Carlos Carvalhal switched to a back four in what could have been his final game as Swansea City head coach as his side lost 2-1 at home to Stoke City.
Carvalhal reverted back to a 4-4-2, the system he adopted in his first game as manager, a late comeback 2-1 victory away at Watford. You could say it was too late to be switching to a back four as we were already practically down, we were all hoping he would bin his back-5 system weeks ago, but he never did.
The cynic in me would question that the reason behind the formation switch was to allow for Angel Rangel to start in his final game for the club. He, along with Leon Britton, confirmed that they will end their Swansea City careers this season and therefore Rangel started at right back as captain, while Leon came on as a sub near the hour mark.
Rangel doesn’t have the stamina and speed to play as a wing-back, and it suited him playing amongst a back four, as Dyer could offer attacking width instead of him.
Apart from his first 2 games, Carvalhal has stuck with a 5-4-1 system or a very similar variance of it. The only other time that he used a back four was in the 1-1 home draw against Everton, a match that we created 8 shots on target. Today, with a back four, we created 11 shots on target. You could say that there was a trend developing there, but we were facing a poor side in Stoke after all.
The first thing to notice about our average shape, below on the left in red, is how many players we have averaging a position (based on touches during the game) in the opposition’s half.
Yes, we’re playing from left to right in the positions map below and all but 2 of our outfield players average a position in Stoke’s half of the pitch.
Unlike what we’ve seen in previous pass-maps recently, there are no players covering the same position in midfield like at Bournemouth, or lone strikers isolated up top like at home against Southampton. It’s actually a well-balanced and attacking shape that had Stoke pegged back in the second half.
Carroll (14) and King (24) both take up holding positions in midfield in front of the back two, with both full-backs in reasonably high positions. The wingers of Dyer and Routledge are also well balanced, taking up similar positions either side in front of the full-backs.
The one downside here is the lack of attacking midfielder providing the link from midfield to attack. A lot of our attacking play was down the sides and involved sending in crosses to the Ayew brothers, whose strengths aren’t in the air.
Stoke’s average shape is skewed and doesn’t offer a fair example of their average shape due to the early substitution of Joe Allen (4) within the first 8 minutes, but it does show how they were pinned back in the game as we dominated the second half but couldn’t find a way through.