Friday, 19 September 2014

Swansea - Southampton Preview

Saturday's match sees the meeting of the two teams seen by the bookies as 'The best of the Rest' outside the top 7 (time will tell if Everton's Europa League campaign means they get dragged back in to the 'others' as opposed to those chasing Champions League places).

Southampton are a bit like Swansea in that to outside observers this season might have appeared to be one in which they would struggle but look deeper and there's still a good team there. I've always had a soft spot for Southampton, not least because of Matt Le Tissier and this piece on his goal v Newcastle in 1993 is fantastic.

Southampton (along with Liverpool) have conceded the fewest shots per game (8.25: 33 from 4 games), within that there's games against Shot-Shy West Ham (4 Shots) and the more attack minded Liverpool (12 shots), but looking at the shot map of chances conceded suggests a decent defensive display so far this season:
Southampton have only conceded 3 goals in their 4 league games to date
At the other end, Southampton have scored 8 from 34 shots so far including 4 in a thrashing of Newcastle:
Southampton League Shot Chart
Looking at Southampton's shot chart, there's quite a bit of activity at the edge of the 6-yard box, delving deeper a fair bit of that is due to headers, with 8 of their shots (and 1 goal) coming this way.
Southampton's Cluster of Headed shots - possibly an area to watch 
Where Southampton have a lot of activity close in, Swansea's chances have tended to be a bit further out, although a number of them have been the result of through balls to create 1v1s:
Swansea Shots - JT own goal not included.
Although I'm hoping for an exciting game, unless there's a goal in the first 20 minutes I can see this being quite a cagey match with both sides happy with a point.  I'd expect both teams to finish somewhere between 8th-12th but good results in matches like this could give hope that 7th isn't out of reach.

For more on the game - injury news/projected lineups check out The Swansea Way

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Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone , Whoscored  and Squawka

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Chelsea 4 - Swans 2 Stats and Chalkboards

Top of the league for 20 minutes, it was fun while it lasted.  Although 4 goals (and 29 shots) conceded there was plenty to take encouragement from although the last half hour felt like a slow suffocation.
A great first 30 minutes but a tough 2nd half
Ki in particular seemed to find himself in acres of space during the first half but the introduction of Ramires made things a lot tougher in midfield:
Chelsea ball recoveries by half, far more advanced in the 2nd half (right image)
The change in the flow of the game can also be seen by the pass volumes over time, Swansea with plenty of the ball early on (even if it was in relatively unthreatening areas most of the time) but from about 65 minutes it was one way traffic.
Cumulative Pass volumes by minute (Statszone data for last 10 not fully available but trend clear from 65 minutes on)
Costa now has 7 goals from just 14 shots which is pretty incredible:
A 50% conversion rate isn't sustainable but you'd expect him to finish with 25+ goals by the end of the season comfortably
Costa obviously gets the headlines and Fabregas another two assists but it was arguably Hazard who ran the show for Chelsea from an attacking point of view.  He had 9 successful take ons (from 10 attempts), 5 more than Gomis who had 4 from 5 and who I thought had an excellent game turning Cahill on a regular basis.

It'd be easy to say if only we'd held on until half time or if only Gomis had taken his 1v1 to make it 2-2 that things could be different, some weeks you get the breaks, other weeks you don't.  What large parts of this match showed is that we can give any team a run for their money.

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Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone , Whoscored  and Squawka

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Chelsea - Swansea Stats Preview

There would always be plenty of excitement when it comes to playing your fellow table-topping team, but with the publicity around the Jack To A King film and Garry Monk awarded Premier League Manager of the month (and finding fame in Italy as one of the 'New Wizards' of European football  - article from Gazetta here)

All this, along with the extra week of waiting due to internationals has meant the anticipation for this game has mushroomed.

League wise, Stamford Bridge hasn't been a great place to visit in the Premier League era (P3 L3), but the Capital One Cup Semi First Leg was one of the highlights of recent years, where the usually excellent Ivanovic had a bit of a shocker.
Danny Graham with the second goal in the Semi (photo from Nicky Hayes Photography)
As someone who writes a football stats blog, I'm well aware of the concept of luck impacting on the result of any given match but also that stats can sometimes be misleading.  Swansea have scored 6 goals from 30 shots but conceded only 1 from 42 faced.

Although we were maybe a bit fortunate to survive the second half against Burnley unscathed and if Rooney's free-kick at 1-1 had gone in instead of hit the post things could be different, but overall I'd argue Swansea were the better team in each game (Man Utd might have dominated the shot count 14-5 but created relatively little).

