The Swans will line up in their quintessentially modern 4-2-3-1 formation: They have a target-man style centre forward (Michu is out so Bony will start) who seeks to stretch the play, hold up the ball and score from crosses; creative “Number 10s” underneath that bring guile and a goal scoring threat; a hard-working defensive midfield duo that can also pass the ball quickly and decisively; and two attacking full-backs with bags of energy.
With injuries to Dyer and Michu, Swansea will likely field the same starting lineup as they did in their previous game against Everton. Luckily for Chelsea, Swansea are not on form at the moment, having won only 2 of their last 6 matches, and looking somewhat disjointed and out of character in collective attacking play during that time. They are not finding their confident, quick-flowing passing game; instead they lack penetration into the attacking third and are unable to dictate the midfield duel in the centre of the pitch as a result of passive passing possession void of serious intent and direction to move the team forward and the opposition back.
In both the Hull and Everton games Swansea’s pass combination tallies were dominated by combinations between defenders, and defenders and defensive midfielders, which were rarely completed in advance of the middle of the pitch.
Pass combinations versus Hull:
Tiendalli to Chico (25), Tiendalli to Dyer (23), Chico to Williams (18), Dyer to Tiendalli (17), Chico to Tiendalli (16), Canas to Chico (16).
Pass combinations versus Everton:
Tiendalli to Hernandez (23), Chico to Williams (14), Williams to Chico (13), Canas to Chico (12), Davies to Canas (12).
Although they are retaining a lot of possession of the ball and out-passing opponents, these combination tallies indicate that Swansea are finding it difficult to progress forward and into dangerous attacking areas of the pitch. If they cannot make quick forward passes then a team like Swansea with a passing philosophy will be content circulating the ball around the back-four and waiting for opportunities to pass ahead. Looking at the graphics below that depict the passes Jonjo Shelvey received during the Hull and Everton games, it’s evident that he is not getting a lot of possession in the attacking third.
When Swansea do manage to advance the ball into attacking areas their creative players are struggling to combine effectively and threateningly. The graphic below shows the passes that Pablo Hernandez made to Shelvey – only 11 and in regions of the pitch that are easier for defenders to contend with (they are not in and around the edge of their opponents’ penalty area where attacking midfielders create most goal scoring chances).
The longer Swansea retain possession along the back-four and in defensive midfield, the easier it is going to be for Chelsea to maintain their solidity and the harder it becomes for Swansea to play forward and break Chelsea down. Like Hull and Everton, if Chelsea are disciplined in their defensive shape, drop off to the halfway line and prevent passes into the attacking midfielders they will have success in stifling Swansea’s play. Hull and Everton both showed that applying a defensive containing tactic first then picking the opportune moments to press and win the ball back is the method to stop Swansea passing through the middle. The same strategic setup that Chelsea installed for the 0-0 draw at Arsenal on Monday will be ideal here too.
HAPPIEST ON THE RIGHT
You will have noticed the one highlight in Swansea’s pass combination tallies listed earlier: Passing from right-back to an attacking midfielder in a wide right position (Tiendalli to Dyer (23) in the Hull game and Tiendalli to Hernandez (23) against Everton). Both combinations were very high and included passes into the final third. It will be a busy afternoon for Cole or Azpilicueta if Swansea do gain prolonged spells of possession.
Swansea favour attacking down the right, but without Dyer they don’t possess the same pace and directness. Hernandez is a very creative player but more so from central areas of the pitch. Chelsea will not mind Hernandez, or Shelvey as he often likes to do, drifting out wide to gain possession as that will help achieve two defensive goals simultaneously: to force Swansea’s play and central attacking threats out wide and to use supporting defenders to help fill the space in which the overlapping Tiendalli will attempt to move.
With Manchester City being the only team to have won more points at home than Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea this season, this will be a tough day for an out of character Swansea at the Bridge. Though they will endeavour to pass their way through Chelsea and may have a lot of possession, breaking a resolute Chelsea defensive line will be a task too much for the Swans. Let’s just hope Chelsea find some attacking dominance of their own!
Merry Christmas. Come on Chelsea! Written by Chris Wales, follow him on Twitter here
Please note : the views in many of our blogs are written by fans of Chelsea FC and are not necessarily the views of the club