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Monday, 23 January 2012

Sunderland 2 - Swans 0 Chalkboard Review

The previous Sunday it was 10 shots and everyone's over the moon, this Saturday it's 16 shots and the amount of negativity coming out is quite surprising.

Obviously the big difference between the Arsenal and Sunderland games is the number of goals scored and ultimately the fact that we lost.  The performance however wasn't too bad and you're going to get days where things don't come off.  We lost to two extremely well taken goals and to a side who under the influence of Martin O'Neill are one of the form teams in the division.

Despite Swansea dominating possession, the key for me was Sunderland's defending down the wings, with Sunderland making 22 successful tackles in total, with a particular focus on engaging higher up the pitch on their left (Swansea's right) where Dyer and Rangel have been so successful this season.

Of the 22 tackles, 6 were made by Mclean (Number 23) and 5 by Bardsley (Number 2)
It was a disappointing game in particular for Scott Sinclair, which is a long way from saying he had a bad game.  He was well marshalled and of his 9 attempted 'Take on's' only 3 of them were successful.  One of these was his lovely drop of the shoulder to go past the Sunderland defender only to try and smash the living daylights out of the ball.
The 6 attempted 'Take on's' that didn't work were all in roughly the same area around the edge of the Sunderland box suggesting that the Sunderland defence had the measure of him in this game although often this was achieved by doubling up.

Sinclair's attempted Take On's - Blue Successful, Red Unsuccessful
Sinclair might not have had the greatest of games on Saturday but he has by far the most shots in the Premier League of anyone in the team with 65, the next highest is Danny Graham with 40 and it doesn't take a huge leap of faith to imagine a scenario where Sinclair would already be in double figures by now.

On a more positive note, Gylfi Sigurdsson looks a quality player and should chip in with a fair few goals between now and the end of the season.  Dyer's recent purple patch excluded, the career goal scoring records of Dyer, Allen, Routledge, Gower, Britton etc., mean that there was increased pressure on Graham and Sinclair which now may be lifted with the arrival of someone who is not afraid to shoot.

Sigurdsson had 6 shots against Sunderland, double that of any other Swansea player, and also made 7 of the 19 crosses (excluding corners) made by Swansea , suggesting he'll add a (relatively) more direct approach as well fitting in well with Swansea's style of play.

Sigurdsson's Shots - Blue (On Target), Red (Off Target), Grey (Blocked)
Twitter: @We_R_PL http://www.twitter.com/We_R_PL

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

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Swansea 3 - Arsenal 2

Sunday’s win against Arsenal although not the greatest win in Swansea’s history as I saw some (probably quite drunk) people comment on Sunday night is certainly a huge moment for the club and hopefully the first of many big name Premier League scalps. 

After the result Swansea have moved to 14/1 to be relegated when they were 4/1 before the weekend.  This means currently bookies think there’s only around a 6-7% chance of Swansea being relegated.  At the start of the season it wasn’t quite the same odds on staying up as a sighting of Elvis as mentioned by Rodgers but Swansea were odds of 1/2 (66%) to be relegated.

It’d be mean-spirited to reflect too much on Arsenal’s defects (the absence of Arteta arguably a key one) but some such as the continued inclusion of Arshavin were self inflicted especially given how much of Swansea’s activity goes through Rangel and Dyer who were on his side of the field.

Having said that, as I said after the defeat against Everton, so often the slant of any review is largely based on the final result and Arsenal are the first team to score twice in the Premier League at the Liberty and also had more shots (18) than any other visitor this season. 

The narrative of cool composed Swansea with the use of triangles to pass their way out of trouble is largely true (thank you Lee Dixon for giving birth to the Swansea Triangle) but 10 of Arsenal’s 18 shots came in the last 25 minutes after the introduction of Thierry Henry, one of the few Arsenal players you would worry about just by his presence. 

Swansea’s open play pass success rate also dropped from 81% in the first 65 minutes (just after Henry’s & Rosicky’s introductions) to 77% for the remainder of the match, although plenty of sides would love to get even that kind of success rate. 

One example of the increased pressure placed on Swansea in the second half is looking at the passing of Michel Vorm in each half, in the first half pass success rate was 87% (20 from 23) dropping to 53% in the second half (9 from 17).  Vorm’s passing has improved as the season has progressed and one pass in particular to Taylor almost on the half way line was particularly impressive.    

