Friday, 2 January 2015

QPR 1 - Swans 1 Stats, Chalkboards and Conspiracy Theories

"Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you", as a stats man I'm a fairly rational guy and talk of an anti-Swansea agenda from referees, the FA etc., usually has me shaking my head, but what I saw Loftus Road was a bit of a farce.

I was at the other end of the ground but I could tell Rob Green saved outside the box so I have no idea how the officials missed it, I can only only assume they saw it but didn't think anything of a goalkeeper making a diving save and forgot to check whether he was inside the box. The other options, that they just didn't notice or thought the handball was unintentional are arguably even worse decisions.

If we move away from foaming at the mouth anger and try and look at recent decisions rationally, there's still plenty to be angry about but some of the decisions made are understandable (even if they were wrong).

Routledge Red
Karl Henry almost goes through Routledge but thanks to Wayne's quick reactions he doesn't get hurt although understandably does lose his rag.  Arguably Henry could see red for a very dangerous challenge, but usually the lack of contact means it'd be a yellow.  Routledge does move his foot towards Henry and perhaps from the linesman's view looks like he made contact, so completely wrong decision but not totally imagined (update: Red has now correctly been rescinded).

Shelvey and Sterling Incidents
Depending on the level of burden of proof, I'd say it's probably more likely than not that Shelvey meant to swing an arm at Can and seeing as the FA have a 99% conviction rate when they bring these kind of charges it would have been crazy to appeal considering 2 of the 4 games missed where QPR and Tranmere where Shelvey would either be unlikely to play or not as important for the Cup game.

I'm pretty sure the ref saw it but made the call that it wasn't deliberate, I assume he gets to watch the incident (or at least hear about it) before writing his report so can choose to include it or not.  For incidents like that, full speed and slo-mo look completley different so possibly the ref could argue that he didn't see exactly what happend so it could be retrospectively punished.

Sterling's slap while technically a red, he probably got away with because of the complete non-reaction from Fernandez, so it looked more like a toddler having a tantrum than violent conduct.  Worse for me was the little nudge from Sterling that pushes Fernadez off the pitch where there is little space between pitch and the crowd and was a bit of a cheap shot.  Also, as it was obviously seen, there's no chance of any retrospective action.

Fabianski Red
If you ignore the hand-ball in the build up (if you don't Ash probably gets sent off instead), then Fabianski's challenge was a foul and rightly a red.  If you start to rescind Red cards based on earlier phases then you'd end up arguing that a Red shouldn't happen as a throw was assigned the wrong way 30 seconds earlier.  It's a bit crap, but it's the rules. 

Fernandez Red in Capital One Cup
This was rightfully rescinded although I do have a small bit of sympathy for the referee, Coutinho loses control of the ball and creates a 50-50 situation where as I watched it I expected a lunging two footed tackle.  Fernandez being an Argentinian international defender rather than a non-league clogger clears the ball safely but I can only assume the ref in the moments before the challenge is expecting a lunge and so goes with what he's expecting rather than what actually happens.

Stoke Penalty
Moses cheats and the ref falls for it, although Rangel's hands are close enough to Moses' back to make it look realistic at full speed.

Bony/Shelvey/Rangel Reds
Of these 3, only Rangel could complain about their second yellow and again was harsh rather than completely made up.

It's probably not a coincidence that all but one of these incidents was away from home, when it comes to split second calls, crowd reaction is bound to have some effect.

If you assume that officials make 1 gigantic balls up every couple of games, then there's bound to be a team that over a short period of time seems to get everything going against them in a similar way to how Newcastle put runs together of being incredible or terrible when in reality they are an average team.

Back to the match yesterday and even with 5-10 minutes left and a goal down (but with 11 men), I felt that we could still get 3 points.  This was an odd game with 49 efforts (second highest in league after QPR-Leicester) but didn't feel like a game full of quality chances (or quality at all).

After a good start, post the Rob Green handball, Swansea were pretty disjointed, but large amounts of pressure late on as QPR sat back
Gomis starting was a bit of a surprise but made some sense in that Dunne has the turning circle of a supertanker so more pace through the middle was a valid idea, it also could be thought of as a show of confidence in Gomis ahead of him being the main striker for the next 6 weeks or so.

The ball spent an awful lot of time in the air, I don't have the stats to hand but 60 headed clearances seems an awful lot:

This was an odd game in that it felt all the way through that if we could just string a few passes together we'd tear them to pieces, how much of that was bad passing (there was certainly some of that) and how much was organised work from the QPR midfield would need another watch.

