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

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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

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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

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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

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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Aston Villa Review

The game itself was obviously overshadowed by the shocking news of Gary Speed's death and huge credit has to be given to a number of players on both sides for playing so soon after hearing of the death of someone who they would have worked with or been friends with for a number of years.

The game itself seemed to lack a bit of 'oomph' at times which was understandable in the circumstances and although both sides had their chances to win, another 0-0 was no major surprise given the relatively low number of attacking efforts during the match.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that 0-0 (or no goalscorer) would be the value bet for most games that the Swans are involved with as we tend to contol games for large passages but are not going to blow away too many teams or get taken apart too often ourselves.

Overall Swansea dominated possession with relatively little cut through only managing seven efforts to Villa's 12.

Only 3 efforts were on target in total for the entire game.  Numbers relate to squad number of player with the effort.
There was a definite feeling that Villa were overly aggressive at times particularly early on when they picked up two bookings in the first fifteen minutes, looking at the free kicks won and conceded by Swansea shows the Swans won 16 free kicks (excluding Offsides) and conceded only 9.  Of those 16 conceded by Villa, 11 were in the first half.

Free Kicks won by Swansea (in Blue), focused in the middle third, arguably showing Villa being keen to disrupt moves from developing.
 As well as Villa's fouling, the departure of Rangel before the half-hour mark had an impact on the flow of Swansea's attacks, with the passing of Richards his replacement not being as far up the pitch as Rangel's.

44% of Rangel's passes were in Villa's half compared to Richards' 26%
 Overall though Richards only had five misplaced passes all game, two of which were crosses and one was from a throw in meaning he only made two unsuccessful passes in the whole game. 

When you have someone come in who is less experienced you naturally focus on their performance more and greater emphasis may be made on any mistake than if the same thing was done by someone else.

Overall a good set of passing from Richards who although maybe has less attacking threat than Rangel, did most things well 
 Twitter: @We_R_PL

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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Man Utd Review

Saturday’s game was full of spirit buoyed on by a fantastic crowd but grudgingly I have to give huge credit to Manchester Utd for the professional job they did, gaining their third 1-0 league win in a row none of which could be said to contain champagne football but have brought in the points. 

It’s a credit to Swansea that Man Utd went with a team which could well be as strong, if not stronger than the one they will put out on Tuesday in the Champions League.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that the best way to combat our passing game is to play a high tempo pressing game high up the pitch in particular around the Rangel-Dyer axis through which so much of our play revolves.

The chart below shows the positions of successful passes by Swansea in the first half with 28% of passes occurring in the upper right hand quadrant compared to 17% on the upper left hand side.
Areas of Passing shows the focus of activity down the right hand wing during the first half.  In the Second half the figures were more even with 24% for upper right and 19% for upper left hand quadrant.

The potential downside for any team playing an aggressive pressing game is that it’ll leave more space behind, in particular for Dyer and Sinclair to exploit if a way through can be found.  It then becomes a game of your pressing vs. our passing which is difficult for a pressing team to maintain for a long period of time.

From a Swansea perspective the highlight of the first half had to be the dribbling of Dyer, in total he had six successful ‘Take on’s’ where he dribbled past a player.  Of these six, five were in the first half with only one in the second half.

Take On's - Successful and Unsuccessful for Swansea players.  Numbers relate to squad number of player e.g., 12 = Nathan Dyer
Unfortunately, the early Man Utd goal meant that in the second half especially Man Utd could afford to sit deeper.  This resulted in Swansea only managing one shot on target the whole game and ten attempts overall,  Sinclair’s miss in the first half being insufficiently goal bound to be classed as an attempt.

The second half saw Ashley Williams become an increasing presence in midfield as Man Utd sat deeper, 30% of his passes were in the opposition half during the second half compared to only 11% in the first half.

