Friday, 30 September 2011

Stoke Preview

Much has been made of the clash of styles at the Liberty this weekend and this post aims to show graphically Stoke's likely approach.

Stoke are far from just being a 'Hoofball' side but arguably approach football more as a science than an art (which probably explains the departure of Tuncay, someone with great ability but far less consistency).

Stoke's game is heavily based on pressure, getting the ball quickly to where it can cause problems.  They've just beaten Besiktas despite only having 38% possession (the goals coming from a corner and a penalty).

They'd argue there's no point holding on to the ball just for the sake of it, it's better for it to be where it can do damage even if that means a lot of times it doesn't come off, it's worth the effort for the times it does work.

The figures below show the passing stats from both Stoke and Swansea's last 3 games:

Ultimately the comparison is fewer passes, and less of those being successful but the ones that are being in more dangerous positions, particularly down the right hand side:

Man Utd only committed three fouls against Stoke presumably conscious of not wanting to create unnecessary pressure.  It's a bit of an unfair example just taking one game but below are a comparison of the Man Utd and Stoke goals:

This reminds me of the guy with the sword in Raiders of the Lost Ark, there's lots of fancy moves on one side and quick and efficent finishing on the other.

Looking at throw-ins in Stoke's game against Man Utd, all bar one of their successful throws went forward (the one that went back was 3 minutes into first half injury time) and all unsuccessful throws were forward or into the box.  Compare this to the Swans against Chelsea where the majority are backwards with the focus on retaining posession rather than trying to exert immediate pressure:

As were seen in the passing heatmaps, a lot of Stoke's activity bypasses the midfield and aerially as you'd expect an awful lot of balls get played up to Peter Crouch (number 25 in the chalkboards below).  If the balls played accurately there's little chance of winning an aerial duel as can be seen by comparing the aerial challenges won and lost by Stoke against Man Utd last week.

If you are pretty certain your striker is going to win the challenge then the support players can be bolder in going forward.  If we are missing Leon then that will be a big blow defensively as he's great at sweeping up loose balls of which there are likely to be plenty.

The bookies go 7/4 Swansea (36%), Draw 23/10 (30%), Stoke 15/8 (35%) so pretty tight and with only a 1.5% margin overall.  My tip would be for a tense, nervy 2-1 win to the Swans which is best priced at 10-1 (Totesport).

Twitter: @We_R_PL

Chalkboards: Created using

Monday, 26 September 2011

Chelsea Review

There's no shame in losing to Chelsea but the sending off of Torres gave us a glimmer of an opportunity.  I get the 'Any points we get against Chelsea are a bonus' argument but even though the sending off made it more of an even contest, chances created were still relatively rare.

I'll start with the negatives first then move on to the more positive areas, naturally after a defeat the focus tends to be more on what went wrong. 

Take Ons

As mentioned in previous blogs, these are the stats for where a player attempts to dribble past a member of the opposing team, according to the Opta stats on the Guardian Chalkboards this only happened once for the Swans during the game, and that was in our own half.  This compares with 10 from Chelsea:


Of the 7 attempts on goal, 3 (including the goal) came from Ash, with neither Lita or Graham having an attempt.

Goal Kicks

It might not seem the biggest issue in the world but 9 out of 21 goal kicks from Vorm were unsuccessful (compared to 2 in 10 for Cech).

This is something I'll be looking at in more detail in the Stoke preview but Vorm's kicking from dead balls has been of variable quality over the season so far. 

Chelsea's Second Goal

It can be argued that any goal is preventable but some are more preventable than others, Chelsea's second moves quickly from Chelsea's defence to wide open gaps in the Swans defence, although praise must go to Torres and Cole for their interplay that leads to the goal.

The Positives

Joe Allen continues to show that he's at home at this level and the crossfield pass to Dyer who then put in Rangel was an absolute delight.

As said after the Man City game, these kind of teams have players at the very top of their profession.  In the Premier League there are 3 teams (Man U, Man City and Chelsea) where especially away you're just along for the ride and hoping for the best.

There are another 3 (Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal) where you'll probably be up against it but catch them on a bad day and you're in with a real chance.

Beyond those there's not an enormous gap, with the main difference being the depth of squads, so luck around minimising injuries to key players combined with activity in the January transfer window will be key.

Stoke home and Norwich away offer a great opportunity but undoubtedly they themselves will be thinking exactly the same thing.

Games such as Saturday are the whole point of being in this division, even if the result wasn't great, having the opportunity to have a crack at them is what we're here for.

Twitter: @We_R_PL

Chalkboards: Created using

Friday, 23 September 2011

Chelsea Preview and Chalkboards

For tomorrow's game I am far more hoping for than expecting a positive result compared to the Arsenal game.

