Garry Monks Tactics Vs Cardiff City

Garry Monk has had the benefit of being educated by several different types of manager  – all of whom he can take advice from – Kenny Jackett’s steely determination and organisation, Roberto Martinez’s attacking and forward thinking set up, Paulo Sousa’s defensive organisation and finally an amalgamation of the lot – Brendan Rodger’s inclusive of hard work, belief and brave ‘tiki taka’ style. Not forgetting the calmness of the outgoing manager Michael Laudrup to throw into the mix.

The 3-0 win over arch rivals Cardiff City saw a tweak in tactics which were clearly influenced by Garry Monk’s time at the club. He is clearly a student of the game and has the benefit of knowing the club inside and out and as club captain his job was to also know every single player that came through the door. It’s not a coincidence that as of late he has been training some of the youth teams and has been doing his coaching badges. I mentioned to friends at the start of the season that I thought the club were creating a ‘Liverpool’ boot room kind of dynasty and that once Laudrup left, Monk would become the number two to Morten Wieghorst…well he jumped straight into the hot seat and is now the head coach at the club.

As an avid Swansea fan (supporter since 1997) I’ve watched pretty much every single game we’ve played over the past 6 years and have seen an evolution of tactics or what maybe a devolution in tactics and values in Laudrup’s final 6 months in charge. We’ve not looked full of confidence like we did under Rodger’s in the premiership or even under Laudrup last season. This season we’ve allowed teams to dictate the pace of play, sat back and waited. It seemed that Rodgers’ view of pressing to retrieve the ball within 6 seconds had been scrapped. Along with this, we became more of a counter attacking team, but instead of having a go at the full back or sharp passing in and around the centre to the wings, we became sluggish, complacent, lost the cohesion of the team and lacked imagination. The 3-0 win over Cardiff could be a catalyst for the the rest of the season as, In my opinion, it was the performance of the season, not just because it was against Cardiff, but because it was a real Swansea performance, we played ‘the Swansea way’. The team seemed to have their mojo back!

It’s only one match, so Swansea fans musn’t get too carried away with the performance, but there were things I noticed yesterday which we hadn’t been doing for a long time and I’ve compared the performance to similar teams played and scorelines.

I’d like to point out that the following statistical analysis is showing the best of what Swansea did against Cardiff and the difference between the tactics of Gary Monk and Michael Laudrup. I’m not saying that Swansea never did certain things under Laudrup but Monks tactics are clear, defined and are ‘the best bits’,if you like, of the managers he’s previously worked under. As the season goes on I will compare the games and see if the trends remain the same. You can’t judge the season on one game but I wanted to show the tactical differences and where I see Monk changing the team for the better.

Also, as a Swansea fan, we should never forget what Michael Laudrup did for us in bringing us our first trophy in the centenary year and best placed position in recent history. He’ll be a legend at the club and it’s sad how it came to an end but we must draw a line under it and get behind Garry Monk.

First of all, I want to look at the different positioning of the players, In particular Wilfred Bony and Leon Britton.

Wilfred Bony – now as of late, amongst friends I’ve taken stick for not being a fan of Bony. Since the Man City match he has made a massive improvement and of course has scored 17 goals including Saturdays goal…but I have not been happy with the way he’s played, I didn’t believe that he helped out the team defensively, was always sticking to one spot and didn’t help the team. His goals seemed to mask the rest of his game…yesterday was a different story…he was absolutely magnificent in terms of his work rate and his defensive duties, he rotated with Emnes in the first half and came out to the left wing to help the attack and hurried the player on the ball by pressing quicker. I believe it’s no coincidence that we came away with a clean sheet yesterday. As the old saying goes, ‘defend from the front’.

