ESPN Soccernet - Correspondents - Swansea City
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Swansea City
Posted by Max Hicks on 02/28/2012

Stoke City have a reputation for winning ugly. Last Saturday's performance against the Swans isn't going to change their reputation anytime soon.

Despite retaining 74% possession on the day and getting a respectable amount of shots on goal, the Swans came away from the Britannia frustrated. Of the nine shots the Swans did take, the first on target didn't come until the 79th minute, which might go some way toward explaining the big goose egg on the white side of the scoreboard.

This might have been academic had the Swans been able to deny the Potters at the other end, and settle for a credible draw. It goes without saying that Stoke were always going to exploit the Swans collective lack of height, because every team has a collective lack of height compared to Pulis' beanstalks. I say beanstalks, his team are more like bridge supports.

Of course, the inevitable advantage Stoke were going to enjoy on set pieces made the difference in the game. As did the sun shining in the Swans goalkeeper's eyes. As did the fact the Swans goalkeeper happened to be the technically proficient but not very tall Gerhard Tremmel making his first start of the season, and not the fly-paper handed and spring-heeled Michel Vorm (who actually isn't very tall either, not that it matters).

It would, however, be unfair to blame Tremmel outright. Stoke's first came from a perfectly delivered corner that even the aerially astute Stephen Caulker couldn't reach. The second was a pantomime act featuring Peter Crouch the postman in the lead role, there to deliver a headfull of bad news into the Swans netted letterbox, the half dozen orange-shirted dogs in defence able only to nip at his heels.

Ridiculous comparisons aside, I wonder if Stoke might save themselves a few bob by popping down to the local rugby team and signing all the players who are any good at line-outs. It's cheaper than a youth academy. Just food for thought.

The Swans' Tenerfie tans will be gone by next week's match at Wigan, chased from the player's faces by the Northern English air. I hope the defeat at Stoke will help the players focus on beating the ex-bosses new charges, because Man City at home followed by Fulham away will be tougher tests, and two lost games in a row is bad enough. Four would be a disaster. Realistically, a win over Wigan and a point at Fulham should keep the Swans on the level.

Never fear. If someone can only find Scott Sinclair's shooting boots, things will be fine again. After the bumpy ride at the Britannia, perhaps the going at the DW will be kinder. And failing that, there's always Liberty billiards to look forward to when the Tevez circus comes to town.

Positives : More possession than Sergeant Pilcher. Cameo from GT. Stephen Caulker inching nearer to scoring from a header.

Negatives : No ladders or leg-ups. Craftily repainted smaller pitch. Scott's shot-spoiling bobble.


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Comments

Posted by kevin on 02/28/2012

Swan correspondent -this report is very poor on the facts, you say Swansea had 74% possession and that Swansea were superior. Compare the BBC website stating Swansea had only 51% possession and that both teams each had 6 shots on target but Stoke were effective from set-pieces. This result was a fair one - the better team won.

The BBC might well say that, but ESPN (that's this site, by the way), holds that the Swans had 74% possession, which the Guardian football website also agrees with.

Also, at no point do I directly say or even infer that Swansea were superior. If you are strictly talking about possession, then yes, I do say Swansea had superior possession, but even your BBC sourced stat of 51% admits that, albeit by a far slimmer margin.

What I do suggest is that the set pieces were the difference on the day, which they were. By saying this, I am agreeing the best team won, as frustrating as that is for Swans fans, because that's what the game came down to in the end.

Posted by David Werner on 02/29/2012

Excellent article, with great Swans insight. I read lots about the Swans and I was at the front of the away end at Stoke. I thought the possession stats sounded wrong at 51% for the Swans. Stoke didn't bother knocking it around and were the most direct team I have witnessed. There's a bit more to Stoke than just hoofball. Hard work and some good first touches. Our Goalkeeper Tremmell looked frightened even in the warm-up. He spent ages pre-match on blocking low shots which he seemed very good at but then the aerial attacks started....
I fear for the next few matches but it was always going to be hard in The Premiership and I wouldn't change anything Brendan or the lads have done. Love them all!

