Various talking points following this weekend’s 1-0 home defeat against Southampton
Swansea City`s home defeat against Southampton on Saturday has created plenty of topics to discuss as Francesco Guidolin saw his side for the first time after a win and two draws in his opening three matches.
Swansea`s switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation
The Italian switched from a 4-3-1-2 formation to a 4-2-3-1 to suit Southampton`s 3-4-3. It was aiming to give the team more width with Routledge and Ayew back on the flanks, but having played in more central positions in recent weeks as a front two, they were unable to stick to their wide roles and Neil Taylor in particular lacked attacking support in front of him. Guidolin switched the wide pair, as Routledge moved to the right which did improve things – but nowhere near enough. This was mainly because the pair were both moving inside. Under Monk, Ayew was the player who kept pushing inside alongside Gomis, but on Saturday – both him and Routledge were doing it, creating a congestion in midfield as they occupied similar space to that of Paloschi and Sigurdsson.
All week, fans were discussing a change of formation – with many hoping that Guidolin would switch to a 4-2-3-1 to give the side more width and attacking penetration, but the team were no better than they were when they played a more narrow 4-3-1-2. In fact they probably looked worse.
Swansea`s lazy and pointless crosses into the box
Swansea`s main method of attack was putting crosses into the box. They did it against Crystal Palace as well as on Saturday against Southampton – and it`s not effective whatsoever.
Swansea attempted 30 crosses against Southampton, with only 5 successful. The likes of Paloschi, Ayew and Routledge really didn`t stand a chance competing in the air against Southampton`s tall and strong defence – plus goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
Not only that, but Taylor and Rangel – the full backs who were mostly supplying the crosses are not exactly the best crossers in the team. You`d expect Routledge and Ayew to offer more crosses if that`s the game plan but they didn`t due to their habit of drifting inside into the penalty area. There were moments in the game when Taylor was asking for a player to pull wide to support him down the left, but he never got it. He`s obviously a player with limited attacking ability – almost like there`s a brick all just inside the opposition`s half – when he meets it he`s forced to move the ball back into defence or sideways.
Should Gomis be starting again?
If Swansea`s game plan in attack is going to be more about crossing into the box, then shouldn`t Gomis be starting then to actually give us some height in the box?
What is Ayew`s best position?
Another difficulty I`m having this season is trying to work out exactly what sort of player Andre Ayew is. I know he played mostly on the wing in the French league with Marseille, but he`s struggling to offer much in a wide role for us.
He lacks the pace to operate as a winger, and has more of an attacking threat to be dangerous in and around the box, but I felt that he was wasted against Southampton. He couldn`t impose himself on the game at all and the system just didn`t suit him.
Is he better off as a central attacker or do we need to persevere with him on the flank – a position he`s used to?
What`s happened to Montero>
Winger Jefferson Montero, a player who had ripped full backs apart this season and last, has not had a look-in for a few months now. The Ecuadorian was left out of the matchday squad on Saturday, and you have to wonder what`s gone wrong for him. His confidence appears to be non-existent, and he`s not in favour at the club – not with Alan Curtis when he was interim boss or with new head coach Guidolin.
He`s a limited player it has to be said. If the opposition defence have worked out a good strategy to limit his threat, he struggles to offer anything else. His defensive contribution is also very poor, and Taylor has often been left exposed when he`s played due to his complete lack of interest in getting back to defend. At times when he does track back, he makes little to no effort to try and win the ball back – something he was willing to do last season and during his best spell for the club.
Is his attitude and laziness causing him to be excluded from the team? Or should we be looking to get him back into the team? I don`t think Taylor and Montero ever had a good working partnership down that left, they never looked like they were “on the same page” so to speak when going forward.
Barrow has to start?
This is another statement we keep hearing now, but you can understand why. He makes things happen, he`s got a lot more confidence now thanks to a more run of substitute appearances, and he at least gives opposition defenders something to think about down the right flank. He`s what you`d expect from a winger, he has pace, can get a couple of players and get a decent cross in. He also races back in defensive support when the ball is lost which is great to see.
Barrow doesn`t have to play as a wideman, he played a more central position in a 4-4-2 diamond at Crystal Palace and did reasonably well. Away from home, Swansea attempt to play a more direct, counter attacking style and direct balls for Barrow to chase suit him perfectly.
Is it as bad as some are making out?
It was pretty grim on the internet after the 1-0 defeat. But there appears to be divided opinion on the match and Swansea`s performance. Whilst it was very poor, they still lost to a goal where they one awful defensive mistake in the box, although they were lucky in the first half when Shane Long missed arguably an easier header from close range.
The Swans should have had a penalty that could have got them a 1-1 draw, and Southampton created very little else other than those two chances Long had, which made for a very dire Premier League match.
Swansea`s challenge of scoring at home was one of the toughest of the season, as Southampton had kept 5 consecutive clean sheets beforehand. It was the first time they failed to score at home in 5 games, whilst before that they had failed to score at home in 4 of the previous 5 at the Liberty Stadium.
Swansea badly need to produce a performance more like the one they did in the first half against Everton – applying a high press and making it difficult for Everton to play their usual game.
But that high press that Guidolin likes to adapt seems to have disappeared almost in entirely already. The players certainly weren`t in a hurry to win the ball back as much as they were at Goodison Park when they won 2-1.
Three of the other 4 teams in a relegation scrap at the bottom (West Brom now look safe) also lost again, as Norwich gained a point in us after letting a 2-goal lead slip. Villa were embarrassed 6-0 at home against Liverpool, Newcastle too with a 5-1 thrashing at Stamford Bridge. Bournemouth also suffered a 3-1 home loss against Stoke so Sunderland were the only side who were able to get a good result this weekend.
We have two very tough games ahead of us, against two sides aiming for the title – Spurs and Arsenal. But Norwich also have tough games coming up, against Leicester and Chelsea, while Bournemouth and Newcastle face each other soon.
But we`ve got to stop relying on other teams around us also dropping points. It`s about time we gained on them with a win. We`ve dropped 4 recently, and that`s far too many. March is going to be absolutely crucial as we`re up against Bournemouth, Norwich City and Aston Villa. Two home games against the latter two we just have to win. A point at Bournemouth would also be good enough.