This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Birmingham City were trounced 3-0 by Swansea City in Sunday’s only Championship game.
The disappointing result came after Pep Clotet looked to have turned a corner with a change to the system against Barnsley, defeating them 2-0 last weekend, just a couple of days after losing to Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest.
In the last two matches, the Spaniard has elected for a 5-3-2 formation, allowing Lukas Jutkiewicz a partner up top, something we’d previously highlighted as a problem as he was too isolated all on his own.
But in doing so, he’s sacrificed some width, which seems rather strange considering he’s using wing-backs – and that’s got to change by either allowing them to attack or bringing wingers back into the equation.
On the chalkboard
The heatmap below shows the difference in how Swansea’s fullbacks operated compared to Birmingham’s wing-backs – the contrast is quite shocking.
Despite only playing in a back four, Jake Bidwell and Connor Roberts had over 100 more touches than Wes Harding and Steve Seddon, with their most intensive parts on the pitch being around the halfway line.
By comparison, Birmingham’s two had much smaller focal points that were way behind the middle of the pitch, suggesting they sat too deep, inviting the pressure on and ultimately welcoming the 3-0 whitewash.
In the Barnsley victory, the pair attacked much more frequently – more so with Harding, who had a greater patch in the opposition half – yet this evidently was lacking against Swansea.
It was clear to see that a change to two up top worked with the wing-backs being allowed to get up the pitch to supplement both Jutkiewicz and Alvaro Gimenez, but against Swansea, they sat back and simply fell apart.
The Welsh side might have overawed them with 73.8% possession on their own patch, but against Barnsley the Blues only managed 36.3% possession, yet won the game and had eight more shots, so that is no excuse for this weekend’s showing.
Based on the two matches, it would seem that width was perhaps the vital factor in the two contrasting results and will be a crucial component in getting results when deploying a five-at-the-back formation.