Thanks for the comments and the first-hand perspective! I also have some respect for Stoke; it's brave to play that way in the modern game, and I think the Premier League is richer for having so many diverse styles. Regardless of the result, I still think the Swans are doing well and should stay up. These next matches will really be key M

Posted by Adam on 02/29/2012

Poor article to be honest - very sterotypical, yet again, succumbing to the all to easy lazy journalism. Stoke do not "lump the ball" aimlessly forward. They play direct into the chest, feet, head of the forwards who look to cushion or play the ball off to the wide men at the earliest opportunities. This allows the football to be played in the oppositions half, playing % football where there is a chance of a set piece developing or attempt on goal coming from it.
Stoke are also one of the most hardworking teams in the league. This was evident on Sunday and I would hazard a guess that they are the first team this season to really close down Swansea in the areas that matter in and around their own penalty area instead of sitting back and letting them play infront of the opposition which will eventually lead to Swansea starting an attack. This never happened, it was never allowed to happen and Stoke deserve a lot of credit in how hard they worked.
The best team on the day certainly won.

At no point did I use the phrase "lump the ball forward", so why you are quoting that is beyond me. Nor did I even suggest that is how Stoke play. In fact, the only references I directly made about Stoke are that the team has many sizeable players, and that both Stoke goals in the game came from set pieces. I even went so far as to compliment the delivery of the ball that led to Stoke's first goal, and was derisive of the way the Swans defended the second, not the way Stoke scored it. As I have already pointed out in response to a previous comment, I agree Stoke were the better team on the day, and at no point did I say they weren't. Lazy journalism? Lazy reading.

Also, Stoke might well be the hardest working team in the Premier League, but they were not the first to press Swansea in such a way. Norwich and Aston Villa did exactly the same thing. It worked for Norwich; not so much Villa. M

Posted by Will on 03/01/2012

We can get into semantics about what you said or not. You certainly made a number of perjorative inferences on Stoke's style (rugby player reference, beanstalks, even an implication of cheatng regarding the pitch size). Don't make the snide little digs like that then hide behind the lazy response of (to paraphrase) "I didn't actually say that if you read my report etc etc". Lazy journalism.

Excuse me, but when somebody quotes something I didn't even say and uses it as the basis for their argument, my denial of that quote is not a question of semantics, it's a question of honesty.

By the same token, to ask a critic to read my work properly is hardly a lazy response. You've clearly read my work, but have still managed to confuse your own interpretation with what I actually said. For example, I did not say nor even imply Stroke cheated by repainting the pitch. The league has strict rules about pitch sizes, and I assume the dimensions were legal, therefore, it was not an act of cheating. However, the pitch clearly had been repainted to be smaller than it might have been, and everyone knows the Swans play better on big surfaces; Tony Pulis is no exception. Many teams exploit things like pitch size to gain an advantage over an opponent. It is not cheating. It is annoying when it works against your team though, and for that reason I mentioned it. You roll out the word 'cheating' - your word, not mine. Be careful you are not putting words into my mouth, or we might have another 'semantic' argument on our hands.

As for your claim that I made pejorative inferences on Stoke's part; if you are looking for laudatory platitudes for your team, you are in the wrong place. This is the Swans blog, after all. I am not only entitled to make a few light hearted remarks here to amuse myself and my fellow Swans supporters following the defeat, it is actually my job. If you are expecting an unbiased match report, ESPN have those already elsewhere on the site. This is a fan blog predominantly for Swans fans, not disgruntled Stoke supporters who can't seem to be happy even when they win.

Finally, If you had bothered to read all the comments, you would have noticed how I admit to having a lot of respect for the way Stoke play. I am in the minority among most people I talk to in that I appreciate the Stoke style, even if it is frustrating to lose to. Your team does play a physical game. Your players are tall. There are comparisons to be made to rugby players, which even the Stoke correspondent acknowledges. I know he uses the term to mock the comparison, but I wasn't exactly serious when I suggested Stoke should recruit actual rugby players for their team, either. There's really no need to take all this quite so seriously. Whatever happened to friendly banter? M.

Posted by Will on 03/01/2012

You seem to be getting increasingly aggrieved at accusations you've not been impartial, whilst defending your right to suspend impartiality for this article. I guess you have all bases covered that way. I don't have a problem with a supporter expressing his views, but you surely appreciate that, where that encompasses a perspective on the opposing team, it will elicit responses accordingly. I'm all for friendly banter and maybe I'm being a sensitive Stokie with talk about cheating (and we've had more than our share of flak over recent years). However, you raised as an issue something which isn't an issue. You cast the fly and got a bite. On the subject of inferred meanings, please don't try and argue the rugby reference was anything other than a dig. What are the comparisons with rugby players? that we're quite tall? or that our approach is overly physical? Anyway, in the interests of friendly banter, good luck for the rest of the season (as long as it's not at our expense!)

