Saturday, 29 September 2012

Stoke 2 - Swansea 0 Chalkboard Review

Three successive league defeats is never something to be pleased about, but as Laudrup himself said from the very first win over QPR there would be good days and bad days.  Last season 3 successive wins were followed by 4 successive defeats so you have to take the rough with the smooth.

At the moment obviously there's a fair bit of rough, conceding an early goal yet again and I'm tempted to just repost my review of Stoke away last season given how the game went.

In terms of stats, Swansea as would be expected had the majority of possession but Stoke made sure they made the most of what they had.
Last season Stoke were the team that had the highest proportion of goals that had an assist, suggesting that they rely on teamwork rather than individuals.  At the other end of that table, by some distance are Wigan who arguably had trouble building a cohesive team until the last few weeks of the season.
Back to the Stoke game, looking over the stats there were a couple that stood out for me. One was the take-on success rate Pablo with 1 out of 5 attempts and Dyer with 1 out of 4.  In Nathan's defence he was again the most fouled player on the field being fouled 5 times (next highest was Kightly with 3).

The other was the cross success rate, Stoke had 9 successful out of 31 (29%), Swansea had 1 from 25 (4%). Last season when two goals down, Rodgers took off both wingers and put on McEachran (who did little) and Moore.
Watching Mark Gower at Crawley in midweek I had mixed emotions, his dead-balls were poor but he plays lovely lofted passes in to the box and surprisingly had more assists (5) than any Swansea player last season.  He may not have the legs for some games this season but for 20-30 minutes against a side like Stoke he could maybe do a job.

Reading and Wigan at home offer a big opportunity to take points from teams that are going to be towards the bottom this season.  There's a long way to go before pressing the panic button.

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

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Swans 0 - Everton 3 Chalkboard Review


Most mornings before a match, regardless of the opposition, Twitter is usually full of optimists but the general feel I got for this game is that we were bricking it and felt something similar happened on the pitch with what seemed an edgy performance, especially in the first 25-30 minutes.

Overall, Everton's 31 attempts at goal was more than Swansea allowed in any game last season (the highest then being 30 attempts by Man City in the opening game last season), but Swansea also had more attempts in this game than any other game this season with their 18 attempts beating the 15 vs. Sunderland and the 13 vs. QPR.

It's interesting to see that the vast majority of Everton's attempts came from the left hand side with Baines and Fellaini creating 5 chances (and one goal) each.

When looking at Final Third Passes made this can again be seen by the volume of passing around the left hand edge of the Swansea penalty area (from Everton's point of view):
He might not be as tall as Peter Crouch but, especially given the quality of service he received it may be best to play him the same way: assume you won't win the initial challenge but make sure you're set for when he brings the ball down.  It seemed to happen numerous times that Fellaini would win the challenge and then be easily past his man.
Passes received by Fellaini, a mix of short and long where pretty much everything seemed to stick.

Much in the post match grumblings was made of the ref and the 23 fouls committed by Swansea was more than any last season where the biggest was 15 conceded (at home to Stoke) with Michu committing 6 of the 23.
Some of the decisions may have felt harsh but after the first couple you have to realise the ref has set a limit for what he'll allow.  It was far from the case of Swansea being bully boys however, it often seemed like we were being out-muscled as if it was Under-21s against Under-16s.

Pablo's final ball seemed a bit wayward but at least he kept his head unlike Dyer who seemed to get the first yellow as much for dissent as the challenge itself followed by a rash challenge a few minutes later.

In terms of positives, Ben Davies had another solid game, it was also pleasing to see that he wasn't just looking to make the easy pass to the nearest player even if it didn't always come off.  Rangel looked excellent going forward and it required some incredible saves from Tim Howard to keep Swansea off the scoresheet.

7 points from 5 games isn't terrible (if you don't dwell too much on the fact it was 7 points from 3) and you can't choose when your good and bad luck happens.  As good as Everton were they had the luck of getting away with handball for the first goal but we had the benefit of playing a shambles of a team in QPR in the first week who I doubt will be as bad again all season.

Against Stoke next week, I haven't a clue what's going to happen (apart from the ball being off the pitch for most of the match) but with Chico back I can see it being a fiery one.

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

Swans v Everton Chalkboard Preview

The arrival of Everton on Saturday brings one of only three teams to do the double in the league over Swansea (the others being Norwich and Man Utd), arguably Everton were the most convincing of those three and are have one of the best blends of talent and hard work in the league.

