Date: 10th September 2016 at 11:35am
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Swansea City host a revitalised Chelsea side at the Liberty Stadium in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Sunday afternoon hoping to end Conte’s 100% winning start at the Bridge.

After a frustrating season last year that eventually saw them finish 10th, and just three points ahead of us, Chelsea will have their sights back on the Premier League title under new boss Antonio Conte – a man that’s most certainly capable of bringing a League title to Chelsea for the second time in three seasons.

Swansea City manager Francesco Guidolin is well aware of his opposition number this weekend, coming up against him when Conte was a player as well as a manager. In 9 games against the 47 year-old whether as a player or manager, Guidolin managed only one win – but that was mainly due to the fact that Conte played for and managed Juventus – the biggest club in the Italian Serie A division.

Conte now takes his experience of managing Juventus and the Italian international side into his new role at Chelsea – and he’ll be hoping to replicate Joe Mourinho’s success in 2014/15.

With Swansea’s slow start to the season and disappointing performances so far, many would think that a comfortable Chelsea win is a foregone conclusion. Perhaps it is, but you’ve got to hope that the Swans can continue their reputation and form of playing better against the bigger clubs – particularly in home comforts – having failed to do so at Leicester a fortnight ago.

So just how can Guidolin’s Swansea side stop Chelsea and put a halt to their winning start? The Swans beat Chelsea back in April, but the Blues had made a number of changes to their team and won the game with less than 40% possession, though they still managed to create 6 shots on target compared to Chelsea’s 2, as well as defending 9 corners against the then-title holders.

What was worrying in the home defeat against newly-promoted Hull City three weeks ago was our vulnerability to counter attacks. Guidolin will surely be wary of that against a far stronger Chelsea side, who won’t squander similar chances in front of goal.

That day, the Swans played an open and attacking game of football in the first half – they didn’t take their chances and the delivery to the lone striker Llorente wasn’t good enough. In the second half, possibly due to being wary of those counter attacks, the team’s attacking play settled back into a boring and cautious approach that eventually led to a corner goal conceded. The Swans suddenly started to attack again, and a counter attack goal was conceded late on to guarantee another three points for Hull.

Guidolin will need to get the balance right for the visit of Chelsea, if he doesn’t, they will pick us off at will. We don’t want another 5-0 thrashing on our hands. Home games against Chelsea haven’t been goal fests in the past, with that 5-0 defeat being the only exception.

Previously, other fixtures in the Premier League have been 1-0, 0-1, 0-0, 1-1 and 1-1. Hopefully that trend will continue on Sunday.

Can the Swans frustrate Chelsea on their own soil? Will they look to take the game to the Blues or will they prefer to sit back? I can’t see us adopting the latter approach, the days of doing that – particularly at home are gone, Guidolin clearly prefers to play on the front foot – but we just don’t do it for long enough periods in games.

After watching us at Leicester a fortnight ago, the central midfield area is one that concerns me the most ahead of this game – especially with their signing of Kante. As we outlined in our 2-part analysis of that game, Fer and Sigurdsson both pushed forward to create a high line of 5 players, leaving Jack Cork to try and managed a large midfield space that was usually occupied by two Leicester players, you can see an example below.



If Fer does push further forward with Sigurdsson, one of two things could happen. This could force Matic and/or Oscar to drop deeper to support Kante, who would now be trying to mark both players. Or, Chelsea’s centre back(s) simply push up to help Kante, allowing Matic and Oscar to stay further forward to outnumber Jack Cork.

We’ve drawn up a possible tactics board below showing some of the key battles that could occur in the game:

Swansea City vs Chelsea - Football tactics and formations

Another key area will be the flanks. Chelsea like to get their full backs forward to support Willian and Hazard, who often look to move inside to offer a goal threat. The last thing the Swans want is to get caught out because their full backs are also pushing forward into the opposition’s half. Both Routledge and Barrow will have to be disciplined and offer defensive support. This didn’t happen at Leicester:



Chelsea will likely line-up in a similar system to the Swans’ 4-2-3-1, but could see Kante dropping deeper behind Matic and Oscar to create a 4-1-4-1 formation.

