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