West Bromwich Albion were looking to return to the top of the table when they came up against Swansea City in the 2019/20 EFL Championship. West Brom have had a successful season thus far and saw themselves in the automatic promotion places before kick-off. Swansea, on the other hand, have had a mixed bag of results thus far and inconsistency has been their downfall from being in the promotion places. Both teams play a good attacking brand of football with their creative players at the hub of their attacking play. Therefore, an interesting clash would be on show between the two sides.

West Brom eventually ran out 5-1 winners against a Swansea side who were poor and showed a lack of ability. West Brom used all their attacking talent in order to destroy the Swansea backline. They moved back to the top of the league and will look to continue their great form. A bad day for Swansea, however, they will look to come back and push for a promotion charge.

This tactical analysis will attempt to highlight the tactics used by both teams and the ways in which they attempted to win the match. This analysis will also look to highlight the ways in which both teams can improve going forward and trying to achieve their respective targets.

Lineups

In terms of the Lineups, West Brom operated in the 4-2-3-1 formation. Sam Johnstone started between the sticks, with Kyle Bartley and Semi Ajayi as the two starting centre backs. Kieran Gibbs and Nathan Ferguson were the two full-backs, with full emphasis to get forward and in many cases play as wingers to allow the attacking players to roam inside. Jake Livermore and Romaine Sawyers were the two defensive midfielders for the Baggies, they had a huge role to play in terms of being the focal point of keeping possession and winning the ball back with the press. Matt Phillips and Grady Diangana were the two wide players however, they played with attacking freedom which saw them come inside and take up central positions. Matheus Pereira was the central attacking midfielder, who was looking to feed Robson-Kanu who started as the lone striker.

As for Swansea Freddie Woodman started in between the sticks. Kyle Naughton and Connor Roberts started as the full-backs on the day. Mike Van Der Hoorn and Ben Wilmot started as the two centre backs for Swansea, looking to provide defensive stability. Jay Fulton and Matt Grimes were the two defensive midfielders. They were looking to provide defensive stability and to provide some sort of attacking creativity. George Byres was the attacking midfielder who was also looking to be the creative hub of the team. André Ayew and Kristoffer Peterson were the two wide players who looked to provide width and attacking support for the main striker Sam Surridge.

EFL Championship 2019/20: West Bromwich Albion Vs Swansea City- tactical analysis tactics
The Lineups of both teams.

Matheus Pereira

Matheus Pereira has been one of the most influential players in the championship thus far. He has managed five goals and ten assists in the league and has constantly destroyed teams with his pace, skill and ability to find a pass. One aspect of his game which destroyed Swansea in this particular match was the ability to find space between the lines. Finding space is a key aspect of his game, as it allows him to be in positions whereby, he is able to find a pass with more space to do it in. This is an underrated aspect of his game. As West Brom set up in a 4-2-3-1, when he is deployed in the central attacking midfield position it means that he is more able to have an influence in this aspect. He can find spaces between the midfield lines which means that in transitions West Brom are able to benefit. Below Is an excellent example of this shown from the game against Swansea. Pereira manages to find space in the Swansea half and can receive the ball which in turn leads to him finding an assist. He managed four assists in this game which shows the effectiveness of his spatial awareness.

EFL Championship 2019/20: West Bromwich Albion Vs Swansea City- tactical analysis tactics
An excellent example of Pereira getting into space in order to create a chance.

Pereira managed to find this space throughout the duration of the match. This therefore made West Brom lethal in attacking transitions and meant that they always looked like scoring as they went forward. Pereira found six key passes in the game, which was the most of any player on the pitch. This highlights not only his creative spark but also his ability to get into these key areas to create chances. Below is an excellent example of West Brom’s front four in prime attacking mode in a transition. Pereira is in huge amounts of space due to his awareness and is able to receive the ball in this space and it allows him to pick out a key pass which allows West Brom to score once again. This further highlights his ability to find space and the benefits it has for West Brom.

EFL Championship 2019/20: West Bromwich Albion Vs Swansea City- tactical analysis tactics
Another perfect example of Pereira finding space in key areas of the pitch.

Runs In Behind

Another key development that occurred in West Brom’s attacking play was the runs in behind that the attacking players were making. They were constantly making intelligent runs in behind the Swansea defensive line with the hope of using their pace in order to gain success out of their attacking transitions. This coupled with the fact that Swansea’s defence is not blessed with pace and also the creative and technical ability of the likes of Pereira meant that these runs were common.

West Brom averaged around 59 passes into the final third of the pitch during the duration of the match. This highlights their desire to play the ball through the defensive line with the intention of causing problems for the Swansea back four. Below is an excellent example of this play. Pereira has the ball in the attacking area of the pitch deep into the Swansea half. Robson Kanu makes an excellent run in behind which is successfully found and he scores as a result. This highlights the effectiveness of these attacking transitions through the defensive line Swansea had in place.

EFL Championship 2019/20: West Bromwich Albion Vs Swansea City- tactical analysis tactics
Robson Kanu made a fantastic run in behind the Swansea defensive line which allowed Pereira to find the pass which leads to a goal.

