Monday, 30 April 2012

Swansea 4 - Wolves 4

This game was certainly no drab affair with Rodgers choosing to scratch an itch he’s had about playing 3-4-3.

Although you could argue that the Premier League is no place to be trying new things, this game offered the perfect platform to trial it.  As Swansea were all but safe it offered reduced risk if it all went wrong yet at the same time there was enough riding on it (Premiership prize money for a higher table finish and Wolves’ pride after being relegated) that it would be more telling than bringing the formation out in a pre-season friendly.

Despite the almost perfect first 15 minutes, Swansea only had 11 attempts all game (to Wolves’ 17) and Swansea only had 3 attempts at goal in the second half, 2 of which came within a minute towards the start of the second half (Sigurdsson’s only efforts of the game) meaning only 1 attempt in the last 40 minutes.

Although almost every goal is usually down to an error somewhere along the line, some are more stoppable than others with the last goal in particular bringing back memories of the collapse against Wolves at Molineux with players out of position and goals conceded despite having numbers back.

1st Wolves Goal - 3 v 1 in the box but Fletcher in plenty of space
2nd Wolves Goal - Again plenty back but Jarvis with time to shoot
4th Wolves Goal - 4 Swans players within touching distance of each other and Jarvis ahead of them all
Whilst conceding 4 with his introduction alongside Caulker and Williams, Garry Monk’s stats at least suggest a decent performance winning 4 out of 4 tackles attempted, 9 out of 11 ground duels and 4 out of 5 aerial duels.

Being the centre of a back three meant that Monk's role was the most normal of the three, with both Caulker and Williams having to change aspects of their games.

For Williams the long diagonal to the right was unsuccessful 
Caulker played right of a 3 in the 1st half and a standard right back in the 2nd.  Only 60% (12 of 20) of his forward balls were accurate and a large proportion of his passes were backwards (40%) which is not surprising for a makeshift right back.

Vorm's pass success of 30% in the second half far below that of the 72% in the first half and 71% for season overall
This repeated loss of possession was made worse by an impressive display by Karl Henry and David Edwards with Henry making almost double the passes in the second half as the first.

In addition to Henry's passing, Edwards made 33 successful passes from 34 attempts in the second half
For me, the biggest surprise was not Rodgers playing 3-4-3 but having only one full back (Taylor) on the bench as cover, but this may in part due to Rangel's apparent injury which in itself may also have persuaded Rodgers to go for 3-4-3.

In games where there are a number of early goals, it may be the case that composure goes out the window and no matter the deficit, the opposition will feel that there are still goals in the game and the mentality of the side leading becomes one of protecting rather than extending the lead. 

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using and Statszone
Chalkboards: Created using Statszone

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Swans still bottom of the Twitter League

Back in October I produced a blog looking at the relative number of Twitter followers for the Premier League teams and noted that the Swans were bottom of the pile.  As the season comes to an end I’ve had a look at the relative number of followers on Twitter/Facebook for the Premier League clubs.

In October, Swansea were bottom of the Twitter Premier League list with only 568 followers (and only 1 tweet).  As at 24th April they are still bottom but have increased their following to over 6,500.  However, compared to their Facebook standing where Swansea are mid-table, their Twitter following is lagging behind.
Twitter Followers / Facebook Likes as at 24th April.  
Man Utd have no official Twitter account  
Colour splits are my subjective bandings of followers 
e.g., Man Utd have by far the most Facebook likes followed by a group comprised of Arsenal/Chelsea/Liverpool
A good example of how Premier League clubs in general are getting on with Social Media is that 15 of the clubs have fewer followers than @anfieldcat who sprung up after appearing on the field during a live game between Liverpool and Spurs.  There's more to Twitter than just follower numbers (e.g., Retweets, Mentions etc.,) but shows the viral power of Social Media.

Looking at the relative follower/like figures for teams, you can roughly say that number of followers will be a combination of current success, Club history and marketing.  Wigan for example who are at the wrong end of both the Twitter and Facebook lists are using their Facebook page to advertise cut price tickets to their last two home games as part of their battle to stay up.

For Wigan, with so much competition in the North-West, marketing is vital in attracting an audience
Whatever your thoughts on Man United you can’t argue they’ve been the dominant team of the last 20 years and are pretty aggressive (or switched-on) in terms of marketing and with 24 million Facebook fans even a picture as dull as that below can get 37k likes.

Yes, really. This picture has over 37,000 likes on Facebook
Part of the problem of any ‘smaller’ club looking to grow their fanbase is trying to avoid alienating the core fans at the same time (‘Where were you when we were shit?’).  For Swansea, there’s arguably 10k who will be there no matter what (as well as true hard core fans there’ll undoubtedly be some who have been seduced by recent success but are now hooked for the long haul regardless).

