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Thursday, 29 December 2011

QPR Review

In his post match interviews Brendan Rodgers talked about it being two points lost, but given how the second half went I'd consider it a relief to get a point.

It'd be easy to laugh at Warnock and his antics of remonstrating with the fourth official for what seemed like most of the first half but it'd be interesting to know if this had any impact on referee Probert not giving the penalty for the clear foul on Graham in the second half.  Both decisions were probably wrong so I guess it evens itself out but leaves everyone angry with the ref.

The big change in this game for me compared to recent matches was the level of involvement from Steven Caulker.  In the first half especially he was carrying the ball and passing much more than Ashley Williams when it is usually the other way round.

The figures below show the number of passes made by each of the centre-backs during the last 4 games, in the 3 prior to the QPR game Ash had the greater number of passes, but in the QPR game, Caulker makes significantly more passes than his defensive partner.
As well as Caulker having more passes during the QPR game the drop in number of passes by Williams compared to the previous home game with Fulham should be noted
This meant that Swansea were even more attack minded down the right hand side than normal with 39% of passes made down the right flank compared to 20% on the right:
Large proportion of passing going through Caulker and Rangel in particular
As well as the predominance of activity down the right hand side the other area of note was the major shift in activity between the first and second half, both in terms of volume of passing and pass completion rate from Swansea. 

Swansea made 336 passes in the first half compared with only 212 in the second with a lower proportion of passes completed in the second half:
Second Half Pass Completion figures were similar for both teams and QPR actually made more passes than Swansea during the second half which is a rarity for visitors to the Liberty
The change in passing volume was most noticeable for Caulker who made 43 passes in the first half but only 16 in the second.

One of the main reasons for this change was the increased pressure on Swansea players from QPR and the number of tackles made by QPR, in particular those made by Alejandro Faurlin which broke up a lot of Swansea moves. 

QPR made 19 successful ground tackles in total, 6 in the first half and 13 in the second.  11 of the 19 were made by Faurlin alone compared to the 9 tackles made by the whole of the Swansea team during the match.
Second Half Ground Tackles won by QPR.  6 of the 13 from Faurlin.  Majority of QPR tackles won coming in Left Hand Side / Left Central Midfield positions
In terms of goal attempts, Swansea managed only 3 in the second half and overall had less goal attempts with 8 than QPR who had 14 and an investigation in to the attacking midfield role is something that I'll be looking at after the Villa game.

'Must-Win' is a term that gets used far too often, even by some of the players.  In reality avoiding defeat and keeping the points total ticking over is the most important thing.  19 points so far with 1 game remaining in this half of the season isn't a bad return at all. 

Twitter: @We_R_PL http://www.twitter.com/We_R_PL

Chalkboards/Match Stats: Created using http://www.guardian.co.uk/chalkboards

Friday, 23 December 2011

Everton Review

In games such as the last two against Newcastle and Everton, the narrative and fan perception is hugely driven by the final result.  Newcastle was seen as a hard worked for point but the Everton game as showing a lack of ambition.

In players such as Fellaini and Drenthe in particular, Everton had players of real quality who could cut apart a team who are too attack minded.  Some people might point to the fact that Norwich got a draw there a few days earlier but looking at the stats Everton had 29 attempts at goal (7 on target) compared to 15 attempts against Swansea (4 on target).

In fairness Norwich themselves offered more in attack with 7 attempts at goal with their only effort on target being Holt's goal.  Swansea managing 5 attempts with only 1 on target and all of these coming in the second half with only 2 coming after going behind after an hour which was probably the main reason for discontent. 

When things don't work in attack it tends to be Sinclair and Gower who get the stick, I've mentioned Gower and his assists before so think he's still got plenty to offer. 

For Sinclair it's much more about scoring or creating goalscoring opportunities rather than overall team passing, Sinclair made 17 passes in total compared to Routledge's 48 so if Sinclair isn't beating people and creating chances it creates the impression that he hasn't done much so it's a bit more all or nothing for Scott's performances.

