The FourFourTwo Preview: Swansea vs Tottenham
Stylish, popular, Swansea (bottom of form guide) against stuttering Tottenham and their tactically inept manager (fourth in form guide). Go figure.
They play the beautiful game with cut-price Spaniards and have a manager so cool that football hipsters carry a photograph of him in their wallets. Michael Laudrup’s Swansea City are a club to be admired. But, for all their qualities, they’re not playing very well this season. The Swans are 13th in the table – just three points above the relegation zone, with 21 points from 21 games. In 2010/11 that form would have put them second bottom.
- Man Utd 2-0 Swansea (Prem)
- Man Utd 1-2 Swansea (FAC)
- Swansea 2-3 Man City (Prem)
- Aston Villa 1-1 Swansea (Prem)
- Chelsea 1-0 Swansea (Prem)
- Tottenham 2-0 Palace (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-0 Tottenham (FAC)
- Man Utd 1-2 Tottenham (Prem)
- Tottenham 3-0 Stoke (Prem)
- Tottenham 1-1 WBA (Prem)
They’ve won just one nine of their last Premier League outings, a run which has included five losses, but no one is identifying them as relegation candidates.
Given the quality of the other teams down there, it’s highly unlikely that Swansea will drop down to the Championship, but there’s a danger in thinking they’re “too good to go down”. As soon as that phrase gets bandied about, you know they’re doomed.
Laudrup’s troops are feeling the effects of a congested schedule – that’s what you get for winning the League Cup. The Swans have played 33 games already this season – a third of which have been in cup competitions – in the Europa League (10), FA Cup (1) and League Cup (1). No matter what the stats say or where they sit in the table that “never lies”, Swansea’s charisma brings them nothing but love.
The same can’t be said for Tottenham. Under the ruthless stewardship of chairman Daniel Levy, nine managers have come and gone since 2001.The club appeared to be heading in the right direction under Andre Villas-Boas as they narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification last season. But star player Gareth Bale joined Real Madrid in the summer and the Portuguese clipboard coach failed to mould a successful side with £110 million invested. This led to boos ringing around White Hart Lane, a public spat with the press and his eventual sacking.
Enter stage right: Tim Sherwood. The football hipster’s anti-Christ. He sets his team up in a 4-4-2, loves the ‘banter’ and thinks tactics are overrated (this will be fashionable in a few years).
But guess what? It’s working. Under Sherwood, the team have won four and drawn one in the Premier League. He did oversee losses to West Ham and Arsenal in domestic cup competitions, but Spurs are now sixth and two points off the Champions League spots.
Former Spurs gaffer Juande Ramos overcomplicated the game and got the axe. His successor Harry Redknapp stripped it back and the players responded. Villas-Boas repeated the same mistake and his replacement has enjoyed success with the back-to-basics antidote. There’s a theme appearing here...
After suffering ankle ligament damage against Manchester United, Swansea’s Jose Canas joins Roland Lamah, Pablo Hernandez, Michu, Nathan Dyer and Garry Monk in the treatment room. Michel Vorm, Dwight Tiendalli and Jonathan de Guzman will undergo fitness tests to see if they’re ready for Sunday’s game.
Tottenham’s England full-back Kyle Walker picked up a calf injury against Crystal Palace which will rule him out of the trip to South Wales. Charlie Adam victim Paulinho is out until the end of the month, while Erik Lamela, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Andros Townsend and Jan Vertonghen will be competing for a place in the first-team squad.
Key battle: Leon Britton vs Emmanuel Adebayor
In the age of false nines and inverted wingers, Sherwood has come in for a lot of criticism for reverting back to the ‘archaic’ 4-4-2 formation. Sticking two fingers up to the naysayers, the former Blackburn Rovers captain has stuck to his guns and picked up points, but when he used two strikers against Arsenal in the FA Cup Tottenham were left chasing shadows. Outnumbered in midfield and horribly exposed in defence, they lost 2-0 and Sherwood’s tactical acumen came under fire.
Against a team that uses a 4-2-3-1 system and keeps the ball, the 4-4-2 is flawed. This is exactly the threat posed by Swansea – a side who enjoyed 61% of possession at Old Trafford - the highest any opposition have recorded against United since Opta started to compile such stats in 2006. Even so, they still lost 2-0. To stop Swansea dominating possession, they need to shackle passing metronome Britton. Sitting in front of the back four, the midfielder links play between the defence and attack and recycles possession with precision.
Against United, Britton completed 72 of his 82 attempted exchanges – bettered only by Angel Rangel and Alex Pozuelo. He also made 10 ball recoveries – the second-highest number on the day. His name figured highly in the pass combination figures – regularly linking up with Ben Davies (14), Rangel (12) and Jordi Amat (11). When Swansea set off from the back Britton will take the ball off the back four and bring it into the midfield, creating a 5 vs 4 situation in the home side’s favour.
This is when Tottenham will need one of their strikers to drop in and even up the numbers. Defensive work is not a strength of either Roberto Soldado or Adebayor, but given the latter’s athleticism he’s more suited to this assignment. During Tottenham’s 3-2 win at Southampton, Adebayor was an attacking threat, making the second-most passes (20) in the final third, but he also made his presence felt at the other end. He made 6 ball recoveries and 2 tackles in opposition territory. If the 6ft 3in Togolese striker can overpower Britton in front of the Swansea back four and get the ball moving, Spurs will be in business.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Spurs 1-0 Swans (Prem, Aug 13)
- Swans 1-2 Spurs (Prem, Mar 13)
- Spurs 1-0 Swans (Prem, Dec 12)
- Spurs 3-1 Swans (Prem, Apr 12)
- Swans 1-1 Spurs (Prem, Dec 11)
Laudrup is the sort of chap who would calmly stroll out of a burning house with his heart rate beating at a cool 60 beats per minute. So he’s not the sort of manager to panic when his team are sinking into the relegation quicksand. He might not get flustered, but his side have claimed just 10 points from a possible 30 at home and that is a cause for concern with Tottenham coming to town.
Spurs have won four on the bounce away from White Hart Lane, securing victories at United, Southampton, Sunderland and Fulham.
Only Arsenal (8) have won more games on the road than Tottenham (7) this season. Sherwood comes across as fearless, ambitious and a little bit cocky. Slowly, but surely he’s instilling this ethos into his team.
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- Swansea have won just 2 of their last 15 Premier League home matches (W2 D6 L7).
- Tottenham have won 4 and lost 0 of the 5 Premier League meetings with Swansea.
- Swansea have conceded first in their last 5 matches.
- Swansea have more yellow cards for dissent this season than any other side (10).
- The Liberty Stadium has seen more second half goals than any other Premier League stadium this season (24).
- Spurs have had Over 2.5 goals in their last 5 away matches.
More FFT Stats Zone facts • Find the best odds with Bet Butler
Swansea to take ownership of the ball. Tottenham to strike on the counter-attack. Spurs to win 2-1.