Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Shooooot! - Finding the balance between possession and attempts

Beyond the scoreline, when assessing a match, the first things looked at are usually possession percentage and shot count. Neither of these will tell the whole story of course as they won't include information on when goals were scored (team in front may be happy to sit deeper, and look to counter attack) and the type of chances - better to have a couple of quality chances than a load of long range efforts.

Talking of long range efforts leads me nicely to the shooting of Andros Townsend, I saw him in the flesh when Swansea visited Spurs earlier this season, he's certainly got pace and ability (as well as maybe the tendency to go down easily) but has this season become the benchmark for 'hit and hope' attempts.

Townsend has racked up the shots this season (has the highest overall so far with 45) and only Luis Suarez has a higher shots per game ratio.  Where Townsend and Suarez differ though is that Suarez has scored 9 goals from 40 shots but Townsend has scored only 1 from 45 shots and that was actually a cross that Soldado dummied which ended up fooling the keeper.
Townsend's only league goal this season from his 45 attempts
As well as undoubtedly being a better finisher, Suarez no doubt is taking shots in better areas (even if he is over optimistic at times).  Looking at Townsend's shot map, is a lesson in wishful thinking.
Premier League Shots in 2013/14 - 45 Efforts with the goal coming from the widest shot as was more of a cross.  Only 5 of the 45 efforts from inside the box.  16 of the 45 were blocked, 14 off target and 15 on target (including the goal)
Part of the reason of course for Townsend's recent elevation to saviour of a nation was his goal for England against Montenegro which in a way is a perfect demonstration of the value of 'having a crack' from distance: if you buy enough tickets, you just might win the raffle.
Townsend's goal for England
This season's activity for Townsend is similar to his behaviour for QPR last season (and a handful of games for Spurs):
Shooting in 2012/13 - Townsend with 2 Goals from 37 attempts but the two coming from relatively good positions
Putting the two seasons together gives a total of 3 goals from 82 shots:
Townsend's 3 goals are a cross/shot, a really well taken chest down/half volley and a lay off he's thumped in from the edge of the box. He's lacking however in goals when cutting inside and shooting (which will be the majority of his activity)
Townsend's ambitious shooting is obviously not the sole reason for Spurs' lack of goals but will arguably play a part in returning possession to the opposition and relieving pressure.  If you don't shoot, you don't score but if you shoot from wildly optimistic locations you won't score too often that way either.

At the other end of the spectrum is someone like Wayne Routledge, who has had just 7 shots from the 10 games he's played in the league so far this season and Nathan Dyer has 15.  This is in part why the interest in Tom Ince who has 36 shots (and 6 goals) in his 13 appearances in the Championship so far this season, although my feeling is that Huw has just thrown Swansea's hat into the ring with regards to Ince on the off chance there are no takers with deep pockets. I'd personally be surprised if we ended up being anywhere near the highest bidder in terms of wages offered given he's out of contract at the end of the season.

When to pass, when to shoot? If the opposition know you pretty much never shoot (as is the case with Routledge), then that's one less thing for the defence to worry about. Similarly shooting on sight isn't going to get you too far either unless you have the finishing skills of Gareth Bale. The next stage is to look at different sides decision making in terms of shooting/chance creation.

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone , Whoscored  and Squawka
Other Posts: Johan Gudmundsson - a player for January?
Michu - Premier League Shooting analysed
Jacks Away - Online Magazine
Fulham 1 - Swans 2 Stats and Analysis

Monday, 25 November 2013

Fulham 1 - Swans 2 - Stats and Review

This was a controlling display from about 35 minutes onwards that was nearly undone by a mixture of leaving Scott Parker unattended from the corner and the kind of finish I that was surely unintentional as he manage to find an area of the goal not much bigger than the ball to score in.

Swansea rode their luck in the first half hour or so as despite the Swans having the majority of the ball, Fulham had the best two chances with Bent's header and then his shot hitting the post when clean through.

