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

Chalkboards/Match Stats: Created using

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