Garry Monk – Formation and tactical analysis after 7 games

As a self confessed fan of Brendan Rodger’s, Garry Monk has looked to implement not only similar intense training sessions, but he’s also reverted to the tactics of old, that served Brendan so well in SA1. During the first season in the Premiership, Brendan Rodgers revealed his 7 zones philosophy in an interview, of course the formation could be adapted to each opposition, but in essence the style of play and tactics remained the same. The purpose of the zones is to create over loads and triangles of play to essentially pass your way around or through the opponents.

The 7 zones

Zone 1 – The sweeper goalkeeper – The goalkeeper is comfortable with the ball at his feet and is able to play a short passing game as opposed to kicking the ball up the field constantly. He becomes an extra outfield player when in possession of the ball. You can often see the centre backs passing the ball back to the goalkeeper to alleviate pressure.

Zone 2 – The ‘libero’ – The centre backs are expected to dictate the play from the back and also relieve the midfield from pressure. Technical players are suited to this position – Ashley Williams can often be seen playing a long diagonal ball out to the right wing and carrying the ball out of defence to the half way line. Chico, also comfortable in possession, has been seen to bring the ball forward on many occasions.

Zone 3 – The ‘Pivot/controller’ – This player must be comfortable in possession and be able to read the game. Switching play from wing to wing or sitting in front of the defence to win the ball back when defending.

Zone 4 – The wing backs – the players work incredibly hard to attack in possession and defend when under pressure from the opposition. Linking up with the wingers to over lap and get a cross in from the by line.

Zone 5 – The box to box creative midfielders – the link from defence into attack. Rodger’s often deployed 2 box to box midfielders with one playing with the freedom to drift upfield behind the striker and the other playing in front of the ‘pivot’ and having defensive and attacking duties.

Zone 6 – The Wingers – Pacey, creative and flair players are needed for this zone.  Expected to hug the touchline and attack the defence when in possession of the ball. Needed to help out in defence when the opposition is attacking to help out the wing backs.

Zone 7 – The linking ‘target man/centre forward’ – Key attributes needed are when attacking the ability to play with back to goal and hold the ball up to bring the midfielders into play. A good first touch is also needed as they come under pressure straight away from the opposition defence. When the team is not in possession the forward must track back and help out defensively by closing down the defence.

Swansea 7 zones

Swansea 7 zones

Change in tactics

Garry Monk has seemingly taken on Brendan Rodger’s philosophy (albeit Brendan has made a lot of changes to the style of play and tactics as Liverpool are now more direct and the emphasis is now less on keeping the ball with no end product)and the team are in a transition period, currently adapting to the change in tactics from Laudrups.


A few tactical differences have been noted since Monk took over from Laudrup and it’s a return to Brendan Rodger’s ideas whilst he was at the Swans. Laudrup more often then not deployed two central midfielders in defensive positions and one attacking midfielder behind the striker whereas Monk has returned to the old Pivot(Britton), attacking midfielder  (Pablo) and inbetween the two the box to box midfielder (De guzman). De guzman has benefited from being allowed to get much further forward with freedom and has enjoyed goals from the Liverpool, Napoli and Crystal Palace game.

Inside forwards to Wingers

Also the changes to zone 6 – Swansea now play with wingers as opposed to inside forwards. Laudrup encouraged his inside forwards to come in field with the ball and it narrowed the team whereas Monk encourages the wingers to make the pitch as big as possible giving more room for the midfield and forward. Routledge and Dyer look much more comfortable in this style of play and are now playing with more freedom whilst being more disciplined sticking to their area of the pitch.


The difference in the use of Bony has also been huge. He is now involved more in the link up play with the midfield and draws one defender up field with him allowing the box to box midfielder or the attacking midfielder to drift in behind him into the space. A rotation we rarely saw under Laudrup (We saw this with the goals in Napoli and the Crystal Palace game). Bony has been more involved in defending and is constantly closing the defenders and goalkeeper down to put pressure on the opposition. This is part of the pressing game that Monk has reintroduced. Brendan’s ‘six second rule’ played a big part in Swansea’s first season in charge. The players now press the opposition as soon as they are in possession and tackles/fouls are being made much further up the pitch.

Bony deep Emnes rotation

Bony comes deep Emnes rotation vs Cardiff

The use of 2 defensive midfielders

Against Stoke Britton and Canas were deployed in defensive positions to combat Stoke and to pick up any loose balls pumped up to Crouch and co. The game ended 1-1. A creative box to box midfielder was sacrificed to become more defensive which meant the Swans were able to keep possession easily but evidently unable to break down the Stoke defence in the attacking third as there was a lack of creativity. In my opinion Canas isn’t good enough to play in Leon’s position and isn’t as creative to play in the box to box position. He does a job, but that’s it. He will constantly give you  average performances but the team needs more panache going forward.

This was seen in the draw with Crystal Palace. When Pablo went off injured, Monk went with 2 defensive midfielders. Although it initially worked with De guzman playing higher and scoring, it killed the Swans in the second half as it invited pressure on the defence and gave less options going forward allowing Palace to overload the defence with players.

midfield triangle vs Cardiff

midfield triangle vs Cardiff

Over the years the majority of the success has come with one defensive midfielder, one box to box and one attacking.

Year Pivot Box to boxMidfielder Attacking Midfielder
2009 Leon Allen/Gower Pratley
2010 Leon Allen Pratley/Dobbie
2011 Leon Allen/Gower Sigurdsson
2012 Leon De guzman Michu
2013 Leon De guzman Pablo/Shelvey

Allen, Gower, Pratley and De guzman were rarely asked to play soley defensively but had the ability to attack and defend, something Canas is unable to do as was Ki last year under Laudrup. The four previously mentioned would get foward and join in the attacking play as well as track back and form a solid wall in front of the defence with Leon.

In the remaining 10 matches I would be surprised to see Monk go with a defensive back two as it reduces the options when in attack but also Leon’s role changes and it’s crucial that he’s in the the centre of pitch dictating the play. I expect to see De guzman/ Shelvey taking the box to box role with one of Shelvey/Pablo/Michu/Emnes in the attacking creative role.

The players are taking on board Monk’s tactical changes but clearly the cup games (Europa League and to an extent FA cup) have taken their toll on the team, as in the second half the players made half the amount of passes they did in the first half against Palace. Now the players have time to recover during the international break and concentrate solely on the league. Some fans are already criticising Monk and comparing his position to Nick Cusacks when he took over in the old division three, which is absolutely ridiculous. As a team we are now taking the game to the opposition instead of waiting to counter attack.

Monk has 10 games to prove he can handle the job full time and I fully believe he will be the prime candidate come the end of the season. He would need an experienced number two to come in and be the bad cop (Like Graeme Jones under Martinez) but despite the recent results Swansea City is in good hands and as a squad we will benefit with no Europa League games next season.

I’ll be doing a statistical analysis of every Swans game until the end of the season. You can follow me on twitter @jon_inspire

Check out my analysis of the Swansea Cardiff game  here

6 thoughts on “Garry Monk – Formation and tactical analysis after 7 games

  1. Excellent analysis.

    • thank you ben, much appreciated. Will be interesting to see Ki come back next season too. Could fill that box to box role, although I’d like to see De guzman joining us permanently also.

  2. Enjoyed your analysis.
    Great stuff.

  3. Good analysis, just wanted to point out that on your zone chart you have the pivot in zone 4, and the wingbacks in 3. I think the reality is that those two zones are much more compact in real play. The pivot is constantly dropping through 3-4 when in defensive position and the same with the wingbacks.

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

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