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Saturday, 26 April 2014

Swans 4 - Villa 1 Match Stats and Analysis

That's it, We Are Premier League for another season.  Norwich and Fulham can't catch us and as things stand only 1 of Sunderland or Cardiff could mathematically get as high as 39 points so another season in the top flight is guaranteed.

Obviously this game will be remembered for a long long time for that finish from Shelvey (the amount it dips at the end is incredible, everything about it is absolutely perfect).

He's certainly not afraid to have a pop from distance, last season Swansea only scored two league goals from further out than the D but Jonjo has done it 4 times himself this season (along with another from the edge of the box v Fulham).
Left: All Swans goals in 2012/13 with only two outside box: Michu's v QPR on opening day and De Guzman's free kick against Stoke.  Right: Shelvey's league goals this season
Given the goal and Premier League survival it seems a bit churlish to be over analytical of the performance, but the fact that Swansea scored from their first two shots (and only had 3 overall in the first half) suggests that it was one of those days where things go your way.
Shots by Minute: Villa with the majority of shots in first half (although most from distance) but offered relatively little in the 2nd half
Detailed analysis can wait, I'm going to just watch that Shelvey gif a few more times...

Other Posts
Away Support: How Clubs spend the £200k Away Fans Fund
Match Predictions: Are you Smarter than Lawro 

Twitter: @we_r_pl http://www.twitter.com/we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone , Whoscored  and Squawka

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Newcastle 1 - Swans 2 Match Stats and Analysis

It's fair to say like most, I went through a fair range of emotions watching this game.  After around 30 minutes I was thinking 'At least it'll still be in our own hands at the Sunderland game', after an hour it was more 'A point here's a good result, beat Villa and we'll be safe' then at the end after an ice-cool finish by Bony it was 'We're staying up!'

Over a whole season, performance is the most important thing, luck comes and goes but if you're putting in the work you should get your rewards.  When there's only 4 games left however the concept of 'the long run' goes out the window, this was a game where the performance was good but not incredible but the difference that injury time penalty makes in enormous.
Newcastle scored with their first Shot and Swansea with both of their efforts on target
A nice stat from Infostrada Sports was that the last player in the Premier League to score in injury time in both the first and second half (as Bony did today) was Bony in the game against Man City.

Bony now has had a goal or assist in 11 of his 19 games since the start of the year (10 goals, 3 assists).

In terms of control of the game, this match swung back and forth with Swansea having the better of the match early on but then conceding, Newcastle also had a fair amount of possession in the parts of the second half.
Passes over time, no dominant team with control changing throughout the game
In terms of individual performances, Bony's goals will deservedly get the headlines but again I thought Routledge put a shift in again, especially tracking back and defending.  Emnes again did a tidy job although I'm glad he got hacked down as I didn't have the greatest confidence in him being able to finish and it looked as if the ball was going to get stuck under his feet.

I felt earlier in the week that 36 points would be enough but if Sunderland can beat Chelsea there may still be the odd twist left although I would expect any side suddenly rising from the relegation zone to do so at the expense of Norwich or West Brom (or possibly even Villa).  A win against Villa will almost certainly make us mathematically safe (bar a 30 goal, goal difference swing over the last 2 games).

Other Posts
Away Support: How Clubs spend the £200k Away Fans Fund
Match Predictions: Are you Smarter than Lawro 

Twitter: @we_r_pl http://www.twitter.com/we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone , Whoscored  and Squawka

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Swansea 0 - Chelsea 1 Match Analysis

Any analysis of this game is largely academic as it became a case of Attack vs Defence after the first quarter of an hour once Chico had been sent off.  Both offences in isolation are yellow card fouls, but usually the ref will give a 'any more and you're off' warning to someone, especially so early in the game.

The second foul was very similar to Chico's foul on Barkley against Everton that led to a penalty, not a hugely dangerous area and just gets sucked in, it's the kind of situation where the risk associated with a mistimed challenge greatly outweighs the reward if the attempt is successful.

It's a strange situation given his influence last season that pretty much everyone seemed to want Michu not to start this match, but until he's match fit the team is arguably better off with Pablo playing the attacking midfielder role and there are insufficient games left for him to play his way to fitness.  I'm hoping his ankle didn't suddenly start feeling sore yesterday after the starting line-up was announced as the though of relying on N'Gog from the bench is a scary one (would have preferred Emnes/De Guzman to come on in that situation).
Shots by Minute: Post the sending off, Chelsea had 23 shots to Swansea's 5 with Swansea having only 2 efforts in the 2nd half (Routledge's shot and Bony's header from subsequent corner).
Possession wise it was even more one-sided, especially after the break and there was a 15 minute period just before the Chelsea goal where Swansea were under huge pressure and attempted only 6 passes.  This makes it even more galling to concede from a situation with a throw from fairly deep in the Chelsea half.
After an even 1st half (pass wise), apart from a little flurry after the goal Swans were unable to string any passes together
You can still get odds as big as 20/1 on Swansea going down (most bookies offering around 10/1) and there are 4 games left where there is a reasonable chance of getting points and with our goal difference 36/37 points would probably be enough, but going into the final game against Sunderland needing a result doesn't bear thinking about, not least because I'm starting to get images of Fabio Borini relegating us (thank God Ki won't be eligible to play as that'd be even worse).