The only plus point about the Routledge red was that it made Bony's equaliser even more enjoyable, although the 4 shot scramble by QPR at the end of the game could have made it a pretty sour start to the year.  It's going to be a tough few weeks with a stretched squad, but could give the likes of Barrow/Carroll a real opportunity for a run of games.

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

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Half Season Analysis - Actual vs Deserved Points

Despite the Liverpool defeat, 28 points at the halfway stage is pretty impressive and for all the talk about the 'magic 40 points' target for safety, quite often mid 30's is enough, so as a whole, the first 19 games have to be considered a success in points terms at the very least.

Ultimately that's the stat that matters, but overall have we got what we deserved or been lucky/unlucky?  In any particular game you can say 'if only' and although 19 games isn't enough for everything to even itself out, it does start to provide better clues to the longer term performance.

In terms of shots per game, Swansea are actually 18th in the league, although this will in part be due to the amount of time Swansea have spent in front (generally speaking, the team leading takes fewer shots than the team chasing the game - although not necessarily good quality shots).

On a not overly scientific basis, I went through the 19 games and put a 'deserved' score down based on how I felt each match went in terms of shots/game state (i.e., scoring first) and overall performance.  This provides an rough estimate of what I thought we were worth in each match, with Liverpool being the lowest and West Brom being the highest.
No game is ever a 0 or a 3 but somewhere in between 
I tried to do this for each match without too much thought of the other games but was surprised as to how close to the actual total my estimate was.

You could probably pick apart any individual estimate above and everyone would have differing opinions on relative performances but I think the key this season has been beating the 'smaller' teams (along with the wins over Arsenal and Man Utd which were a bonus).

The first half of the season saw Swansea play Home to 5 of the current bottom 6 (all except Hull) which in part explains why Swans are 5th when looking just at home form so starting with QPR on New Years Day the away schedule should arguably get easier but the home one tougher.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Liverpool 4 - Swans 1 Stats and Chalkboards

It's probably been a while since we were so comprehensively outplayed.  Although it looked as if we'd weathered the first half hour with just a few minor scares, Liverpool's pummelling of the Swansea right eventually paid dividends for them.
Liverpool's passing in first 30 min, heavily down Jazz's side although arguably it was a much an issue of lack of support from Dyer than any issue with Jazz
Shot wise, Swansea didn't get going until 30 minutes in, and only a late flurry makes the shot count look a bit more respectable:
Shot Chart: Bony's shot almost immediately after Gylfi made it 2-1 could have seen an amazing turnaround but Liverpool in control from then on
Swansea ended up with 56% possession but this was certainly one of those cases where the statistic is misleading, yes Swansea made a lot of passes but most were sideways around the middle third. There's no problem with this when you're looking to control a game, but shouldn't be seen as any sort of consolation if you're behind for the majority of the match.
Plenty of the ball, but very little in any dangerous areas
With Fabianski's howler and Shelvey's own goal, this is arguably a game to forget about, a win against QPR and things will seem a lot better again or as Jazz has just put it on Twitter:
Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone , Whoscored  and Squawka

Friday, 26 December 2014

Swans 1 -- Villa 0 Stats and Chalkboards, lucky or not?

Another game, another hard fought 1-0. I haven't seen the comments/reports that prompted this response but I was a bit surprised to see a couple of tweets from Monk and team psychologist Ian Mitchell that seemed to bristle about being called lucky.

Any 1-0 victory usually involves the odd bit of 'if only' from the losing team and Swansea have Fabianski to thank in part along with Alan Hutton wasting a couple of good chances when he was in space in the box (both times seemed to be due to Routledge switching off).  You could also say Swans unlucky not to score when Ki and Dyer through on goal.

I'm a big fan of the saying (made famous by Gary Player) 'The more I practice, the luckier I get', preparation and hard work may not pay off every time (arguably the defeat to Spurs was the best performance of the last 3 games), but in the long run put you in the right position.

The same could be said about Gylfi's goal, it's not luck that he regularly scores great free kicks (there's plenty of examples on YouTube) but for any individual shot everything needs to be just right.  Watching the goal again, interesting to see Bony's leaning in to the wall, which didn't impact on the goal itself but arguably a bit more than a well placed nudge.
Swansea only had 7 shots in the whole game (from 7 different players) and 2 on target but that was in part driven by scoring first again so early on.
Cumulative Shots by Minute: Villa with a spurt just before and after Carroll's substitution, but as against Hull, it was good to see an opponent chasing the game but creating relatively little late on in the game (if you ignore the last few minutes!)
It's a real shame about Montero's injury, I feel he's been really well handled by the club as to how he was gradually introduced rather than thrown in from the start of the season, hopefully the injury will be a matter of weeks than months (i.e., you don't end up with a Pablo Hernandez type situation where there's a series of returns and relapses).