I'd argue that the chances Swansea have had have been of a higher quality, largely down to Gylfi's assists, with Ki's calmly taken finish at Old Trafford with no defensive pressure (thanks to Bony's block on Jones) along with Dyer's 3 goals all of which have been 1v1s.
Swansea's shots in the league so far: 3 Dyer goals on the right hand side
Of the 42 shots Swansea have conceded, only 8 have been on target, Fabianski's made some good saves and generally commanded his box well but overall hasn't been tested too much which is credit to the side as a whole but Williams and Amat in particular.  It may be that at some stage it's Fernandez who comes in as well to make a 3 to enable both Bony and Gomis to play in a 3-5-2 but that's something for the future, as things stand it'll be either Amat (who it'd be harsh to drop even it it was the right decision) or Fernandez and up front either Bony (who has played well but has the leagues highest total for shots without a goal - 10) or Gomis.

As Gomis is fresh compared to an international weary Bony who will have barely trained with the club over the last 2 weeks, it may be Gomis who starts with Bony coming on to wreak some havoc in the last 30 minutes.
Hopefully we'll see more of Bony in command on Saturday
Chelsea, with 10 goals (+1 o.g.,) from their 50 shots have the same shot conversion rate (20%) as Swansea but on significantly more shots:
Chelsea's shot chart in the league in 2014/15
Much has obviously be made about Chelsea's lack of a finisher in recent years and how Costa will make the difference and that's certainly happened so far with Costa being named player of the month after scoring 4 goals in 3 games (from just 9 shots).
Costa has almost already matched Torres' league stats from last year where he scored 5 goals from 61 shots.
When you look at Chelsea's league goal map from last season you can see plenty of goals from deep within the 6 yard box and also loads from the edge of the area (largely due to Hazard's 14 league goals) but relatively little from around the penalty spot.  How much of Costa's activity will be incremental as opposed to reducing the return from Hazard/Oscar will determine where Chelsea finish this season but it would be a surprise if they don't end up in the top 2.
Chelsea with a far higher number of goals from the edge of the box compared with other top teams
As I wrote back on the eve of the season opener with Man Utd, Monk (and Huw Jenkins) have a different approach to the big games, where Laudrup was maybe more pragmatic and looked to keep things tight, Monk seems to have a more optimistic view.

I think it'd be wrong to consider matches like this as 'David v Goliath' as although financially Chelsea dwarf Swansea, it's not like they're a group of accountants and bus drivers, most are regular internationals for their country with a number having been bought from £5m+, the margins at this level are small and with a fair wind anything is possible.

Other Posts: Premier league Shot LocationWorld Cup Shot Location World Cup Distance + Sprint Stats
Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone , Whoscored  and Squawka

Monday, 1 September 2014

Swans 3 - WBA 0 Stats and Chalkboards

With a two week break between the third and fourth league games, the outcome of those first 3 games could well define the narrative for the rest of the season.  In my head I was hoping for 6 or 7 points from those games but willing to consider 4 points an OK start, to get 9 is superb.

In the review of the Burnley game I mentioned that had we got a second goal that we arguably deserved from the 1st half play in that game, it could well have turned out to be a comfortable 3-0 rather than a case of riding our luck a bit.

Against West Brom, that second goal came along (and how! I still can't quite get my head around how Routledge gets the power on the shot but still ends up landing on his feet) with the third following mid way through the 2nd half.
West Brom with a late flurry but already 3 down by then. Swansea have had fewer shots than the opposition in all 3 games but mainly from a position of protecting a lead
As great as Routledge's goal was, and as encouraging as it is to see Dyer with 3 goals already, the main story has to be the impact Gylfi Sigurdsson has had on the season so far.  Of the 6 league goals scored so far, he's scored 1, assisted 4 and also crossed the ball in that was only half cleared for Routledge to work his magic.

I remember those brief few days in Summer 2012 when Brendan was still manager and Gylfi had agreed to sign, such was his impact my first thought was 'We're safe next season then'.

I'm certainly glad it didn't happen but there's a parallel universe somewhere in which Pulis managed to sign Gylfi and is still in charge of Crystal Palace.  It's always difficult to know what's true and what's rumour but I can imagine Pulis felt pretty much the same in that having someone like Gylfi in your team pretty much guarantees goals and that failing to land targets like him was making his job harder than he wanted it to be.

