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Swansea vs Liverpool

Rory Fitzgerald

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Swansea's set-up this season


A key part of Swansea's possession based game is the ability of their 2 deep lying midfielders to show for and recycle the ball. In the 3 games so far this season, the midfield duo have figured in the top 3 when it came to the most touches & passes of the ball within their team. As will be shown below, that midfield duo has changed in each game with there being a different partner for new signing Jose Canas in each of the 3 games - firstly Britton, then De Guzman and finally Shelvey. In the first 2 games, those midfielders had Shelvey ahead of them who would support Michu. However, with 2 defeats in 2 games and a 3rd game against a less ominous opponent (West Brom), Laudrup decided to start Bony with Michu dropping off in attack and dropped Shelvey deeper into the midfield with Canas.


The below tables would 'seem' to show that Swansea are the team that focus least on wide areas as alot of their possession goes through the midfield duo but also that they are a team that keep alot of possession in the middle third of the pitch. This season, they have had most of the possession in each of their 3 games and rank 4th in overall possession at 53% which is quite impressive considering 2 of the 3 they played were Utd and Spurs. They have made the 2nd most passes in the league and have the 2nd highest pass completion rate at 87%.





The above gives an indication of what Liverpool could face on Monday night. However, it should not mask the fact that Swansea are very dangerous in wide areas. Their midfield act like a conduit for play to oscillate from side to side which aims to keep the opposition moving in an effort to create gaps for players to take advantage of, especially as their 'wide' players are more likely to drift inside rather than drive to the goal line with the full backs given licence to join in and get forward. As demonstrated below, their longer balls are passes to the wider areas of the pitch. As such, squeezing the central areas with bodies is not necessarily a panacea as Swansea look to exploit spaces & gaps in the wider positions. One such outlet/option is the right back, Angel Rangel. Whilst it was mentioned above about the midfield duo being in their top 3 for touches & passes per game, Rangel was the other that made up the top 3. To contrast the right & left backs, Rangel has touched the ball 253 times and attempted 196 passes in the 3 games compared to their young Welsh left back, Ben Davies, who has had 165 touches and attempted 129 passes.





With Michu's aerial ability (6 of his 18 goals last season were headers), Swansea have completed the 5th most crosses in the league this season with an average of 24 crosses per game. Against Utd at home this season, Swansea had 55% of the possession and managed to get in 37 crosses !! Given that Liverpool have shown a willingness to concede territory (though only from winning positions) this season, Swansea could have enough territory and possession to get a substantial number of crosses in.





Line-ups so far

In the two harder games this season against Utd & Spurs, Swansea played with Michu upfront and Shelvey playing the role as the advanced midfielder though against West Brom, Laudrup went with 2 strikers in Michu & Bony. However, there has been some consistency within the team;


  • Defence: The defence has lined up as follows, Vorm in goal with Rangel (RB), Chico (RCB), Williams (LCB), Davies (LB).
  • Deep Midfield: Canas with 1 from Shelvey, De Guzman or Britton. Note Shelvey has started all games so far this season.
  • Wide Midfield: It looks like Laudrup has settled on Routledge from the left with Pablo Hernandez on the right (ish). Routledge has been subbed in the 2nd half of each game with the little tricky Spanish attacking midfielder, Alex Pozuela coming on who played with Canas at Real Betis last year.
  • Attack: Either Michu and a midfielder or Michu + 1 from Bony or Alvaro Vazquez. Bony has scored 73 goals in 128 appearances between Sparta Prague and Vitesse Arnham and was recently named Player of the Year in Holland. Alvaro is a 22yr old Spaniard in on loan from Getafe where he scored 4 goals in 29 appearances last season.



Below is a look at Swansea's line up in the 3 games this season and what the average position of the players has been. The position that interests me is right midfield and the role of Pablo Hernandez, this will be looked at below this graphic.





Pablo Hernandez

Laudrup bought Hernandez last season from Valencia for £5.5m which was a bit of a coup for the Welsh side. He was joined by other key players that Summer in Chico, De Guzman and Michu. Hernandez was on the bench against Utd but came on at half time and largely operated on the left for the 2nd half. However, he started the next two games from the right with Routledge playing on the left of midfield. However, in those two games, you can see that he seems to have a tendency to drift across the pitch and join in the play. I looked at the heat map of Routledge to see if perhaps he swapped flanks with Hernandez, (hence Hernandez showing up left & right), but this wasn’t the case. In these games, Routledge held his position on the left whereas Hernandez floated and seems to be a key cog within their set up highlighted by the fact that he has been involved in all of Swansea's 3 goals this season by assisting 2 and scoring the other. I outlined above how Rangel and the 2 deep lying midfielders had the most touches of the ball in their games, well in the two games that Hernandez started, he was 4th in terms of touches and passes. Given that Rangel is heavily involved and with Hernandez not holding a specific position on the right flank, it could be an interesting game on their-right/our-left if Coutinho plays there as he has the same tendency as Hernandez to drift.





