Swansea 0-2 Newcastle United: Swans Come Undone Against Toon Army

Oh Swansea, my Swansea. Well, they’re not my team, though they have been adopted as the favored squad of most Premier League neutrals. Silky smooth, yet flamboyantly frustrating, the Swans pass the ball around the park, only for it to be intercepted when Nathan Dyer entangles himself with six yards of the goal.

Nobody can deny that Brendan Rodgers’ side can play. Mini-Barcelona, as they are now known, have done well in replacing last year’s beloved Blackpool, then dubbed mini-Arsenal. In a rare Friday fixture, the promoted team — looking to become the first since West Ham in 2006 to finish in the top half of the table — welcomed the black and white stripes of Tyneside.

Listed as a 4-3-3, Pardew had his side press into a 4-2-4, early on, by pushing Cabaye up front alongside Cisse, Ben Arfa, and Ba. The Magpies front four shuttled in and out, pressuring both Steven Caulker and Ashley Williams who spent the majority of the game knocking the ball back and forth. Newcastle’s tactic worked with just five minutes gone, when a swift move between Gutierrez and Cabaye occurred. The latter slotted a delicious through ball to the in-form Papiss Demba Cisse, who can, “score when he wants.” The man from Senegal has taken compatriot Demba Ba’s spot as the team’s lead striker, since his transfer to the club in January. Then, Newcastle went silent — at least for the next 64 minutes.

The game’s flow saw the aforementioned Ba drop into the left of midfield, while Ben Arfa did likewise on the far right, thus Newcastle bunkered down into a 4-4-2. Swansea showed their virtuous patience as they systemically pushed into the half of their opposition. This was in large part due to Luke Moore’s hold-up play, as himself, Joe Allen, and Wayne Routledge took turns getting open for their two centre-backs. Angel Rangel took his usual spot on the right flank’s touchline. However, while he got paint on his boots, Dyer was dropping back to receive the ball. Nathan was bright in the final third, as his stunning foot skills allowed him to get into the box several times, though he lacked a final touch. His teammates followed his lead throughout the match, as that important final ball alluded them.

On the edge of the 18 yard box, Swansea wanted to play quick one-touch passes, to complement their intricate style of play, but knocking the ball about in small areas was nearly impossible for them. Much credit to the Newcastle back four of Santon, Williamson, Perch, and Simpson, who kept on the backs of Swansea’s attackers, denying them the space to induce that little bit of magic necessary to draw level, before the two outfits broke for halftime.

Ryan Taylor checked in for Tiote (hamstring) to keep a ball-winning midfielder on the pitch for the Magpies. Newcastle’s shifty formation seemed out of place as Gutierrez, Cabaye, and Ba were all in strange positions to compare with past outings. Jonas was the highly-intelligent wing-back, Ba the classic striker, and Cabaye in the middle partnering with Tiote, granted his recent return to the first team. Today, it was Cabaye at forward, Ba on the left, and Gutierrez in the middle. Nevertheless, Pardew’s strategy worked. His men put in an industrious shift chasing the ball for 77% of the match. Gutierrez and Taylor must have killed a couple bottles of 5 Hour Energy, as they admirably stayed alert all afternoon. Here, the similarities with the Catalan come into play. Forget the possession stat, Swansea, out passed their counterparts 4 to 1. The first Welsh side to enter the Barclays Premier League completed 835 balls to one another, to the famous black and white’s pathetic 181. There is a reason why Swansea are still “mini,” and that one reason is due to their troubles in the finishing department. That is what separates them from Barcelona, who live and breathe on playing in tight spaces before using a fatal run which leads to a goal.

Co-commentator Efan Ekoku harped on Swansea for their unused possession and rightly so. While Swansea is in fantastic form, at the moment, the only that stat matters is the one in the upper-left of your television screen. Possession soccer is beautiful to watch. However, it can be counterproductive, which it proved to be for the Swans, as they lost the ball 21 minutes from time. Thus, Cabaye picked out Cisse once again for a goal, to let Song and Van Persie know, anything Arsenal can do, Newcastle can do better. The Senegalese’s finish was sublime – a lovely chip, over Michel Vorm, and into the upper 90, despite the striker‘s off-balance positioning, which saw him fall over after flicking the ball over the line. Not to take away from the phenomenal composure of Cisse, but the brace for the new signing came at the hands of Ashley Williams. The defender was caught back-pedaling with his frame squared, allowing Cisse to gain the extra inches he needed to execute from 12 yards.

Dyer looked to be Swansea’s only attacking threat. He was replaced moments before his side went 2-0 down by Scott Sinclair, part of a double-swap, which saw Danny Graham check-in to the match as well. Sinclair picked up where Dyer left off. He put shots on target and dazzled defenders attempting to get Swansea level. A goal never came though, as Swansea were left to bask in their possession-based game.

Shockingly, the score-line was just. Newcastle was the better side, even though they were out-passed severely. Football is about making the most of your opportunities. The world’s best get one chance in front of goal, before sticking the ball into the back of the net (see RVP’s two against Liverpool or Stoke‘s economic approach). Graham has done well this season, but one must wonder what Swansea could do with a clinical striker. Would they challenge for a Champions League spot? It is entirely possible, as Rodgers has built his side from the back, a tell-tale sign of a coach with a long-term plan for success. From that, Rodgers, it must be said, can be ruled out of contention for the job at Stamford Bridge, as the EPL’s hedonist-in-chief would not approve of such an obscure doctrine.

