Bradley, Swansea need to be brave and attack Tottenham

Swansea will travel to Spurs this Saturday for a match which will beg a difficult question of Bob Bradley -- how to play defensively with a team that can't defend? Swansea should be on a high following last Saturday's shootout against Crystal Palace which saw the Welsh club prevail 5-4, scoring a long overdue glut of goals in the process. However, for all the offensive prowess on display, the Swansea defence was awful.

Bradley has rotated his central defensive pairing, switching back and forth between veteran duo Jordi Amat and Federico Fernandez for some games, and newcomers Mike van der Hoorn and Alfie Mawson for others. Amat and Fernandez were on the field last Saturday having been rewarded for their part in the preceding 1-1 draw against Everton. Based on what happened against Palace, Bradley should look to change again, but perhaps he should shuffle the pairings this time. Van der Hoorn is Swansea's best aerial defender, and if the club do not want to rush promising rookie Mawson, perhaps Amat could line-up next to the Dutchman instead.

Then again, maybe it doesn't matter. None of Swansea's central defenders have looked consistent or assertive as the club struggles to cope with life after Ashley Williams. In fact, it could be that Bradley's best form of defence lies in attack.

Spurs have drawn six of their 13 games this season, and are averaging only 1.5 goals-per-game. Although Tottenham clearly has plenty of attacking talent, so far that talent has yet to produce the kind of free scoring displays the other top sides (bar Manchester United) have enjoyed.

Given Swansea's defensive frailties, the likes of Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen are no doubt licking their lips (and polishing their shooting boots) ahead of Saturday's encounter. It makes little sense then for Swansea to set-up to defend, which everyone knows they can't do, and allow Spurs to run up a rugby score.

If Swansea attack, Spurs will still get plenty of scoring chances, but maybe so will Swansea. Although Tottenham are a far better side than Palace, last week proved Swansea can be a good attacking side when they are forced to play on the front foot.

Key to last week's attack was the substitution of Wayne Routledge on the 66th minute for striker Fernando Llorente. Prior to the substitution, the scores were level at 1-1 and the Swans had taken 10 shots in just over an hour.

After the substitution, Swansea scored four goals -- two in two minutes immediately following the change -- and managed seven shots in under thirty minutes. True, Palace also scored three goals of their own following Routledge's withdrawal, but since all three came from the opposite flank, it isn't as though Routledge would have been able to do anything about them anyway.

So what should Bradley do on Saturday? Aside from dropping Routledge? Conventional wisdom says Swansea should defend and play for damage limitation, perhaps scrape a credible draw. However, conventional wisdom also says that if you have two strikers, and one of them is a World Cup winner (Llorente and the other is your club's record signing (Borja Baston), you should probably start at least one of them, but Bradley hasn't done that in either of the last two matches.

The bravest trade-off between attack and defence might be to play a 4-2-3-1 with Jefferson Montero and Mo Barrow on the wings and Llorente up front. The Swansea wingers can either exploit the space in behind Spurs offensive full backs, or at least keep them honest, while Llorente can pose a set-piece threat against a Spurs side which is only middle-of-the-pack at defending those situations (they have conceded 5 times against a league average of 4.7).

In midfield, ever present former Spur Gylfi Sigurdsson should continue to shine as Swansea's No. 10, while Leroy Fer's defensive shortcomings are still worth his six goal return as the club's top scorer. It is Fer's partner who perhaps provides the real selection problem, the player who has to pick up all the defensive slack from the attacking unit and shield a frail back four.

Jay Fulton has shown promise in that role lately but is inexperienced, while neither Leon Britton nor Jack Cork will scare the opposition, and Ki Sung-yueng (who wouldn't either) is injured.

Perhaps January's transfer market can bring a defensive midfield monster to Wales, someone who can dominate enough to allow Bradley to pick attacking players further forward and give his team a chance to score, rather than fielding false-nine formations full of players who are a poorly suited to play defense.

Until then, it has become clear where Swansea's strengths and weaknesses lie, and Bradley must surely now be brave enough to play to his teams attacking strengths rather than failing to mitigate their defensive weaknesses.