After that Fulham's only effort on goal between the 34th and 85th minute was Parker's cross/shot and the chart below shows how little Fulham offered in terms of attacking threat, backing up their previous form in the league so far this season where prior to Saturday they averaged under 8 shots per game.
Shots by Minute: Swansea with a pretty regular stream of attempts from last 10 minutes of 1st half onwards
Chris Wathan from Wales Online has put a good review of the game together with a focus on Rangel and Davies. Given the form of Man City at home so far this season, it'll be interesting to see how Laudrup sets the team up with possibly Rangel taking on the role as right winger that he finished the Fulham game in (and started there last season against Everton).

Fulham were surprisingly direct with quite a lot played long to Berbatov but to be fair to Fulham it did create some moments of panic, including the long ball headed back by Chico into Bent's path where he then hit the post:
Passes Received by Berbatov, plenty of long balls, with a number of Aerial Duels (see below)
Berbatov had 16 Aerial duels, 7 more than anyone else (Bent with 9)
Shelvey's cameo at the end of the match again showed his huge potential (it seems strange to talk about potential in someone who has been around the Premier League for so long but he's actually 5 months younger than Pozuelo).

If Shelvey was the finished article he'd probably be worth 3 times the £5m we paid for him, he's still making mistakes but could end up being a major player in the Swans future over the next decade.
Shelvey's goal, green star is his take-on past a defender. The ability to go past players within tight spaces around the edge of the box is an invaluable ability and Shelvey seems more two-footed than most players which is a big advantage
I was expecting Britton and Shelvey to start this one and Canas and De Guzman to play vs. Valencia, we'll have to wait and see if Laudrup does swap the midfield two or if he goes for something more defensive with a view to taking the 1 point needed to guarantee qualification.

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone , Whoscored  and Squawka
Other Posts: Johan Gudmundsson - a player for January?
Michu - Premier League Shooting analysed
Jacks Away - Online Magazine

Friday, 22 November 2013

Jacks Away - Fulham Preview Magazine

With the help of Scott from The Swansea Way I've put together a range of stats ahead of the Fulham game in the form of an online magazine.
View on Issuu
Fulham over their last 3 league games have been pretty terrible, although all 3 defeats have come against teams in the top 8 (Southampton, Man Utd and Fulham).  Nobody knows though what kind of Fulham (and in particular Berbatov) is going to turn up tomorrow.

Must-win is a massively overused phrase for me, Stoke was a must-win according to some, we didn't win and the world's still turning.  The Fulham game offers the opportunity to put some distance between us and the bottom 3 but is not the be all and end all.  Saying that, I wouldn't want the attitude of Jol of 'There are at least 3 teams worse than us' as that's basically just 'too good to go down' phrased differently which is a dangerous attitude.

In the guide there's the review of Michu's shooting so far in the league compared to last season, some stats around Bony's performance as well as a stats infographic on some key figures from both teams as well as chalkboards from each teams last 3 games.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Michu - Premier League Seasons Compared

As a Swans fan it's arguably difficult to write a truly objective piece when writing about Michu as he's been a huge part of our recent success.

You obviously can't choose which games you're going to score in (he's scored 4 in 7 games in the Europa league so nothing too wrong there) but with only 2 goals from 10 games so far in the Premier League means some people are questioning whether last season was a case of over-performing.

In this piece, I'll look in more detail at the type of opportunities Michu's had in the league so far this season compared with 2012/13 to show that it's more the type of chances that's impacted the goal return rather than any major drop off in form.

If you just looked at top level stats, they'd suggest a major drop off both in goals per 90 minutes played and shot conversion but no real drop off in shot volume.  Taken at face value that would suggest a big change in performance.
Season Stats: Shot volume at similar level but conversion (and therefore goals) way down
Digging deeper however, it should be noted that 40% (12/30) of Michu's shots this season have been from outside the box, compared to only 25% (28/110) last season with Michu's only league goal from outside the box in either season coming from his first shot as a Swansea player in the game against QPR thanks in part to a fumbling attempt at a save from Rob Green.
Michu 2012/13 - 75% of Shots from inside the box, and most of that in central areas
Michu 2013/14 - Similar shots per game volume but greater proportion outside box and little in the previous 'sweet spot' just to the right hand side of the goal in between 6 yard box and penalty spot
Shot position is hugely important when determining likely success of any effort but misses out on context around a position, a 'bad' position but an open goal is a far better opportunity than a good position with three defenders and a goalkeeper standing in your way.