Positives from the game were Wayne Routledge's performance along with some great touches and backheels from Bony (i'm going to be a big Ivory Coast fan in the summer after lumping on him being Top Scorer at 500/1).

Other Posts
Away Support: How Clubs spend the £200k Away Fans Fund
Match Predictions: Are you Smarter than Lawro 

Twitter: @we_r_pl http://www.twitter.com/we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone , Whoscored  and Squawka

Saturday, 12 April 2014

How clubs spend the £200k Away Fans Fund

I was thinking about writing a piece about away fan activity in the Premier League anyway but then earlier this week Southampton announced they were drastically reducing prices for their final away game of the season at Swansea.
Southampton announcing the discount on Twitter earlier in the week
Much is made on their site of it being a chance to ‘give back to fans’ but I’m a cynical guy and also know about the Premier League’s Away Fan Initiative.  It’s often referred to as the Away Fan’s Fund (see BBC article) although that’s slightly misleading in that 'Fund' suggests some sort of ‘charitable’ donation from the Premier League, when in reality it’s a plan for all 20 Premier League sides to commit £200k each per year of their revenue for this and the next 2 seasons (so £12m in total) on the Away Fan experience.

There's a couple of reasons my hunch Southampton's activity is a 'Oh Shit, we've got to spend this money' rather than a planned approach.  The first is that coach travel goes on sale 6 days after the tickets which seems odd.  The second was this forum piece I found which details a response from the club earlier in the month to a Southampton fan:

I can advise that the away supporters initiative was created for clubs to use to improve the experience offered to visiting fans. This could be used either for our supporters travelling to other clubs, or supporters visiting us. 

The £200k was not a donation by the Premier League to all clubs in the league, this is a top end figure that they suggested should be put aside to improve this experience. The £200k is paid for entirely by the club. 

Currently SFC have put money into improving the away fans concourse areas and provided supporters with a family fun day as part of the Fulham match day experience. 
We are still looking into further options for this, when decisions are made they will be announced on our website. 

Knocking £30 off the ticket price, heavily subsidising coaches and offering a free meal means that this will cost Southampton around £60k in tickets alone for 2,000 fans and possibly closer to £100k overall depending on cost of coaches.  If this gesture is above and beyond the £200k fund then I'm happy to stand corrected and not be so cynical in future,

This ambiguity of ‘Away Fan Experience’ has probably in part led to a wide variation in approaches from clubs, some have kept it simple with regular ticket discounts while others have taken a more proactive approach and others have seemed to sit on their hands.

The Football Supporters' Federation have played a large part in getting this initiative set up and have details on their website of what some clubs have said they will do but I've also found a few examples from Fans Forums/Supporter Groups that highlight the vastly different attitudes to the initiative.  It's not meant to be a comprehensive list or bashing certain teams but highlights that even something as seemingly straightforward as this ends up with a dozen different solutions.

Manchester United at their Fans Forum had this:

MB outlined the away fans’ initiative. Each club has set aside £200k. The Club could spend this money on its own fans travelling away, fans visiting Old Trafford or a combination of both. 
...
Kiosk vouchers for away grounds were discussed, as was the availability of transport for the disabled. But the most popular idea was a £5 discount on the cost of away tickets. The Club agreed to implement this and further investigate funding the remaining league matches that may not be covered (ie a £5 discount might just stretch to 16 games, assuming current allocations). 

This is the approach a number of clubs have had with a straightforward reduction in ticket price although some have given deeper discounts than others, the picture below is from a letter from Arsenal to the 'Spirit of Shankly' supporters group:
Stoke have given free coach travel for the whole season and other clubs have gone for bigger discounts (or free/discounted travel) for specific matches.  As a Swansea fan, I know the club have made a lot of effort with regards to the initiative and were probably slow to trumpet their work as I saw a greater amount of coverage of Newcastle and Aston Villa offering reciprocal price deals even though Swansea was the common link.

Aside from reciprocal deals, Swansea have tried to have some sort of 'Thank You' at every game, ranging from free food to a free programme to discounted travel and free scarves.  I appreciate the gestures and the effort made, but personally I'd rather the £3.50 (if full price is charged) that is being given to another club in return for a programme was used elsewhere as I'll discuss later.