Where Arsenal were a team hit by injuries, suspensions and defections, Chelsea are still a powerhouse and infinitely less flaky than the Gunners.

Having said that, they have struggled against (but ultimately beaten) both Norwich and West Brom at home this season so I can see some hope.

As we have both played West Brom at home this season, this does give the ability the have some sort of comparison between the teams.

For Chelsea, a third of their successful passes were made to someone in the West Brom third of the pitch compared to Swansea's 14%.  One of the reasons for this will be that being 2-0 up from such an early stage there was far less need to be attacking compared to Chelsea who were forced to make up for conceding an early goal.

I expect (or at least hope) that Chelsea won't be exerting the same level of pressure on us as they did against West Brom and that Chelsea's pressing of our passing game will lead to spaces behind for Allen in particular to link up with Lita (my guess), Sinclair and Dyer.

The bookies make 2-0 Chelsea the most likely scoreline, but my heart say 1-1 and my betting instinct says that 25/1 on No Goalscorer (i.e., 0-0 but also includes where only goals are own goals) is great value considering we've only conceded once in last 4 league games.

Twitter: @We_R_PL

Chalkboards: Created using

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Leon's passing so far this season

Following on from the earlier blog post this week around the West Brom game, below is a summary of all Leon's passing so far in the Premier League.

Only 19 misplaced passes so far and 8 of them came against Sunderland.  That chalkboard stands out as having quite a different appearance with passing taking place much further forward.

The other interesting thing which I think highlights both our style of patient build up and focus on the wings is that only 1 of the 269 passes made to date by Leon was to someone in the penalty area.

Fri - Chelsea Betting and Preview

Twitter: @We_R_PL

Monday, 19 September 2011

West Brom Chalkboards

Thank God for that!

Even though it was a result that previous performances have suggested was just around the corner, the relief is tangible and proves that we can compete in this league.

At such an early stage in the season it's dangerous to overestimate the impact of the result, but with the injuries that have sprung up during and since the Arsenal game along with the FIFA issues on other potential signings and a lack of goals then a bad result against West Brom and it could have seemed that the wheels were coming off the whole season.

West Brom gave us a helping hand with a soft challenge for the penalty and Sinclair again showing a combination of technique and nerve with which he'll prove over the season that whataver happens with us this year he's a Premier League player without doubt.

Talking of Premier League standard players, Leon Britton again showed an intelligence that is a joy to watch. If there's a pass on, he'll make it, if not then he's comfortable enough to change direction or the angle to make sure that a pass can be made.  The chalkboard below shows his passing against West Brom:

According to the Opta stats, Leon has made 250 successful passes in the 5 league games so far and only misplaced 19 passes, 8 of which were against Sunderland.

Overall, in terms of goal attempts it looks as if West Brom had plenty of efforts but most of these are limited to outside of the box. Aside from the goals, the Swans only had one other effort on target but the job was already done in the first half hour.

Thu/Fri - Chelsea Betting and Preview

Twitter: @We_R_PL

Friday, 16 September 2011

West Brom Betting

Tomorrow's game against West Brom has a strange feel about it. After the good performance against Arsenal (but no goals) we come against a team in West Brom that can be almost anything it wants to be: Top 10 side, mid-table plodders or relegation battlers.

The Top 6 is pretty much defined before the season starts but outside of that the right mixture of talent and hard work can make the difference between 7th and 15th. I expect the 3 promoted sides to be in the bottom 5 or 6 along with Blackburn and Wigan with maybe 1 or 2 'bigger' clubs such as Sunderland possibly falling in to disarray.

To some extent games such as the one tomorrow will probably be quite indicative of the season to come for both sides, West Brom having won away at Norwich last week will be looking to do the same this week and start to focus up rather than down the table.

For Swansea, it's more a case of focusing on that mini-league at the bottom and as such I see us being more risk taking against West Brom than the previous two home games as this is less of a '6-pointer' than those games. It's not a case of going all out attack but if we go for it but lose, it's not as big a blow as seeing the likes of Wigan come to the Liberty and win.

One of the reasons I've got this far without actually mentioning odds is that neither I nor the bookies have a clue what's going to happen in this game.

Best odds as at Friday evening on Oddschecker are:

Swansea Win - 9/5 (35.7%)
Draw - 23/10 (30.3%)
West Brom Win - 9/5 (35.7%)

Combined odds add up to 101.7% so low overall margin suggests a range of opinions from the bookies and no clear favourite.

For First Goalscorer you can get worse (lower) odds on Tate (40/1) Caulker (40/1) and Agustien (25/1) all of who are mid-long term injured than you can for Bessone (best priced 50/1).

