Swansea City boss Russell Martin said that you would see a different team at West Brom following the heavy 4-0 defeat at Sheffield United.
After the loss at Bramall Lane, Martin told how his side need to “mix it up more” and that was going to happen from work on the training ground.
We did indeed see a different Swansea City side at the Hawthorns who ran out as comfortable 2-0 winners.
The Swans looked very open against Sheffield United. For too long though, the wide centre-backs have split very wide leaving the centre-back exposed if Downes is pressing high rather than dropping back to provide central defensive support.
There was better discipline in that sense on Monday night at the Hawthorns. Steve Bruce’s side couldn’t offer anything close to the threat that Sheffield United did, but regardless of that, the Swans had many pleasing aspects of their performance and defensive shape that had been sorely missing in previous games.
We’ve seen previously how the wing-backs are so advanced further up the pitch in attacking winger-like roles that can leave our back three exposed. The wide centre-backs cover the wide areas and if Downes isn’t dropping back, the middle centre-back lacks support.
But on many occasions, we saw both Wolf and Christie dropping deeper to support the back line. Wolf raced back to win the ball to help create the opening goal (watch below).
Superb tracking back and tackle from Hannes Wolf too! https://t.co/B0uMgpe9i7
— Vital Swansea (@VitalSwansea) March 1, 2022
There looked to be mixed reviews on Hannes Wolf’s performance on Monday night but I felt he had an excellent game overall. He can be frustrating at times, he often runs straight at opponents giving them an easy way to dispossess him but otherwise he was a very useful attacking outlet.
He’s not in his strongest position as a left wing-back but it’s worth pointing out how Russell Martin was able to get him to move inside and play in that inside channel or left half-space. We can see evidence of this below:
Below we can also see his right wing-back Cyrus Christie moving inside off the flank to head Manning’s cross towards goal that was palmed away for a corner.
Below we can see again how Wolf was able to get into better attacking positions around the penalty area. With Wolf playing in that inside attacking position, Jamie Paterson swaps and moves out to the flank to offer overlap support if he needs it.
Another important aspect to our clean sheet and victory last night was our improved defensive positioning and discipline. Russell Martin said after the Sheffield United defeat that his side have “got trapped in a couple of ways” but we had more defensive structure at the Hawthorns. The wing-backs dropped deeper when needed and in the example below, Flynn Downes is the furthest player back with Grimes alongside him.
I expect we will often see situations like this with the way Russell likes to play, committing players forward but the tactical tweaks were key in ensuring we had at least one midfielder in a deep covering role.