Space between the lines


If Liverpool go with the same attacking line up there could be opportunities for Coutinho & Aspas. With Coutinho cutting in from the left he is likely to encounter Chico Flores in their central defence who has become a bit of a cult hero among the fans, with his aggression & rampaging surges forward and no doubt his pony tail only adds to the legend. However, Chico is someone that likes to defend on the front foot, he is more eager to step out of defence to anticipate a pass rather than stand off. This is more pronounced when Swansea get caught out of possession as there is more space between the defence and the midfield which sees Chico getting attracted to players that drop back into space. If that happens and given he is not the fastest defender in the league it could perhaps offer an opportunity to get Sturridge in down that side.





Swansea & Liverpool are 2 teams that are used to dominating possession. In the game last season, it was a fairly even split of 51% / 49%. What could be interesting is the level of pressing/tackling from either side. Liverpool have made the most tackles so far this season at an average of 29 per game whereas Swansea rank 17th in this stat at an average of 15 per game i.e. Liverpool have made almost twice as many tackles with the corner that led to the goal against Utd being won as a result of Henderson pressing and tackling in their left back area.


Given the functionality of Swansea's midfield and the focus on ball retention, how much protection do they give the defence and is that a factor in Chico stepping out ? Perhaps. Looking at individual stats, Swansea's midfielders rank incredibly low when it comes to tackling. Gerrard, Lucas and Henderson have made 37 tackles between them this season whereas Canas, Shelvey, Britton, De Guzman, Routledge and Hernandez have made just 16. Even when it comes to interceptions, those 6 midfielders lag our 3 (21 vs 15). This could be part of the reason why with the 5th most possession, they have still conceded the 5th most shots on goal. That said, I think it would be very wrong to try to insinuate that Swansea don't work hard when out of possession. Rather, it may just re-inforce people's preconceptions about their team i.e. they are a different breed to Stoke, West Ham, Sunderland etc and therefore, may just appeal that bit more to the likes of Coutinho & Aspas.


Despite ranking 5th in terms of possession, Swansea's stats in either box are not commensurate with a team that runs a game. They rank 5th last when it comes to conceding shots on goal whereas at the other end, they rank 12th in terms of getting shots off. Is the level of shots conceded on goal linked to amount of tackles that their midfield puts in? Take Liverpool for example, given that we have taken the lead in the 1st half of games, the team has become more cautious in the 2nd half resulting in Liverpool being 9th in the possession stakes and thereby ranking 11th in terms of shots conceded and 7th in terms of shots on goal i.e. some level of correlation between possession and shots.


Odds: Swansea 12/5, Draw 12/5, Liverpool 23/20




Swansea play alot of football in central areas and with their midfield duo getting on the ball quite often. With Liverpool likely to play a man off Sturridge (Aspas / Coutinho), that player could be asked to drop off and get about Jose Canas in midfield when we are out of possession to try bring about some disruption to their style. Even so, Swansea are still likely to have more of the ball than Liverpool on the evidence from the 2 teams this season. Rangel's willingness to offer an outlet on the right allows Pablo Hernandez to come infield and link up with Michu who operates deeper than the main striker (if they start with Bony up front). However, there may be opportunities between the lines for Liverpool to exploit if Sturridge, Aspas and Coutinho can operate close enough to each other in order to form some neat triangles and pull their defence out of position.




Edited by Rory Fitzgerald
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aye - and we're unlikely to be top anymore by Sunday evening - so the pressure will be MASSIVE - biggest game since Athens


It's bigger. Win this one and we have the confidence to then win the next 3 very winnable ones. After that, it'd be 7 straight wins. We'd probably be miles clear at the top and champions elect.

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It's bigger. Win this one and we have the confidence to then win the next 3 very winnable ones. After that, it'd be 7 straight wins. We'd probably be miles clear at the top and champions elect.


Wow, that was something else Dave, I just hope you have prayed the mocker gods in extensive fashion.


An away league game at Swansea bigger than the Champions League final, this is major.

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It's bigger. Win this one and we have the confidence to then win the next 3 very winnable ones. After that, it'd be 7 straight wins. We'd probably be miles clear at the top and champions elect.

Something we need to get over this year is our ability to sh*t the bed every time we get a sniff of our objective

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Monday helps us. More recovery time and closer to Valencia for them.


It's a good test for the champions elect this and could prove an opportunity to put the hammer down as likely challengers Chelsea have a tough game at a resurgent Everton.



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