A win against QPR and all this is forgotten, but even if results over the next couple of weeks aren't great there's still plenty to be optimistic about.  It's all a case of keeping our nerve and trusting in the ability of this squad who I think are more than capable of keeping us in this league.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Newcastle Review

Twenty-Two goal attempts for Newcastle compared to three for Swansea and the fact that over 60 minutes elapsed between Swansea's first and second effort on goal show who had the upper hand in this game but ultimately who cares, it's a great point.

In some respects it was the similar to the Fulham game but with roles reversed, the obvious difference being Newcastle being unable to find a way through.  It'd show a serious lack of appreciation of the effort put in by the Swans to call the result lucky, yes Newcastle struck the frame twice but Michel Vorm is currently putting in performances of such quality that the only goals we are conceding are where who is in goal is irrelevant.

In terms of chalkboards the obvious comparison is between the first and second half, in particular Gower and Agustien.  Kemy certainly added some solidity and made almost double the number of passes.
Agustien made 42 passes compared to Gower's 22 with only 1 more misplaced pass (6 compared to 5).
There's certainly a case for starting Kemy on Wednesday against Everton but Gower has had 5 assists this season with the next highest player having 1 so with four games in two days they'll probably both get a couple of games each with my guess being Kemy starting on Wednesday.

 Twitter: @We_R_PL http://www.twitter.com/We_R_PL

Chalkboards/Match Stats: Created using http://www.guardian.co.uk/chalkboards

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Fulham Review - A Game of Two Parts

The match against Fulham wasn't quite a 'Game of two halves', but there was certainly a marked contrast before and after Sinclair's goal, prior to the goal Fulham appeared happy enough to let Swansea dictate the tempo for large periods and although Swansea created some decent chances another 0-0 wouldn't have surprised too many people.

After the goal, the combination of greater Fulham urgency along with inevitable Swansea nerves meant that the last half hour was largely Fulham's punctuated by breakaway opportunities for Swansea such as the one that came to Graham on 80 minutes caused by Fulham leaving space at the back.

The figures below show the changes in activity pre and post Sinclair's goal, in particular Fulham managed just two attempts on goal in the first 57 minutes but 11 in the remainder of the game.

Swansea's Pass volume plummets and completion rate also shows a marked drop
As well as number of passes, the areas these took place in showed a marked change after the goal.  Fulham's passing increasingly took place in the attacking third in particular centrally around 10m outside the Swansea penalty area:
39% of Fulham's passing was in the attacking third after the goal compared to just 16% previously
This was largely due to the increasing prominence of Dickson Etuhu around the edge of the area for Fulham (often in conjunction with Clint Dempsey) as can be seen from his passing stats in the two time periods:
Etuhu made 35 passes from the 58th minute onwards compared to just 6 made by Leon Britton
Although Vorm made a number of excellent saves prior to the penalty, it is hard to overstate the importance of that penalty save.  When winning games becomes a relief rather than the norm that it has been in recent seasons, to have dropped two (or maybe even three) points in this game would have put even more pressure on the team.

For me, the penalty was played for but arguably the correct decision.  Richards' legs don't move an awful lot but his body does move towards the Fulham player and especially at full speed is enough to suggest a foul occurs.
Jazz's backside about to concede the penalty
The main point of interest for me around the penalty wasn't Vorm's save but Ashley Williams' positioning.  He was deliberately encroaching the penalty area as Dempsey went to take the penalty with the view to move out of the box as Dempsey ran up to the ball so as to be outside the box when the ball was struck.
Dempsey about to run up with Williams inside the box

Dempsey mid run up with Williams back outside box
This to me seems a risky tactic, I don't know if the aim is to put Dempsey off or possibly influence Dempsey to strike the penalty away from the side Williams is standing but strictly speaking the referee should order a retake (and probably book Williams), although it'd take an incredibly brave referee to do so.  It's probably the kind of thing you can get away with once but make a habit of it and sooner or later you'll get pulled up for it.