I’ve questioned our use of the popular 4-2-3-1 formation in the past. A popular one because of the attacking potential it provides, the ability to play with width and to dominate the midfield area, but it does have its weaknesses (as do all formations), that we too often display. The main one being the potential for the counter attack as we saw against Leicester. The 4-2-3-1 requires certain players with certain attributes and I’m not sure if we’ve got enough of them to play the system effectively.

We often hear ex-players and managers talking about formations and not to obsess over them, as any formation is effective with the right players. Mourinho’s Chelsea won the title brilliantly two years ago using 4-2-3-1, Spurs use it to great effect too – do we? Well we used to. But those two teams have excellent attacking players that keep the ball well. The 4-2-3-1 is vulnerable to counter attacks because of the two wingers playing wide and high up the pitch, plus the full backs too. This isn’t so much of a problem in a team with excellent wingers who don’t lose possession too often. With the two holding midfielders also having to push up in support, the defence lack cover.

Do we have a team with enough ability to use 4-2-3-1 effectively? Or do we need to adopt a formation more suited to our team?

The Wales team is a good example of a team that adopts a particular formation that suits our national side and aids to their limitations. I doubt a 4-2-3-1 system would work. They’ve not got the wingers for a start. We know there’s limitations within the team and therefore Chris Coleman adopts a 3-5-1-1 system that has worked brilliantly.

It provides plenty of defensive cover, and the 5 across the midfield allows them to keep the ball for long periods. It also allows them to easily switch between playing defensively or offensively as the wing backs can push forward or drop back to create a 5-man defence.

They then have a 3-man central midfield, that can become 4 with Gareth Bale’s free role.

The 3-5-1-1 formation has been discussed many times as a possible alternative formation. Kingsley looks capable of playing the left wing back role, while Taylor plays it for Wales. Naughton, as opposed to Rangel, also has the pace and stamina to get up and down the right flank as required. We now have four defenders to support playing three at a time, while Sigurdsson could still play behind the lone striker, with 3, as opposed to 2 central midfielders, allowing for Cork, Fer and Britton. Of course, the wingers though hardly get a look in, but they could offer their services as impact subs along with a change of system.

Talking about a system that can adapt easily from defence to offence, I’ve often thought that we look more capable in a 4-3-3 and the only time we haven’t in recent memory is when we didn’t play with a striker at Leicester and got hammered 4-0. Other than that we’ve done well as far as I can remember. Compare that to a 4-2-3-1, which doesn’t really allow for adapting to a defensive style as you have two wingers doing defensive duties that they’re probably not very capable of doing.

The 4-3-3 however has suited us in the past. You can play with wingers either side of a striker in the front 3 – they can play wide or move inside to support the main striker. In midfield, there’s three players to support the defence, where one can push further forward.

The main problem with the 4-3-3 though is that it’s difficult for it to accommodate Gylfi Sigurdsson as an attacking midfielder, he doesn’t really suit playing a deeper role, as you can see below, in the adjusted tactics board, moving us into a 4-3-3 system, but having to put Sigurdsson into a wider role that wouldn’t suit him.

Swansea City vs Chelsea - Premier League - 11th September 2016 - Football tactics and formations

And the below shows how a 3-5-1-1 system could look up against Chelsea. With an added defender, the two wide centre backs can move wide to cover the wingers, with Britton as a deep lying midfielder dropping deep, almost acting as a fourth defender at times. Further forward, you’ve got a diamond in midfield, and the potential to outnumber Chelsea’s 3 central midfielders. The key would be getting the wing backs forward to support attacking moves.

Swansea City vs Chelsea - Football tactics and formations

So do we need to change systems? What would be the better system to stop Chelsea on Sunday? A 4-2-3-1 if Guidolin wants to go almost toe-to-toe with Chelsea, or a more conservative 4-3-3 that would help to avoid a counter attack threat?

Let us know what you think in the comments?.

 
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