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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