ESPN Soccernet - Correspondents - Swansea City
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Swansea City
Posted by Max Hicks on 12/04/2011

In a frustrating game which Swansea had no place losing, Blackburn might have given the Swans a few ideas for their Christmas list to Santa. Top of the list, a centre back like Chris Samba.

Samba was a giant in this game, both physically and figuratively, routinely blocking shots and disrupting Swansea's attacking moves at one end, and making a nuisance of himself at set pieces at the other, his virtually uncontested header across the goal setting up Yakubu's third.

Swansea's own centre backs had a game to forget; after Yakubu had already signalled his threat by scoring Blackburn's first, the Swans defence left him open and unmarked not once but twice on near identical corner kick situations. Needless to say, Yakubu took full advantage and scored both (where did this kind of finishing go, Yakubu? Couldn't you have given us a little of that instead?). Michel Vorm, left stranded on both occasions, was clearly and rightful incensed at his inexplicably impotent defence. Vorm might be the best keeper to ever wear a Swans shirt, but until he learns the art of teleportation, the Swans defence is going to have to do their part, too. They usually do, which makes an off-day against a beatable, struggling side all the harder to take.

If the Swans defence of corners was deplorable, their use of corners at the other end of the pitch has not been much better. I say "has not been" because it has been a trend since pretty much the start of the season. Swansea have rarely posed any real threat from corner kick situations, despite Mark Gower's dead ball delivery skills. This is, needless to say, inevitable when you sport the shortest squad in the league. Swansea often get compared to Barcelona, another side short on inside leg measurements, and Swansea could learn a lesson from their approach; Barcelona routinely eschew the tradition of "sticking it in the mixer", preferring instead to play their corners short and build a quick attack on the ground. Swansea tried this eventually against Blackburn, and instantly created some genuine danger. Perhaps they can learn the lesson and play the short corner a bit more often, especially against sides with forty foot tall centre backs.

Speaking of genuine danger Leroy Lita looked sharp and took his goal well, ironically a header, the method by which he has scored both his goals this term. Later on, Luke Moore came on as a sub and showed he can walk his midweek talk by scoring a tasty half volley following a great cross shot from Routledge which Robinson could only punch to the Swans sub. Both Swansea's goals came from quick, incisive passing, and there's that word - incisive - top of the hack sports commentators list when discussing Swansea.

We've all heard the knocks on Swansea - "possession's all well and good, but...". If we're really being honest, these criticisms are easy to make mostly because they're true. There is no doubt the Swans play the game the right way, but their work in attack does need to be more "incisive". A lot of Swans fans balk at these criticisms, fearing that the implied alternative is to hark back to the days of direct football, and nobody wants to see the Swans abandon their identity to become another gritty, ugly, Premier League scrapper. But they don't need to do that.

What they do need to do is find another gear in the attacking third. Lots of possession and careful build up over the rest of the pitch, but as soon as they hit that final third, they need to be looking for one or two quick passes and then a shot. Taking too much time over it only allows the opposition to gather men behind the ball; the sheer number of blocked shots the Swans rack up is testimony to that fact. For example, the Swans managed ten shots against Manchester United, but five were blocked.

Against Blackburn, Swansea's most trigger happy shooter Scott Sinclair was hungry for a goal, firing six shots. Alas, only one was on target, and actually forced a fantastic save from Paul Robinson. I've defended Scott's shooting on this blog before, and as much as I can appreciate he tries to aim for the corners, in a game like this, with sheets of rain, it might have been better for him to power a few low, hard shots straight down the middle; keepers are prone to spill balls in the wet, and shots like that can go anywhere, even in the net.

Ultimately, Swansea hurt themselves in this game. Three of Blackburn's goals could and should have been defended. The two corners, as discussed, were an aberration. And finally, Neil Taylor's conceded penalty provided the killing blow. Taylor's rash challenge was a clear penalty, so there's no blaming the officials. However, it came minutes after Joe Allen had been dismissed on a second yellow for practically nothing at all. The Swans were applying good pressure at the time whilst trailing by a single goal, with Rodger's aggressive substitution tactics in bringing striker Moore on for midfielder Gower paying dividends. Allen's dismissal with ten minutes to play turned an inspired rally into forced capitulation, and Taylor's frustration was a sentiment shared by all Swans fans. It's just a shame his frustration couldn't have been vented outside the penalty area.

Hopefully, there'll be a tall centre back or two on Rodger's Christmas shopping list, but sad to say probably not Chris Samba.

Positives : Loads of possession. Second string strikers scoring (say that seven times fast). Jazz Richards, who did well following an early blip.

Negatives : Awful set-piece defending. Collective Yakubu-shaped blind spot. Laughable red card decision.

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