Swansea City head coach Carlos Carvalhal disagreed with a journalist when he questioned his decision to continue with a back 5 formation, insisting it was a back three in their 1-0 home defeat against Southampton, so let’s have a look at the average positions map to see what it suggests.
Unless players swap sides during games, like wingers, the average positions map gives a good idea of the overall team shape and balance during a game. It’s based on player touches in a game, and based on this, each player’s average position is mapped.
Carvalhal has adopted a back five system in all but three of his games since he came in at the end of 2017. He went with 4-4-2 in his first game at Watford, a 2-1 late comeback win, and at Newcastle United – a 1-1 draw. The other game was the 1-1 draw at home against Everton more recently, but it was a much-improved performance that saw us manage 8 shots on target. It made you wonder why Carvalhal didn’t stick with that new system, which we analysed here.
Asked after the 1-0 defeat Southampton on Tuesday night if he regretted playing with five at the back, Carvalhal hit back:
“It is three at the back. We play with three attackers and not exactly with three at the back so I disagree, 100 per cent.
“Kyle Naughton moved forward into midfield. He jumped a position to be near Andy King and Ki is the player who jumps to be near the attackers that is why you saw Ki a lot on the right side with crosses and passes especially in the first half.
“That is the strategy, to block the sides because they are strong there and after to play in midfield. I don’t agree that we play three at the back.”
So is it three at the back?
Hardly. And Kyle Naughton (26) wasn’t in midfield either, he averaged a position in his own half, directly behind right wing-back Connor Roberts (52).
The average positions map below (Swansea on the left in red) also shows how isolated Jordan Ayew was up top yet again. Carvalhal said he played with 3 attackers, yet Clucas (17) and Andre Ayew (19) averaged deep, wide positions.
The only reason “Ki is near the attackers” is because they were playing too deep, too near the halfway line and not enough in the final third.
Southampton’s back 3 shape is similar to that of ours in Saturday’s defeat at Bournemouth, where it was very narrow with the only width coming from the full-backs. Unlike us though, they did have players operating closer to the striker (Austin).
Another frustrating thing about Carvalhal, not only his use of the back 5 but his defence of it. He says it’s attacking but admits that the strategy is to “block the sides!”
7 games ago we were in a very promising position, 4 points clear of the bottom 3 but Carvalhal’s overly cautious approach is one of many contributing factors to our current position.