Obviously a club can’t jump on an incident like one savvy Twitter user has to build a following with @anfieldcat but good topical content can quickly spread far beyond your initial contact base.

As Twitter is an open platform it's possible to analyse who is following particular accounts, unique followers from multiple Twitter accounts etc., below are a few areas in which they can maybe improve their reach.

1: Get the players involved
The last thing you want is a players Twitter account to be is some corporate mouthpiece but a number of the players have followings far in excess of that of the club and partnerships/promotions could help @swansofficial's following.  

Examples include Ashley Williams (66k),  Wayne Routledge (77k), Danny Graham (67k) and Nathan Dyer with 48k.  Obviously not all of these followers will be Swans fans and could be followers from previous clubs or the national side in Ash's case but a big proportion of the them will be a potential audience for the Swans.

2: Work with Swans Fan Sites
Between them, the Twitter accounts of @vitalswansea, @swansnews, @swansinfo and @swansfc have over 9,400 unique followers of which, over 7,700 don't follow @swansofficial

It wouldn't be a case of replicating any of what these sites are doing but you would generally expect those interested in these sites to be interested in the official club account.

3: Create Twitter content worth following
Aside from discussion around key issues such as Justin Bieber's latest haircut, football is probably one of the main areas discussed on Twitter.  The key difference (for a football club at least) between traditional marketing and social media is rather than just broadcasting a message you want a real level of interaction between you and those you are communicating with.

That said some of the old marketing tricks are still valid and the use of exclusive content, Q&As and Surveys are still great ways to interact.  As an example, a Twitter Survey service such as TwitPolls offers the ability to keep survey responses within Twitter, so rather than just a load of responses at the end, everyone who follows anyone who responds will see their response.

Some people might say 'Who cares?' about all this but Swansea's approach to marketing (across the board, not just social media) could have a big impact on the impact if/when they drop out of the Premier League.  It's a lot easier to build a relationship (that will hopefully last) when times are good rather than when times are difficult.

With talks of extending the capacity of the Liberty from 20k to 30k, Swansea find themselves in the position of currently having demand but limited supply (every home allocation for Swansea has sold out) but run the risk of supply in a couple of years with greatly reduced demand.

Since moving to the Liberty in 2005/6, crowds have generally averaged 15k for Championship and 13-14k for League One, although since moving to the Liberty every season has been relatively successful. 

Average Attendance per Season (source
The scenario that poses Swansea most problems is not trying to sell out a 30k capacity stadium in the Premier League in a year or two, it’s the scenario of be trying to get crowds above 15k in a 30k stadium in a couple of years time if at the wrong end of the Championship (or worse).  Right now things could hardly be better, but confidence at a football club can disappear in a matter of moments.

That said it is incredibly difficult to just tread water in the Premier League.  As long as if the worst case scenario occurs, that the club isn’t broken by having 10k crowds in league one in an extended stadium then they should go for it as ultimately 'ambition is critical'.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Bolton 1 - Swansea 1

Damn you QPR!  Their Saturday evening victory over Spurs mean we have to wait until Tuesday at least (when Bolton play Villa) to be mathematically sure of staying up although it would take an (almost) unimaginable string of results for us not to be in the top flight next season.

The game against Bolton saw Swansea having 26 attempts on goal, their highest in the league this season and have had 3 games with over 20 attempts, their last 2 games (Bolton Away and Blackburn Home) as well as Bolton at the Liberty.  It was also the biggest positive differential between goal attempts between Swansea and the opposition with Swansea having 16 more efforts than Bolton’s 10.

The second half in particular saw Swansea dominate with 16 efforts to 5 (although 3 of those from Sinclair were within the same passage of play).

Scott Sinclair’s shooting has been something of a frustration this season and it was fantastic to see a calm well struck finish rather than an attempt to smash it into the net as has been the case so often this season.  It’s been a strange season for Sinclair with some calls from some Swans fans for him to be given a rest (as a proverbial kick up the backside) to replaced by Routledge with some general observers mentioning Sinclair as a possible for England Euro 2012 squad.

Sinclair is certainly seen as a vital player for Rodgers, playing the 4th most minutes in the squad only behind Vorm, Williams and Taylor.  Partly due to minutes played (and the fact that Sigurdsson only arrived mid season) he is the Swansea player who has had the most attempts this season with 94 attempts (with 8 goals, 4 of which from penalties). 

