Amid all the post-match analysis of Swansea’s 3-2 win over Arsenal more than one pundit mentioned that they were surprised how “brave” Swansea were in the closing stages of the game.
Courage isn’t something that is always connected with a short passing style of play but maybe it should be.
How tempting must it be for a player from a newly promoted club that are protecting a one goal lead to simply hoof the ball as hard as he can down the field and relieve the pressure for a precious few seconds?
We see it week in and week out it and it is as much a staple of last-ditch defending as throwing a big central defender forward is a staple of last-ditch attacking (although I wonder why coaches who think that this is more likely to get them a goal don’t just start with that formation).
Yet all that long clearance does is supply ammunition for the opposition; it is the soccer equivalent of trying to repel a gun-toting enemy by throwing unused bullets at their heads.
Swansea though shunned the long clearance throughout the game and instead opted for a series of short passes that eased the pressure on their defence and simultaneously killed off any momentum that Arsenal were hoping to establish.
Slightly hyperbolic comparisons with Barcelona have been drifting around the British press in the last few days with campaigns for the call up of several of their players to the England national team also in the mix, but manager Brendan Rodgers must know that the real hard work starts now.
Every promoted team reaps the benefit of being something of an unknown quantity for the first half of the season but then, as we have seen on many occasions, the league starts to work them out and the free fall begins.
No doubt Swansea will continue with their style of play but that performance against Arsenal has put them firmly in the sights of Premier League coaches, and many will have noted that their only home defeat so far came against a Manchester United side that got an early goal and then proceeded to stifle the game, preventing the Welsh club from playing their usual style of football.
The top clubs may be used to visiting teams coming to their stadium and sitting back (although the likes of Liverpool have yet to solve the problem) but that could be the new-found experience of Swansea for the rest of the season.
It certainly seems safe to say that the victory against Arsene Wenger’s men will be the last time that they are allowed that amount of space during a game, and the test now is whether they can continue to play their style of football in much tighter areas.
The signs are that they will try, but from now on Swansea will find that the test of the courage of their convictions got a little bit sterner.
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