Only a few weeks ago we wrote an article about whether some fans were right about the need for Graham Potter to make fewer team changes and settle on his strongest team – and after today’s 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa, we can’t help but feel that that question needs asking again as many are beginning to lose patience on social media with the manager’s constant tinkering.
After a two-week break, Potter made another five changes for the trip to Aston Villa but not only that – he also used yet another formation – this time a 3-4-3 as he gave under-23s defender Cian Harries his full debut alongside Rodon and van der Hoorn.
The other changes saw Martin Olsson slotting in at left-wing back and Fulton and Fer both returning in midfield.
So far, more often than not, Potter’s decisions in terms of starting eleven and formation have worked well but the back three just wasn’t effective at all in the first half. It wasn’t until he switched things back to a back four early in the second half did we see some good passing football and some good chances being created.
A lot of the blame for the result at Villa Park today went Potter’s way from Swans fans for his decision making. The formation being one, the 5 player changes and the decision to stick with goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt despite his far from convincing display in the 3-2 home defeat against Ipswich in our last game a fortnight ago.
They were strange decisions you’d have to say. Keeping Nordfeldt in the team frustrated many but giving Harries his debut away at a place liked Aston Villa was also a huge surprise. Potter even admitted that it was a “challenging atmosphere”:
“It’s a challenging atmosphere here,”
“Congratulations to Aston Villa for the way they set the environment up and the tribute to Sir Doug Ellis, which I thought was very nicely done.
“The home crowd had a new manager to get behind and we had a lot of things to deal with.
He’s obviously an excellent coach and great man manager, which raised expectations.
Starting 26 players in 13 games and making 4/5 changes every game plus multiple changes in formation during matches seems excessive to me though. Especially with a young & inexperienced squad.
— Jack Swan (@jackswan1411) October 20, 2018
Yes, far too many. Need to field a settled side for a few games.
— Terry Sinnett (@TerrySinnett) October 20, 2018
In Potter’s defence, changes are going to be needed to keep players fresh – particularly when you’re facing three fixtures in an eight-game window but do we really need to keep using so many different systems? Is Potter simply using the formation and players that he feels best suits the opposition or is there an element of still not knowing his best and strongest XI? I’d argue that it isn’t the latter as he was pretty much the same at Ostersund where he liked players who were comfortable and flexible to cope with his constant changes.
Today’s first-half performance though showed that a back three or back five system is one to forget. We just didn’t look comfortable in it and within minutes of switching back, we were pretty much a different side. Leroy Fer and Lay Fulton both struggled to help us play our possession-based passing game but Matt Grimes and Tom Carroll later came on to help us begin to enjoy some lengthy spells with the ball on the deck.
Potter got it wrong today and he really needs to find a way to somehow get more goals out of his team. It’s a tough ask given the tools that he’s been left to work with after the Summer exodus of players. I also think we’ve got to bear in mind that it’s pretty much a new squad here after 15 or 16 players left in pre-season and only one player has come in and made any impact (Celina).