Swansea v Cardiff tactical preview: Possession v pragmatism

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Swansea v Cardiff tactical preview: Possession v pragmatism

This weekend should be a cracker as Swansea meet Cardiff in the South Wales derby, Benjamin Bloom has all you need to know ahead of this one – with odds from Betfair throughout.


Setting The Scene – A Clash Of Styles
If you asked a hundred Championship fans to pick out the two most stylistically opposed teams in the division to undertake a tactical experiment, I’m sure many would come up with this fixture. We don’t need to dig very far into the statistics to conclude that Swansea under Russ Martin, and Cardiff under Mick McCarthy, have been going about things in a very different manner, but they have ended up tied on 11 points after 11 games.

Martin and Swansea are trying to cultivate the ultra possession passing machine, and lead the Championship in terms of possession with 64.5% per game, and in terms of pass completion with 85.3% per game. While it’s been the aerial prowess of Cardiff that’s been Mick McCarthy’s calling card, with the Bluebirds top of the Championship for aerial duels won.

Where the tale gets even more interesting is that both sides’ strengths appear to also be their opponents’ weakness, with Cardiff 23rd in the division for pass completion and Swansea 24th in terms of aerials won.

The stats as always need to be viewed through the correct prism and do present somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, why would Swansea be excelling in terms of aerial duels when their game plan is predicated on the ball staying on the floor? Conversely, why would Cardiff have a high pass completion when they are trying to leverage their aerial dominance with direct play? What we do know is that in a clash of styles like this, whichever side gets the opponent to play the game on their terms tends to come out on top.

Midfield Battle:


One To Watch – Olivier Ntcham (Swansea City)
When asked about his doubtful players during his pre-match press conference, Martin replied ‘Everyone’s trained. All three are available.’ This means we could potentially see a return to the starting line-up for French attacking midfielder Olivier Ntcham in the big derby match.

Ntcham has quite the CV in terms of the size of clubs he’s represented. His youth career took him to Manchester City where he didn’t start a senior game; he went up to Scotland to Celtic, and he has also been on loan at Genoa and Marseille. It appears in Ntcham, we have another highly-rated youngster expected to reach the top levels of the game, but at 25 he’s still joining the dots and finding his place in football’s hierarchy.

Swansea swooped for the Frenchman on a free at the end of this latest transfer window, and Ntcham made his way into the Swans lineup in an inside-right type of position. With Martin’s preference for a 3-5-2 system and a decent start at right wing-back by Ethan Laird, the partnership between the two could be a productive one. Laird will get high up the pitch and allow Ntcham to get narrow and into the half-space where much damage can be done.

In the game against Luton damage was indeed done, with Ntcham picking up an assist and a thunderous goal in an unlikely Swansea comeback. Having limped out of the game at Fulham, Ntcham missed the draw at Derby, but it sounds like Russ Martin is pleased to have him back available, and if he starts against a potentially deep-lying Cardiff defence, Ntcham could be an important figure.


One To Watch – Ryan Giles (Cardiff)
In the halcyon days of far-flung August, things looked rather different at Cardiff. The Bluebirds were challenging at the top of the table with eight points from their first four games and Aden Flint was an unlikely name at the top of the Championship scoring charts from centre-back. A less unlikely chart topper was Ryan Giles, who was making waves in the assist list with four in the first four league games.

Giles is a familiar name to the Championship after visiting two clubs on loan from Wolves last year. With Coventry fairly well stocked in the wing-back roles Giles only spent up until January with the Sky Blues but still started 15 times, before moving on to try and help Rotherham in their ultimately unsuccessful bid to avoid relegation. At any rate, 27 starts in total in the division last season taught Giles the ropes and it was no surprise another Championship loan move occurred this season.

Given what we know about how Cardiff have been exploiting the size and aerial prowess of their team, Giles seems a very sensible addition by Mick McCarthy. In the early period of games where Cardiff were performing well, Giles’ service into the box from wide positions and set-plays was a key weapon, with the cross for Kieffer Moore to score at Blackpool a beautiful example.

