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Swansea City
Posted by Max Hicks on 06/04/2012

With the commotion of Brendan Rodgers' move to Liverpool now waning and Huw Jenkins yet to announce a new manager, news on the Swans front has gone quiet... for the moment. So it's a perfect time to continue my end of season stats round-up. In part three, we'll be looking at the Swans attack.

The aim of any attack is to score goals, so a list of top goal scorers seems a logical place to start :

Graham 12 (0.38 per game, or 1 every 237 minutes)
Sinclair 8 (0.29 per game, or 1 every 390 minutes)
Sigurdsson 7 (0.41 per game, or 1 every 214 minutes)

Looking at this list, one fact stands out - the Swans have to sign Sigurdsson. There has been disconcerting talk in the press about Rodgers' hi-jacking the Swans nearly complete deal for Sigurdsson, but we should know sometime in the coming week whether Siggy will be wearing Swansea whites next season. These figures say it would be a great thing for the club if that happens.

It stands to reason that sole striker Danny Graham ought to top the goals scored list, and Scott Sinclair chipped in with a sturdy eight. In fairness, a repeat of the twenty odd he scored in the championship was never likely, and he still fared a lot better this season than did QPR's Adel Taarabt, the player who pipped Sinclair to the post in best Championship player voting that season.

However, Sigurdsson almost caught up with Sinclair whilst only playing half as many games, and his goals-per-game clip of 0.41 would be impressive for an out-and-out striker, let alone an attacking midfielder. Bear in mind also that Sinclair is the Swans penalty taker, and although Sigurdsson does take the free kicks, they don't quite present the same scoring opportunity (although that point is debatable where the Icelander is involved).

Of course, you don't score goals without taking shots. A look at that stat might shed some light on Sigurdsson's impressive figures so far.

Sinclair 99 (2.8 per game)
Sigurdsson 71 (4.2 per game)
Graham 70 (2.2 per game)

Sinclair's status at the top of this list might suggest he either shoots too much or doesn't hit the target often enough, because he took roughly 25% more shots than Graham but scored 25% fewer goals. Sigurdsson meanwhile takes almost twice the shots of the other leading shooters. Small wonder he scores so often. Granted, he takes most of the direct free kicks, but on balance, that probably only accounts for 0.8 shots per game (that one's a guess). Regardless, when he does take free kicks, he usually gets them on target, so that simply further illustrates his attacking value to the team.

More important that shots are shots on target :

Shots On Target (20 or more shots)
Graham 53%
Dyer 41%
Sigurdsson 32%

Again, we can see that Sigurdsson doesn't waste too many of his shots on goal - 32% is good for third on the team in the accuracy stakes. It is comforting to see Graham with a deadly 53% (for some context, Robin van Persie reached 37% this season), and the big surprise is Nathan Dyer, who once upon a time couldn't put the ball in the ocean, much less on target. As Swansea's second most accurate shooter, Dyer should look at shooting a little more often. As it stands, Dyer actually is fourth on the list for shots taken with 44 - but that's a far cry from third place Graham's 70.

Next I want to take a look at shots-per-goal - in other words, how many shots a player takes between scoring goals.

Shots Per Goal (20 shots minimum)
Graham 5.83
Dyer 8.80
Sigurdsson 10.14

Graham tops the list. A little armchair extrapolation tells us that if Danny Graham could find a way to up his shots per game from 2.2 to 3, then he ought to score every other game at least, which would have increased his goals total this season from 12 to nearly 20. Food for thought.

Finally, I want to look at what I will describe as shooting efficacy - once a player has put a shot on target, how often it results in a goal :

Shooting Efficacy (20 shots minimum)
Graham 32.43%
Sinclair 32%
Allen 30.77%

I must admit to cheating ever so slightly. Ash Williams actually had 50% efficacy after taking exactly the minimum 20 shots required for consideration (shots include headers on goal). However, he only put two of them on target, scoring his only goal of the season from one. This hardly seems useful for the purposes of our examination, so, discounting Williams, Danny Graham once again tops the table. I think it is safe to say at this point that Graham has justified his large transfer fee.

What is interesting is Scott Sinclair's nearly identical figure. This means that whilst Scott misses a lot of his shots (three quarters actually), when he does get them on target, they are quite dangerous, which backs up a point I made earlier in the season - that one of the reasons Sinclair misses a lot is because he is always aiming for the corners and edges of the goal, away from the keeper. When it works, there are goals. When it doesn't... there are questionable looking stats.

Joe Allen's inclusion on this list suggests he could do with shooting a little more often, too. He is fifth with 41 total shots, 32% of which he puts on target.