 Twitter: @We_R_PL http://www.twitter.com/We_R_PL

Chalkboards/Match Stats: Created using http://www.guardian.co.uk/chalkboards

Monday, 5 December 2011

Blackburn Review

Saturday saw a clash of styles more opposed than the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ encounter with Stoke.  Swansea made almost 400 more passes than Blackburn (with only 1 more unsuccessful pass), making 752 Passes compared to Blackburn’s 355.  Swansea made only 5 interceptions in the whole game (and 3 of these were in the last 10 minutes) compared to 28 from Blackburn, but of course it’s difficult to intercept a ball that’s 20ft in the air.

The chalkboards of the two keepers help highlight the different approach with Vorm passing short and Robinson launch everything goalbounds (and almost scoring on one occasion). 

Only 1 of Robinson's 33 passes was to someone in his own half.  Blue lines, Successful Passes.  Red Unsuccessful.
Blackburn’s four goals would suggest their strategy of ‘getting it in the mixer’ paid dividends but in reality this threat was dealt with relatively well by the Swans defence, aside from the two corners that led to Blackburn’s second and third goals.

Blackburn’s second goal in particular was galling especially as Richards had appeared to do the hard work of getting himself between the Blackburn player and the ball and it looked a relatively straightforward job of shepherding the ball out for a goal kick.  It seemed that Jazz went for the safety first option of putting the ball out for a corner but as I mentioned in the Villa review it may be that not being an established first team player Jazz’s decisions get extra scrutiny. 

In terms of shots, the Swans again only just hit double figures with 6 of the 10 efforts on goal coming from Scott Sinclair who is coming in for increasing criticism on the message boards some of which is justified.  I personally think that he spent too much time off his wing when he didn’t have the ball especially when Moore came on. 

Swansea managed 10 Goal Attempts (3 on Target) to Blackburn's 15 (5 on Target) 
Sinclair made a total of zero crosses in the match, compared to Routledge’s three in 45 minutes for example but ultimately he brings a sufficient goal threat to be kept in the side. 

The images showing ‘Take On’s’ below for example show Sinclair having 5 Successful and 7 Unsuccessful attempted Take On’s compared to 2 Successful and 2 Unsuccessful for Routledge and just 1 Successful for Dyer.  Maybe things didn’t come off for Sinclair but it wasn’t through lack of effort.

Majority of Swansea's attacking dribbling came down the left hand side and largely through Sinclair
Blackburn’s first was well worked with an excellent finish, but their others were in one way or another very disappointing from a Swansea viewpoint and as long as the mistakes are learnt from have to just be put down to it being a bad day. 

Swansea’s first from Lita was a perfect example of the value of sticking to our style.  From the chalkboard the thing that stands out is the repeated appearance of number 7 (Leon Britton) who was fascinating to watch all game with the way he was constantly moving without the ball, changing the angles available to be able to receive the ball at any time.

Lita's Goal with Assist from Mark Gower (27)
I’d rather us playing entertaining football in the championship rather than doing whatever it takes just to stay up.  The were large scale chants of ‘Kean out’ even when the Blackburn were 4-2 up and the match was coming to an end.  They’d rather vent their frustrations on the regime than actually enjoying the win and coming off the bottom of the table. 

Obviously the hope is to play entertaining football and stay up, we’re averaging a point a game so far and are only two points from ninth although also only four points off the relegation zone.  Whichever side of the dotted relegation line we end up it’s likely to be only a few points either way so it’s a case of keeping the faith even if the next few weeks see a wobble occurring.  

 Twitter: @We_R_PL http://www.twitter.com/We_R_PL

Chalkboards/Match Stats: Created using http://www.guardian.co.uk/chalkboards