changed both of our wide midfielders. Andros Townsend’s introduction was a sound one in that it forced Jefferson Montero back. The Ecuadorian had been getting far too high up the field and too easily on to Kyle Walker 1v1. The wide midfielder on that sidesimply couldn’t recover from the attacking phase to help in the defensive. The change to put Andros on provided fresh legs and speed to force a tiring Montero backwards and have to help cover his own full back.
Townsend often got on the ball and tore forward, skipping past challenges. Unfortunately, as is often the case, his final product was either the wrong choice of pass or shot. He did unleash one fierce drive from a trademark cut inside and shot that almost fooled Fabianski.
On the other side, Mauricio Pochettino removed Nacer Chadli for Clinton N’Jie. As against Monaco, Pochettino put N’Jie up top and dropped Harry Kane in to the number ten position, sliding Christian Eriksen out to the left. The idea here seemed to be to get N’Jie’s pace and inclination to run in-behind as high up the field as possible with the game becoming stretched.
N’Jie did get on the ball and in to positions where he could run at their defence or look to bring in Kane due to his moves forward from deeper. It looked promising that we’d add the winning goal, but Pochettino then removed Kane for Mousa Dembele. The Belgian sat deeper with Eric Dier, pushing Dele Alli on.
This move almost lost the game. Dembele gave the ball away, then tried to chase down his own mistake. It ended up with Eric Dier fouling Andre Ayew and Federico Fernandez seeing his header from the resulting free kick tipped onto the bar by Hugo Lloris. We’d gone from having chances to win 3-2 to almost losing the game by the same score line.
Swansea 2-2 Spurs overall
This was another strong performance where we had the chances to win the game, but again weren’t clinical enough to finish them off.
Mauricio Pochettino had Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen getting in to the inside left channel between Federico Fernandez and Angel Rangel. We’d had success with the free kicks and a number of shots from here. I was surprised that he didn’t introduce Andros Townsend on this side to get a natural left footer in-behind in this channel as well.
A point at Swansea is usually a good one. From the number of chances we created though, it did feel like two points lost.
Final score: Swansea 2-2 Spurs.