In the first half 60% of Williams' passing was in the defensive third compared to only 33% in the second half.
Overall successful passing volumes were 521 Swans (254 1st half, 267 2nd half) vs. 536 Man Utd (308 1st half, 228 2nd half).  It could be argued that some of this increased Swansea pressure was due to the introduction of Allen for Routledge but in my opinion was more dictated by Man Utd's happiness to sit back and allow the ball to be moved around in front of them.

There's no shame in losing to Man Utd and given the team Utd picked and the fact they were happy to largely sit on a 1-0 lead shows that not many teams will come and steamroller the Swans at the Liberty.  The next three home games are Villa, Fulham and QPR all of whom are in my opinion upper-middle teams who I'd expect to finish between 8th and 15th so will provide a good benchmark.

Twitter: @We_R_PL

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Friday, 18 November 2011

Manchester United Preview

This game won't decide whether or not we stay up this season but is ultimately the reason we want to be here.  No disrespect to the majority of the Premier League who I'm sure feel the same way about us but it's all about testing yourself against the best and Man Utd are the first of the big beasts to visit the Liberty.

The Liverpool game will have been a huge help to prepare for this game as it'll help to remind the players that you play the opposition not their stature or tradition. 

Manchester United started the season in superb form scoring 21 (2,8,3,5,3) in their first 5 league games.  In the subsequent 6 PL games they've scored 7 goals, scoring in every game but only getting more than 1 against Norwich.

After a strong start Utd have stuttered but now grinding out rather than blowing away teams.  The rise of Man City disguises the fact that Utd actually have more points than this time last year.
Much has been made of the number of shots Man Utd have allowed the opposition and in 4 of their 5 away games they have had fewer shots than the home team.  This even includes their 5-0 win away at Bolton.

In their away games so far they have averaged 11.6 shots per game and the opposition 17 suggesting that there will be chances.

Only Man City and Arsenal have scored more than once against Utd this season
United won only five away league games all of last season but have already done it three times this season, they know that to catch City they will have to adopt a more aggressive attitude than they did last season so I expect them to try and quiet the crowd down in the first half hour and then push further forward in the final fifteen minutes of the first half.

If Swansea play with the composure that they showed against Bolton and at Anfield rather than the jitters in the last ten minutes against Wolves and first ten minutes against Norwich then it could be a close run thing.

Betting against Man Utd on a regular basis is probably the quickest way to lose a fortune but given Swansea's home form and the fact that for United this game is pretty small fry I think the odds of a draw at 3/1 are good value (as it Rangel at 50/1 for first goalscorer). 

Odds of a Swans win have been dropping during the week from 7/1 down to as low as 5/1 in some places.  Whether this is based on hard facts or people just getting over-exited we will have to wait and see.

Twitter: @We_R_PL

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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Season So Far: Vorm's Passing

It’s a testament to how quickly Swans fans have taken to Michel Vorm that there was comparatively little criticism of his balls-up against Arsenal which provided what turned out to be the only goal of the game.  In contrast, Danny Graham’s miss of a sitter at the end of the game was his fourth without a goal and led to a lot of knee-jerk comments about his ability at this level.

It’s always the case that fan’s favourites get cut more slack when things go wrong and Vorm’s performance against Man City meant that he became an instant hero.  Combined with other heroics such as his penalty save against Wigan and five clean sheets so far this season, Vorm is making a strong claim to being the best value signing this season in the Premier League.

In this blog I’ve focused on looking at his distribution from the back, much was made last year of the passing accuracy of De Vries which would give us the opportunity to quickly start attacks down the wings without having to first go through the defence or central midfielders (which in turn reduces the opposition’s inclination to press).  

Over the season so far Passing Accuracy has averaged 65% but ranges from 51% to 96%

When looking at individual game chalkboards it can be seen that the passing has been a bit of a mixed bag so far and obviously success will depend on the kind of pass that needs to be played.  In the Bolton game for example, Vorm had a 96% successful pass rate as almost all were short passes to the edge of the box.  The Wolves game in contrast has only a 52% success rate as most kicks are into the opposition half.