See below the difference between the Stoke 3-3 draw at home and the 3-0 clean sheet win over Cardiff

Bony heat map vs Stoke

Bony heat map vs Stoke

Bony heat map vs Cardiff

Bony heat map vs Cardiff

Comparing the two heat maps two things are noticeable. 1. The effort that he put in as the heat map is stronger vs Cardiff City and also his movement in the penalty box and out to the left wing. In the past, our strikers have always come out to the wings to do a quick one – two with the winger which meant the winger would be in behind the defence and could cross the ball for either the striker or incoming midfielder to score. (see crosses)

Leon Britton

leon britton heat map vs cardiff

Leon Britton heat map vs Cardiff

leon britton heat map vs spurs

Leon Britton heat map vs Spurs

leon britton heat map vs stoke

Leon Britton heat map vs Stoke

The heat maps of the games against Stoke, Spurs and Cardiff couldn’t be more different. Leon’s role appears to have been altered some what. The heat maps show that against Cardiff he played the pivot role just in front of the defence and was central figure in the game. Laudrup didn’t seem to be keen on Leon too much as of late, but he will be a key figure under Monk no doubt. Britton is key to the passing style and he dictated the play and organised the midfield defensively against Cardiff. Along with De guzman (later Canas) and Emnes (2nd half Hernadez) he formed a midfield triangle that kept the shape the entire game and remained disciplined throughout. (see screen shots of match at the bottom of the article).


Laudrup preferred to play inside forwards which was frustrating as it meant that very often we would get down the wing only to cut the ball back with no end product in terms of a dangerous drilled cross or it would often slow the tempo and build up down. Monk seemed to revert to Brendan Rodger’s style with wingers which was to hug the touchlines and then drive at the defence using skill, pace and over laps with the wing backs looking to get in behind the opposition full back and deliver a dangerous cross into the 6 yard box.

cardiff crosses

Crosses vs Cardiff

Crosses vs Spurs

Crosses vs Spurs

A quick look at the crosses is interesting in terms of a) where the crosses originated from and b) the area where they were aimed at.

Swansea delivered more crosses in from around the penalty area and used the 6 yard box as the target zone be it a drilled ball or a floated cross. In the first half Nathan Dyer played a superb drilled cross just in front of the keeper in the 6 yard box (see screen shots of match at bottom of article) and all it needed was a touch to go in, Bony was on the penalty spot and Emnes was just outside the 6 yard area. It was a sign of things to come as this was exactly where all the balls were played and resulted in the goals from Dyer and Bony.

Nathan Dyer

The home game against Cardiff was a more disciplined performance by Dyer, you can see that he wandered in field less and stayed out towards the wings further up the pitch to exploit the gap in behind the Full back.

Dyer heat map vs Cardiff Feb 2014

Dyer heat map vs Cardiff Feb 2014

Dyer heatmap vs Cardiff Nov 2013

Dyer heatmap vs Cardiff Nov 2013

Wayne Routledge

Routledge too gave a more disciplined performance and didn’t venture too often infield, instead trying to exploit that area around the penalty area.

Routledge heat map vs Cardiff Feb 2014

Routledge heat map vs Cardiff Feb 2014

routledge heatmap cardiff nov

Routledge heatmap vs Cardiff Nov 2013

Pressing and tackling higher up the field

Brendan Rodger’s philosophy was very much the same as Pep Guardiola which is ‘death by football’. If you control the game and have the ball the opposition can do little to defeat you. If you lose the ball back you have to press high and make tackles to retrieve the ball as quickly as possible (6 second rule).

Below are the tackles made successfully and unsuccessfully in the Tottenham match at home and the Cardiff match

Pressing vs Cardiff

Pressing vs Cardiff

Pressing vs Spurs

Pressing vs Spurs

Monk’s tactics appear to be tackle as quickly as possible and press as high up the field as possible. It’s quite interesting how the in the Spurs match 12 tackles were made in and close to the penalty area whereas against Cardiff one was made in the same position with the 14 being made in Cardiff’s half as opposed to 7 in the Spurs match.

Set pieces

As a Swansea fan I’m always somewhat nervous when the opposition get a set piece against us and not so confident when we have a free kick or corner. Clearly this is something that Garry Monk worked on during the week as we saw something we hadn’t seen for a long time. For a start, we went with in swinging balls from the right hand side as opposed to the out swinger by De Guzman. Ben Davies put a cross into the danger area with a group of players who were all in the 6 yard box (see image below and screen shots at the end of article). This was refreshing to see as so often we hear the groan of the crowd as the ball is normally cleared instantly with no imagination or mixing the corners up.