Judging by some of the comments on the message boards there are a few people who would agree that Tate with half his body in plaster is still a better option than Bessone!

In terms of value, Rangel at 50/1 with Ladbrokes sounds like a good bet.

Next Week - West Brom Chalkboards
Twitter: @We_R_PL

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Arsenal Chalkboards

4 Games, No wins and No goals sounds pretty depressing but for me the reality is much brighter than that, the performances are there it's just not quite coming off at the moment.

This week's chalkboards are mainly focused around Nathan Dyer who I felt played with less width this week compared to previous games. This can be seen from the passes chalkboard comparing the Arsenal game with that against Sunderland.

My assumption for him being less on the touchline is that he was asked to make the midfield busier and harder to play through when Arsenal had the ball.

 by Guardian Chalkboards

This comes at a price however and Nathan only completed 13 successful passes compared to 25 against Sunderland and 2 successful “take on’s” as Opta refer to them where a player dribbles past a member of the opposition (and one of these was in his own half) compared to 7 against Wigan a few weeks ago. You’re never going to have the level of possession or attacking threat against Arsenal and it worked well as Arsenal created relatively little (especially after the first 10 minutes) but taking people on is what makes Nathan, Nathan and I'm looking forward to more of that against West Brom.

 by Guardian Chalkboards

Friday - West Brom Betting
Twitter: @We_R_PL

Friday, 9 September 2011

Arsenal Betting - Tate First Goalscorer 80/1!

Tomorrow's game against Arsenal is arguably the game I was most looking forward to at the start of the season and that has only been heightened by what's happened to Arsenal in recent weeks (best players leaving, 3 red cards and only 1 point from their first 3 league games).

It would be crazy to think we go there as equals but the above combined with the fact that the game comes between international week and Champions League games means this is a huge opportunity to do something special.

Swansea go into the game best priced at 10/1 (BetFred), but the best bet for me is Sinclair to score first at 15/1 (Unibet) which I think is generous odds for a penalty taker.

As mentioned in previous blogs, the more 'exotic' the bet the worse the value. The combined likelihoods of the best odds for the game add up to 102.2% (Arsenal 7/19, Draw 4/1, Swansea 10/1) which means over the long run if you were an average punter you'd expect to have around 2% of the total amount you bet.

This assumes you always chase the best price for any bet, for a single bookie the margin for this game is between 4% Blue Sq and 12% Coral.

For the half time/full time combination the best price combination still has a 10% margin and I hate to think what the margin is for first goalscorer given the fact that Bet365 offer 80/1 on Tate being the first goalscorer (unlikely enough at the best of times but even harder with a broken leg!).

In short, bet on outcomes with only 2-3 possibilities if you're looking to actually make money (or not lose too much) and consider the odds on the other bets as an charge for making a game more interesting.

On that note I'd recommend betting on last goalscorer rather than first goalscorer as your interest in the bet is likely to last longer (unless it stays 0-0) and for which I'd recommend Caulker at 69/1 (Unibet).

Twitter: @We_R_PL

Chalkboards review of the game to come next week.

All odds taken from and are subject to change.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Sunderland Chalkboards

Saturday's game against Sunderland finished 0-0 which as mentioned in the previous post was available at 10-1. Combining our traditionally good home form with the difficulty in scoring goals in this league, I'd imagine 0-0 will be a value bet for most home games.

Looking at the chalkboards, I've put three together looking at some key areas. Graham's shooting, Vorm's passing and comparing the passing of Williams and Caulker.
The first chalkboard looks at Graham's shots against both Wigan and Sunderland. In the Wigan game only 2 shot's, the second of which was after only 14 minutes.

For the Sunderland game, he had 7 attempts on goal altogether, suggesting a more productive game, even if that first league goal is still to come.

Given that top scorers for a club in the Premier League tend to get somewhere between 10-15 goals (Wigan's joint top scorers got 9) then going 3 games without a goal is hardly a drought.

If both Graham and Sinclair can hit double figures then we're in with a reasonable shout of staying up.

 by Guardian Chalkboards

The second chalkboard looks at Michel Vorm's passing from open play in the same two games. He had only 7 misplaced passes against Wigan compared to 17 against Sunderland.

Given the fact that the misplaced passes were generally well in to the Sunderland half suggests that pressing from Sunderland forced more of a route 1 approach.

 by Guardian Chalkboards

The final chalkboard compares the passing of Williams and Caulker, whether it's Williams taking the more senior role or just that more go down the Rangel/Dyer right hand side than the Taylor/Sinclair left but Caulker's passes were much shorter (but more accurate) where the longer, more speculative passing was left to Williams.

 by Guardian Chalkboards