To put those 4 assists so far this season into context, it's as many as any player managed for Swansea in the league during our first season in the Premier League 2011/12 (Gylfi himself had 3 from half a season), and already closing in on the 6 in 2012/13 and 7 last season from Pablo.
After 3 games this season Gylfi is joint top of the assists chart in the league with Cesc Fabregas with no other player having more than 2 assists so far in the league this season
There's no reason to be afraid of anyone this season and with arguably the strongest squad we've had over the 4 seasons in the Premier League the target has to be top half or even the 'best of the rest' title for 8th place, that said safety is always the first target and considering West Brom were able to stay up with only 7 wins (and 15 draws) that's a long way towards being achieved already.

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone , Whoscored  and Squawka
Other Posts: Premier league Shot LocationWorld Cup Shot Location World Cup Distance + Sprint Stats

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Swans 1 - Burnley 0 Stats and Chalkboards

They say not playing well but still winning is the sign of champions, that's obviously stretching things here and ultimately the second half was more about Burnley's missed chances than snuffing out Burnley's threat (Monk in an interview saying he was pleased that Burnley were restricted to only 1 attempt was true but felt more of a case of putting a positive spin on things).

This was certainly a proverbial 'game of two halves' with Swansea looking to protect their first half lead after Dyer's well taken goal and with a mixture of luck, bad finishing and some good goalkeeping from Fabianski ended up with the 3 points.
Shots by Minute - Swans with only 1 shot in last 40 minutes. Despite the last 20 minutes seeming pretty nervous, Burnley only had 1 shot after the 74th Minute
In situations where a team is protecting a 1 goal lead it's always difficult to determine how much of the pressure from the losing team is due to them forcing themselves on the game and how much is the team in teh lead taking a more defensive approach.

In terms of pass volumes, Swansea's falls off a cliff from around the 70th minute after a period of domination of the ball either side of half time.
Average Passing numbers per minute (Average out over the last 10 minutes at each point) - From 70th minute onwards Burnley has two thirds of possession (122 passes to Swansea's 61)
A good example of the change is looking at Ash's passing by half.  This was 100% in the 1st half (44/44) and 73% in the 2nd half (16/22):
Ash's passing by half, mainly short and lateral in 1st half, only half the volume (and generally longer passes) in the 2nd half
A similar thing can be seen from Fabianski's distribution:
Fabianski with only 1 short pass in the second half as Burnley look to increase pressure where in the 1st half the short ball to Rangel or long to Bony were more successful 
Days like this one need to be remembered when we play well but things don't go our way, on another day, the 1st half pressure could have yielded a second goal (an ultimately a 3+ goal win), but also better Burnley finishing could have seen the points shared.

Update: Another way of looking at the level of pass control would be to look at % possession not just total volume which gives the chart below:
Swansea's possession stats at rolling 10 minute intervals, barely breaking 40% in the last 20 minutes
The 5 minute possession chart is a bit more up and down than the 10 minute version but more accurately reflects swings during a match.

Other Posts: Premier league Shot LocationWorld Cup Shot Location World Cup Distance + Sprint Stats
Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone , Whoscored  and Squawka

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Man Utd 1 - Swans 2 Stats and Chalkboards

As Gylfi Sigurdsson stroked in what turned out to be the winner, the commentator called it a 'Smash and Grab' which was an enormous exaggeration.  Yes, Man Utd might have outshot the Swans by 14-5 but in terms of decent chances there were only 3 and all of them ended up as goals.
Shots by Minute - Quality not Quantity was key here, the near 20 minute period in the middle of the 2nd half where Man Utd didn't manage a shot shows how well Swansea dealt with any threat
MOTD tweeted that the 29 passes in Ki's goal were more than any last season (beating the 24 for Bony's goal v Arsenal):

I mentioned in the preview yesterday, that this was a great time to be playing Man Utd due to a mixture of injuries, Van Persie not yet being available due to his World Cup exploits and the fact that (even more so now), there will likely be a number of new signings coming in before September.

Man Utd had most of the ball but did relatively little with it, much was made of their over emphasis on crossing last season under Moyes but this seemed to be more of the same:
First half crossing came almost exclusively down the Swansea left and the opposite side in the second half. 2 of the 4 successful crosses were from corners.
Crossing from this kind of distance from goal would normally be classed as 'Putting it in the Mixer' and generally speaking it was dealt with easily, predominantly by Ash who made 15 clearances, 9 more than the next player (Amat).
Williams with most Clearances and Shelvey with most recoveries.  Jonjo made 4 fouls by the time of Man Utd's equaliser but none afterwards (although was one incident where ref played advantage).
For me the central part of the first team when everyone is fit would be Leon/Ki/Sigurdsson and although Jonjo sailed close to the wind at times he put in a good performance as Man Utd created very little through the middle.