One way of trying to add a layer of context to any shot is Opta's Clear Cut Chance (CCC) which is defined as where there is a 'reasonable' expectation of a goal.

The concept of a Clear Cut Chance isn't perfect as it's to some extent subjective.  Overall across all Clear Cut Chances, conversion is around 35% (after penalties which are also bundled in with Cleat Cut Chances and have a conversion of around 80% are removed).

Using the Clear Cut Chance metric gives us a rough guide to the quality of chances and looking at that, it can be seen there is a major change in the quality of chances Michu's had in the Premier League so far this season.
When you split attempts by clear/not Clear Cut Chance it's easier to see what may in part be the reason for only 2 goals in the league this season.  The number of Clear Cut Chances per 90 minutes played has dropped dramatically from 0.78 per 90 minutes down to 0.31 and as two thirds of Michu's goals last season came via Clear Cut Chances that's going to have a big impact.

If you look at this video of Michu's goals last season, the goals are a mixture of being in the right place at the right time and those with quick clinical finishes, Michu is able to get a lot of power with relatively little backlift meaning keepers have less time to set themselves.  My favourite bit though is Arsene Wenger furiously trying to undo his jacket after Michu scores his second against Arsenal at the Emirates.

There's also the fact that it's only 10 league games so far this season (Michu missed the game vs. Stoke through injury) and one good game and all the stats are suddenly back on track.

Looking at where Michu scored last season there were a couple of 'purple patches', the start of the season with 4 goals in the first 3 games, and 7 in 7 games midway through the season.  Also I'd argue that Bony's two goals vs. Stoke were exactly the type of goals Michu was scoring in the league last season (I'd also have put my house on him scoring the 1v1 Bony had in that match).
Goals scored by Premier League game 2012/13
Bursts of goals also means it's easy to select a convenient cut-off when the goals stop to suggest a drought e.g., 13 goals in first 18 league games of 2012/13, 5 goals in the last 17 league games that season (or 7 in last 27 if you wanted to go from Reading away last season up to the present date).

As I mentioned at the start it's difficult to be truly objective when you're attached, but I've seen enough of him to believe that the season as a whole was representative of his ability not the goals return from the second half of it or the comparatively low return so far this season.

Repeating the feat of 18 league goals in a season may be a stretch but if him and Bony get 25+ in the league between them I'll be happy.

Although the top level stats in the league may not be great, Michu is still a classy finisher but needs the opportunities which have generally been lacking across the team, so the next question is 'Where have Swansea's Clear Cut Chances gone?'

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone , Whoscored  and Squawka and EPL Index
Other Posts: Johan Gudmundsson - a player for January?

Friday, 15 November 2013

Player for January? Johan Gudmundsson

With only a few weeks to go before the transfer window re-opens I have been starting to think about potential targets.  Assuming nobody major leaves in January they only real addition I'd like to see is a left footed winger (jury's still out on Lamah).

Also at least 1 and sometimes both of the starting wingers are usually substituted each match so an extra body in this area may be useful if we progress into the knockout stages of the Europa League (which could be anywhere from an extra 2 to 9 games).

Having someone wide who is a left footer could work well across both sides, either playing on the right and being able to cut inside and shoot or playing on the left and then being able to cross more easily with their natural foot.  The way Wayne Routledge beats a man down the left and then crosses with his right foot shows great technique but does mean he has to fully go past the defender to allow himself the space to use his right.

