Football in South West Wales is in a fragile place right now. One win in ten games means knives are being, if not sharpened, then pulled out of the knife block that rests on the kitchen side. Despite an encouraging yet blunt performance away at Anfield, Garry Monk remains under a tremendous amount of pressure. With Leicester City and in-form striker Jamie Vardy visiting the Liberty Stadium on Saturday, the light at the end of this poor-form tunnel has the potentially to grow even dimmer.
Come three o’clock Saturday afternoon, Swansea’s back four will come up against Jamie Vardy, current Premier League top scorer and a seemingly unstoppable force. Having scored thirteen goals in his last eleven games, Vardy is undoubtedly on an incredible run of form, and will be the central focus of Saturday’s game. If Leicester are to be vanquished, then Swansea will have to devise a strategy for stopping their main man.
Looking at Vardy’s eleven game run of scoring, there is a significant pattern. He is a striker that enjoys running at defences, and having considerable time to think about placing his shot. Compare him to Bafetimbi Gomis, who has shown a significant lack of composure when faced with a clear cut chance in recent weeks (specifically against Arsenal). Eight of his goals in this run have come from being played through by a teammate, and being allowed to run at the goalkeeper before slotting home. If Swansea commit too many men forward, they will be vulnerable to Vardy using his pace to get behind Ashley Williams & co. and hurtling towards Fabianski’s goal.
In particular, there is considerable risk in throwing full-backs forward, as is the tendency in Swansea’s system. Neil Taylor, Angel Rangel and Kyle Naughton enjoy joining the attack and crossing from deep, but will have to be careful on Saturday. Having been used largely out wide under Nigel Pearson, Vardy is more than comfortable drifting out wide to find space and is often found hovering in the channel between the full-back and centre-back waiting for a through ball. While Swansea will want to control the game in front of their home supporters, they will need to be wary of committing their full-backs forward in search of goals.
A further three of Jamie Vardy’s impressive goal haul have been converted from the penalty spot. Some have used this statistic to lessen the feat of Vardy’s scoring run, however it is telling that all three penalties were won by Vardy himself. His ability to take on defenders and draw fouls has earned his side vital points so far this season. A key factor in stopping Jamie Vardy from scoring this weekend will be in closing him down quickly before he can start to gain momentum. Ashley Williams is known to enjoy a physical battle, and if he can get up close to Vardy and prevent him from working up a head of steam, Swansea will be part way to minimising his threat.
Swansea are in desperate need of some result on Saturday. A visit to the Etihad follows this fixture, and if Swansea are to end their slump, they need a morale-boosting performance and result at home to Leicester. While Jamie Vardy is far from Leicester’s only goal threat, he is clearly their main man, and if they are to gain any form of confidence from Saturday, he will need to be stopped.