Swansea City faced an almost impossible task in halting Pep Guardiola`s perfect start at Manchester City, as he extended his run to 10 games in 10 – but his team were given one of their toughest tests of the season to overcome against a vastly improved Swansea side.
Under pressure boss Francesco Guidolin was in desperate need of a good performance from his side to help keep him in a job at the Liberty Stadium, and he definitely got that on Saturday.
Leading up to the game this week, there`s been reports suggesting that the Italian is a “dead-man walking” and that he`s “lost the dressing room”, but there was absolutely no evidence of that against the best team in the country.
Guidolin has also been heavily criticised for his team selections, and there were more questions to be asked about his line-up against City. Firstly, Kyle Naughton was yet again out of position at left back. There were no reports that Stephen Kingsley was out due to injury, as Neil Taylor was the full back choice on the bench. In actual fact, Naughton actually performed well, and looked a better option there than Taylor, and arguably Kingsley, whose defensive ability is still unconvincing.
? Ian Jones (@Ianto99) September 24, 2016
In midfield is where the conundrum is. It looks like Guidolin is trying to make room for both Fer and Sigurdsson, two (as I see it) – central attacking midfielders. Fer has always performed well in a more advanced role, as opposed to a holding one. Both players have more potential to score goals and create chances, which could be the reasons for playing the pair, with Sigurdsson out of position wide left. But having said that, there`s still a lack of balance within the side, Naughton lacked support down the left as Sigurdsson was often moving inside to support the lone striker, Llorente.
? Ian Jones (@Ianto99) September 24, 2016
The Spanish striker also produced his best performance of the season for us, and took his goal brilliantly to get us the equaliser just 5 minutes after Aguero`s opener.
But going back to the Fer and Sigurdsson situation. The team`s balance still isn`t there and we need some more pace in the side. For what ever reason, Montero just can`t buy minutes on the pitch in the League, yet he signed a new long term contract in the week too.
Despite the balance and pace issues of the team, the Swans actually looked capable of getting forward and created chances, they managed 1 more shot on target than the visitors, but their quality in front of goal told. They also needed a soft penalty to help them get all three points.
The first 15 minutes of the second half saw a competitive game still, but Manchester City began to dominate possession and create some good chances in the penalty area. It was around that time that we needed either Barrow or Montero`s pace to try and push them back into their own half, but they got the penalty and we missed the bus.
In defence, like on Wednesday, van der Hoorn and Amat looked a stronger partnership than Fernandez-Amat. Leon Britton also played a big role in the game, his one-touch, quick easy pass helped us keep the ball far better than we have in other games this season. He just has to be our regular captain in the side, without him we can`t seem to get a passing rhythm.
@VitalSwansea Van der Hoorn display showed class and something to build on
? chris smith (@chris95smith) September 24, 2016
? Nigel Davies (@touchfarvetched) September 25, 2016
Another critic of Guidolin has been his negative tactics. In some games I can`t see the negative and defensive tactics. At Leicester and Southampton, we were guilty of throwing midfielders forward and leaving our defence exposed and vulnerable to counter attacks. It`s been more of an issue with Guidolin getting his midfield balance right.
But today, he appeared to get it right, and the Swans received deserved praise from Match of the Day pundit Ruud Gullit for the way they approached the game. He also said that if one team was going to beat City, it was us.
That was down to Swansea`s disciplined tactics and shape, particularly in the first half as the Swans defended in a 4-5-1 shape without the ball, with Sigurdsson and Routledge pushing forward in attack to create a 4-3-3. Sigurdsson moving inside created the link with Llorente.
Swansea`s pressure and desire to apply pressure on Manchester City`s players high up the pitch was also encouraging to see, and it`s something we have to see more of this season.
The team have to produce this level of performance every week to put things right. They`ve showed what they`re capable of, and Liverpool pose a similar threat next Saturday. After Liverpool and then Arsenal, two good attacking sides in form, the Swans have to win against Watford or Stoke. If we don`t, I can`t see Guidolin getting much longer at all. There can be no excuses when we start playing the lesser teams what with the likes of Borja offering an alternative option up front.
What were your thoughts on the performance? Can the Swans produce the same level of performances in the next few games to get us out of a bad run? Or is it still time to get rid of Guidolin? Tell us your thoughts on all things Swansea City in the comments below?