With this in mind it was interesting to read a piece in the Guardian yesterday about some players who could be potential transfer targets who were playing in the internationals over the next few days.  The one that caught my eye was for Johan Berg Gudmundsson which contained the following:

Johann Berg Gudmundsson (23, winger, AZ Alkmaar – Iceland)

One of several Icelandic talents who have recently emerged from Dutch football to form something of a "golden generation" for their country. Just two games short of a maiden World Cup finals participation, the left-footed wide forward – equally effective on either flank – has proved decisive for his country throughout the campaign. In particular his stunning second-half hat-trick against Switzerland unsurprisingly did not go unnoticed. Gudmundsson's contract expires next summer and the January window may represent the final chance of a payday for his title-chasing club side.
Likely fit for: A mid-table Premier League team with a limited budget keen on a versatile impact forward with resale potential.
Transfer value: £2-3m
I'm not saying that description alone should be enough for Huw to get the chequebook out but it certainly at face value at least ticks a lot of boxes.
A quick bit of research (i.e., Youtube and Wikipedia) suggest that previous seasons goals have been fairly rare but he's had a recent rich vein of form.  As always the question is does recent form show a improvement in performance that can be sustained or is it just a blip?
Senior career (league)
National team
2008Iceland U192(1)
2008–2011Iceland U2114(6)
Looking at those stats don't suggest a goal machine (but then neither are Dyer/Routledge/Lamah, Pablo arguably does have goals in him but obviously fitness this season has been an issue.  I was also surprised given Pablo's 'sicknote' reputation that he played in 30 league games last season despite not joining until the end of August).

3 of Gudmundsson's 4 international goals came against Switzerland in September and he's already got 2 goals in 13 league games and 4 goals in 6 Europa League matches this season.

As mentioned above at a superficial level, sounds like a good fit, young, left footed and potentially quite cheap.  That of course may change over the next few days due to the play-off with Croatia, a couple of big performances could end up adding a fair bit to any asking price.

Links to Player Stats:
Squawka Stats

Selection of his goals over last couple of years

Screamer vs. Den Haag from a couple of weeks ago

Monday, 11 November 2013

Swans 3 - Stoke 3 Stats and Chalkboards

I'm usually fairly philosophical about decisions that do and don't go against us but to drop 2 points due to a decision like that one so late on is a monumental kick in the knackers.

Looking at the current league table, I'd say the top 8 now will be the top 8 at the end of the season, even though I think Southampton will slip back a bit I think them and Everton are a step above the rest outside the 'big 6'.  I'd like to think that Swansea could be approaching that bracket next season, but when factoring in the Europa league as well, a mid-table finish (15th or higher) would for me be an OK season provided we make the knockout stages of the Europa League.

With this backdrop of a pretty tight league, 2 points is a big deal and we will have to wait for the end of the season to see whether we are in credit or not when it comes to the outcomes of major balls ups.

The ending of the match obviously dominates the narrative, but 2-0 down at half time and conceding three from Stoke's only 3 attempts on target isn't something to be pleased about.

Stoke under Hughes seems to be a similar beast to that under Pulis as can be seen in part from the kick off at the start of the match and also the restart after Swansea made it 2-2, the jokes about Stoke being a 'rugby' team have been around for a while but it was still interesting to see them basically kicking for touch and position:
'Passes' shortly after kick off and after the 2-2 equaliser
It's a tactic that although not a great spectacle does have some merits, stick the ball deep in the opponents half and then try and box them in and stop them playing out (either that or N'Zonzi had a few quid on time of first throw in).

Any analysis of the game is distorted by the fact that Stoke scored so early meaning they had even less incentive to play further forward and in fact had only 2 shots in the first 74 minutes both of which however were goals:
Stoke with only 3 shots all game until they were 3-2 down with a very late rally to get the equaliser 

Overall, Swansea made 42 crosses (including corners) which is almost double the 23 that Swansea have averaged in the league prior to this match:
Swansea Crosses and Take-ons
Stoke's tactics can be seen in part by where Aerial Duels took place, heavily towards Peter Crouch and heavily concentrated in a single area:
As seen from previous games v. Stoke, there's often little point trying to compete in the air vs. Crouch, it's more important to compete for the knock down which is where Leon comes into his own, often tidying up scrappy passages of play
At half time I'd imagine most people would've given anything to come away from that game with a draw and we could easily be looking at 'Laudrup Crisis' headlines dominating the news over the next couple of weeks during the international break.