Excluding penalties, I have looked at the comparative shooting of the three main goalscorers this season: Graham, Sinclair and Sigurdsson.

Despite playing only half the game time of Graham, Sigurdsson already almost has the same number of Shots
Looking at the same figures but looking at percentages rather than values shows the difference in accuracy: 

Of all shots made, Graham hits the target on almost half of all efforts compared to 22.5% for Sinclair
Of course not all shots are equal opportunities to score, but looking at efforts within the box gives a slightly more even comparison as the vast majority of Graham's shooting happens in the box.

It's off a relatively small base (20 shots inside the box) but the high proportion of goals to shots from Sigurdsson is impressive
Back to the game on Saturday, Swansea looked composed and at ease with Allen and Britton completing 99 of their 104 passes.

Accurate passing as usual from Leon and Joe, with Allen being involved all over the pitch.
The big question now is going to be where can Rodgers find players next season to match the input of Caulker and Sigurdsson (whilst keeping the likes of Vorm and Allen at the club).  

The hope is that we can use our loan options to become both a finishing school for top talent (Caulker) and an excellent shop window for talent (Sigurdsson - I expect Hoffenheim to sell him for a tidy profit in the summer). 

It’ll be a number of years before we would be able to buy players of this talent outright but every chance that some of Europe’s big clubs will entrust us with their prospects (even if it maybe hasn't gone as planned for Josh McEachran).

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats and Chalkboards: Created using and

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Season So Far Stats - April 2012

I've put together a new version of the Season So Far presentation.  This includes stats around the Swans compared to other Premier League teams and also stats on areas such as Shots/Passes/Touches per 90 minutes played for the Swansea Squad.

The presentation is available to look at below (click on the full screen option on the bottom right of the presentation to view a full screen version).  If you are after a version to download, an interactive PDF is available to view/download here or (here if viewing on a mobile browser).

Of the 34 games played so far this season the Swans have made more passes than the opposition in 28 of those games and only the game where Swansea made significantly less passes was the trip to the Emirates.

Swansea are second only to Arsenal in terms of % Ball Possession and second only to Man City with regards to Pass completion rate.

From the Minutes Played stats, it is clear that we have been relatively lucky with injuries this season and with the arrival of Sigurdsson solving the problem of the midfield combination it's been a pretty settled side.

Sigurdsson averages 3.9 shots per 90 minutes a full shot a game higher than Sinclair/Moore and almost double that of Danny Graham (2.1).

The patience of Swansea's play can be seen by the relative number of touches per 90 minutes made by Rangel (104) and Graham (28) with Rangel being the player with the most touches per game in the Premier League and Graham the least of any forward.

This passing is often within Swansea's own half with only 8 of the 34 games where Swansea made more passes in the final third than the opposition and having more shots in only 9 of the 34 (23 games with fewer shots and both games with Stoke having the same number of shots as the opposition).

Joe Allen has rightly received plenty of plaudits for his play this season but as well as his creative ability he also makes the most tackles per 90 minutes.

No single statistic will guarantee success and a great example of this is the number of shots in the two games against Newcastle.  At Newcastle, Swansea had 3 shots (their lowest number of the season) but drew and in the home game had 19 but lost.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Swansea 3 - Blackburn 0

3 points and barring an almost impossible set of circumstances, Premier League football has been secured.  This season may have been about more than just surviving and the performances have largely reflected that but it’s an almighty relief for it to have been achieved with a few games to spare.

For a team who still have a reasonable chance of staying up, Blackburn’s approach seemed remarkably flat and lacking in ambition against a team like them who had lost 4 league games in a row.  They don’t have the defensive capabilities of recent victors at the Liberty (Everton and Newcastle) and appeared to be largely hoping for a bit of luck at a set piece. 

Yakubu, Swansea’s tormentor in the fixture at Ewood park received the ball only 8 times in the 60 minutes he was on the pitch but with Samba no longer with Blackburn and Caulker playing, it was always likely to be far less of a threat than in that match.

Despite this, as with the game at Ewood Park, all of Paul Robinson's passes went in to the opposition half where Vorm's passing was generally short but even when long, usually accurate.

Comparison of Vorm's and Robinson's Passing
Prior to the weekend’s fixtures, Swansea had the most number of players (5), along with Spurs who had started 30+ league games this season and like Spurs had been accused in some quarters of running out of steam. 
Newcastle with 4 players arguably scuppers the 'tired legs' theory but 1 of those (Coloccini) has missed a couple of games recently.

Although there could have been the argument for a few changes, the only change was Dyer in for Routledge making the starting 11 arguably the first 11 that would be the pick of most Swans fans.

