Date: 2nd September 2016 at 8:29pm
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A detailed tactical match analysis as Swansea City lose their second match of the season away at Premier League champions Leicester City.

Swans head coach Francesco Guidolin said before the game that they were going to look for a way to avoid another 4-0 defeat like last season, but Ranieri’s title holders were probably a bit frustrated that they allowed the Swans to have a hope of gaining a point late on when Leroy Fer grabbed a goal back with 20 minutes remaining.

It was a very poor performance from the Swans, they looked like a team of individuals with a severe lack of cohesion and link up play. Passing accuracy in the first half was only 67% as they made unforced errors throughout a first half that they were so fortunate to come out of only 1 goal behind.

In summary, Swansea’s problems were in midfield. Centrally they were awful, they lacked shape, Gylfi Sigurdsson literally didn’t make a single pass to striker Fernando Llorente who doesn’t deserve criticism for his quiet start to the Premier League season. Leroy Fer and Jack Cork were also not a functioning holding midfield pairing, and we’ll go into plenty of detail to suggest why.

Swansea’s midfield problems

Where do you start with Swansea’s midfield problems at Leicester City. It was difficult to understand exactly what the roles were of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Leroy Fer and Jack Cork. You’d assume, given that the Swans were in a 4-2-3-1 formation, that Leroy Fer and Jack Cork would mostly play alongside each other, with Gylfi Sigurdsson being the attacking player to link up with the striker.

This simply didn’t happen. For most of the game, Leroy Fer pushed up alongside Sigurdsson when the team weren’t in possession, and they provided a high 5-man line, that Leicester were easily able to bypass – leaving Jack Cork massively exposed in the middle third.

Another issue, as you can see above, is the three midfielders often operating in a line lengthways down the pitch. Gylfi Sigurdsson was often dropping way too deep, with Fer further forward.

The screenshots above also shows how Sigurdsson and Fer were alongside each other in a high line on Leicester.

Jack Cork lacking support

Swansea’s poor midfield shape, and Leroy Fer pushing forward out of possession meant that Jack Cork was always exposed and lacking support. You have to wonder whether Leroy Fer was simply doing as instructed by the manager, or was he just lacking positional discipline, because there’s no way Leon Britton would be doing the same.

Above, Routledge moves inside but he’s outnumbered and lacks support from his team-mate. Again, Sigurdsson and Leroy Fer are alongside each other and again leave Cork vulnerable in midfield.

Leicester gain possession, and this was how they could easily get forward in attack by exploiting Swansea’s failing midfield. So often, Cork was left to mark two Leicester’s players in the middle third – which you can see below.

And below, the free Leicester player receives possession easily to continue the attack. The Swansea defence have received plenty of criticism so far this season, but if things are to improve at the back, then the Swans need to provide them with more protection in midfield.

Leicester’s attacks were far too easy, the free man in midfield and with the likes of Barrow pushing very high up on the right flank, he couldn’t track back quick enough.

There was a similar issue on the other flank with Wayne Routledge. Due to the free man in midfield, Routledge was caught trying to mark two players.

A lack of a midfield in the middle third left Swansea vulnerable throughout the game, and that’s why Leicester were probably frustrated that they didn’t make the scoreline bigger.

Below is yet another example of the Swans playing into Leicester’s hands, a lack of midfield and leaving acres of space for the home side to attack into.

Leroy Fer

Leroy Fer is a serious problem with Swansea’s midfield, at least he was at Leicester. He’s the only player that’s scored for the Swans so far this season, and that’s because he’s an attacking midfielder, and not a holding one.

Like we said, he continually pushed high up the pitch, moved in the opposite direction to Cork when he was in possession, and didn’t provide any way for the midfield to link up to the attacking players (Sigurdsson and Llorente).

Leicester did a good job of forcing us and outnumbering us into tight spaces, and we just kept on conceding possession in these situations.

Above, Sigurdsson is playing the holding role, with Leroy Fer simply standing near the centre circle. Leon Britton is very clever and plays the holding midfield role brilliantly. An accurate passer that keeps things simple, his movement is also very good – always moving into space and offering a team-mate an easy pass. Leroy Fer didn’t do this once.

There were brief moments when our midfield shape was slightly better, but this was rare – like below. Leroy Fer could still be a bit deeper to cover Okazaki.

In the example above, Fer and Sigurdsson are further forward, marking players, but the player Fer is marking will soon move in to the midfield space and won’t be tracked by the Swansea man.

Leicester’s opening goal

It was no surprise then to see how Leicester scored the opening goal, the signs were there throughout the first half hour before it happened.

In a similar screenshot to one we’ve shown further up, Routledge again moves inside but loses possession. For some reason too – Llorente is wide left with Barrow playing through the middle.

With a lack of players in midfield of course, Leicester could play a few quick passes quickly after robbing Routledge of possession, before Drinkwater could a superb long pass for Vardy to out-race Amat on to and fire past Fabianski.

See part 2 coming soon to see further tactical analysis, and why we think Guidolin was right to take off Sigurdsson during the second half.

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