Tactically speaking - Swansea City

Tactically speaking

The Official Website and WhoScored.com have teamed up to take a detailed look at how West Ham United and Swansea City might line-up on Saturday afternoon.

The Swans' intricate passing game is examined, while there is also a focus on the contribution made by Hammers centre-back James Collins.

West Ham United

Clearance King

James Collins

As West Ham United gear up for the welcome of Swansea City, football statistics website WhoScored.com have taken the opportunity to preview the Premier League fixture.

In the corresponding game between the two sides earlier this season the shares were spoiled in a goalless draw at the Liberty Stadium.

The Hammers put in an imperious defensive performance in the 0-0 draw at Chelsea on Wednesday, securing a league-high tenth clean sheet of the season, and will be confident of adding to that with the welcome of the Swans to the Boleyn Ground. Michael Laudrup's side have netted only two goals from their last five away games, failing to win all five. Furthermore, West Ham have not conceded in either of their last two league meetings with Swansea.

Swansea go into the game on the back of a much needed 2-0 win against Fulham thanks to goals from Jonjo Shelvey and Chico.

James Collins was superb in the stalemate at Stamford Bridge, securing a rating of 7.9, and will be expected to turn out a similar performance in the lunchtime kick-off. A seasonal average rating of 7.11 on the back of the draw ranks the defender as the fifth best of every West Ham player this season and highlights how imperative he has been in the back line following the injury to Winston Reid at the end of 2013.

The Welshman features in the top five of WhoScored.com's rankings for clearances per game in England's top tier this season, creating a statistically calculated style of player of 'clears the ball out of defence often'. This approach has significantly contributed to West Ham's ten clean sheets, with six of those coming when Collins has started.

His knack of being in the right place at the right time is a key feature of his game and against a Swansea side that has struggled for goals on the road this term, Collins' defensive ability will be crucial to the east London side potentially securing their eleventh clean sheet of the campaign and adding three points to their Premier League total.

Swansea City

Possible starting XI


Rangel  Chico  Williams  Davies

De Guzman  Canas

Pablo  Shelvey  Routledge


Pass, pass, pass and pass some more - that has been the Swansea City mantra since Roberto Martinez took over as manager almost exactly seven years ago.

Back then, in February 2007, Swansea were a League One club and the Barclays Premier League, League Cup triumphs and European football seemed but pipe dreams.

Martinez and successors Paulo Sousa, Brendan Rogers and now Michael Laudrup have helped turn those dreams into thrilling realities, while never forgoing the club's recently-found past-first ethos.

Under Laudrup, the former Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Denmark attacking midfielder, Swansea complete the highest percentage of passes of any Barclays Premier League side - 86.2 per cent.

Five of the top-flight's 13 top players in the 'completed passes' list are Swansea players, with Jose Canas, Jonathan De Guzman, Angel Range, Chico and Ashley Williams all completing more than 60 per game. Overall, Swansea enjoy 60 per cent of ball possession on average - the highest figure in the Barclays Premier League.

While passing and patience may be easy on the eye, however, Laudrup's Swansea are not winning as regularly as they did under predecessors Martinez and Rodgers. After a strong 2012/13 that saw the Swans finish ninth and win the League Cup, the south Wales side have struggled for consistency this term.

A fixture list packed with UEFA Europa League fixtures has put a strain on a relatively small and inexperienced squad - in terms of English football - and pressure on Laudrup. Having dropped down the table over the past few weeks, it will be test the nerve of the manager and his players to stick to their short passing game.

Formation-wise, Swansea employ a 4-2-3-1 formation, packing the midfield with two defensive midfielders, an attacking playmaker and two quick and skilful wingers.

With the goalkeeper - Michel Vorm completes more of his passes than any goalkeeper at 75 per cent - and centre-backs urged to play out from the back and the full-backs encouraged to bomb forward, Swansea at their best are a joy to behold.

Swansea are not afraid to keep the ball in the middle third of the pitch, passing from side to side and probing for an opening, either through the middle or down the flanks.

While centre forward Wilfried Bony is a tall, powerful player, the Swans are more likely to attempt intricate through balls and long-range shots than to cross the ball high into the box for the Ivorian to attack.

For all this talk of Swansea's eye-catching offensive play, the Welsh side's recent slide has come about through defensive frailties.

Too often, opposition teams have found it far too easy to carve through Swansea's midfield and back line, leading to an eight-match winless run dating back to a 3-0 home win over Newcastle United on 4 December. In that time, Swansea scored just seven goals and conceded 14 - enough to see them drop from eleventh to 15th in the table.

Individual errors, a lack of aerial strength and an inability to prevent opponents from creating chances have combined to see Swansea's defence breached, while at the other end the goals have dried up.

February will be a big month for Laudrup and his players. Not only will results in the Barclays Premier League have to improve, but the Swans face a daunting UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie with Italian Serie A side Napoli.

If they are to come through unscathed, the form of leading scorer Bony will be vital. A physical presence, the summer capture from Vitesse has scored more goals (seven) and unleashed more shots (56) than any of his team-mates, but he has also turned over possession more times (36) than any other Swansea player.

Bony will need to keep the ball better, and the pressure off his team-mates better, if Swansea are to get back regularly to what they are all about - pass, pass, pass, score goals and win football matches.