Paulo's discovery of attacking
We are delighted to publish below our first guest post from David Bevan, Head Honcho of the estimable new Football League website, The Seventy Two. It has been an enjoyable few weeks sharing ideas with David and we look forward to further fruitful cooperation. Here is David’s take on the early days of Sousa-ism at the Walkers.
We were promised boredom. Boredom and a nice line in swanky touchline attire. And while the suits and boots have been impressive enough, it is Paulo Sousa’s attacking outlook in his new job at the Walkers Stadium that has surprised fans of both Leicester City and his previous club Swansea.
The Swans were, for the most part, not a great spectacle last season. Under Sousa’s strict instructions, they kept the ball on the deck and retained possession well. That is where the admiration ended for many supporters. Few chances, far fewer goals, no top six finish and no place in the Premiership.
Things have apparently worked out pretty well for Swansea, after that dismal last-day failure to put a single goal past Doncaster at home, subsequently missing out on the play-offs. Their near-neighbours Cardiff are still in limbo despite a transfer embargo being lifted and new faces in the boardroom, while the team that ousted the Liberty Stadium outfit from the end-of-season party, Ian Holloway’s Blackpool, are having a miserable time of it even before the first ritual humiliation at the hands of Wigan or Stoke.
Of the other participants in the play-offs last May, Nottingham Forest have endured two defeats from their first two games and have been thus far unable to prise the very public transfer target Darren Pratley from the Swans – and then there is Leicester.
We played Swansea three times last season, twice coming back from a goal down to win 2-1 at home – once on the opening day in the league and once in the opening game of an FA Cup campaign that ended shortly after in South Wales at the hands of Cardiff – but failed to reply in the league clash in the Principality once Gorka Pintado put Sousa’s side ahead.
In addition, we faced a side managed by Sousa’s successor, Brendan Rodgers, last October when seeing off Reading by a single goal at the Madejski Stadium. In all four games, despite winning three of them, we were outplayed for large periods.
It’s a conundrum, for sure.
Sousa has started his first season in charge of Leicester in spectacular fashion with – in chronological order – concession of three fairly terrible goals, a snarling fightback that nearly snatched unlikely parity, a goal conceded, three goals scored, a goal conceded, a goal scored, a goal conceded and the showcasing of a rather nifty pink shirt while watching a reserve game against Oldham.
Two games, twelve goals and shredded nerves for Leicester fans.
Whether Sousa never trusted his Swansea players to attack or has transformed his philosophy over the summer – perhaps in defiant answer to a rather defensive World Cup – is not known. In Pratley, David Cotterill and Nathan Dyer, Swansea had the players to create more chances than they did, but they lacked a goalscorer up front and Sousa did not bring one in.
He has no need to at the Walkers Stadium. There are already plenty of goalscorers to pick from and the Portuguese has seemingly decided to try to pick as many as possible. So instead of the expected 4-5-1 formation, it has so far been a diamond 4-4-2 for Leicester with two very attack-minded wingers, Lloyd Dyer and Dany N’Guessan, preferred on the opening day at Crystal Palace. For the midweek League Cup win over Macclesfield, Dyer was replaced by the deep-lying forward Paul Gallagher.
The defence is wide open, the play has resembled a basketball game and, of what we were promised, only the short distribution from the back is present. The patient possession football in their own half that Swansea became renowned for has been sidelined under Sousa in his new job in favour of vibrant counter-attacks and quick interplay on the edge of the opponents’ box.
Under Rodgers, and having retained their key players, Swansea can again look forward to a play-off push. They might find a familiar face waiting towards the end of the season, but with an unfamiliar approach.