Swansea only registered two shots on target over the two games, the lowest they had against any side (next lowest was vs. Stoke with 5):
The game at Goodison was largely a case of sitting back and hoping for a draw as happened a few days earlier against Newcastle.  The game at the Liberty was more even but Everton were professional and took their chances.

Watching Everton's game against Newcastle on Monday night was a frightening experience for a Swans fan, in particular the way Everton played in the first half, regularly taking Newcastle apart, in particular down the left hand side.

Baines, Pienaar and Osman in particular were players who caught my eye with Baines involved in all 6 of the top passing combinations:
Osman was tidy but also has an eye for goal with Pienaar providing assists for both Everton's goals.
Thank god though for the second half when Newcastle were a far better outfit and caused Everton some problems or I would have been even more worried about Saturday than I am now.  Given our injury/suspension issues in defence I can see this being a really open game and I'd be more than happy with another 2-2 at home.

It's too easy to get scared by the names in the opposition but with Pablo, Michu, Dyer et al, there's plenty for Everton to be worried about too.

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

Friday, 21 September 2012

Comparison of Top Scorers by Club - Using Opta Data

With Opta releasing the summary activity for every player for every Premier League match last season, it gives the opportunity to analyse in some depth the relative performance of players/teams.

The first area I've looked at is the performance of the top scoring player at each club last season, ranging from 30 goal Robin van Persie down to Franco Di Santo who was Wigan's top scorer with 7 goals.
At first glance, in terms of goalscoring you would argue that van Persie and Rooney are in one category, Aguero in a second bracket on his own, followed by a group of five on 15-17 goals.

Taking penalties in to account changes the picture slightly:
Here it can be seen that van Persie was a long way ahead of anyone else and that when excluding penalties Adebayor and Yakubu drop back in to the main pack.

Of course not all teams are equal and there are probably plenty of people who think they could score goals if they were playing up front for Man Utd every week given the number of chances created, so the next step is to take shots and chances in to consideration:
Ordering by number of shots taken for every goal scored (excluding penalties), Nikica Jelavic jumps to the top of the list after having a superb couple of months at Everton.  Papiss Cisse had an even better return with one goal every 3 shots (13 from 39), but excluded from the above as not top scorer at the club.

Much has been made of Suarez's finishing ability and in terms of shots per goal, his figures are the worst of those above.  Also interesting to see that even excluding penalties, Yakubu still has one of the best shots per goal figures.

One thing both Yakubu and Jelavic have in common is that watching them score you get the feeling they are 'lucky' players often scoring relatively simple goals.  In reality the skill is in making it look easy and being in the right place at the right time.

Not all chances are equal, a shot could be a 3 metre tap in or a speculative shot at an angle from distance with numerous players in the way.  One way Opta have attempted to add a subjective layer to activity is the 'Big Chance' metric.  This is defined by Opta as:

'A situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score usually in a one-on-one situation or from close range'

Unfortunately within the data it's not possible to know if that big chance was scored or not, but we can look at the number of big chances and goals each of the players had:

I would also expect that a penalty is classed as a 'big chance' so could possibly get removed from the above to make comparisons fairer.

It's interesting to see Klasnic of Bolton at the top despite having relative few big chances.  After an excellent start to the season scoring in each of the first 3 games, missed a couple of games due to suspension and for whatever reason doesn't appeared to have been called on much towards the end of the season.  Klasnic played in all of the last 11 league games for Bolton but didn't play the full 90 minutes in any and only 300 minutes in total during those 11 games.

For the three players highlighted in the figures above, over 40% of their shots were classed as big chances (this is a simplification as some big chances may not result in a shot e.g., player delays too long and defender comes back to tackle).

Almost half of Darren Bent's shots are big chances, Bent along with Danny Graham at Swansea have the lowest number of touches per game with 28 (compared to Fletcher with 42, Suarez with 61 and Rooney with 70), for Graham for example large parts of the game are closing down defences and making runs to create space for others rather than necessarily receiving the ball.  This places much bigger pressure on the chances when they do come and also the lack of shots means it's quite easy to go a few games without scoring through little fault of your own.