Bolton's lack of pressing allowed the option of an easy ball to the edge of the box.  The Wolves game has a greater proportion of long balls, along with some good passes to the wings.

The Wigan game shows a large number of successful balls out to the left hand side almost up to halfway.  The Chelsea game by contrast shows a number kicks going straight out.
In a lot of the games there's been a couple of balls that have gone straight in to the crowd but these are often relatively small margins between a great crossfield ball and it ending up in row G and tends to look more sloppy than a midfielder playing a similarly bad ball too long.

In terms of his general play, there’ve been times when he’s seemed reluctant to leave his line and some when he has where he hasn’t been totally convincing.  Ultimately, I think it’ll be a case of him being a shot-stopper and relying on the defence to combat any aerial threats which is fine if everyone knows where they stand (both literally and metaphorically).

In an ideal world you’d have someone with Vorm’s athleticism combined with a 6’ 6’’ colossus who dominates his box.  In the real world you don’t get both (at least not for less than £15m) and in signing Vorm we have been incredibly lucky, especially given how close to the start of the season he signed and have a keeper who could well make the difference in trying to stay up.

Twitter: @We_R_PL

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Friday, 11 November 2011

Season So Far - Comparison after 11 games last PL season

With the International break being an unwelcome diversion for most people, I thought I'd use the time to compare where we are now with how the Premier League looked at this stage last season.

Looking at the table there are some good and some bad things to take out of it for Swans fans.  The main positive is that both Wigan and Blackburn have fewer points than West Ham did last season.

Comparison after 11 games with last season, relegated teams highlighted

It also shouldn't be forgotten that Wigan's 5 points came from their first three games and against the three promoted sides.  Blackburn's win against Arsenal was a bit of a freak with Arsenal scoring two own goals, although since then luck seems to have deserted Blackburn (and long may that continue).

If we cross our fingers and hope that neither Wigan or Blackburn turn things around, then that leaves one relegation spot left to fill.  This could arguably be one of anyone outside the current top seven, Newcastle's start has been so impressive, even if the wheels come off they should still finish in the top ten.

The return of Davies and Klasnic and the subsequent 5-0 thumping of Stoke suggests Bolton are in a false position and I'd expect them to finish around 12-14th, similarly Fulham have a squad that is far above their current position and were desperately unlucky against Spurs.

I'd also say Everton are far better than their current position but that they are a club that could just as easily be bankrupt as challenging for the Champions League in 3 years time.  If Moyes suddenly decided he'd had enough they could be in trouble but I couldn't imagine them going down with him in charge.

That then leaves a number of OK, but not great teams such as Wolves/Stoke/West Brom/Sunderland/Villa along with the three promoted teams.

I don't think Villa will lose too many games and although won't be dazzling should be fine along with Wolves and Stoke.

My guess is that West Brom and Sunderland will struggle along with one of the promoted teams running out of steam.  The assumption is that if QPR need extra bodies in January then the money will be there, which leaves us and Norwich.

Both teams have played good football but it'll need some luck in avoiding injuries to key players to make sure the momentum is maintained.

On the plus side Swansea were 2/1 to stay up (33%) after the play-off final but are currently 2/5 (71%), the downside is that last year Blackpool had a point more than us at this stage but went down.

The main difference is that Charlie Adam was a huge part of that Blackpool team but was arguably not the same after the on-off saga of the possible move to Liverpool, as long as our squad doesn't get destabilised with any of them suddenly thinking it's their right to be off to a 'bigger' club I see no reason at all why we won't stay up.

Twitter: @We_R_PL

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Liverpool Review

Poor Andy Carroll, he misses a great opportunity early on and again his price tag comes up (even when he scores it rarely occurs without being mentioned that it's metaphorically paying off another chunk of his transfer fee).  Contrast that with Mark Gower's miss where the reaction is more 'Well that's Mark Gower for you'.

The final outcome could have been dramatically altered by either of those efforts going in but ultimately the story of the match was one that even though Liverpool had the majority of chances this was no mis-match.

