Swansea City completed the double over Aston Villa thanks to a late Bafetimbi Gomis that stalled their new-found progress under new manager Tim Sherwood.
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Detailed tactical match analysis as we look at how Garry Monk’s side were able to dominate long spells of the game before finally finding the net with just three minutes remaining of normal time.
Aston Villa’s 4-4-2 system possessed a number of problems and weaknesses in the first half that played into Swansea’s hands – as Monk stuck with his diamond formation. Sherwood made some much needed alterations at half time which gave his side a big boost for the first 15 minutes of the second, but Swansea’s clever switch to 4-2-3-1 following the introduction of winger Jefferson Montero made all the difference.
>Aston Villa’s high defensive line
Firstly, Aston Villa’s high defensive line put themselves under pressure on a number of occasions early on in the game, and they were lucky that Wayne Routledge could never stay onside.
Below shows – after just 5 minutes – a pass being played through for Gomis or Routledge – either of the two as both are allowed to get goal side of the defenders, but while Gomis times his run to perfection – staying level with the last defender, Routledge goes too soon and the assistant raised his offside flag.
Gylfi Sigurdsson was often found in between Villa’s two flat lines of four, and sometimes this attracted a defender out of position to close him down – allowing the likes of Routledge and Gomis to make these clear runs forward.
Routledge must have been found offside at least three times in the game, as again he had a clear run beyond the last defender but his timing of runs needs big improvement.
Again, Shelvey and Sigurdsson are in space in between the defensive and midfield lines, while Routledge can make a run inside – left back Hutton hasn’t got a clue and he’s lucky not to be caught out as Routledge makes his run too soon. It’s a superb, inch perfect pass from Jack Cork and within two minutes – if that – Routledge is found offside twice.
This kept occuring for the Swans, space in between the lines for a midfielder or two, and a Villa defender moves out of position to close him down due to a lack of pressure from his midfield colleagues.
Unlike Routledge, Gomis was able to time his runs and stay onside, but his lack of confidence showed in front of goal.
Gaps in Villa defence & space for Taylor
Swansea’s left back Neil Taylor will probably never enjoy as much space ever in a game as he did in the first half at Aston Villa. He had the left flank to himself at times as Villa’s right winger rarely dropped deep in defensive support.
As a result, Villa’s defence was forced to spread across the pitch, and this was when gaps opened up through the channels.
Villa’s lack of pressure on the ball was an issue for them for the entire opening 45 minutes, and above you can see just how much time and space Taylor was given at times.
Taylor was allowed to setup an excellent chance for Gomis to score his first League goal in months. When Villa’s right midfielder did get back and defend, he didn’t do a very good job, as here – Taylor was able to make a run in behind both the right back and right winger, as he eventually puts in a cross close to the byline that Gomis failed to put past the goalkeeper.
Below, it looks like a simple shot into the far corner for Gomis but heaims it straight to Guzan who pulls off a great save.
Villa’s lack of pressure on the ball
It was surprising to see Aston Villa’s lack of pressure on the ball. Tim Sherwood spoke before the game about wanting his side to get the ball back off the Swans as quickly as possible, but they were allowed to dominate possession far too easily.
The screenshots above and below show Villa’s lack of pressure on the ball when Swansea have possession. Below shows the problem more clearly, and Villa’s poor shape in general.
They really need their two strikers to apply pressure on Swansea’s holding players, but they don’t, and this forces the two central midfielders to push forward – leaving that large area of space in between the lines that Sigurdsson can move into.
Below shows Villa’s lack of defensive shape. Swansea’s diamond was always going to outnumber Aston Villa’s 4-4-2 in midfield – even more so when they strikers weren’t contributing and applying pressure on the holding midfield players.
With Swansea’s extra man in midfield, Villa’s right winger moves inside alongside the two central midfielders, but this leaves Villa’s right back caught in between Gomis and Taylor, and this was often why the left back had so much space in the first half.
Aston Villa finally started to attack and get forward themselves, but they took 33 minutes to force Fabianski into his first save. But while the home side had issues that needed addressing in defence, they also left themselves vulnerable when pushing forward into the attacking final third.
They didn’t commit their full backs forward in the first half, their central midfielders stayed too deep, their strikers waited in and around the box for crosses, and this left huge spaces through the centre for Swansea City to counter attack.
Above, Swansea City match Villa man for man down the right, three Villa players wait inside the box and the centre backs stay deep. Swansea can win back possession and quickly break through the middle. Below, Shelvey picks up the ball, the Villa central midfielder has to close him down leaving space for Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Aston Villa were also slow to recover when losing possession in not so vulnerable positions. Below, the Villa strikers are slowly running back across after an attack breaks down, there’s no pressure on the ball once again as Taylor has plenty of space to push forward into his opponent’s half.
Further examples below where Swansea were given acres of space to attack through the middle after Villa lost possession in Swansea’s half.
There were occasions when a Villa striker would drop deeper to support an attack, but due to a lack of attacking support from the full backs, they were often outnumbered in the final third:
On the rare occasion that a full back did get forward in support, Taylor had the freedom to move across to close him down as he had no need to stay in an inside position as with no danger from an attacking player.
Villa’s transformations in the second half
As you can see, Aston Villa had a number of issues and weaknesses that they needed to address at half time, and Tim Sherwood helped get his team organised, into a better shape both defensive and offensively.
One of the first notably things that Sherwood changed was commiting both his full backs forward, and as you can see above, they had already helped to produce a goalscoring chance within the first few minutes after the restart.
Swansea City are on the back foot early on, Villa have a bit of momentum going forward and they push Swansea back inside their own half.
The problem in the first half that allowed Swansea to counter attack through the middle wasn’t evident in the second half. Delph pushed forward and limited the space in the centre (below).
Villa also applied good pressure in the second half, as Agbonlahor was given the task of closely marking Jack Cork/Ki Sung Yueng as they were the two main players in the first half who were dictating the game.
Agbonlahor closely marks Jack Cork, Taylor is now also closely markedas Villa do a far better job at stopping the Swans from playing their usual passing football that were able to do so easily in the first half.
Montero’s impact& Swansea’s switch to 4-2-3-1
It wasn’t until Swansea switched to 4-2-3-1 by bringing on Jefferson Montero for Gylfi Sigurdsson that they relieved the pressure and started to create chances again.
Aston Villa didn’t really have an answer for Swansea’s changes, as Montero caused plenty of problems down the left wing and created two of three chances after makin his trademark runs to the byline.
Above and below shows how Montero was able to get forward near to the byline and cutback low crosses for Gomis, who saw a shot brilliantly blocked as Swansea City started to look very threatening down the left.
Swansea’s winning goal and late chance
Swansea’s goal came via a quick attack, Wayne Routledge wins the balls on halfway and quickly releases Montero down the left. Villa really needed to win the challenge here, but they don’t and Montero outpaces the Villa right back.
Montero cuts the ball across into Gomis’ path and there was no way even he would mis from 8 yards right in front of goal as he slots the ball past a helpless Guzan.
Swansea also had a late chance to make it 2-0 and it was more clear cut than the goal, Dyer sends Routledge away as Villa push men forward, but Routledge strikes a tame shot straight at Guzan in a one on one situation.
Aston Villa too had late chances to gain a point, and former Swan Scott Sinclair was most guilty of wasting chances. He was either shooting when a passing option was the better choice, or he snatched at chances as he appeared desperate to get a goal against his former club.