How can Town find a brighter outlook?
After Swindon’s latest defeat everyone pointed out the problems, Alex Cooke tries to find a few answers…
Let’s start with the obvious ones; play better, concentrate for 90 minutes, attack the ball into the area, don’t let someone dribble past you into the box, finish your bloody chances.
But, also let us take the positives from what we’ve seen: keep making those supporting runs which turn opposition defences into a single line of 10, keep getting crosses into the box and, keep passing. Finally, keep creating; at the moment Town are having huge numbers of good quality shots and huge amounts of shots on target. At some point they will start going in.
In the last few home game the opposition have begun putting a strong press of Town’s back three. This has resulted in Swindon yielding some good chances. So the answer has to be to give up playing out from the back? Doesn’t it? Perhaps not, and this is why.
Instead of the back three receiving the ball from Lawrence Vigouroux on the edge of the 18-yard-box, push the centre backs even wider and deeper. Almost to the corner flags. This will test how much the opposition really want to press you. Then do it time and again. And, if the first pass is clean there is a much greater chance that the second, third and fourth will be too.
If you don’t use the centre backs but the opposition follow, Yaser Kasim can drop into the centre to take the ball or Swindon can play through the other central defender. Either way, they will need to commit at least another player to mark them.
If their forwards don’t go wide, the defenders will have far more room to run with the ball before being challenged. If they do, their team becomes hugely stretched and vulnerable to short or longer passes from ‘keeper or defender. Town could even drop balls into midfield as this area will be emptied by at least three, possibly four, pressing forwards. This is precisely what Man City did to Manchester United for their first goal in the derby.
Also, most teams routinely frequently engage in ‘fake pressing’. That is one player goes to close the defender but the others don’t; they rest. Doing this relies on creating doubt in defender’s minds after the initial heavy pressing.So you need to keep playing, wreck their rest.
Town used to do it regularly and it is draining for the opposition. It gradually break the will of the forward to keep chasing Nathan Thompson across the box. It won’t be popular, but it is one possible answer.
Ball circulation should be quicker. This is obvious, and there isn’t a team on earth which would not benefit from circulating the ball more swiftly. Modern football demands faster and faster rotation of the ball: Joachim Low, coach of Germany, believes that in 2005 at international football there was on average 2.8 seconds gap between controlling and passing the ball. That had dropped to below one second by 2010. Obviously in League One it isn’t that fast, but the point is valid.
Be more confident
So much of what Swindon needs depends on players who believe in themselves and the system. And, judging by what they say in public, the players still believe in what they are doing and in their coach. However, there is clearly some doubt in a few mind about their own form. Kasim was below his usual standard on Tuesday, as was Lloyd Jones. Also Luke Norris looks like a player counting the minutes since his last goal – under-hit linking passes, over-keen to hit shots from the edge of the 18-yard-box.
Injecting more belief into this group will be a key job of the manager, perhaps through training sessions, praise or just talking to a player.
It times of defeats many fans question a team’s fitness (frequently with little evidence) but some are shy of full match fitness by their own admission. Norris, Nathan Delfouneso and Sean Murray are all still struggling to be sharp enough to complete 90 minutes, especially with the lack of recovery time between games at the moment.
At the very start of the season, Town looked like they were trying to add a little pressure to their defensive game. It wasn’t meant to be a copy of Liverpool’s hard press, just closing a few options to restrict teams to set routes when passing. Since then, and with three very direct teams visiting the County Ground, that seems to have fallen away like a wet cake. That said even the best find it tough to press a team if they play long from a deep defence, or even goalkeeper.
And if a team are hoofing it, not only do you need to win the first or second ball, you need to control the space. That means you need to have a good shape, with a degree of depth. It doesn’t have to be the clichéd ‘two banks of four’ (that would limit Town’s ability to pass the ball) but it must not be the shapeless mess seen against Rovers.
Managers seem to have decided to attack Town early, try to get ahead and then sit deep and play on the counter after that. What is more, it is working.But how to counter it? For a team like Swindon defending deep could be disastrous – as it was against Bristol Rovers. Instead, Luke Williams needs to get the team passing, perhaps in safe areas, keeping the ball and taking the sting out of the game.
Be prepared to wait
This will be one of the hardest things for both Williams, and for the fans. At the moment, Town’s line-up keeps changing, largely through injury. The loss of Jamie Sendles-White has clearly caused huge problems, but then minor injuries to Murray, Brad Barry and Jones have further disrupted the side. A little stability, a little more of a chance for the central midfield to understand how to play together, could go a long way.
And while it is dangerous to put too much hope onto one player, the loss of Michael Doughty has been significant. It isn’t just depriving Town of a goal threat (two scored so far) but also his assists (four so far), his mobility, his reading of the game and his physicality. In a midfielder of specialists, Doughty is the only box-to-box man.
Lovely photo belongs to http://www.swindontownfc.co.uk