Should Aston Villa collapse, which they deserve according to those tuning-in for entertainment value, Darren Bent might be a viable option for Rodgers. Bobby Zamora could draw his ‘Get out of London Pass’ when the inevitable occurs to Queens Park Rangers. With Zamora or Bent up top, could Swansea remarkably enter become a top-side in Britain?

We will find out soon enough, but you’ll have to subscribe to FOX Soccer Plus to find out because “You’re missing the whole Swansea season” without it. Therefore, seeing Rodger’s rise to the top could take a bite out of each soccer fan’s wallet, which would almost be as frustrating as seeing the Lilywhites control a match, only to lack the proper dose of venom in front of goal.

10 thoughts on “Swansea 0-2 Newcastle United: Swans Come Undone Against Toon Army”

  1. Seeing Swansea dominate with 76% of possession for 20 mins at a time but lack the quality movement / finish in the final third was agonizing, they are so close, if…IF they can keep key people. Unfortunately for Swansea, Sig going to the arse and Caulker going back to Spurs in the starting line up at the center of defense after his great displays this season and Rodgers sure to follow him to the Lane, next season could be their last in the Premier league. I hope not, especially of they play the same football, they really have been a pleasure to watch (especially when they can finish).

    1. I’m confident Swansea will be fine no matter what happens in the summer. Their style of play is consistent from the youth team to the reserves and to the first team. Even if/when we lose Brendan Rodgers, Swansea will hire a manager with a similar belief in the way that Swansea plays. Even if/when players leave in the summer, new recruits will be brought in who can play in the system.

      By playing the way they do, they’ll be able to rise above the bottom teams in the Premier League. Only if/when the other clubs in the bottom half of the Premier League wise up and start playing possession football (with results) will Swansea find teams catching up with them. I think the Swans have a few seasons in them in the top flight. They’re fiscally sound. Plus the club is 20% owned by its supporters, so there will be always be a seat on the board to ensure that wise decisions are made.

      The Gaffer

    1. Just wanted to clarify…Great passing game wasn’t created by the Spanish/Barca.

      Many many sides throughout the last 40 years have played that way, in the 70’s the dutch were incredible (Infact Ajax have had a great philosoph since the 60’s I believe the original Dutch master took his trade and skills to Barca), as were Brian Cloughs Derby and eventual Nottingham Forrest teams, in the 80’s liverpool dominated europe with great football and talent, there was also the Italian league with the Milan teams and Napoli with incredible passing teams, the 90’s with man utd, bayern,marseille and Monaco.

      These are just a few examples, there have been many more teams that have played a great passing game, the difference as pointed out by Rodgers is quality, Barca passing coupled with the great players they have is what makes it so successful, the same can be said for Real Madrid.

      I’m sure I have missed many teams, and apologize for doing so.

      It was the great football that Spurs played with Ricky Villa, Ozzie Ardiles, Glen Hoddle and Chris’ Waddle that made me and most spurs fans fall in love with them, although growing up in N17 helped too. I remember spurs being called the pretty boys of football, all flash and no substance because of the lack of league titles that style brought us. The far more successful arsenal one ball over the top or a headed corner to win 1-0 was seen as the winning formula.

      Does anyone here remember brazil also…hello? Sometimes that national side would have 90 % of possession. But I do not know enough about brazilian national league to know of when and what teams used that style.

      While it is true Barca are the current darlings it isn’t a new thing–

      It is cyclical

  2. Nice article……and congratulations on your Stoke observation. Finally, something original and to the point.

    btw….forgot to write myself a note to watch the match…….**sigh**

  3. I didn’t watch the match but from what I listened to on the radio it sounds very much like Swansea played similarly to how they did against Stoke at the Britannia and Alan Pardew had them figured out.

    I’m not much for Pardew as an individual but he did exactly the same to Stoke at the Britannia with his Newcastle side. He’s proving to be much more astute and tactically aware than many would have given him credit for.

    From a Swansea POV it seems that if Brenden Rogers stays then this is the next step they need to make, being able to adapt their style to give them a chance against teams that have Plan A worked out. IMHO it’s something that my team hasn’t managed to do despite being on target for a fifth season in the top flight.

    Guy, have you started wearing the red & white stripes yet? 😉 I’ll save you a seat at the Britannia the next time you’re over here.

  4. After the match, Stan Collymore tweeted this: “@StanCollymore: Passing the football should never be an aim in itself.

    Otherwise we may as well take those white things either end of the pitch away.”

    1. I think that’s a bit unfair by Collymore. Yes, possession is important, but it doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t result in something, but Collymore has been slating Swansea since the beginning of the season. Then again, he’s a pundit, so he’s paid to be in-your-face.

      The Gaffer

      1. Well, that explains his tweet. It can be frustrating when Swansea have so much possession, but can’t seem to finish. However, you have to walk before you can crawl. They have improved their scoring rate in the second half of the season. If the Swans can hold on to their nucleus I think we can expect to see further improvement next year.

        At any rate, Collymore should know that if you have the ball the other team can’t score. How are all of Rovers goals working out for them?

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