The return to the starting line-up of Dyer saw the return of Ashley Williams’ long diagonal out to the right, although it isn’t always successful (only 40% of his long balls were against Blackburn), when it does work it’s highly effective in putting Dyer in to space (often with Rangel in close support).  Even if it doesn’t work, it reminds the opposition defence of this threat which can result in there being more space in the middle as the defence look to cover the diagonal.

Williams' Long passing against Blackburn

During the last 15 minutes of the first half Swansea were particularly effective, dominating possession, having 6 attempts at goal in this time compared to 4 in the previous half hour and most importantly, scoring twice.

Both Dyer and Sinclair had impressive games, both making 4 successful take-ons out of 7 attempts. 
As well as the take-ons, Dyer was yet again the most fouled player in the game, being fouled 5 times (3 more than any other player). 
Allen was once again top tackler for Swansea with 4 (2 more than any other Swans player) and Sigurdsson having the most attempts (5) although it was pleasing to see 9 different Swansea players have an attempt on goal.

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using and Statszone
Chalkboards: Created using Statszone

Thursday, 12 April 2012

QPR 3 - Swansea 0

Ouch, so much for my pre-match optimism.

Whilst not a good performance, the scoreline flattered QPR slightly, even if Ashley Williams called the performance ‘garbage’ on Twitter after the game.

The match hinged on QPR scoring right at the end of first half which largely came about as a couple of Neil Taylor errors, the first was letting a pass roll under his foot to give QPR a throw and then from the throw fouling Zamora on the touchline to give the free kick from which QPR scored.  I’m assuming this sequence of events rather than any injury was why Taylor was substituted at half time.

It’s not exactly advanced analytics: set pieces are great opportunities to score so concede fewer set pieces and you’ll concede fewer goals and I’d imagine Rodgers was fuming at half time.  

Prior to the goal, things were relatively even (7 shots from QPR, 5 from Swansea) and plenty of boos from the home fans as Swansea kept the ball for long periods suggesting that had it stayed level until half time the crowd would have got increasingly jittery.

The Swansea performance seemed to be low on energy with their best chances coming from Sigurdsson's corners.
Credit must go to the QPR defence as 6 of 11 of Swansea’s attempts were blocked, 5 of these from within the box with 3 of the 6 blocks being made by Clint Hill.
Sigurdsson had only 1 attempt at goal all game and aside from his excellent corners, had a relatively quiet game.  Graham again had few opportunities with only 2 attempts.

No Swansea player managed more than one successful take-on (notably Sinclair 1 from 5 and Dyer 0 from only 1 attempt), Diakite for QPR had 4 from 4 and Taraabt 3 from 4).  To be fair to Dyer he was the second most fouled player during the game despite only playing 45 minutes (fouled 3 times, Barton most with 4). 

Swansea were made to work hard in defence centrally as can be seen by the areas of tackles made as opposed to QPR whose tackles were largely along their right hand side (i.e., Sinclair's wing).

Allen was again top tackler for Swansea with 5 tackles

Conspiracy theorists may like to note the odds on the next Spurs manager where, (as of afternoon of 12th April) Rodgers is as low as evens to be next permanent Spurs manager.  Much has been made of Spurs’ form since Capello resigned as England manager and it’s inevitable however fanciful, that similar parallels will be drawn with regards to the situation at Swansea and Redknapp’s possible departure.

Personally, I feel if he was to be offered the Spurs role he wouldn't turn it down as you don’t get jobs at that level coming along too often and probably sees someone like second favourite David Moyes who is always the bridesmaid but never the bride and managers such as Phil Brown, John Gregory and David O’Leary who were once flavour of the month but now are more likely to be thought of in terms of ‘Whatever happened to..?’

Away from rumours and speculation however, this was a game where some sloppy defending resulted in the opener with Swansea being outplayed in central midfield and being unable to pull themselves back in to the game in the second half.

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using and Statszone
Chalkboards: Created using Statszone

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Swansea 0 - Newcastle 2

Defeat against Newcastle may be the third successive league defeat (the first time that has happened in 9 years) but those losses have come against the teams lying 4th, 6th and 7th at the start of the Easter period so not exactly teams we should be rolling over.  

The next four games against QPR/Blackburn/Bolton/Wolves will give a much better picture of whether or not we can consider ourselves as a mid-table club or one looking more downwards than upwards.

For some, the team selection may have been a surprise with Moore starting rather than Graham, and Dyer for Sinclair (presumably at least in part with a view to playing QPR in midweek), for others it wouldn’t have been a big shock as it was announced on Twitter that this was happening as one user’s dad had watched the starting 11 training separately from the rest of the squad the day before.  