We'll finish up with a bit of fun :

Sigurdsson 4
Graham, Sinclair 3
Caulker 2

Steven Caulker was really unlucky not to score with a header from a set-piece this season. Some of Siggy's shots off the frame came from free kicks, whilst we can see more evidence of Sinclair's shooting strategy of trying to keep the ball away from the keeper. And what about Danny Graham? That's another three goals he might have had there...

There'll be more stats next time, including a best eleven round-up.

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Posted by Swansea_awesome on 06/05/2012

Awesome article.
Swans should definitely sign Sigurdsson and prevent Brendan Rodgers from signing players like Joe Allen or Britton for another 2 years or so.

Thank you! I agree that the Swans need to hold on to their key players but the Sigurdsson deal seems to be hanging by a thread at the moment. M

Posted by Mark on 06/05/2012

Great stuff Max. I've been following your articles this season but haven't commented, so now seems as good a time as any to start!

As a Watford fan, it's been wonderful to see Danny Graham doing well in the Prem (not so much Mr Rodgers though...), and these stats really back up how well he's played in general for Swansea. I feel like his contribution sometimes gets lost in the hype around your passing and midfield strength, but clearly he's an important part of how you play.

Some questions:
- do you think Gylfi will sign for you without Rodgers?
- Marcel Desailly has been linked with your vacant manager's post, which I find a little strange given that he's never managed before. Talks with Graeme Jones don't seem to going anywhere, so who would you like to see come in, and who do you think will come in?
- what are Swansea's key areas to strengthen in this summer?

Cheers, keep up the good work! Mark

Hi Mark, and thank you! Graham has definitely been a solid signing - after seeing what he did for Watford, I always felt he'd come good for us even at the higher level.

You've asked some good questions which are probably worth a blog of their own. I'll doubtless end up reprinting some of these opinions once the various sagas have been resolved, but here it goes :

I think time is running out for Gylfi. He was set to sign last week, but took a holiday all of a sudden, which seems like little more than a delaying tactic. He wants to see who the Swans next boss will be.

Rodgers hasn't helped by openly admitting his interest in bringing the player to Liverpool 'in the event Siggy doesn't sign for Swansea' - which is as close as you can get to sabotaging a deal without actually sabotaging it.

This is particularly galling for Swans fans - I know Rodgers has a special fondness for Sigurdsson, but there are countless players of his calibre Liverpool could target. For the Swans, there is pretty much one, and Siggy is it. The fact the team was willing to more than double their previous highest transfer fee (Graham's £3.5 mil) speaks volumes about his importance to the team. Would have have as much importance for Liverpool? With Kop icon Gerrard still incumbent at Siggy's preferred position? Hardly. Swiping Sigurdsson from under the Swans noses would be a cheap shot, although were it not for Rodgers, Siggy would never have played for the Swans in the first place.

As for Desailly and the manager vacancy - I like Desailly on tv, and there's no doubting his credentials as a player. However, this coming season represents a pivotal moment for Swansea City. Whether the Swans stake a claim to becoming a long-term Premier League team (like Stoke did) or slide back down to the Championship might be largely determined by their second term.

Like 'difficult second albums', it's the second season that shows if a side has got more than one game, enough to hang with the big boys. For that reason, I think top level management experience is vital. Desailly could teach the defence a few valuable lessons, but to run the whole team? I have my doubts.

Football people of Desailly's standing are ironically better off testing the managerial waters with big sides (like Liverpool), simply because there's no way those teams ever get relegated. A high-profile ex-player turned manager makes a hash of it at a big club? They're out the door after 6 months, and perhaps it costs the team a single place or two in the standings. The same thing happens at a small club? It's probably relegation.

My preferred choice hands down is Michael Laudrup. He is arguably the greatest passer of the ball the world has ever seen, so it seems somewhat fitting he should manage one of Britain's most pass-happy teams. Also, he favours a 4-2-3-1 which we saw Rodgers use a lot of, and was part of the devastating Danish short-passing-machine which took the 1986 World Cup by storm (or at least until the Spain match). Plus, he has top level management experience. Laudrup has the right philosophy for the Swans, and is just the sort of hire that would give players like Sigurdsson incentive to stay with the team, or to come over in the first place.

As for who we'll probably get? Well, I wouldn't put it past Huw Jenkins to announce someone completely unexpected, possibly someone not even on the bookies radar. One thing seems to be sure though, and that's the longer it takes, the less chance the Swans have of signing Sigurdsson.

Finally, the areas the Swans need to strengthen are defence - right across the back four, especially at centre back - and centre midfield. If Siggy doesn't come, the Swans need to identify another like target in the transfer market, because the value of that sort of player to the team system is obvious. Also, some more depth to give Joe Allen a break would be good, although a healthy Kemy Agustien should go a little way toward solving that problem. Another winger and some striker depth to push Graham wouldn't go amiss either, but for me the team's priorities lie at other positions. M

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