Obviously there are numerous other parts to what make up a good striker (which I'll be aiming to look at in later posts).  Aside from the likes of van Persie, Rooney and Aguero who can create things for themselves and are far more than just front men, for most teams the main forward is there to take the big chances and Steven Fletcher's stats above combined with 3 goals in 2 games this season show the value in someone who is a proven finisher.

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Stats: Created using data provided by Opta MCFC Analytics 
Anyone interested in knowing more about the data and process behind the stats visit my business blog: Analysis Marketing

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Villa 2 - Swansea 0 Chalkboard Review

A disappointing result but there will always be days where things don't quite go how you hoped.  The first goal coming from a shot that bamboozled Vorm and the second which if I'm being generous to Ashley Williams was in part due his injury contributing to a lack of movement towards the ball when attempting to head it back.

Villa certainly played a more direct game than Swansea as can be seen by the comparative amount of defensive headers undertaken by each team.
Headed Clearances by Team, with Villa tending to focus on Swansea's left with 15 of the 35 coming from Tate

Villa also played an increasing number of long balls in the second half:
The definition here of success is finding a team mate but arguably is just still a success if you retain possession, especially high up the pitch

From the stats it was also noticeable the comparison in successful take-ons past players for both sides:
Swansea with no successful take-ons in the Villa half with Dyer having 0 out of 6 successful. In his defence he was the most fouled player in the game (4 times, 2 more than anyone else) and being fouled while going past someone is not classed as a take-on 

Michu again showed he's willing to get stuck in, winning more tackles (4) than any other player.  Next highest was Ben Davies with 3:
Another good performance from Davies, although if being picky, could be argued his clearance that gave away the corner that led to the first goal could have been cleared for a throw

Luke Moore, coming on for Danny Graham, had a number of efforts and certainly seemed to be receiving the ball in more dangerous positions than Graham, although the stats don't record Graham's air shot from a great cross by Dyer:
Moore received the ball almost as many times in his 20 minutes as Graham did in his 70+ minutes

Next Saturday brings another chance to go top of the league, but more importantly another chance to get in to double figures before the end of September which would be a fine achievement.

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

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Swansea 2 - Sunderland 2 Chalkboard Review

A strange match that had pretty much everything and ultimately was a point well earned. What could have ended up as a win after Michu's equaliser could also have been worse after Chico's sending off.  How much contact there was with Louis Saha's ear is debatable but was undoubtedly reckless.

Sunderland are the kind of side that provide a good barometer of where Swansea are at the moment, they're one of a number of sides that are likely to finish around 9th-15th, unlikely to trouble the Europa League places but also unlikely to be in any danger of going down.

Sunderland were a different proposition to QPR and West Ham not least because they didn't concede an early goal, they set up quite defensively looking to pack the middle and hoping to get something on the break or from a set piece.

Sunderland put in a hard-working performance not least in their tackling around the box:
Tackles by Team: Sunderland letting little through around the edge of the box

In terms of trying to go past players that was largely non-existent from Sunderland, attempting only 4 take-ons compared to Swansea's 26
Routledge 4 Successful from 10 attempts and Dyer 4 from 11 were again the main threat for Swansea

Crossing, especially in the first half for Swansea was pretty disappointing finding a team mate only once out of 16 attempts.  The second half showed a marked improvement with 6 of 17 successful including the goal as  well as another good chance for Michu.
Crossing by Half for Swansea

It's a credit to the play of Ben Davies that in terms of the match itself, Neil Taylor's injury had relatively little impact with Davies putting in an assured performance.
Passing from Ben Davies.  In the time after Chico's sending off, Davies' passing was even more accurate with 23 successful passes from 24 attempts

As well as Davies' passing, Swansea as a whole looked composed after the sending off with Sunderland only creating a single attempt in goal whilst having a man advantage compared to 3 attempts by Swansea.
Passing after Chico's sending off: majority of play going down Swansea's left with Sunderland seemingly happy to settle for a point.

It was only 15 minutes or so but Ki Sung-Yueng showed he was capable of slotting in to the Swansea side with relative ease and looked composed on his debut.
A solid start for Ki Sung-Yueng, 100% pass success rate

Going behind twice and playing with 10 men for 20 minutes means that this feels for me like a point gained to me.  The positives were 90 minutes for De Guzman (even if that was partly due to the need for subs because of Taylor's injury and the sending off) as well as excellent performances again from Dyer and Routledge and another goal from Michu.

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