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Russell Berrisford

Russell Berrisford

Russell’s support of Derby County eventually led him to leave the country. He has lived in Canada since 2007 and currently writes about soccer for The Vancouver Sun.


Swansea Show Some Courage

Written by on January 20, 2012 | 10 Comments »
Posted in English Premier League, General

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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10 responses to “Swansea Show Some Courage”

  1. Ed Gomes says:

    Great piece.
    EPL pundits tend to treat teams, especially newly promoted ones, that knock the ball around as cute and nice on the eyes, but not strong enough to have staying power. I think Blackpool was that team last year.
    Unfortunately that seems to be case, but it doesn’t have to be. In my opinion it has more to do with the overall quality of players than style. It’s much easier to find a big bloke that can punt the ball away and cover an area than one that has a good first touch and the mentality as to where to go with the ball.
    For me a team like Stoke might threaten a bit, but their style will never win them anything. The “Top 4’s” quality will always outweigh the threat eventually. On the other hand, if a squad like Swansea is able to hang on they can continue to build with their type of players and actually grow to significant levels. As the money comes in, the better the player they are able to purchase. Couldn’t Swansea become another Arsenal and/or City? Yes the pedigree isn’t there and they will get stripped of any great and even good player they have, so that’s highly unlikely to happen.
    Who exactly has Stoke sold or lost that’s important to another team?

    I remember in a match, I believe it was against Man United, Rangel lost the ball at the back that led to a goal. The greatest thing that happened after that was his manager Rodgers saying that it wasn’t the players fault. He was taught and told to move the ball around, and just got caught. He wouldn’t have him change a thing.
    Great honesty, and dare I say, sign of a great manager. Takes the criticism and burden off his team and player. He’s also confident in his style of play, and will push forward.

    Very much unlike Wenger who will always blame “outside forces” and never his squad or himself.

  2. Ed Gomes – insightful comments. Perhaps there is a niche for Swansea in developing and attracting the types of players they need. If they can get the club culture and development system right it becomes more a case of plug and play. Worst thing that could happen is if they became dependant on a couple of stars.

  3. rdm says:

    It sure makes for a fun narrative though. Watching established premiere league stars get passed around and chasing shadows has a certain degree of charm that I don’t think will ever wear off.

  4. J says:

    They certainly look like they’re going to stick around, don’t they?

    In a way, the attractiveness of their play overshadows the success at Norwich (2 points ahead of Swansea).

    I feel compelled to mention Michel Vorm, whose presence has to add to confidence in trading chances.

    Russell – I couldn’t help but react to the mention that no other game will allow as much space for Swansea. After all, they could face Arsenal again in the FA Cup 🙂

    Actually, I didn’t see Arsenal allowing for space as much as they were incompetent with possession. No Arteta, no fullbacks, no Gervinho…and this week’s version of Aaron Ramsey (never seems the same) didn’t work out.

  5. Russell Berrisford says:

    Ed- thanks. I think they also prove that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to play a passing game-it really is the coaches choice.

    J- Arsenal were poor in possession but some other teams would have given them the chance to put that right. I do think that future visitors to Swansea will be much more wary now- which will be a new test for them.

  6. Swansea’s one loss at home to Manchester United – they had a couple of very good chances to equalize if I remember correctly.

  7. Soccerlogical says:

    IMO, the key to implementing a effective shortpassing game is having good (not necessarily great technical players) who will work hard and get into open positions for the next short pass… like playing triangles.

    I remember Sir Bobby Robson saying that all you need is a good coach to sell triangles, intelligent passes and hard work to the players and a team can deploy an effective passing game. I distinctly remember Robson commentating on a game and criticizing the players for not wanting the ball.. he said the coach should have instilled a “Who wants it next?” passing philosophy.

  8. Russell Berrisford says:

    SL- yes, what the players off the ball do is at least as important as those on it.

    If the man on the ball has one option to pass to then that can be defended fairly easily, but give him four options and he has the advantage.

  9. Erik says:

    Everyone who picked Swansea to be relegated and finish no higher than 19th……..Please Stand Up

    I doubt anyone is sittting. I had them finishing 20th as did many others (Bobby……….??)

    I’m wondering if the extra long distance to get to their place is also an issue. Teams take longer to get there and fewer visiting supporters can make the trip and/or get tix so it is a hostile crackerbox to play in making HFA worth even more.

    As bad as the bottom of the league is Swansea sure looks to be in great shape to shockingly stay up although I sense this time last year we were saying the same thing about Blackpool and we know how that movie ended

  10. J says:

    Too late to edit, scold Swansea for boring play and forecast relegation?

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