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).

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