Friday, 17 August 2012

Is Possession Really Important?

If you have the ball then your opponent can't hurt you right? wrong!. Having the majority of possession means you are most likely to have more chances and win matches but that's not always the case and here's why. Swansea's possession statistics are astounding their average possession last season was 57% which means they had to dominate most games home and away. The amount of passes made in open play comes up to 20791 which is just short of Man City's total of 20864 but well ahead of the rest of the so called top 6 as it is now.

The main difference as you can see above is the stat underneath Total Open Play Passes which is % Forward which illustrates that whilst Swansea had plenty of the ball it was essentially worthless because it didn't head forward and that unfortunately is where the goals are to be had. When Newcastle came down here and let us have the majority of the ball and still came away 2-0 winners is a clear ethos of that problem. It may not look like that much of a percentage but during the season it really is important. Much had been made of Swansea's style of football but it counts for nothing if 3 points are not on the menu at the end of the day.

Their OPP completion as illustrated here is up there with all the top clubs and it shows that they can retain the ball better than anyone else to a certain degree. The slight problem is that passing sideways and backwards isn't ideal if you're in need of a goal there needs to be more penetration which doesn't mean the long ball theory because that would be abandoning all beliefs. I think the most alarming fact here is that Swansea had well over the lowest amount of shots compared to the top 6 with 335 almost a few hundred under the rest which shows lack of penetration or an earlier ball forward was really needed with Swansea only claiming one goal on the break last season v Fulham away and that was one of the few times when Swansea were clear and precise with possession. Conversation of chances rate at 13% is decent for the amount of chances created but still not good enough to really compete and that has to be changed this season with the likes of Michu, De Guzman and co. 

Ways To Succeed


Perhaps Swansea need to put the ball in the box more as in some early crosses or quickfire ones across the floor to really unsettle the opposition. Only Fulham and Bolton achieved less open play crosses last season and look what happened to the latter. Swansea's measly 550 crosses which over the season is really poor, Bolton again had the lowest cross accuracy with 17% which is less than Swansea's 18% illustrates that although Swansea keep it on the floor there needs to be more crosses put into the box because Euro 2012 proved that balls into the boxes can really unsettle an opponent and force them into mistakes. Much of Norwich's goals came from crosses and they had the highest percentage in 25% which resulted in their lofty position so if there was a way that Swansea could combine both you would think it's a straightforward season. 

Open Play Goals

Swansea finished last season with the 7th highest open play goal scoring statstics conveniently behind the top 6 where were a few more goals higher which illustrates that Swansea need more goals this season. The expected sides are at the bottom with Blackburn, Stoke and even Liverpool are there with 14,19 and 24. Manchester City had the most shots in the box last season and well the Premier League came that way which is not to say that Swansea could win the league if they start pumping shots at goal but you get the idea.

Man City had 452 shots compared to Swansea's 252 almost 200 less which is not only vital to important goals but also the more chances you create it's obvious you are at least going to score a few. In addition to this Swansea weren't really getting headers in the box particularly at goal with only 56 headers at goal which over 38 games is poor at best although since Swansea are a passing side you can see that headers aren't really a prerogative because Man City's statistics are around the same level. I think this area summarizes the fact that if Swansea were to cross it needs to be accurate and precise because without that physical presence in the box it's hard to manage.

It's key to remember that sides such as Swansea, Man City, Barcelona and possession based sides play to their strengths and these are not on of them although unlike the latter two Swansea possess a lower chance creation stat which surely has to be addressed.

Move The Ball Quicker?

Swansea had two players last season who were near the top enduring fouls. Scott Sinclair( although might be leaving remember) and Nathan Dyer were key to the Swans success last season and paid dividends for it with Sinclair 63 fouls and Dyer 1 ahead, only 6 other players were fouled more which include Suarez, Moses and Sessegnon. Dyer was fouled almost every 37 mins per game with only Suarez again being brought down on more occasion. Other teams realise that commiting fouls is a clever way to stop the Swans way of playing because it takes them out of their strongest zone which is open play. Crosses into the box as I have already illustrated is not the idea of the side and therefore will not bring in goals from it. Quick freekicks are always essential to the Swans but perhaps an earlier punt into the box to catch the opposition unaware could be an idea?

Gaining Back Possession

Leon Britton finished in 6th in regaining back possession last season alongside Joe Allen and that was key to the Swans success because the pressure that he put on other players won the ball back and allowed us to manipulate possession. Leon didn't head forward that much so his percentage was in his defensive third behind the half way line. Fallaini, Mulumbu and Song of Everton, West Brom and Arsenal respectively all ranked higher and all play in the same position which illustrates how important the role of holding midfielder is to a side. Leon won the ball every 11 minutes per game which is key to the side and if you notice Gareth Barry does it for Man City and Sergio Busquets of Barcelona play the same roles effectively. 

Try Killer Ball More Often?

Swansea's main problem before Gylfi Sigurdsson arrived last season was lacking the penetrative through ball required to reward from. When he arrived you could see that more chances were created but still not enough because it still didn't address the fact that Swansea would aim sideways rather than through which is fine but not perhaps if you are trying to win a game which something Michael Laudrup is keen to address. Juan Mata and David Silva were the top chance creator's last season with 3/2.9 per game created which is more than Swansea average in most games on their own, only Mark Gower was close to that as he was once heralded as the most creative midfielder in Europe which i'm sure he made a huge deal out of.

Swansea and Everton were the only sides with defensive creators with their wingbacks such as Leighton Baines and Neil Taylor and Angel Rangel key to their sides success although both sides use their attacking full backs to great extent. It doesn't matter if you're left footed or right because chances can come from both feet which dis-encourages the idea that right footed players are more creative.

This Graph here clearly illustrates that most chances last season came from the left hand side of midfield although I think Swansea were the only club where the right hand was more evident with Rangel overlapping Dyer there was plenty of attacking force down that side. This is an overall graph from all teams from last season by the way.

If Swansea are going to be more penetrative their are going to have to use more variety from all sides of the pitch whether it be a hopeless long ball from the Centre Backs or a through ball from the holding midfielder something has to give because chances need not only be created but converted as well.

(All statistics and graphs are from

Thanks For Reading
Much Appreciated

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