How Carlos Carvalhal Has Resurrected Swansea City in Fight Against Relegation

Carlos Carvalhal hasn't made sweeping changes, but the minor ones have made all the difference in breathing new life into Swansea's survival hopes.
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Carlos Carvalhal has come into Swansea and quickly flipped the Liberty Stadium's fortunes upside down. On Christmas Day, it looked as though the South Wales outfit's time in the Premier League had come to a close; however, now, less than two months later, Swansea sits in 16th having beaten the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal, and hasn't lost a single game in their last nine matches in all competitions.

From the outside looking in, you must be thinking the Portuguese boss has arrived, completely changed the tactics, changed the players, and somehow made it work. However, he hasn't - which is quite possibly the strangest part about all of this.

Don't get confused, he has made tweaks - but that's all they've been, tweaks.

The back five that Paul Clement had installed all season has remained the same, and his formation in general has more or less been the same as his predecessor's (apart from a few changes made throughout games, and alterations due to injury).

There have been three general tactical changes in particular to make note of, and three key player roles that have been altered that have made the worst team in the league become one of the most in form in the whole of England. 

Let's start with the tactical switches...

One qualm that Swans fans have had with the club is the disappearance of 'the Swansea way'. This time last year, under Clement, it seemed to re-emerge. However, it was still clear that Gylfi Sigurdsson was the diamond in the rough, and everything had to flow through him for success - which isn't really what Roberto Martinez installed into the club at the very start.

Carvalhal has brought it back. He's made a massive point of not wanting one star player - instead, a unit of quality players. Before his arrival everyone would've laughed in his face. However, he's brought in confidence, got the players ticking - somehow - and it's clear to see on the pitch. Everyone pulling together in the same direction has made the actual football interesting to watch. 

Ball on the deck, pass and move - all that simple yet effective stuff that your wannabe niche Sunday League manager is desperate to see. Get it, give it, move for your teammate. If anything, it's made watching the Swans more frustrating to watch as they try to pass it into the net - but better to have that than under the cosh for 90 minutes, right?

Unpredictability, this is massive. The pre-Carvalhal era saw one thing happen; get a man out wide, blindly cross the ball into Tammy Abraham or Wilfried Bony, or, God forbid, Jordan Ayew. It was that reason exactly as to why goals were in extremely short supply... it didn't work.

As part of this renewed attacking philosophy that 'King Carlos' has brought, the midfield are much more involved with attacks, moving forward and playing intricate passes between the lines of play. They're still known to get wide, and Martin Olsson and Kyle Naughton still have quite a role to play - but the point is that the wide option is less predictable. Teams aren't sure how to defend against Swansea; whether to cover wide, or fill the middle - and it catches them off guard.

The final tactical switch that Carlos has brought is possibly the most integral to the club's success; and is visible through three players that he has heavily relied on during his short tenure: fluidity.

Alfie Mawson - the false center back. In attack, the five at the back often becomes two - with the wingbacks and Mawson charging forward. The Englishman is more than happy to pick up the ball and run with it - which immediately pulls markers away from their player in that unexpected charge; creating more room and adding a player advantage to the Swans.

We've seen Mike van der Hoorn do the same, and quite honestly, it's made a massive difference. The defenders aren't afraid to spray a forty yard pass either, which has been great at catching teams on the counter.

Sam Clucas had a poor start to life in South Wales, but Carvalhal has rejuvenated him. He seems part of a midfield trio, but essentially makes the left wing his own. As Mawson comes up, Clucas is given free reign over that flank, and drives forward - starting wide and finishing narrow. A perfect example of this fluidity was against Arsenal. Clucas' first goal came from Mawson remaining high up the pitch, winning possession, and rolling the ginger Michael Ballack into the box - and of course, Clucas scored.

The remaining two goals against Arsenal are also exemplary of this fluidity - including our third role change in Jordan Ayew. Without a No. 10, Ayew seems to fill that void while still operating as a number nine. He has a tonne of gas in the tank and somehow managed to run and run and run all game long.

Against Arsenal, his goal was a result of pure hard work - chasing down the throw-in, before Petr Cech's absolute howler; that pressure allowing him a massive goal that turned the game on its head. Clucas' second - another result of his wide to narrow running in the final third - was all from Ayew's hard work in winning the ball back. The Ghanaian went on to doing that thing he does where he somehow beats the entire world before crossing into Clucas (who at this point is at the front post).

When you're rocking up every game, it's quite easy to see, but from the outside; people don't see the progression that Carvalhal has made. It is pure testament to his attacking nature, and the former Sheffield Wednesday manager has managed to build on the defensive prowess that Clement offered, and spin a more attacking vibe into the team; and it's working wonders.