Swansea City 3 Nottingham Forest 1: A tactical perspective

Two fine individual goals for Swansea gave them the advantage before Forest put together a strong second half performance, writes Tangerine Dreaming. However, they could only pull one goal back before the game was finished off in the 93rd minute.

Line ups


Interesting approaches at the Liberty Stadium. Swansea set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with a clear split between the defensive six and attacking four players. Billy Davies knew that Brendan Rodgers’ formation would give him problems if he set up in a flat 4-4-2 and therefore made some adjustments to counter the threat. He fielded Guy Moussi as a holding midfielder and shaped his midfield in to a rough diamond.

The use of Moussi was clearly meant to counter the roving threat of Stephen Dobbie with Cohen and McGugan being asked to sit narrow out of possession and moving wider as Forest attacked (with McGugan in particular getting the widest out of the two). The positioning of McGoldrick at the tip of the diamond saw him getting very high up the pitch and becoming more of a third striker at times. However, against the backdrop of the two Swansea holding midfielders he lacked the movement to escape their attentions.

Game plans

Rodgers looked for his side to build possession in the deep and strike quickly down the flanks hoping to get Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair in behind the Forest back line.

Forest, on the other hand, were more direct in their approach, firstly with balls from back to front and by trying to hit Swansea on the counter attack. Billy Davies’ selection of his four main attackers hinted at this given that they all are quick players.

Even affair

The first 20 minutes were relatively even as both teams had promising moments, especially Forest as the aforementioned threat of a counter attack almost panned out as McGoldrick hit the bar after a searing Nathan Tyson run. However, Swansea adjusted well after that and Joe Allen appeared to sit a little deeper than Leon Britton to temper that threat. It was around this time that Swansea’s shape started to show a clear distinction between defence and attack and at times Stephen Dobbie and the attacking unit became a little detached from the rest of the team.

Hold on

Guy Moussi was in the side to hold his position at the base of the midfield diamond, however, his positioning was inconsistent at times and he settled in to the game in a rather inconsistent fashion, giving passes away before making some decent tackles to break up play.

However, as Swansea scored their second goal he allowed Dobbie to get goal side of him and with that compromise his role in the Forest set up. At the point of the second goal, Forest were still in the game but that moment gave Swansea a level of control and they looked relatively composed for the rest of the half.

Pressing matters

As the second half commenced Forest pressed Swansea much higher up the pitch and were intent on stopping them playing the ball out from the back. A particular point of note is how the forward pair worked hard to deny Dorus de Vries the simple pass to his full backs or centre backs.

This resulted in the longer balls being won by the Forest centre back duo and allowed Forest to gain a little more control than they had in the first half. However, for the territorial gains that Forest started to make through direct balls which pushed Swansea deeper, they failed to have any passing quality in the final third.

Sleight of hand

The problem that Forest had for the majority of the game is that they appeared to lack the ability to unlock a very disciplined and well organised defence. Playing direct and looking to pick up on the second balls was a basic approach, but presents a team with a problem. If your direct approach hasn’t broken the defensive line then you need something else to do so. In introducing Raddy Majewski, Billy Davies ensured that his side retained possession better but also gave them someone who would try to play through balls and get the Swansea defence turning around.

However, until Robert Earnshaw came on, the Forest forward line lacked the courage or adventure to effectively play on the shoulder of the defenders. Earnshaw’s ability to slip between the left back and left-sided centre back in combination with insightful passes from Majewski caused Swansea problems and it was the combination that saw Forest pull a goal back.

Stunted by Gunter

One point of interest was the role of the Chris Gunter. Early on he appeared to be under instruction to close Dyer down as soon as the ball came to him with the intention of stopping Dyer turning and running at him. To be fair Gunter carried out his duties very well and he started to break in to midfield as the game progressed.

This appeared to be something that concerned Rodgers and Britton appeared to be instructed to play a little wider to patrol and track Gunter’s forward runs. In the context of the game it may have had little overall impact, but arguably Billy Davies won this small battle from a defensive aspect.

Wembley bound

Swansea won this game of two contrasting teams, but Forest will rue the fact that a couple of individual lapses gave chances to Swansea. However, in truth the opening two goals were still finished off with aplomb and arguably Swansea had the great quality across the pitch on the night. With the system that Swansea play and their possession game, then they should be marginal favourites against either Cardiff or Reading.

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.


  1. Husky Red
    May 17, 2011

    Great article. One thing you didn’t mention is that until bringing Boyd on Forest lacked an outlet up front that could provide a physicL challenge to the swans back line. Boyd/Earnshaw was the combination that looked to turn the tie but simply ran out of time.

    You are right about moussi. As well as letting dobbie get goal side he also failed to properly track the run of Sinclair when assigned to mark him for the set piece which led to the other goal.

    A final point of note was the great work of Brendan Maloney, a young full back with only a handful of starts this season. He successfully kept Sinclair out of the game.

    So near and yet so far.

    • theseventytwo
      May 17, 2011

      You’re right to highlight Moloney – I thought he was excellent in both legs and couldn’t have done any more over the two legs to snuff out the considerable threat posed by Sinclair.

      Moussi had a shocker in the first half, frequently giving the ball away and committing silly fouls. I thought he was the right man to play that role but perhaps more inconsistent than I realised.

      I think Davies got it right by playing Tyson from the start but I also think one of Boyd/Earnshaw could have been on from the start in place of Tudgay. The problem I suppose is that neither of them are known for their hard work when the opposition have the ball, so they didn’t fit in the overall plan to press Swansea from the front. Against tiring legs when Forest were in control towards the end of the game, Boyd and Earnshaw both looked more effective than they might have earlier been, but that’s pure conjecture.

      When it comes down to it, if one or two of those shots that hit the woodwork had gone in, we may have been sitting here talking about Billy Davies: tactical genius. So near and yet so far sums it up well.

      • Mistrollingin
        May 17, 2011

        Earnshaw and Boyd played together in the first leg though and Earnshaw in particular offered little that night. I don’t think that the way Davies chops and changes his forward line helps the strikers but we definitely need to look at bringing in a new option there next season – Boyd is too expensive for the Championship, Earnshaw, Tyson and Adebola out of contract and probably not warranting new ones.
        Moussi has a tendency to take time to settle, especially when he has missed a game or two, which he is prone to do as he has been injured a lot since he signed for us, He has been linked to Everton recently but realistically he is not a Premier League player. If he could get a full season in then he may push on.
        Moloney is a tricky one as he is a year older than Gunter but obviously a lot less experienced. Gunter rarely misses a game so his chances have been limited. He has played since Konchesky’s loan finished but that has meant playing Gunter on the left, which destroys his attacking threat. Two decent right backs but no left back, that latter needs resolving once and for all this summer.

  2. Still got that loving feeling: Swansea City 3 – 1 Nottingham Forest | eighteensixtyfive
    May 17, 2011

    […] given the occasional criticisms of Billy Davies’ tactics, well he did have a Plan B. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite have the desired effect, partly […]


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