The free kick that Pablo invitingly delivered was also aimed into the same 6 yard area and Bony was on hand to powerfully header the ball into the net. Again, this is something we’ve lacked thus far. I’ve seen images of how thorough Brendan Rodger’s was with his set pieces and it seems Monk has picked up a few handy tips.

Corners vs Cardiff

Corners vs Cardiff

Team effort

Most interestingly of all is the stark contrast between the work ethic and heat maps of Laudrup’s last game in charge and Monk’s first. There have been rumours of the board being unhappy with the laid-back attitude of the Dane and murmurs of discontent amongst some of the playing staff who felt they weren’t in the top physical condition that maybe they should be (not something we’ve heard about since the Paolo Sousa days). The two heat maps are quite astonishing. Garry Monk spoke about how he designed the training sessions leading up to the Cardiff game to be intense, short and sharp and he returned to the drills that were used under Martinez and Rodgers. This could well have raised the fitness levels slightly. We have to credit Ashley Williams for a captains display and he led by example from the first whistle. You could see what it meant to him and the players after Swansea had scored and he ran to the touchline to celebrate with Garry Monk.

Cardiff home team heatmap

Cardiff home team heatmap

West Ham away heat map

West Ham game heatmap

I want to reiterate that I’m not saying that Laudrup didn’t do any of the above, because he did, but maybe the return to the tactics of Martinez and Rodgers with tweaks in tactics to control the game rather than simply counter attack proved the deciding factor.

Monk has a clear idea about how he wants the game to be played and has been lucky enough to have been a scholar under Martinez and Rodgers. Of course the 3-0 win over Cardiff was his first game (this could explain the work ethic and team cohesion) and he should be judged over the rest of the season, but if Monk continues with the same tactics by taking the best parts of what he learnt under Roberto and Brendan then Swansea could potentially have another gem on their hands.

I’ll be continuing the analysis of Monks tactics game by game to see if there is a trend, if you’ve spotted something I’ve missed then let me know. See below for screen shots of the game and a few other things I noticed from the game.

Screen shots of the game

The 3 in central midfield maintained the same triangular shape during the match with Britton playing the pivot and dictating play whilst protecting the back four, De Guzman playing in front to the right of him and Emnes given license to roam and rotate with Bony and the wingers.

britton pivot control from deepbritton pivot

2 midfield triangle3 midfield triangle

4 midfield triangle5 midfield triangle 6 midfield triangle

Bonys work rate

He played a lot deeper, coming in short for balls and working hard for the team when the ball was in both halves of the field. The forwards pressed the central defenders and hurried them into kicking the ball long. Something Swansea didn’t do under Laudrup.

bony defensivebony pressingbony pressing2

Bony and Emnes rotation

In the first half Bony and Emnes were changing positions. By Bony coming in to receive the ball, he took the central defender with him opening up the space for Emnes to run into. The same continued when Pablo came on in the second half. As shown above, when the Cardiff City defence had the ball we became a 442 with the front two pressing the centre backs, but when the ball was in the Swansea half of the field Emnes/Pablo would drop back turning it into a 4411.

bony deep emnes rotationbony deep emnes rotation2

Set pieces

We flooded the 6 yard area with our players and the ball was whipped in from the corners using in swingers to test the keeper.


bony goal2

Dyer – attacking the full back – using wingers we tried to get balls in behind the full backs and between the centre back, here is an example of Dyer drilling ball across the box in the first half. The same type of through ball by Hernandez to Routledge led to the opening goal

dyer behind defence

dyer in behind defence 4 in box

dyers ball no connection

dyers ball other angle

You can follow me on twitter @jon_inspire

Check out for stats

4 thoughts on “Garry Monks Tactics Vs Cardiff City

  1. I don’t have statistics, but Williams looked to me like a different guy. More confident and more like old times. The defense has been running around like headless chickens this season…

  2. Pingback: The Dugout | Garry Monk – Formation and tactical analysis after 7 games

  3. Pingback: The Dugout | A statistical analysis of Swansea City’s tactics under Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup

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