Monday, 27 August 2012

Swansea 3 - West Ham 0 Chalkboard Review

With the style of play undertaken over the last few years along with the almost unheard of level of fan ownership within the club, it's been incredibly difficult not to come across as smug if you're a Swans fan, with that being taken to new heights after the first two games this season.

The level-headed view would be that its only been two games and those have been against a ramshackle QPR and a newly promoted West Ham, but the attacking intent shows a level of threat that is likely to cause most teams problems.

As against QPR, there was definitely a level of Swansea riding their luck with West Ham creating a number of chances and goalmouth scrambles.  The chalkboard below of aerial duels in each half show the level of pressure in the first half compared to far less activity in the box and more challenges won in the second.
Aerial Duels by half, far less pressure in second half
After an impressive debut last week, Chico appeared to make a nervy start to this game misplacing a number of passes early on but settled down in the second half.

The second Swansea goal was due to James Collins' error (and Michu's closing down) but the first and third were the result of excellent passing as the chalkboards below show with plenty of passing in the build up to both.
Plenty of intricate passing, but with more of an end product so far this season
With regards to Collins, as well as the mistake for the second goal, most of his clearances failed to find a team-mate unlike those for Rangel for example.
Rangel repeatedly called in to duty in the middle of the box but clearances successful
As mentioned in the review of the QPR game, there is often a more direct approach with Swansea with the wide players often playing more centrally.  An example of this can be seen when comparing the passing from Rangel to Dyer in the West Ham game compared to the last home game at the end of last season against Liverpool.
Against West Ham, passes from Rangel to Dyer were generally inside rather than down the line as against Liverpool.
Despite this more direct approach, there were still plenty of examples where Swansea were able to keep the ball with the calmness and authority that was present last season (9 of the top 10 passers were Swans players) with the period between the 71st and 73rd minute a great example of the level of control Swansea were able to have.
Passes made between 71st and 73rd minute by team, plenty of short passing triangles across the width and most of the length of the field.
As Laudrup repeatedly says, enjoy it while it lasts although Saturday against Sunderland offers the chance to go back to the top of the league.  For now, every point gained is one closer to safety but whatever the final position it's guaranteed to be entertaining.

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone
Chalkboards: Created using Statszone

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Swansea 2011/12 Points by Opposition

I know this is a week late given the season has already started, but still thought this was worth posting.  Below are the details of the number of points Swansea won by opponent, ordered by the final league standing.

Swansea won 25 points against the top 10 sides and 22 against the bottom 9.  Only Man Utd, Everton and Norwich did the double over Swansea, with the Swans taking 16 points against Liverpool, Fulham and West Brom who finished 8th-10th.

You can't pick and choose where the points come from but the wins against Man City and Arsenal that there's no-one out there to fear.

Monday, 20 August 2012

QPR 0 - Swansea 5 Chalkboard Review

Days like the one on Saturday are the kind that stay long in the memory and as Laudrup himself said "...there will be worse days, but nobody can take away what we have achieved". 

Last season's confident performances coupled with a more direct approach from Laudrup promises much, but before the game the unknowns of a new manager and a number of new players in key positions meant that there was as plenty of nerves before the game kicked off (for me at least).

After Swansea's early goal thanks to Rob Green's poor attempt at saving a Michu shot, QPR had the majority of play until around the half hour mark, with plenty of possession around 25 yards out but attempts largely restricted to speculative shots.  That said if Hoilett's effort with Vorm in no man's land had gone in it may have been a different game.  In Vorm's defence one reaction save he made from a Mackie effort was incredible.

After the half hour mark, Swansea had a couple of chances from set pieces which could be another change from last season.  Last season's centre backs, Williams and Caulker only scored once between them in the Premier League last season, this year I'd expect Williams and Chico to get 5+ between them with Chico especially looking threatening in the opposition box.

QPR had 10 attempts at goal in the first half, all of them in the first 30 minutes.  Swansea had 7 attempts by half time, 6 of these coming after the half hour mark.

Shots by Half: QPR largely restricted to shots outside the box or from wide angles, with Taraabt having 8 attempts in total, twice as many as any other player.
Swansea may have had fewer efforts, but generally were much better opportunities as well as being well finished.
Swansea's more direct approach this season can be seen in a couple of examples of where players received passes.  The chalkboard below compares where Rangel received passes on Saturday compared to the corresponding fixture in April when chants of 'Boring, Boring, Swansea' rang out from the QPR fans as Swansea played keep ball in attempt to frustrate the opposition (which worked perfectly until conceding just before half time).

Rangel received fewer than half as many passes on Saturday (27 compared to 69 in the fixture in April).  He was often in space in forward positions so may well receive the ball more in games where the central play isn't working as well as it did vs. QPR.  Was sometimes isolated in defence but arguably a price worth paying for the increased goal threat provided by Dyer.
There's still the ability to retain possession when required with Chico for example fitting in to the team well and looking extremely comfortable on the ball.  The departure of Allen and arrival of De Guzman signals a slight shift in approach from retention at all costs to a greater willingness to play the ball forward.

As well as the change in midfield, the approach of the two wide men was also noticeably different compared to last season:  
Last season, Swansea's wide players (in particular Dyer) were predominantly based along the touchline.  Against QPR on Saturday as can be seen from the chalkboard above (where they received their passes), both wingers regularly came inside to receive the ball.
Danny Graham may have received less passes on Saturday compared the same fixture last season but felt more involved and was certainly used more as an 'out' ball from the defence more often.  In last season's game none of the passes he received came from a pass from the defensive third compared to several examples on Saturday.
As well as a couple of goals and an all-round impressive display, Michu was also part of what felt like more aggressive defending (particularly in midfield).  16 fouls by Swansea compares to only 9 in the fixture last season.  More often than not last season the number fouls conceded was only in single figures per match.  Some of the fouls appeared to be harsh decisions so the approach is not necessarily a bad thing.
One game doesn't make a season, but initial signs are incredibly positive: De Guzman, Chico and Michu all impressed on their league debuts (with Agustien also looking sharp when coming on for De Guzman)

Joe Allen was one of Swansea's best players last season and undoubtedly Swansea's most valuable asset in terms of saleable value, but with the wonderful Leon Britton available, the negatives around Allen's departure can be minimised.

Having both Allen and Britton in the same side was possibly too defensive at times (it's great when the scores are still level but was maybe found wanting when trying to chase a game) but what Allen's departure does mean is that Britton becomes even more key to the side and any Swans fan should pray on a daily basis that nothing untoward happens to him.

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone
Chalkboards: Created using Statszone