With another 2 games to come in the next 6 days (3 in 8 if you include the cup game at Tranmere), the whole squad will be tested but it feels like there are always options in almost every position.

There's much talk about the intensive Christmas schedule and I'd be interested to hear from anyone who knows more about these kinds of things than me but arguably Swansea (along with Liverpool) have the 'best' schedule.

QPR played the evening game on Boxing Day then start another match 45.5 hours later followed by us at 3pm on 1st Jan.  Swansea on the other hand play 3pm Friday/8pm Monday/3pm Thursday so have 29 hours less rest than QPR but don't have what is presumably a shattering impact of two games in under 48 hours.

All squads are likely to make changes but there's likely to be a few on any side who play all three games so a spread out schedule may be the optimal scenario.

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

Monday, 22 December 2014

Hull 0 - Swans 1 Stats and Chalkboards

Win, and nobody is too bothered about tactics or team selection. How much of the selection was down to 'niggles' for Gylfi, Leon and Montero and how much was the prospect of games Fri-Mon-Thurs coming up I don't know but this result helped to back up my thoughts that we have one of the strongest squads outside the big 6.

As things stand the whole 'big 6' thing is in a state of flux but deeper squads could have a real bearing on where teams stand after 1st Jan.

The difference between brave and foolish is often a fine line but Monk was correct in believing that the side selected was good enough to beat a struggling Hull side. A second goal would have been nice to kill the game off (Shelvey coming close a couple of times) but generally speaking Hull created relatively little.
Ash's Clearances and Hull's Crossing
Ash made a huge number of clearances for example but if you look at their location, most are well outside the box or at least nowhere particularly near the goal. More often than not, Hull just seemed to put the balls into areas where it was easily cleared and although Fabianski made a couple of good saves, he wasn't overly troubled.
Shots by Minute - Hull's last shot came in the 78th Minute, although after the ending of the Spurs game, I didn't feel comfortable until after the Final whistle.
A first away win in the league since the opening day of the season sees us with a 10 point gap over the relegation zone.  Looking in the other direction, the possibility of a Chelsea-Spurs league cup final could see an extra Europa league place become assigned to the League. If the FA Cup final was also between two of the top 6 in the league then 7th place could be good enough for a Europa League spot.

7th is a stretch target but not something that should be thought of as out of reach.

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

Monday, 15 December 2014

Swans 1 - Spurs 2 Match Stats

Even 24 hours later, this kind of result still feels like a kick in the nuts.  After neither the performance or the result against West Ham, at least against Spurs there were plenty of bright spots (in the middle 80 minutes at least).

Shot Chart - Affected by Spurs' early goal but little shot action in 1st half.  I was surprised that Swansea failed to have a shot in the last 20 minutes so maybe the nagging feeling I had that it wasn't going to end well was based on reality and not just pessimism
Ultimately it was a couple of basic errors that got punished and although there was some good build up play by Swansea in the second half, really big chances were a rarity.  I could spend an age dissecting this game but life's too short.

One thing I am confident of though is that at least once this season it'll all click for 90 minutes and we'll stick 5 past somebody.

If you haven't already, give the latest AI Analytics podcast a listen, Swans get a mention in the middle as possibly being in an inflated position given their overall stats this season.  I can't disagree with the numbers but overall I think our position is a fair one and due to the ability we've had generally to beat the 'poorer' teams in the league this season as well as generally keeping things tight (thanks in part to Fabianski who was missed yesterday).

Sunday, 7 December 2014

West Ham 3 - Swans 1 Stats and Chalkboards

I feel beaten up just watching that match so I don't know how the players must feel.  There was more to West Ham than just sticking it long to the big man but the certainly weren't afraid to be direct at times.

There seemed to be numerous occasions where Swansea seemed to give away soft free kicks (18 in total) and as a result had to pull everybody back deep to defend the long punt forward.  This meant Bony was spending an awful lot of time on the edge of his own box and even though he did a good defensive job it often made it difficult to gain any control of the ball.

Lots of free kicks conceded in non-threating areas but mean game stops for a minute or two as everyone moves to edge of the Swansea box for a long diagonal to be pumped in.  Bony often valuable in defence but  means difficult to get any flow in Swansea's game.
Swansea scored with their first shot of the game, after West Ham bossed the opening 15 minutes and the Swans then looked impressive for the next 15 minutes before West Ham ended the half well. After Fabianski's red, Swansea arguably had their best period of possession although to some extent we were lucky to keep it to just 3 conceded.
Shot Chart: Bursts of Activity from each side during the game
This certainly wasn't as bad as the performance at the Boleyn Ground last season but Monk calling it the first time the team having hit standards required is harsh but probably fair.

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