Jonjo and Ki's passes received by half - Shelvey far more heavily involved in working with the ball in the first have but focused more of defensive activity in the second
Van Gaal's change to a 4-4-2 in the second half and in particular Januzaj's attacking of Taylor brought some initial results (and led to the corner from which they scored).  I think too much could be made of Taylor's substitution, yes he got skinned a couple of times but once your on a yellow in that situation, it's a prudent step to be replaced (even if it is by the man most people's whipping boy - Dwight Tiendalli).

It was a bit of a surprise to see this tactic greatly reduced after Swansea got their second but is probably the kind of area you'd need to re-watch the game a couple of times as it could well be due to the extra protection Dwight received (from Shelvey?).  Also looking at Januzaj's passes received he's a lot more involved down Swansea's right after Herrera comes off.
Man Utds 2nd half take-ons, pre and post Gylfi's winner
Looking at Fabianski's activity, he didn't have to do anything spectacular, but what he did have to do, he did well.  In terms of distrubution, after passes to Amat (6) his next highest was to Bony.  The margin of error on this kind of thing is pretty small, a good pass and it's on Bony's chest and nobody's is getting it off him, a bit too high and then it's 50:50 at best.
Fabianski's passes to Bony (also played 4 to Gomis in the 15 or so minute he played) and Bony's aerial duels
As Garry Monk mentioned at the Fans Forum, the Villarreal game was more about minutes on the pitch than formation (I'd be surprised in Gylfi plays on the wing that often) and it was a case of going back to a more familiar formation.

The big difference for me this season is the strength of the squad with a variety of options depending on opposition/score e.g.,

  • 2 of Leon/Ki/Shelvey
  • 2 of Bony/Gomis/Sigurdsson
  • 2 of Routledge/Dyer/Montero
As well as other players such as Emnes, as long as we are not too unlucky with injuries we'll have the option to make substitutions that are like-for-like in terms of quality which hasn't been the case in previous seasons which is a credit to the club as it shows how they've used TV and transfer money to build season upon season.

Update: I'm looking at different ways of presenting match stats and the one below shows pass volumes based on an average of the last 5 minutes, this helps to show (roughly) the level of control a team has at any given time.  As has been seen with the rise in counter attacking football over the last couple of years, not having the ball isn't always a bad thing but bearing that in mind it does show who has control at any given time.
Chart shows Man Utd's early control of the ball and Swansea's lack of passing prior to putting the 29 together for Ki's goal around the 31 minute mark.  The impressive things from a Swansea viewpoint are the control at the end of the first half and (at least initially post Utd's equaliser)
Other Posts: Premier league Shot LocationWorld Cup Shot Location World Cup Distance + Sprint Stats
Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone , Whoscored  and Squawka

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Swans v Man Utd - Pragmatism v Optimism

Only a couple of hours now to the start of the new season, it was interesting to see comments by Huw Jenkins at certain points last season that he felt there was a bit of a defeatist attitude (see below from Guardian article in Nov 2013):

It is a theme that Jenkins returns to time and again without being able to put his finger on the reasons for the change in mindset. "I don't know [why it has happened]. But I've sensed it this season more than ever. We generally tend to talk about things, for me, in the wrong way. We don't see every game as a winnable game, which is not right and it's not our mentality."

Whenever I heard Laudrup speak, I thought he pretty much always talked perfect sense, the problem is whether you want a manager to have the attitude along the lines of "This side are better than us, lets keep it tight, get to 60 minutes and see what happens".

This attitude meant other than the first day 4-1 defeat to Man Utd, no side gave us a pasting last season even though as can be seen in the chart below, we only got 2 points from 16 games against the top 8.
Of the 2 points, 1 came in the Monk era v Arsenal and the other was 'The Shelvey Game' v Liverpool
With Man Utd still in a state of transition, in terms of today's starting 11 it arguably be weaker than that which finished last season, this is a huge opportunity to get some real momentum into the season.  I'm not wanting to run down the Laudrup tenure, but in part (league wise) it was 7 points from the first 3 games followed by average performance thereafter.

I think he'll start on the bench today but I do like the look of Gomis, here's his shot chart from last season with 14 goals (1pen) from 86 shots.  If Bony can get into double figures again and Gomis and Sigurdsson both get close to that too then we'll have a strike force to be feared.