Not the biggest shocks in terms of team or tactics but I can’t imagine Rodgers being too happy that people can go along and work out what the starting line up is in advance which is the problem with the current training facilities which with the Premier League money will soon be a thing of the past.

The early Newcastle goal, well taken by Cisse, completely changed the way in which the game would have developed.  With an early goal, away from home against a team who like to pass a lot and stretch opponents, the sensible approach is to drop back and restrict space in the final third.  

Relatively little was seen of Ben Arfa in an attacking context (although the were a few impressive moments) as Newcastle’s focus was on defence often limiting Swansea efforts to shots from distance.

Swansea’s total of 8 attempts on target has only been bettered by them in the away game against Wolves (9 attempts), but only 1 of the 8 on target attempts against Newcastle was from Inside the box.

Some of the passing statistics are almost beyond belief: Williams and Caulker made the same number of passes (271) as the entire Newcastle team and top 9 passers in game were Swansea players, only Moore and Vorm of the starting 11 not making more passes than Newcastle players.

Swansea made 835 completed passes to Newcastle's 181 and had 77% of ball possession but apart from shots from distance Krul was relatively quiet due to the excellent Newcastle defence who made 15 successful tackles out of 16 attempts.
Almost all tackles occurring down the wings as a packed middle made it a better strategy to attempt to go around the sides
Newcastle also made 37 interceptions, the highest of any game this season against Swansea (previous highest was Spurs’ 33).
Davide Santon's total of 8 interceptions matched that of Scott Parker last weeks as the most by any player against Swansea
There were times when Swansea did manage to get through down the sides but only 4 of Swansea’s 26 crosses were successful (Rangel 1 from 8 attempts and Sigurdsson 2 from 8).

On any single game, you can say ‘If Only’ about a whole range of things but the thing that links all three defeats is that our opponents have been clinical in taking their chances which is why they are where they are in the table.

Positives from the game were that I felt Allen was impressive yet again, a number of times drifting past opponents with what seemed the minimum of effort.  Neil Taylor looked dangerous going forward and Steven Caulker looked assured on the ball and willing to bring it forward, although there were occasions where he was shepherded wide which often resulted in loss of possession soon afterwards.

The main downside was that despite 19 attempts on goal, the central striker (Moore and then Graham) had only 1 attempt between them, the multi-million pound question is how to keep Sigurdsson’s attacking threat (his 7 attempts at goal were the joint highest from any Swans player this Season, matching Graham’s toal vs. Sunderland) but also creating chances for the main striker.

The next 4 games are against sides desperate for points who should come out and attack and I'm confident that Graham will get at least 2 goals in those games (in fact I'll stick my neck out and say he'll score in the first half hour vs. QPR).

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using
Chalkboards: Created using Statszone

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Spurs 3 - Swansea 1 Initial Thoughts

It may be unfair to consider Caulker's absence in this game the deciding factor but two Adebayor headers, on the scoresheet at least, were the difference between the two teams.

Overall, Spurs deserved their victory but after 70 minutes a draw didn't appear to be that unlikely an outcome.  The key things for me were Spurs' aggressive pressing and their ability to put the pressure on and finish the game off in the final 20 minutes.

In total, Spurs made 29 interceptions to Swansea's 15.  8 of the 29 coming from Scott Parker and 7 of those 8 coming in the first half.
Parker made as many interceptions in first 20 minutes (5) as any player made in whole game
One advantage of playing a team as attack minded as Spurs is that it gives more space to your forward players and in particular Scott Sinclair.  In a lot of games this season teams have doubled up against Sinclair but against Spurs there were numerous occasions when he was 1 v 1 (including in the build up for the Swansea goal).

Sinclair attempted 6 take-ons (3 successful) against Spurs compared to only 1 vs. Everton and 3 vs. Fulham.  As well as Sinclair's activity, Taylor on the left hand side had 3 successful take-ons (out of 3 attempts).

In the final 20 minutes however, Spurs turned the screw and had 8 attempts on goal (including two goals) compared to 12 attempts in the previous 70 minutes.
Spurs' attempts on goal in first 70 minutes (left) and remainder of match (right)
This was another game in which Gylfi Sigurdsson had the most attempts for Swansea (5 of the 11 in total) and Danny Graham didn't have a single attempt on goal. 

As has been mentioned before, despite being the lone striker there's a lot more to Danny Graham's input to the team than goals.  That said, his return to date of 10 goals from 53 shots (1 a penalty), puts him in terms of goals per shot, above the likes of Rooney and Aguero.