Tottenham take the initiative as Swansea surprisingly play conservatively

Paul Gilham

Swansea are known as a fiercely ideological side, so their sacrifice of those possession ideals was a curious talking point from their 1-0 loss to Tottenham

Most mid-table sides are expected to play conservatively away from home against those in the top tier of English football, but Swansea won many admirers for their dedication to a particular type of football last season under Brendan Rodgers.

That's what made their tactical approach to Sunday's fixture against Tottenham the game's most interesting talking point. Michael Laudrup prefers a quicker, more counter-attacking game to his predecessor, but it was still a surprise to see him instruct his team to sit in two banks of four near the halfway line, with the advanced midfielder, Jonathon de Guzman, pushing forward alongside Michu to morph Swansea's shape into a 4-4-2, similar to Tottenham's.

The formation battle, therefore, became an obvious one, with Tottenham's kwn 4-4-2 near identical to their opponents. There was no clear advantage for either side in any zone, but Spurs played higher up the pitch, actively looking to force Swansea's defenders into turnovers. Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe worked hard to cover the width of the attacking third, and were duly assisted by the Belgian Moussa Dembele, who pushed forward from central midfield to place Leon Britton under direct pressure.

With a higher intensity, Tottenham dominated possession far more readily, with Swansea's final tally of 49% a significant decrease of 6 percent on their season average. It is the blocks statistic that sums up their passivity best, with the contrast between the number of blocks made against Norwich last week and the amount here revealing the difference in how they were defending.

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Tottenham finished the match with an incredible 29 shots (although the majority were blocked), and this was the third highest amount for any side in the league this season.

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Offensively, Swansea also played slightly differently against Tottenham compared to their match against Norwich. In that fixture, Danny Graham was handed a rare start playing ahead of Michu, and in his preferred position in the hole, the Spaniard added two goals to his impressive tally for the season.

Getting the best out of his star attacker as well as the best out of his squad has been a huge dilemma for Laudrup, who has experimented with multiple strategies - including the unusual ploy of playing three wingers at once, to surprisingly good effect - to find the best solution. It was clear here that Michu was simply too isolated, with Tottenham happy to leave two players back to defend against his presence, and his ambitious shot from half-way summed up his frustration.

Swansea looked better when Luke Moore came on and gave Michu a foil, but the substitution came immediately before Jan Vertonghen's fine volley, meaning it was a highly attacking move.

At the time of Moore's introduction, the game was still level at 0-0, yet Laudrup was removing a midfielder for a striker, which hinted at his game-plan: soak up pressure for seventy-five minutes, then target Tottenham's vulnerability in the final fifteen minutes -- an appropriate strategy, considering Spurs have the unenviable record of having conceded thirteen goals in the last fifteen minutes of matches.

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