This game between Coventry City and Swansea was played in round six of the EFL Championship. The hosts hadn’t had a taste of victory for three games in a row. Swansea came for a visit after two victories and one loss in their last three games. Mark Robins and Steve Cooper chose identical tactical structures with three central defenders, two defensive midfielders and a three-man attack group. In other words, it was a confrontation of 3-4-3 versus 3-4-3, including some interesting tactical skills. Let’s look at our tactical analysis.
Coventry City coach Mark Robins tried to defend the central zones in order to keep protection against strong central zone of Swansea. The guests had two powerful players in this zone: former West Ham forward Andre Ayew and left-footed defensive midfielder Matt Grimes. Therefore, it was very important for Coventry to closely watch the activity of this players. As was mentioned earlier, both coaches tried to mirror their opponents’ game structure, excluding the position of Ayew. The next step of our analysis is to look at Swansea’s positional attacks and how the hosts tried to cope with.
Swansea’s positional attack
The main problem for Swansea City to do a quality positional attack was high-game intensity, dense positional structure and high pressing of the opponents. As it usually goes, Cooper’s team tried to use the width of the field in order to get a space for making a decision and control the ball. Swansea has more skilful players, and that’s why Coventry made a lot of pressing movements. Swansea goalkeeper Freddie Woodman, on loan from EPL side Newcastle United, participated in the build-up phase to help break Coventry’s defensive plan.
Sometimes, Swansea’s players were forced to use a long ball in order to progress the ball forward. Because of Coventry’s players’ high location, there was a chance to use free space by kicking the ball far away. This can be clearly seen in the next picture.
Here we can see that seven Coventry’s footballers are playing very high. It causes a 3vs3 situation on the other side of the field. To sum up, Swansea had two ways to progress the ball forward. Firstly, do a usual positional attack, including searching for a space and creating overload 3vs2 situations by the movements of Andre Ayew. Secondly, use a long ball to overcome high pressing. Let’s look at Swansea’s defensive phase.
Swansea’s defensive phase
To do the best defensive movements, Steve Cooper chose a 5-2-1-2 formation. When Coventry City tried to start a positional attack, Andre Ayew had to close a passing option to two defensive midfielders, with the other two forwards closed by two defenders: the defender with the ball and the defender who became an addressee to receive it. When the ball was on the flank, one of the forwards and one of the defensive midfielders had to run to the ball zone to break a ball moving there. It was something like 5-3-2, because Ayew stayed near the other attacking teammate.
As was mentioned earlier, Coventry tried to make as few mistakes as they could. Therefore, they made a lot of long balls and tried to make their game structure easy. It’s very important to say that Coventry’s goalkeeper Marco Marosi had to kick the ball the special way. Goalkeeper should kick the ball by arch trajectory. It’s more difficult to kick out for defenders. Sometimes goalkeepers kick the ball in such a way that the ball flies parallel to the field. It’s easy to kick out. Marosi tried to kick the ball by arch trajectory and it was a good decision.
To cope with the long balls of the opponent, Swansea tried to make a four-man defensive line, including advancing one of their defenders to the player who was receiving the ball.
The other main moments of the game and the role of Ayew
Let’s look at the main tactical moments. To begin, it’s necessary to see how Coventry tried to do a goal kick. The main idea was to mirror the opponent’s position structure, in order to create 3 vs 3 situation on the other part of the field. It will be good to look at this in the picture.
The next step is to notice the interesting thing that Swansea lose a pressing battle in the beginning. Stats can show that Swansea’s PPDA from one to 15 minutes grew up from 46.0 to 9.4.
Also, if we take a look at the statistics, we can understand how the game structure was tough and dense. The high pressing movements of Coventry and a lot of their long balls caused this stat. When the ball is in the air, players try to run to the ball zone to pick it up and return the possession.
It’s will be wrong not to say something about the role of Andre Ayew. He played an important role in defensive and offensive phases of the game. When positional attack was set in motion, he tried to link both defensive midfielders: it made Smith’s and Grimes’ life easier and he got a chance to do something dangerous when he got into a space. Coventry sometimes used a 3-4-3 system, and that’s why this 3vs3 situation appeared. Two forwards linked three central defenders, and Ayew linked two defensive midfielders. It caused 3vs2 situations in the centre and 5vs3 situations near Swansea’s defensive line. It’s a very good use of tactics.
Also, Ayew was the one who started the attacks after possession returned to them. He tried to use free space near the ball zone to get time in order to make a fast counter-attack. It was a good idea, because Ayew is a high-class player; he has good speed, technical skills, creative mentality and, importantly, is left-footed.
This game was very good if we talk about tactical battles and clever tactical skills. Both teams tried to use their own strengths. It’s always interesting when we see a game structure, and opponents try to mirror tactical formation of the other team.
Coventry made dangerous high pressing movements, especially as they often left Andre Ayew free in the centre. The hosts tried not to allow them to have control the ball without pressure and did high pressing in order to force Swansea’s defenders to add a goalkeeper in the build-up. Also, we saw a good game from Andre Ayew, who played an important role in defensive and offensive phases and scored a beautiful goal. Despite the fact that Coventry’s players tried to deprive a space, he found a moment to score a goal.
This tactical analysis has followed how Swansea tried to hold on in the group of leaders and how Coventry City will try to make their situation better.