While this website has made it’s name focusing on the lesser known youth of this beautiful sport, and combined it with a tinge of tactical flavour meant for the football enthusiast, we found a large gap to be exploited in terms of combining the two. This mini-series thus focuses on young managers (below the age of 45) and their tactical philosophies, deriving what got them here and where they could go. In this piece, George Stokes takes a look at what makes Garry Monk one of the most exciting young managers.
Garry Monk’s Swansea journey began back in 2004 where the team was playing in League Two, the fourth tier of English football. His first season saw the Welsh side get promoted and the rise to the Premier League followed. Playing under the likes of Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup, Monk played through times of possession based success and his own management style was only going to go one way. Having played during Swansea’s first major trophy under Laudrup, Monk witnessed how to bring success to a mid-table side, and this high-pressing, possession based game came be heavily seen in Monk’s Swansea side.
Garry Monk’s tactical philosophy is based on an attractive, possession style of play. This style during his time at Swansea then allows for one or even two players to bring their individualism to the team and create moments of magic. Look at this past season, where using Wilfried Bony, up until January, and Gylfi Sigurdsson as examples, we see players who were left by Monk to play their natural game and it proved so effective. This is a sharp contrast from the high press, hard-working Swansea sides Monk was part of in their rise to the Premier League, only beginning this period of attractive football under the leadership of now-Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.
This hasn’t been Monk’s only way of finding victory however, and the hard-working, physical nature of the Swansea sides he first played in under the likes of Kenny Jackett come out in force. Particularly away from home against the top sides, Monk’s side are set up as to use a different area of the pitch to counter attack on another side.
Attacking Organisation: Possession and movement feeding direct wingers
Much like De Boer, Monk’s tactical philosophy is very similar in attack. Keeping hold of possession and cautiously building from the back. With a three point midfield in a 4-3-3, the 3 often rotate around each other creating gaps and space to play passes out to the two wingers. In the course of this season, the two wingers were often Nathan Dyer and Jefferson Montero, both coming with bags of pace and directness in running at the opposing full-backs. The central midfield rotation usually evolves around having one man on his own, with the other two either in front or behind. For example, Ki often sits and has Sigurdsson and Shelvey deployed in front of him, or, Shelvey and Ki sit with Sigurdsson the lone man in front of them. By laying the ball off to the wingers, it often sets up a 1v1 situation, which with the pace and trickery of Swansea’s wingers, puts them on the front foot in attack. The best example of this came in Swansea’s home game against Arsenal earlier on this season, where the ball was given to Jefferson Montero on the left wing at every opportunity as he tore the defence apart.
Images taken from: Swansea.VitalFootball.co.uk
Defensive Organisation: Deep lying midfield
This area of Monk’s tactics have been more evident in away games, doing the double this season over both Arsenal and Manchester United by soaking up pressure and then using the counter attack. In these games, and many others, Swansea shifted from a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, to a flat 4-4-2, bringing the wingers back and leaving the striker and one of the central midfielders, usually Sigurdsson, moved up front playing off the main striker in Bony/Gomis. This made two flat banks of four with the two central midfielders dropping just behind the line of the two wingers, which left very few gaps in front and behind the midfield to penetrate and get 1v1 against any defenders. This style often forces teams to play out wide, which has proved not to work too well as Swansea’s defence of Williams, Amat, Rangel and Taylor are all competent at coping with crosses.
Their other defensive tactic reverts to a 4-1-4-1, where one of the central midfielders drops in behind the rest and the supporting striker drops back into central midfield. This was also seen in the same Manchester United game where Jonjo Shelvey dropped in behind when United had possession in the Swansea half. This killed all space in behind the midfield and forced United to keep possession of the ball, but too far from the Swansea goal to pose a threat.
Career Defining Games
The opening day of the 2014/15 season laid a real marker down for Swansea and their season. Defeating Manchester United at Old Trafford on the opening day was a great achievement. They were dominated in all the statistical areas of the pitch, with shots and possession all going against them, but the away tactics shown above in that exact game allowed them to hit United on the counter attack and secure a famous win.
Then came the third from last game of the season away at Arsenal which secured their league double over the Gunners. Even less possession and even less shots still resulted in a 1-0 Swansea win. Similar set-ups in their own half soaked up a lot of Arsenal pressure, but with Fabianski playing the best game of the season and the counter attack from Jefferson Montero which saw Gomis head home showed how effective Monk’s tactics were, particularly away from home against the top sides.
Jefferson Montero – Coming in after a strong World Cup, Montero was still relatively unknown, especially in England. Monk’s counter attacking set-up played exactly to Montero’s strengths of direct attacking wing play, putting crosses into the box for whichever striker was there. His performances in both games against Arsenal caused Callum Chambers and Hector Bellerin all sorts of problems down the left hand side, ultimately assisting both winning goals in the games against them.
Wilfried Bony – Before his January move to Manchester City for £30million+, Monk transformed Bony into one of the league’s most lethal finishers. Another player blessed with speed and strength, the Ivorian was more than often deployed up front alone and it brought the best out of him. Scoring 9 in 19 before his move, he was Swansea’s best forward and provided all the fire power which saw them in the top half of the table.
- Tactical Philosophy: Garry Monk - July 9, 2015
- U21 European Championship 2015: Team of the Tournament - July 6, 2015
- Scout Report | James Ward-Prowse: Southampton & England’s young midfielder - November 17, 2014