As Giles stepped out of the team through injuries and Cardiff’s form deteriorated, his return in the past few games has been a welcome one but in a slightly unfamiliar right-sided position. But in the midst of Cardiff’s horrible current run, wherever McCarthy starts Giles is immaterial – if they can get the ball to him in decent crossing positions and replicate that early season form, perhaps the slide can start to be arrested.


Key Battle – Patience & Passing vs Patience & Power
This feels like a game where patience will be an absolute virtue for both sides, and maybe supporters too. If you were to ask me to visualise the typical game state we can expect, I’m seeing Cardiff in shape behind the ball trying to squeeze up and narrow the space for Swansea to play in.

I don’t imagine Cardiff will want to chase the game and will be happy to cede possession, so long as they are in the main goal-side. I can see Swansea’s central midfield dropping deep to try and penetrate the low block, but with their league-high pass completion numbers not feeling too much pressure to fire difficult vertical passes through the lines.

Hopefully that doesn’t sound like a recipe for a Sunday afternoon snooze, that’s just my view of the general equilibrium, and there will always be moments that break from that slightly static norm. This is where patience will be so important if goals don’t come in the first hour of this derby match.

Will Swansea have the patience not to engage too recklessly into a potentially passive Cardiff team shape? If they risk the ball or send too many players forward, then Cardiff will surely move quickly out into an attacking or potentially set-play winning position. Will Cardiff have the patience to sit in while the ball is circulated in safe areas in front of them? If they can bide their time and force set-plays and counter-attacks we know what damage they can do. As a spectacle we can only hope for a greater sense of exciting disruption, rather than that potentially slow equilibrium.



Odds correct at the time of publication. 18+ Please Gamble Responsibly. Visit begambleaware.org


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Gossip: Salah, Hazard swap; Lewandowski for Sterling

The Premier League goal-getters are on … The post Gossip: Salah, Hazard swap; Lewandowski for Sterling appeared first on Football365.

Gossip: Salah, Hazard swap; Lewandowski for Sterling

The Premier League goal-getters are on the move…


Real Madrid are ready to cut their losses over Eden Hazard.

The Spanish giants paid Chelsea over £100million for the Belgian just over two years ago and he’s notched just five goals and nine assists in 51 appearances, most of them incredibly average by his own extraordinary standards.

And Chelsea have reportedly offered him the solace of a return to Stamford Bridge (wouldn’t that be lovely), though Marina Granovskaia has set a transfer limit of £34million. Madrid would much rather a body in return – Reece James would be great.

A more expensive (more chiselled) body they also fancy is Mohamed Salah, according to Fichajes journalist Ekrem Konur, who claims Madrid are ready to offer Hazard and a bit of cash for Salah. They’ll need quite a lot of cash.

And any approach may come too late in any case. Reports on Thursday suggest the Reds are readying a bumber new contract to tie Salah down for the next three years.

It’s rumoured Salah would earn £350,000-a-week, worth £82million across the entirety of his contract, making him comfortably Liverpool’s highest earner.


Manchester City are ‘already planning for life without Raheem Sterling’, according to the Express.

The England international claimed earlier this week that he would be “open” to leaving the Etihad for more game time, after just two Premier League starts this term following the arrival of Jack Grealish.

And Pep Guardiola says he can give Sterling no assurances over more minutes for City, claiming all members of his squad “have to speak on the grass”.

Arsenal are rumoured to be interested in Sterling, but a move abroad may be a better option for the forward.

And City would reportedly like Bayern Munich goal machine Robert Lewandowski to replace him.

Far from a like for like replacement, but it’s no secret that City want a more traditional centre-forward on their books following the long, unsuccessful chase for Harry Kane in the summer.

Lewandowski has stated his desire to leave Bayern in the summer and his agent, Pini Zahavi, has claimed the Etihad Stadium is a potential destination, which will have undoubtedly grabbed Guardiola’s attention.


Alexandre Lacazette is off and Arsenal need a replacement.

There’s been talk of Ollie Watkins and former striker Kevin Campbell is keen on Sevilla star Youssef En-Nesyri, who’s been linked with a swap move involving Lacazette.

But Football London claim that ‘director Edu has identified Dominic Calvert-Lewin as the long-term solution’.

The Everton striker scored 16 goals in the Premier League last season and already has three goals in as many games this term.


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