Everton's approach to the initiative is quite different to a lot of other clubs (from a Shareholder's meeting with Robert Elstone, Everton's CEO):
We spoke for a while about this initiative and the different approaches that clubs had taken to investing the £200k per year that has been set aside by the clubs to enhance the away match experience. Mr Elstone reiterated what he had said in previous meetings that this is supposed to be about filling the away ends of grounds. He noted that the ticket price subsidy the Club had announced for our own fans accounted for about 25% of the total spend.
Additionally the Club would soon announce a new role of ‘Away Fan Ambassador’ who would be available 8am through 8pm on match days to support the needs of away fans including providing live updates (presumably through social media platforms) of things such as traffic and weather updates.
He is though really frustrated by the actions of what he called the ‘less proactive clubs’ who’d used the whole £200k to simply knock a few pounds off tickets for their own fans, especially those clubs who have a 100% away following anyway and so their actions are very unlikely to increase attendances.
He has (or will) asked the Premier League to be more specific about their expectation for the use of these funds as the scheme continues in 2014/15 and 2015/16.
This from a Newcastle Fans Forum in late Feb was also interesting:
TC(Fans Rep): "What is the Away Fans Fund being spent on?"

LM(Club Rep) explained that the Club has to disclose its spending in this area to the PL and will be doing so shortly. LM will also be attending a meeting with the PL and club supporter liaison representatives next week where this subject will be discussed and ideas shared.

The board stated that it does not agree with the concept of subsidising away match tickets as this simply means it has to hand money over the home club, which doesn't discourage it from setting fair prices. Instead, the Club has pursued reciprocal pricing deals with other clubs but that this still represents a loss of revenue for those participating, which is offset against the Away Fans Fund.

TC agreed with the principal of reciprocal pricing and thought it was a good idea.

The Club disclosed that a significant amount had already been spent on the visitors section at St. James' Park this season, with the Away Fans Fund designed to be spent on the clubs' own fans who travel and the designated away end in their stadium.

The Club is funding away travel for the Newcastle United Disabled Supporters Association (NUDSA) to Hull City next weekend, with tickets, travel, food and stewarding all provided.

Gareth Beard explained that NUDSA was unable to travel in large numbers to other PL away fixtures due to the lack of available space for disabled supporters.

The Club asked supporters to continue sending in ideas. The Club also noted guidance from Fans Forum members that discounted travel was not universally popular due to supporters who travel from different areas and on other forms of transport not standing to benefit.

Since the above, Newcastle have now set up £10 discounts for trips to Stoke and Arsenal, possibly like Southampton have realised they need to get the £200k spent.

Approaches by club therefore range from basic discounts to 'fan experience' activities to using some of the money to refurbish a clubs away end.  Fans who support Everton away on a regular basis might argue that they'd rather had the extra £50-£60 back in reduced ticket costs but at least Everton appear to have a coherent strategy as to what they are doing with the money rather than blowing it all in one fell swoop.

The moral of the story for me is that if you give clubs too much room to interpret what the reasoning is behind the initiative a some of them will look to tweak it to their own advantage.  Personally I'd recommend a simple plan where an extra category of tickets is set up and 16-21 year olds ticket prices are set half way between Adult and Child.  So for Swansea for example where Adult is £35 (for most games) and Child £17.50, introduce a £26.25 bracket.

Obviously not everyone under 21 is poor and everyone over 21 rich, but this seems to me to be a simple way of encouraging the kind of people you want to keep coming to matches for the good of the game.

Other Posts:
Match Predictions: Are you Smarter than Lawro 

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Hull 1 - Swans 0 Stats and Chalkboards

Two steps forward, two steps back.  After the smiles post the Norwich game and talk of 'unbeaten runs' and 'only way is up' this was another reminder that we're not safe yet.

Reading Twitter after a defeat is never the wisest thing but seen plenty of people being outraged that other people were outraged enough to want their money back after that performance, I imagine 1 person (if that) complained and then things snowball. It was certainly not that bad.

This match felt pretty flat throughout with Swansea's best chances arguably coming on the counter-attack, unfortunately once Hull went ahead they were pretty happy to sit on their lead and only registered a single shot in the second half.
Swansea going for around 30 minutes post Hull's goal without a shot although perked up after the introduction of Pablo.
It's a bit unfair to single him out given he only came on at 83 minutes but having a quick look through the player stats this evening I was curious to see what Lita had managed during the game and this was his chalkboard:
Nothing to see here
There's still plenty of winnable games to come and relatively little risk of relegation but it'd be good to get this season chalked off as soon as possible to get a head start for planning for next year.

Other Posts:
Hamstrung: Playing Time and Injuries compared for Pablo/Ozil/Aguero
Leon: 5,000 Passes in the Premier League
Match Predictions: Are you Smarter than Lawro

Twitter: @we_r_pl http://www.twitter.com/we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone , Whoscored  and Squawka