Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's host Swansea City in the Premier League on Wednesday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Francesco Guidolin was a surprise choice as Swansea’s new manager, but the Italian carved out a reputation as an excellent tactician during his time in Serie A, achieving particular success with unfashionable clubs like Bologna and Udinese.
So far, the most interesting aspect of his tenure with Swansea has been his use of two separate formations, a diamond and a 4-2-3-1.
"That cautious style means Arsenal’s contests against Swansea are generally slow-burning encounters. Amazingly, in the last nine meetings between the sides, there has been just one first-half goal, and 22 second-half goals - supporters might need to be patient on Wednesday evening"
During Alan Curtis’ caretaker spell over the Christmas period, Swansea generally played with a midfield diamond, a system which had sometimes featured under previous coach Garry Monk. This saw Gylfi Sigurdsson playing behind a mobile front two of Wayne Routledge and Andre Ayew, who usually looked to position themselves on the outside of the opposition centre backs, stretching the play and moving into space behind the opposition full-backs.
Guidolin continued with this formation for his first two games in charge, a 2-1 victory at Everton and a 1-1 draw at West Brom, but then moved to a 4-2-3-1 system, the shape Swansea have generally used throughout their four and a half years in the Premier League.
This means the introduction of a proper number nine: Alberto Paloschi, Guidolin’s only signing so far. The Italian is better at coming towards play and becoming involved in build-up than Bafetimbi Gomis.
Ayew and Routledge now play wider roles - although Jefferson Montero could regain his position on the left - with Sigurdsson still playing as a No 10, but now with only two other midfielders behind him. The nature of that partnership suggests Guidolin is keen to concentrate on good possession play: short passing expert Leon Britton is a regular once again, while the similarly tidy Jack Cork plays a more energetic role, shuttling forward to the right. Ki Sung-Yeung is another option - the departure of Jonjo Shelvey has given a more disciplined feel to Swansea’s midfield.
Swansea concentrate much of their play down that flank, with right-back Angel Rangel a key part of their build-up play. Neil Taylor plays a more cautious role on the left, and Swansea often retain the ball for long periods at the back, knocking the ball laterally across the pitch and waiting for spaces to appear further forward.
That cautious style means Arsenal’s contests against Swansea are generally slow-burning encounters. Amazingly, in the last nine meetings between the sides, there has been just one first-half goal, and 22 second-half goals - supporters might need to be patient on Wednesday evening.
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