Things are far from perfect, but with repeated rotation in the middle combined with a heavy workload for the defence and Routledge/Dyer it's always going to be a pretty stop-start season.  Even for those who didn't play on Thursday, just travelling to Russia and back is going to have an impact on your normal training regime, although I don't want to go to Dutch Ray on it and suddenly trot out the excuse when there's a bad result and be strangely quiet when teams in Europe have good results after midweek fixtures.

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats and Chalkboards: Created using Statszone , Whoscored  and Squawka

Monday, 4 November 2013

Cardiff 1 - Swansea 0 Stats and Chalkboards

This wasn't a particularly great game and it was of course an even worse result.  It's a pretty big but, but without the goal it could be argued that neither side offered much and it would have gone down as a drab draw, Laudrup himself has said that the first half went how he expected (i.e, pretty non-eventful with the hope to nick the game in last half hour by bringing Bony on while still at 0-0).

Swansea started well with 3 shots inside the first 10 minutes but from then on it was a fairly flat performance:
Shots by minute: 4 of the 6 shots on Target (2 from each side) came in the last 10 minutes including Rangel's save
I wasn't surprised that Bony didn't start, Laudrup seems more often than not to err on the side of caution, I was surprised though to see both of De Guzman and Shelvey starting as to me it feels neither one thing or the other.  It's not the attacking mindset of including Bony and it's not the solid defensive/controlling strategy of Britton and Canas.

The only time Britton, De Guzman and Shelvey have all started the same match is the league cup defeat at Birmingham, obviously rotation is needed with the demands of the Europa league to content with but it did feel like there was a lack of understanding at times.

I still think there's an excellent player within Jonjo Shelvey but it'll take some nurturing (doing the 'Swim Away' gesture at the end of a match when you've lost and not played that well just seems foolish).  Looking at the stats the one that was one of the more disappointing ones was that none of the midfield 3 (Britton/Shelvey/De Guzman) attempted a take-on (dribble past an opponent) during the game.

Obviously you wouldn't expect it from Britton but for me it's one of Shelvey's strong points being able to go past players in midfield, which in turn makes space for others.  A lot of the time the ball would be played up to Dyer/Routledge who would be quickly bundled off the ball.

The details of where Cardiff recovered the ball by half show the areas Swansea tended to try to attack in, during the first half there was a lot more towards Routledge on Swansea's left but the second half was full of balls up the middle than didn't stick:
Cardiff's Ball recoveries by half (i.e., where Swansea lost the ball), second half activity concentrated far more in central areas and also more in Swansea's half
Another way of viewing this would be by looking at the forward passes played in each half which shows a marked difference in type of attack (and also success rate):
Swansea forward passes by half, fewer passes in the Second half (also 76% success rate in 1st half compared with 70% in the 2nd)
Michu also came increasingly deep as the match went on (while he was on the field) which then obviously leaves even less of a target further up:
Michu: Passes Received first 30 min (left) and 31-65 min (right), 3 of the 6 passes received in the first 30min came in the first 10 minutes which shows how little influence any striker often has in the Swansea system.
Off the field Cardiff may be a bit of a joke, but in Caulker and Medel they've gone for players who can help them keep things tight, I know they had a few extra weeks compared to Palace but the difference in recruitment strategy was huge.  I think if you put Caulker in any of the teams in the bottom 6 he'd provide a marked improvement in their performance.
Medel's pass activity, 20 more completed passes than any other player.  His 10 ball recoveries was 4 more than any other player (Rangel/Neil Taylor with 6 each)
By end of Thursday night we could be in the knockout stages of the Europa league, but whatever happens the rest of the season, this performance is one that will stay in the memory for some time and not for the right reasons.

Other Posts: Swans Players Shooting by position 

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats and Chalkboards: Created using Statszone , Whoscored  and Squawka