Increased Arsenal pressure resulted in more long balls from Vorm in the second half
It was a great team effort overall but for me two players in particular deserve a special mention:

Danny Graham has run himself in to the ground every match with his pressing of the opposition defence and also the responsibility of being the lone striker.  With Swansea’s controlled passing game it could just be a case of him being a spectator but rather than standing still, hands on hips and shouting for the ball but instead he is always looking to make the right run behind the defence.  His stats against Arsenal of one shot, one goal highlight the fact that chances made might be limited but his strike rate so far this season has been pretty impressive.

Last season, Nathan Dyer was deservedly the fan’s player of the season and has generally carried that form on this season.  The only thing stopping him being a real top player is the lack of goals.  Prior to 2012, Dyer had 16 Goals in 253 games but since the turn of the year 3 goals in 3 games, If he can keep in the goals and get maybe another 3 or 4 this season then he has absolutely everything and I personally can’t wait for the next two weeks to pass and the speculation around him, Sinclair, Vorm, Taylor etc., to finish. 

So far, with the additions of Sigurdsson, McEachran and Donnelley it’s been a great couple of weeks and the squad as it stands is far stronger than the one that finished last season without disturbing the team ethic.

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

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

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Villa 0 - Swansea 2 Chalkboard Review

Villa might have had more Goal Attempts (11 to Swansea’s 9) and had 14 corners to none for Swansea but this was an assured performance from the Swans that helps banish the bad memories of the Wolves game and combined with the Spurs performance shows we have a team that can give anyone a run for their money. 

Only 1 of Villa’s efforts was actually on target and other than N’Zogbia’s effort deep into injury time that hit the post, Villa didn’t threaten Vorm’s goal too much.

A lot of the credit for this has to be due to the work of Williams and Caulker for clearing the huge volume of balls put in to the box by Villa.  The chalkboards below show the amount of Clearances made by Swansea during the game with 49 Successful clearances made, 15 of which were from Williams and another 10 each from Taylor and Rangel. 

Swansea Clearances overall (Left) and those of Ashley Williams (Right)
To compare those 49 successful clearances with other games, Swansea made 9 successful clearances against Spurs, 19 against QPR and 20 against Everton and the next highest this season after the 49 at Villa was the 38 successful clearances against Wolves.

Of Swansea’s goals, the second goal in particular came about as the result of an aggressive pressing game from Swansea on the Villa back line but even the first was in part due to allowing the Villa back line little space in the defensive third, allowing Dyer to capitalise on a weak pass by Warnock who defensively at least had a terrible game.

Warnock was taken to the cleaners by Dyer, especially in the first half and it’s interesting to see the difference in the areas of Villa’s open play attacks in the two halves.  In the first half 28% was down the right hand flank versus 11% on the left side but this changed in the second half to be 17% on the right and 30% on the left. 

Aston Villa's Successful Open Play passing in each half showing a huge difference in the focus in the second half
This was also reflected in Warnock’s activity who made 14 open play passes in the first half and 27 in the second.  One explanation is that Villa attacking down the right left Warnock too exposed against Dyer whenever Swansea regained possession and that attacking down the left would also require Dyer to track back.

Whatever the reason, ultimately it was a futile effort as a disciplined Swansea defence dealt with whatever Villa threw at them with little panic.  With almost a fortnight before the next league game the main priority will be counting the days down to the end of the month hoping that nobody makes an offer we can’t refuse or we end up in a situation such as Blackpool had with Charlie Adam.

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

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

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Spurs Review

With two games in 48 hours this is just a brief analysis of the key points of the game:  Swansea had more corners, more shots and more passes than a Tottenham side that apart from the first couple of weeks of the season has arguably been the best side in the league.

The chalkboard that stands out for me is the performance of Joe Allen, with Leon rested Joe was technically the defensive midfielder in that he was the main link with the defence but also made more passes in the attacking third than Mark Gower who didn't make a single open play pass in the attacking third.  That's not a criticism of Gower but shows the effort put in by Allen. 

In essence this means Gower sits in the middle with Joe acting as the link man with both the defence and attack.  In total, Joe made 98 passes, the next highest figure from anyone on either team was Ash with 72.

Here There and Everywhere, an excellent passing performance from Joe Allen
Hopefully we can catch a Villa team still celebrating their win over Chelsea and give us a great start to 2012 before a couple of weeks away from the Premier League.