After two consecutive defeats against Ipswich and Aston Villa, Graham Potter’s Swansea City bounced back with two home wins this week to move us back into the top 8 after recently falling to 15th.
After receiving criticism following the defeat at Aston Villa for his constant team changes, Potter decided to make just two first-team changes on Saturday from the team that beat Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday night for the visit of Paul Clement’s Reading.
Jay Fulton’s influence as a second-half substitute on Tuesday night earned him a start against Reading in place of Tom Carroll – who was missing from the matchday squad while Leroy Fer again settled for a place on the bench. The other change saw Joe Rodon return to the back four alongside captain Mike van der Hoorn.
Potter adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation this time around having gone with a 4-3-3 in midweek against Blackburn. But as you would expect from Graham Potter, it wasn’t a typical 4-2-3-1 in the sense that Celina played as a typical number 10 behind McBurnie. Out of possession, the two were alongside each other and pressed as a duo in a 4-4-2. Celina would also shift out wide in deeper positions inside Reading’s half before moving inside as attacking moves progressed.
Despite a lack of consistency in terms of line-ups and formation, one common theme recently has seen the team revolving around a single central midfielder. It was the same at Aston Villa with Fer in the middle and against Blackburn – in the first-half it was Tom Carroll. Against Reading, it was Matt Grimes who was excellent in the centre, unlike Carroll who struggled in that role on Tuesday night.
The below maps show the overall team shape on the left and the substitutes are shown on the right – showing how the team shape changed following the changes during the second half.
And like at Aston Villa and Wigan Athletic, Fulton (27) moves out wide right to form an attacking right trio with Naughton and Connor Roberts. On the left, Celina pushes out wider to balance that out which is likely the main reason for playing a flexible side-to-side role rather than as an orthodox central number 10.
The team changes, included on the average team shape below right, shows how we settled back to a flatter 4-2-4 shape. Cameron Carter-Vickers (17) came on at left-back with Grimes shifting across to add cover there. Leroy Fer (8) also added midfield cover just after the hour mark. With just 2 minutes to go, Declan John (24) replaced Dan James on the left flank.
So, is Graham Potter beginning to understand what his strongest eleven might be? Is it far off the team that started against Reading on Saturday? I wouldn’t expect Potter to settle just yet on his strongest side but we looked pretty well balanced against the Royals. Matt Grimes impressed in midfield and it’s so obvious that’s his preferred and strongest position. Connor Roberts again looks more useful further forward in front of Naughton and Celina, whilst not playing a true, central number 10 role, is improving game by game. He went close with a chance through the middle in the first half and got Dan James in behind down the left to set up McBurnie’s second.
Unsurprisingly and unlike the Swans – where all but two of their outfield players averaged a position inside the opposition’s half, Reading’s back four were pulled back and they couldn’t risk their full-backs getting too far forward thanks to the threat of Dan James down the left and Roberts down the right. Clement’s substitutions saw him sacrifice his wide-men (10 and 12) and go direct by putting on Bodvarsson.
What was also unsurprisingly was Clement’s decision to make two late subs – in the 88th and 92nd minutes respectively. Changes so late despite his side chasing the game for the entire second half.