Liverpool had 23 shots (compared to Swansea's 12) but only managed 5 efforts on target.  Last week I was tempted to write a preview about the comparative wastefulness of Liverpool (and in particular Suarez) but felt that would just be tempting fate.  Sometime soon, it'll click for Liverpool and they'll give someone a real hammering but they'll probably have to wait until they play a team who aren't as comfortable in possession as Swansea.

Liverpool had 23 attempts with 5 on target compared to Swansea's 12 with 3 on target.  Dyer topped the Swan's shot list with 3 efforts.

Passing success rate consistently 80%+ although a few of Vorm's passes ended
up in the crowd
In terms of passing, Swansea almost had parity with Liverpool, making 395 Successful open play passes compared to Liverpool's 424.

Top passer for Swansea was Britton, closely followed by Rangel, Gower and Allen. 

Williams' passing exploits were greatly reduced with only 28 open play passes compared to the colossal 121 against Bolton.

Where the passing took place also shows the extra territory enjoyed by Liverpool with 55% of their successful passes taking place in the opposition's half compared to Swansea's 27%.
Swansea's defence were also up against it at times making a total of 35 clearances compared to Liverpool's 6.

If all the above sounds like I'm downplaying the effort by the Swans that's certainly not the case, at times they bossed the game and have a real composure that only a minority of premier league teams can match.

One of the most pleasing aspects of the game was the performance of Wayne Routledge, against Norwich in the attacking midfielder position he looked eager and enterprising but ultimately got crowded out.  Being out wide seemed to bring out the best in him and even though it's likely Sinclair will return against Man Utd, it's great that Routledge has shown he's no poor alternative.

That coupled with the return of Agustien, the first team return soon of Caulker and longer term dare I say it, the return of Bodde then what maybe seemed a pretty thin squad a few weeks before the season started now has real competition and one that has so far at least, proved itself deserving of being premier league.

Twitter: @We_R_PL

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Saturday, 29 October 2011

Swans 3 - Bolton 1 Chalkboard Review (Initial Thoughts)

Wow.  Three home wins in a row now and playing some fantastic stuff.  Each week I've been quietly confident but also worried as much by the reputation of the opponents as their actual ability but every week that goes by further proves that this team has more than enough to stay in this division.

The top level stats are pretty impressive: 3 Goals, 23 Attempts in total (best this season) and 652 completed passes.  Swansea's 602 open play passes dwarfing Bolton's figure of 227.

The goal so soon after the sending off obviously had a huge impact on the game but throughout I found Bolton's approach quite strange.  They pressed our defence at times but only with one or two players at a time.   Pass - Pass - Pass and suddenly the balls with a Swans player in plenty of space.

With that level of control, the top two passers were Williams and Monk.  Williams in particular showed an impressive range of passing and it's great to have a centre back who is comfortable pushing up towards midfield when the situation allows, this commits the opposition midfield creating space for the Swansea midfield.  In total Williams made a huge total of passes (121) with only 9 being unsuccessful.

Williams' Passing shows some excellent long-range passes and activity around the half way line.  Blue: Successful passes
Another example of Bolton's lack of pressure can be seen in Vorm's kicking where there were only 2 Unsuccessful passes all game, one of which was an unfortunate slice out of play when under no real pressure.  Bolton's half hearted pressing meant that there was usually a straightforward pass on for Vorm.

With little pressure on him, Vorm was able to complete short, straightforward passes without having to resort to higher risk long balls
Special mention has to go out again to both Joe Allen and Leon Britton who between them made 152 passes with only 1 pass going astray with Leon making 67 passes, all successful.

Twitter: @We_R_PL

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Thursday, 27 October 2011

Where it went wrong against Wolves

Where did it all go wrong?  Well the short answer would be that for the second goal (and the corner leading up to the first) that our positioning was all over the place as you could also argue it was the first goal (the picture shows the space both the scorer Doyle has and also Henry on the edge of the box).