Actually, the rugby reference really wasn't a dig; or at best, it was a slightly jealous one. If you remember I specifically mentioned rugby line-outs; I was talking about big players who can get up for a high ball. Most teams don't have a Delap or Gunnarsson to fire throw-ins like corner kicks, and with Shotton as well as Delap Stoke are fortunate to have two. I expect it's trained because it's a really effective weapon. More teams should look to develop that. So, yes, a dig, but only in so much as obvious sour grapes, and certainly nothing heartfelt. Good luck to your lot, too; despite everything, I really do enjoy the contrast Stoke bring to the top flight. M

Posted by Simon Robinson on 03/01/2012

We are a defensive lot in the Potteries, probably mirrored in our team :)

Jokes about size and rugby apart, a lot of teams this season have mistakenly assumed that we have shorted or repainted our pitch just to stop them from playing their 'expansive' games

Just to correct you - Stoke have played with the smallest dimensional pitch since Pulis has been in charge, he likes nice tight pitches that encourage 'battles' as opposed to open flamouyant football - thats his perogative at home. The pitch is within the guidelines of the FA (min/max length/width), so no problems there - they should probably standardise this though IMO.

UEFA disagree, and have a different set of min sizes, so Stoke in the Europa League this season have had to have one pitch size for those games, and another for league games, with the sight of the smaller pitch covered over with green paint!

Most fans think we should keep the big pitch, as it helps our wingers...Pulis disagrees though, and he's the boss!

Thanks for your comments; I was hoping someone might be able to shed some more accurate light. I had guessed the repainting was done to satisfy the different FA / UEFA regulations, and I suppose it doesn't surprise me that Pulis likes to keep the pitch small for all games, not just ones against Swansea. It certainly seems to work, though the case you make about wingers is interesting. This is probably the wrong place to start a discussion about Jermaine Pennant, but I wonder if that is why he has apparently struggled lately? (Just going on what I've heard) M

Posted by Simon Robinson on 03/02/2012

Pulis says there is no problem, I would argue thats horse poop

Rumour mill has it Jermain is a bit of a character (as his record of trouble and moving clubs tells its own tale), and got into trouble with Pulis before Everton away by disappearing from the team hotel to meet up with his glamour model/television X star girlfriend (who does have large charms :-) )

He got caught, he was dropped, and has seldom started since, there was some sort of altercation acording to folk.

History shows usually that when you fall out with Pulis, thats generally it - Kitson, Beattie, even Liam Lawrence (who a lot of Stokies idolised) was left in the cold and sold on.

He cares not for value or reputation, if you aren't in the 'team' ethic, you aren't in the team, full stop.

The only player he seems to allow leeway with is Fuller, who he treated as if a son for a long time, often late back from international games, labours at training etc, but I think Ric is also at the end of his time.

Well, you can't doubt Pulis' integrity by the sounds of it. I suppose it was always going to be interesting to see how a character like Pennant was going to fit in with him. Pulis seems very down to earth, whilst Pennant is the type of guy who can 'forget' he owns a Porsche... Although on his day, he's a good player, as I'm sure you'd agree. M

Posted by Kyle on 03/03/2012

Great article, have really enjoyed your work all year. Does Swansea have any shot at keeping Gylfi Sigurðsson?

Thank you very much, I'm pleased you've been reading. Initially, when Gylfi first came over, the official line said it was a chance for the player to regain fitness following a serious injury. However, Hoffenheim's manager at the time of the switch, Holger Stanislawski, was critical of Sigurðsson, claiming the player didn't care about Hoffenheim, and rumour was he would not be particularly welcome to go back to the club.

However, since then there has been a new twist. Hoffenheim sacked Stanislawski a few weeks ago and have appointed former Liverpool defender Markus Babbel in his place. It remains to be seen whether Babbel has similar feelings about Siggy.

Based on his appearances so far, I would love to see him join the Swans full time. Hoffenheim paid £6.5 million for him, so they might want something similar back.

Posted by SupersSwans on 03/12/2012

Wow! Some Stoke fans are getting really defensive because people are calling their club a rugby team which to be honest is an adequate term for their style of play.

They may call it lazy journalism, but considering every single journalist in the world is saying this about Stoke's style of play perhaps the fans need to wake up and smell the coffee, and accept that their tactics are designed to rough other teams up their wrong way.

Tony Pulis wants his team to use dirty tactics, so why do the Stoke fans deny this is the case?

I know what you mean. I think Stoke have a particular style of their own, and whether other teams fans like it or not, Stoke fans ought at least to be proud of it. I'm very proud of the Swans, after all. M

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