How Carlos Carvalhal Has Brought Hope To Swansea’s Survival Hopes

How Carlos Carvalhal Has Brought Hope To Swansea’s Survival Hopes
Jan 31, 2018

Featured Swansea

Disappointment at Christmas has been common for Swansea fans over recent years, but typically they begin the new year with hope. Carlos Carvalhal has done more than that. He has brought belief.

Prior to the last gasp win at Watford, Swansea had the league’s worst attack, fewest shots on target and were among the worst defences, having lost 4-0 at home to both Manchester clubs and 5-0 at Anfield. Under Carvalhal, they look a different side. Home victories over Liverpool and Arsenal have shown that the Jacks are not yet ready for their Premier League swansong.

The Defence

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Under Clement, Swansea were a solid side until they conceded. The match that comes to mind is their 3-1 home defeat to Spurs last season. They lead for most of the game but conceded in the 89th, 91st and 94th minutes. Under Carvalhal, they have already come from a goal down to win twice. This is largely due to the 5-2-3 formation they deploy.

Alfie Mawson and Mike van der Hoorn are more than comfortable linking the attack and defence, playing down the channels to the wing backs Martin Olsson and Kyle Naughton, even bombing forward themselves at times. Even more importantly, they are imperious at the back. Mawson won Man of The Match against Liverpool, partly because of his winning goal, but largely due to his titanic display at the back. Captain Federico Fernandez and Mike van der Hoorn have also played their respective parts.

Even Olsson and the often criticised Naughton have had their moments recently. Of course, it helps to have the immense Łukasz Fabiański behind you as the Pole has been Swansea’s best player this season.

The Midfield

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The loaning out of summer signing Roque Mesa was a point of controversy for many fans, however, the partnership of Ki Sung-Yueng and Leroy Fer has been inseparable recently. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Fer can be reckless, playing poor passes such as his loose back pass to Mohammed Salah which lead to Roberto Firmino’s goal at Anfield. Ki is more composed, but has been described as “safe”. His desire to keep possession being a frustrating factor ever since his brilliant 2014/15 season.

However, they work excellently in tandem; Ki’s cool possession game is given an edge by the strength and technique of Fer. Even defensively, they allow so little room for the opponents, knowing almost telepathically how to press, when and where. It’s little wonder that Carvalhal was quick to refuse a swap deal involving Ki in his pursuit of Andre Ayew.

The Wingers

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In such games, you may expect the wingers of a relegation-threatened to drop into midfield and form a flat bank of 4, leaving an isolated front man. But herein lies Carvalhal’s genius. Whilst the ball is in the opposition’s possession in their own half, Sam Clucas and Nathan Dyer press as you’d expect. However, when they get the ball forward, Clucas and Dyer do not follow. They stay up front. What this means is that the centre backs cannot join the attack late on in the match, lest they get outnumbered on the counter.

Against Liverpool, Virgil Van Dijk only wondered forwards for their final roll of the dice – though he nearly set up an equaliser. Against Arsenal, it stifled the opposition, and the Gunners spent the final minutes of injury time passing the ball between defenders, trying to find a way through the high-pressing frontline, which now boasted Tom Carroll and Wayne Routledge doing the same job as the players they replaced.

The Striker

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Jordan Ayew has long been a hard worker. Before the duties of top scorer were endowed upon him, he was a relentless forward who filled in at left-back and in midfield when his teammates were out of possession. It wasn’t until the final game of the 2016/17 season that he scored his first Swansea goal, an equaliser at home to West Brom. But since Carvalhal has come in, he has shone. If you were to hold a goal of the season competition for Swansea today, the Ghanaian would be competing against himself. The tactical role he plays is also visible off the ball. He leads the Swansea press.

It was him that spearheaded the press which lead to Petr Čech’s miskick and he was rewarded with a goal. Furthermore, his leg-tangling dribbles left defenders for dead on several occasions, the prime example being the assist for Sam Clucas’ second and Swansea’s third at home to Arsenal.

Liverpool and Arsenal

The Liverpool game was perhaps better perceived for the missed chances by the opposition, though Swansea defended well and limited the number of chances created, there were times in which they would have felt lucky. Mohammed Salah came close with a free kick, Robertson was bested by a last-ditch tackle from Naughton, Olsson cleared a shot when Fabiański was beaten, Firmino hit the post with a header and Lallana’s goal-bound shot was blocked by Mawson.

Arsenal, however, was different. They were lucky to lead through Nacho Monreal’s strike. Mesut Özil was afforded too much time on the ball and Naughton was caught ball-watching. The reaction under Clement might have been that of damage limitation, not this time. Alfie Mawson was allowed too much time this time and found Sam Clucas, who ran straight past Granit Xhaka to slot past Čech – if Naughton was poor for Arsenal’s goal, Xhaka was frankly embarrassing for Swansea’s. Following that, Arsenal created little to nothing. Swansea were not lucky this time. They thoroughly deserved a hard-fought victory in the Welsh rain.

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