The lead up to the goal has the almost comedic image of a load of Swans players rushing to get back after spending too much time watching the ball and was played for the country to see on Match of The Day.

All of this wouldn't be anywhere near as annoying if we hadn't been so good for the first 70-75 minutes, so the question is where did it go wrong?

I've looked at the 10 minute intervals between the hour mark and the end of the game and it can be seen that it is a lack of composure and the attempt to retreat to safety that cost us.  In the chalkboards below the lines relate to Successful (Blue) and Red (Unsuccessful) passes. 

For the 61-70 Min period Swansea kept their passing together, having 3 times the number of successful passes (45) as Wolves, with both team having 15 unsuccessful passes.

For the 71-80 minute period it all starts to unravel, the passing interplay disappears, Wolves dominate the midfield and the is an increasing tendency to pass back to Vorm which results in a lot of lost possession.  Wolves have almost double the number of successful passes in this period (53 vs. 27) with both teams having 14 unsuccessful passes.

The pass completion rate continues to drop with continued heavy use of Vorm.

It's a stat I've mentioned before, but it's probably something I'll keep saying throughout the season: Wigan stayed up last season with only 9 wins.  I think everyone was fully aware of how much the win would have meant and instead of doing what they're good at and controlling games nerves kicked in and people dropped deeper and passes went astray.

The overall pass completion rate was 81% for the first 75 minutes when Britton was on the pitch but only 64% after he went off.  I think he brings a level of calm that was perhaps missing at the end of that game.  His replacement (Orlandi) had an 80% completion rate but that was only on 5 passes, it's more Britton's absence removes the obvious 'out' ball as you know a pass to him is likely to stick.

If we play like we did in the first 70 minutes on a regular basis then I don't think there's any doubt that there are at least 3 teams worse than us, if you looked at the last 10 here and the first 10 at Norwich however you wouldn't be as optimistic.

Ultimately I think we'll get somewhere between 38-48 points this season and it's going to be a question of holding our nerve, keeping people fit and a little bit of luck.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Chalkboard Review: Wolves 2 - Swans 2

80 minutes in to the game and I had this review finished in my mind: excellent passing, controlled the game, two well executed goals and us hitting double figures in points.

Come the end of the game I was just tempted to leave a string of expletives in large text as my review.

Halving calmed down I guess the mood is more of bewilderment rather than anger as the performance, especially in the first half was superb.

Looking at the passing stats, the actual number of passes from Swansea was relatively low (433 Open Play passes compared with 595 the previous week against Norwich, with an 81% success rate compared with 89% against Norwich).

Where you could argue there was a lot of passing going nowhere last week against Norwich, Wolves (lack of) defence meant far less probing was needed to find openings and we could afford to be more direct.

The noticeable thing about the passing is how much came from Rangel and Gower which can be seen in the overall passing stats and the passing areas being heavily down the right hand side (often involving Dyer).

40% of Swansea's Successful Open Play passes were on the right flank compared to 19% on the left
It'd be over-simplifying things to say that Dyer does the hard work and Sinclair gets the glory, but generally most of the ball goes down Dyer's side on the right which as well as posing its own threat leaves space on the other side for Sinclair to attack. 

Whilst a lot the wider media may focus on Sinclair given his goals last season, within the Swan's fanbase there's a real appreciation for the shift Dyer puts in on a consistent basis.

For Gower, as good as his performance was, his corners were pretty tame affairs that were gentle chips in rather than having any real menace.  Swansea had 11 corners of which 3 were classed as Successful (27%) compared with 5 of Wolves' 8 (63%).

Swansea had 17 shots in total, the second highest they've achieved (18 against Sunderland being the highest) and way more than the season average so far of 11.4.  They still however had less shots than Wolves who had 22.

Looking at when the shots were taken shows the change that took place in the last 10-15 minutes.  I've cut the second half at the point Britton's went off but that's not meant to stick the boot into Orlandi who replaced him, as the stats would be pretty much the same if I cut it after 83 minutes when Dyer went off as only 1 shot was conceded between these points.

