Date: 28th September 2016 at 10:08pm
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Swansea City produced their best performance of the season but it still wasn’t enough to earn a share of the points as Guardiola won his tenth consecutive game as Manchester City boss.

Guidolin and his players were in desperate need to show a huge improvement from the worryingly poor display away at Southampton the weekend before – as the Swans were fortunate to only come out of that game with only the narrowest of defeats.

The under pressure Italian boss made some required personnel changes, bringing in trusted long-serving Swans Angel Rangel and captain Leon Britton, while in defence, Mike van der Hoorn made his Premier League debut alongside Jordi Amat.

Our performance against Manchester City made you wonder why the players couldn’t perform like that in previous games, maybe if we had we’d have got something against Hull City and Southampton at least.

The Swans were far more positive in their approach to this game, they applied a high press that forced Manchester City into doing things they didn’t want to do, kicking long from defence rather than playing out from the goalkeeper. The Swans had to be energetic to manage their game plan, which was to get players back in defence and commit players forward quickly in attack.

Swansea’s High Press

Swansea City applied a high line of pressure on Manchester City which frustrated the opposition and prevented them from playing their preferred method of playing out from the goalkeeper and defence.

Above shows the Swans committing four players forward, Llorente blocks a passing route, Routledge is prepared to apply pressure to their left back as Cork closely follows City’s number 8. The Swans would also quickly shift to Man City’s right side if the ball is shifted across.

The above is another similar example where the Manchester City goalkeeper is unsure what to do with the ball due to Swansea’s high press. This continued into the second half when the visitors looked even more vulnerable as they persevered with their attempts to play out from the goalkeeper. It’s Guardiola’s tactics in an attempt to attract opposition players out of their own half, and trying to bypass those high-press players and gaining space in the opposition’s half.

But City were unable to bypass Swansea’s high press and gain space in their half as they were often forced to kick long and rather aimlessly, as the below example shows.

Fortunately for us, we were energetic in our approach to the game and ensured that there was always pressure on the opposition player in possession. This involved one of the Swansea centre backs moving out of the defensive line at times to ensure that an opposition had little time and space on the ball in between the lines, as the example below shows.

The Swans also had one centre back moving forward out of the defensive line to apply pressure if needed to an unmarked City player occupying space in between the lines.

It was a clear tactic from Guidolin to ensure that there was always pressure on the opposition player in possession.

With no midfielder marking de Bruyne, Amat quickly moves forward out of the defensive line and close him down. With no Man City player beyond him, it’s no risk for Amat to do this as Naughton and van der Hoorn aren’t outnumbered behind him.

Swansea quickly get numbers back in defence

If Manchester City were able to break through Swansea’s high line of pressure, they were very quick to get numbers back to defend. And when the visitors were able to be more patient in their attacking play, the Swans always had 8 or 9 players behind the ball – alternating between a 4141 and 451 defensive formation.

Above, the Swans are in a 4-5-1 defensive shape as Man City approach the final third, with Sigurdsson out of the picture wide left. Below, with Manchester City just inside their own half, the Swans defend in a 4-1-4-1 shape with Leon Britton just behind the midfield four.

In wider areas, this shape broke apart as the Swans shifted across to these areas to defend, often outnumbering the visitors and preventing them from gaining any attacking advantage via the wings.

Above, the Swans outnumber Man City with four-man block against their three attacking players.

Where it went wrong for the early opening goal

Manchester City opened the scoring after just 8 minutes, and you wondered if it was going to be a long afternoon for us, given the ease of the goal.

Our main error after just 8 minutes was not marking their right back Sagna, who was in acres of space to receive the ball before setting up Aguero.

Above shows the problem, and the pass across field to Sagna in yards of space.

Sigurdsson (circled) doesn’t drop back deep enough to cover the passing route to him. Guidolin instantly amends tactics to ensure this isn’t a constant problem in the game.

Above shows Sagna passing inside to Aguero who easily gets past Amat with one touch before finishing past Fabianski.

Swansea’s attacking response

The Swans made a perfect reaction to the goal, as Llorente netted his first ever goal for us just 5 minutes after Aguero’s opener.

Leon Britton made a big influence on our passing and possession game, helping us keep the ball for far longer periods than we’ve been used to, and that was all down to his movement, positioning, one-touch passing and simply keeping things simple.

Above shows a typical example, as Britton provides a link between defence and midfield. He offers van der Hoorn a passing option, and he’ll quickly move across to offer Rangel one if he receives the ball.

Rangel too was also useful in our quicker and crisper passing game. Both players were able to make first-time passes, which is something we’ve not seen enough of in recent months (or years!?)

Above shows an attacking move that saw Rangel and Fer link up with one-touch passing to send Routledge down the right flank.

The below screenshot also shows how Leon Britton was the central
figure in midfield. The Swans also ensured that at least one, if not two players were quick to close down the opposition player in possession.

Two on one allowed them to steal possession, and the midfield shape below allowed them to easily make passes to create quick counter attacks.

There were some classic attacking trends of old that we haven’t seen in a long while. Quick, one-touch passes, quick give and go’s, and playing through balls for wingers in behind the defence were all on show against Manchester City as the below screenshots will demonstrate.

Swansea’s midfield dominance

The Swans dominated the midfield and was a key factor to ensuring a clean sheet since their early opener for the remainder of the first half.

Below, Sigurdsson drops deeper to ensure Sagna doesn’t get freedom on the right flank.

Swansea’s on-going attacking balance issues

Despite our improvements in our attacking game, there was still a lack of attacking balance due to Sigurdsson’s tendency to move inside to support striker Llorente.

This meant that Kyle Naughton often lacked support in front of him, forcing him either to go backwards or attempt inside runs.

There were moments when Sigurdsson or Cork would move out wide to provide width on the left flank:

The average positions image below shows that the Swans had better shape overall, the players are better spaced out, but there`s still a lack of balance on the left side. Having said that, Manchester City also had similar trouble on their right flank compared to the left.

For the Swans, it shows Britton`s position of sitting just in front of centre backs and Cork and Fer in front of him. Sigurdsson moved inside to join Llorente with Naughton lacking an attacking partner in front of him. Rangel, on the other flank however, had Routledge in support.

The signs were there against Manchester City than the Swans can perform and get results. But they`ll need to use this performance as a benchmark going into future games. Anything less than the effort and desire on show in this game won`t be enough, especially on Saturday when Liverpool visit.

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