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Talking Tactics

How Clement has Swansea looking up

Adrian Clarke 19 Feb 2017
Swansea City v Leicester City

Adrian Clarke's analysis of new managers concludes with the secrets behind Swans' improved form

In the final part of Adrian Clarke's look at the three clubs at the wrong end of the Premier League table who changed their manager this winter he analyses the transformation at Swansea City brought by Paul Clement

See: Benteke service key to Palace fortunes

Over the course of a difficult 12 months Swansea had started to lose their way. In a matter of weeks Clement has helped them turn a corner. 

Swansea City manager Paul Clement
Paul Clement has implemented a clear structure at Swansea City, says Clarke

By implementing a clear structure to the side and adding a sprinkling of new faces, the 45-year-old has transformed a group of players beaten 4-1 and 3-0 at home by West Ham United and AFC Bournemouth, into a resilient-looking outfit.

Showing higher levels of desire and tactical acumen in recent victories against Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Southampton and Leicester City, fans now have genuine hope of climbing the table.

What has changed?

Once his own signings were ready to play, Clement has since kept a settled side. That has helped to recreate a distinct identity.

The defensive quartet of Kyle Naughton, Federico Fernandez, Alfie Mawson and Martin Olsson have stayed together for four successive matches, along with the midfield trio of Jack Cork, Leroy Fer and Tom Carroll.

Within a straightforward 4-3-3, those balanced units have worked well together. Well drilled, they are significantly harder to break down than under Bob Bradley, Clement's predecessor.

Clear selection continuity has helped individuals grasp a better understanding of their roles. 

Swansea City manager Paul Clement
Paul Clement has made only six changes to his starting XI in five PL matches

Clement has made only six changes to his starting XI in five matches. Swansea had made 16 in the previous five before his appointment. 

You could argue Gylfi Sigurdsson’s upturn in form (three goals and two assists in four appearances) is a by-product of two excellent January additions: Olsson and Carroll.

Having joined from Tottenham Hotspur, Carroll ikes to play crisp, early passes from midfield into forward players, and the Icelander has benefitted.

Picking the right times to move infield from his place on the left (and receiving passes earlier than previously) Sigurdsson has had 18 efforts on goal in the last five matches. 

Swansea City v Leicester City
'Gylfi Sigurdsson's upturn in form is a by-product of Paul Clement's January signings'

In his previous five outings that number was 13, without a goal to show for it.

Over the last 180 minutes of PL action, Carroll and Olsson have passed to Sigurdsson more than any other two Swansea players. They look for each other at every opportunity, and the chemistry is building.

We saw this in the build-up to Olsson’s goal against Leicester City last weekend: Carroll and Sigurdsson combined sharply inside, before the flying left-back was released into empty space out wide to run through and score from the angle.

It was a prime example of how these three players nicely complement one another.

Martin Olsson goal v LEI
Martin Olsson’s (No 16) goal v Leicester City involved No 23 Gylfi Sigurdsson and No 42 Tom Carroll

Under Clement, performances have been more energised, players have looked more self-assured, and when they are forced to soak up pressure, the improved organisation has helped them to cope.

Despite a tricky fixture list since Clement took over, Swansea are scoring more goals (1.6 per match up from 1.2) and conceding fewer (1.8 from 2.3) with him in the dugout.

After travelling to Chelsea in Matchweek 26, Swansea then face Burnley, Hull , AFC Bournemouth and Middlesbrough in succession.

See: Swansea's fixtures

It means the fast-improving Swans have a great chance to distance themselves from the bottom three in the next few weeks.

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