In a later blog this week I'll look in more detail at trying to pinpoint where the change really occurred. There is a definite difference in the stats between the first and second half (e.g., Rangel made 49 successful open play passes in the first half compared to 19 in the second) and I'll try to uncover whether it was Wolves' double substitution, the substitution of Britton or just bad luck (or bad defending) that caused that finish.

Twitter: @We_R_PL

Chalkboards/Match Stats: Created using

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Norwich Review

The final result of a game tends to cloud the overall judgement of a performance.  Where the Stoke game could easily have been 1-1 but finished 2-0, everything looks rosy; however on Saturday, although Norwich deserved their win, the Swans performance was let down by a number of sloppy defensive errors rather than being outclassed.

This game saw the greatest number of passes from Open Play (532) made by the Swans in a Premier League game compared to the previous high of 480 vs. Man City and is far greater than the 302 made in this game by Norwich.  However when you look at who made them and where it's not as rosy a picture:

11% of Swansea's successful passing took place in the final third compared to 28% for Norwich
It's unusual for Monk to have so much more of the ball than Williams, but it's possible that Williams' desire to push forward with the ball on a number of occasions meant a reduction in the number of slow-tempo 1-2s that usually occur between Williams and the midfield.

It was also noticeable the amount of time Danny Graham came back deep for the ball as can be seen below when comparing Graham's activity with that of Morison for Norwich (both of whom had very good games). 

Passing Activity from Graham and Morison - Blue (Successful), Red (Unsuccessful), White (Goal Assist)

Whilst it is good to see a forward looking for the ball here it was a case of not being in areas where he could do any damage and overall Graham had only 2 shots, one of which was the goal.   

As mentioned in last weeks preview, over the 4 games prior to Saturday, Norwich we averaging over 50% more attempts on goal a game (15.5) compared to Swansea (10).  This differential was again in place on Saturday with Norwich having 18 attempts to Swansea's 12.

Dobbie (along with Sinclair) had the highest number of attempts with 3 despite only playing 30 minutes, although two of these efforts came within seconds of each other and were fairly tame affairs.  The attacking midfielder/second striker role is still up for grabs with the rest of the team (based on those currently fit) largely picking itself.

Routledge looked sharp and direct in the first half but quiet in the 15 minutes he had in the second half, Dobbie when he came on appeared to me to be trying too hard as he knew it may be a few weeks before he gets a decent chance again.

For me the best option is to play Allen in this position and to bring in Gower (or Agustien when fit).

The next two games, Wolves away and Bolton home will bring us up to 10 Premier League games played and give us a real idea of where we stand, what I've seen so far suggests there's no reason why we can't stay up but it's going to be a long hard road. 

Ultimately it may as much rest on the failings of others (Wigan/Sunderland I'm looking at you especially) as much as our own efforts.

Twitter: @We_R_PL

Chalkboards/Match Stats: Created using

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Norwich Preview

Saturday sees the return of Premier League football after what seems an age since the Stoke game.  The two weeks in between have seen a further two clean sheets for Ashley Williams along with Joe Allen surely establishing himself as a first team regular for Wales.

The trip to Norwich pits 9th against 10th with two teams full of confidence and self-belief and I think that's going to produce a game that'll be full of goals rather than a tense affair if the teams were 19th and 20th.

Both sides are a long, long way from safety but will see this as an opportunity to put some distance (however brief) between themselves and the bottom three.

Norwich received a lot of praise (but ultimately no points) for their performance at Man Utd having an impressive 17 shots.

When comparing the last 4 games played by each of the two teams, it can be seen that Norwich have a far higher number of shots per game.

While Swansea tend to follow the Barcelona approach of having a Plan A and sticking to it, Norwich are a bit more versatile with a narrow approach against Man Utd compared to a much wider game plan against Sunderland.

Overall betting sees Norwich as favourites at 5/4 (44%), the Draw is 12/5 (29%) and Swansea 5/2 (29%), giving an overall margin for the bookies of around 2%.