These runs were not only through the central area of the pitch and with vertical passes but also through the use of wider space and horizontal passes in behind the defensive line. This is an effective tactic that West Brom use as it brings out the very best out of the attacking players that they have on show. The likes of Robson Kanu and Matt Phillips can get on the end of these balls and use their composure and finishing ability to score.

This was seen throughout the whole game and allowed West Brom to stretch the Swansea backline. Furthermore, the amount of space that the West Brom players had to play these passes once again highlights the effectiveness of their game plan and has shown how weak Swansea were on the day. Below is another example of this. Phillips makes a gut-busting run into the Swansea box which is perfectly threaded through by Pereira which allows West Brom to get a fourth goal. This demonstrates their quality in attacking areas and how they were able to cut through the Swansea backline.

EFL Championship 2019/20: West Bromwich Albion Vs Swansea City- tactical analysis tactics
A further example of the excellent attacking play on display from West Brom especially in terms of the attacking runs made in behind.

West Brom’s Pressing

A further development that signified West Brom’s dominance in the match itself was through the pressing system in which they used in order to win the ball back from Swansea higher up the pitch. This aggressive way of pressing and winning the ball back was highly effective and highlighted the energy and physical levels that West Brom are currently playing under. In previous pieces it has been discussed that teams often use a strategic press to stop the other team coming out with the ball from defence. However, West Brom mainly operated this press in the central area of the pitch. This was due to the fact that Swansea’s central midfield had been excellent thus far and had been the creative spark which had allowed their attackers to score goals. Therefore, stopping them from pressing was key.

The midfield of West Brom did this excellently which meant their pressing rate was an average of around 14.4%. They also made around 0.28 recoveries per minute and a duels win rate of around 53%. All these statistics further highlight how West Brom were able to press in the central area of the pitch and get success in terms of winning the ball back. Below is an excellent example of this. In the build-up to West Brom’s third goal of the game we can see three of their players all pressing in a tight area. This means that Swansea cannot get out with the ball and West Brom counter attack and manage to kill the game off. This example is excellent at highlighting how the press worked in their favour.

EFL Championship 2019/20: West Bromwich Albion Vs Swansea City- tactical analysis tactics
West Brom’s pressing was excellent and prevented Swansea from playing through central midfield.

This press was aggressive, effective and efficient at its job in winning the ball back for West Brom in key areas of the pitch. As the statistics earlier mentioned also show is that it was good for West Brom due to the fact that it allowed them to counter attack more effectively. 79 transitions occurred in favour of West Brom through the match which highlights once again how their press led to attacking movements. Swansea played right into the hands of West Brom and allowed them to have success going forward. Below is the perfect example of this. The ball is with Swansea in the centre of midfield, which leads to West Brom nicking the ball back in the attacking third of the pitch. The recovery of the ball leads to West Brom scoring and wrapping up the game. This highlights the significance of the press.

EFL Championship 2019/20: West Bromwich Albion Vs Swansea City- tactical analysis tactics
Another example of this press which leads to a West Brom goal.

The role of West Brom’s full-backs

The final development which highlighted West Brom’s overall dominance in the match was the role of West Brom’s full-backs. The first half and the second half portrayed two different uses of the full-backs which signified a key tactical change. The first half saw the expansive full-backs who were full of energy and looking to get forward. Kieran Gibbs was essential in this and he was the main example to signify how west Brom were going forward using their full-backs. Since the attacking midfielders were used in a more narrow manner and were operating as inside forwards it meant that there was loads of space on the flanks for the full-backs to operate in. Below is an example of Gibbs getting forward and creating the first goal. This was a theme throughout the first half and was a key reason as to why they scored three goals.

EFL Championship 2019/20: West Bromwich Albion Vs Swansea City- tactical analysis tactics
The first half highlighted West Brom’s full backs going forward and providing an attacking outlet.

However, the second half brought about a fundamental shift in the mentality in terms of how the full backs got forward. The second half came about and the full backs remained in defensive areas of the pitch and did not push forward as much. Gibbs came of with an injury and the back four of West Brom remained solid in their shape and allowed the attacking players to get forward. This was to prevent counter attacks from Swansea and to preserve a solid defensive shape and not allow any space in behind them. Swansea always have pace going forward and having a solid defensive structure meant that there wasn’t any space for this to be exploited. Below is an excellent example of this defensive structure. West Brom didn’t allow the full backs to go forward as they knew Swansea would improve and pose an attacking threat.

EFL Championship 2019/20: West Bromwich Albion Vs Swansea City- tactical analysis tactics
The second half showed a more defensive structure that West Brom operated with.

Conclusion

In conclusion, West Brom dominated the match and deserved the win clearly. The win puts West Brom back at the top of the league and in poll position to return to the top flight. It was a really impressive performance from the baggies, full of attacking talent and an excellent sense of goal scoring ability. As for Swansea it was an awful day which they will look to soon forget. In previous pieces it has been mentioned that Swansea could have potentially pushed for a promotion place however this is looking unlikely as they have increasingly declined since the last international break. Moving forward, they will look to maintain a solid run of game and potentially a spring for promotion. West Brom are now clear favourites alongside Leeds United to get promoted which will be deserving based on their excellent season thus far.


Total Football Analysis Magazine #16: December 2019

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