I see this as being quite an open game and my prediction is for a ding-dong battle and a 3-2 Swansea win which is available at 40-1.

Twitter: @We_R_PL

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Swans in Twitter Relegation Zone

Getting my ticket for Norwich away in the post last week, I was struck by how professional it looked (it doesn't take much to impress me). 

When compared to my ticket for Arsenal away (see below) the first thing that struck me was the listing of the various forms of contact (Phone/Web/Facebook/Twitter).

To be fair to Arsenal, it could be argued that people know plenty about them and it'd only take a few seconds on Google to find out whatever you needed to find.

It does show though that Norwich have their finger on the Social Media pulse and are willing to use whatever techniques are available to interact with fans.
This got me thinking about Twitter followings around the Premier League and the table below shows the relative Twitter follower counts for 'Official' accounts (as at approx. 5pm on Wed 11th Oct).

There is an account @MUFootballClub that claims to be official but has never tweeted so may not be genuine.

Man Utd's reason for not having a Twitter account is that they currently don't see it as part of their communication strategy (but they do have 19.9m facebook followers so do appreciate the value of Social Media).

I don't think Swansea on the other hand could give the same reasoning and it does look as if they're missing a trick (the Swans account was set up May 27th before the play-off final but has only tweeted once). 

Given the figures of other teams I see no reason why the Swans wouldn't get 10-20,000 followers without too much effort (Ashley Williams has 25k, Scott Sinclair has 23k and Danny Graham 13k followers).

At the moment I use News Now or forums such as Planet Swans along with Twitter feeds of other Swans fans for Swans related news but a SCFC twitter feed could be used by the club to sell as well as inform.

The main Swans site has some good information and is updated fairly regularly so having a Twitter feed that highlights this seems a pretty obvious thing to me.

It's not the most important thing in the world and the fact that the Swans communication strategy is the biggest grumble I have with the club is something to be grateful for.  My wife is a Luton Town fan, they have 3,504 Twitter followers but I bet they'd rather be in the Barclays rather than the Blue Sq Premier.

Twitter: @We_R_PL

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Stoke Review

Another strong performance, another clean sheet and we go into the International break in the top half of the table. 

Things are deifinitely going well but just like there was no need to get too downbeat about the Chelsea defeat, we shouldn't get too carried away after the Stoke win.  For the second home game running a daft challenge has given us a penalty in the first 15 minutes (and a goal thanks to Sinclair's composure and technique), pumping the crowd up and relaxing the players.

Stoke played a pressing game with the aim of disrupting our normal passing routine which is evident in the fact that Swansea only made 490 passes compared with 551 against Chelsea and 606 against West Brom, with the success rate being 77% compared with 84% in the previous two games.

When comparing Vorm's passing in the West Brom and Stoke games there is a huge difference, against West Brom a large proportion of his passes were short ones to Williams but against Stoke nearly all clearances went up into the Stoke half.

Vorm passing vs West Brom and Stoke.  Red lines indicate Unsuccessful passes.  Numbers are squad numbers of passer/recipient.

As good as the performance was, I do think we were the beneficiaries of some poor set piece play from Stoke.  

Looking at the areas fouls were conceded against Stoke, they had quite a number of opportunities to create chances but largely fell short along with us being lucky when Whelan's free kick hit the post.

Joe Allen again showed how lucky we were that he signed a new contract at the start of the season rather than trying to drag it out until later in the year when he would undoubtedly been able to demand more.  Both him and Dyer seem to place being in a team (and a city) that appreciates them and where they get real job satisfaction above chasing every last penny.

Joe's passing was largely around the centre circle, tidy and efficient with the ability to spot the longer ball when available.

As nice as it is to visit places such as the Emirates, I'm more excited about our trip to Norwich in a couple of weeks where it'll be a game which means a lot to both sets of fans with the opportunity to put some space between us and the bottom three.

Twitter: @We_R_PL

Chalkboards: Created using