Swansea City head coach Carlos Carvalhal went on the defensive in Friday’s pre-match press conference, providing a thorough run-down of the stats comparing his record with that of his predecessor, Paul Clement.
Now, not too long ago back in February, Carvalhal said he wasn’t a fan of stats, and of course, he provided one of his many comical analogies involving a picnic and a chicken to explain why:
Carlos is not much of a fan of stats… ???? pic.twitter.com/zkuYFfqhHf
— Swansea City AFC (@SwansOfficial) February 22, 2018
Yet the Swans boss reeled off a number of stats to inform every one of the improvements that he delivered compared to Paul Clement – whether it was goals scored, conceded, goal difference, wins and points gained.
But the reality remains the same, it just wasn’t good enough in the end, and not only that, he was never going to do any worse than Clement who won just 3 and lost 12 of his 18 games this season.
At the beginning of his press conference, Carvalhal was to quick to read off the stats from a sheet of paper:
“We did not start the season, we compared between now and before we arrived. In the cup we achieved the quarter-final, in the Premier League we had 17 games, before we arrived the club played 20, three more than our presence here.”
“Before they won three games, we have won five. Before there were four draws, there were five with us. We lost 13 games before, now we lost seven.”
“The goal difference was -20, now it is minus seven. There were 13 points before, with us we achieve 20.”
“In reality, the path we did, we are in the middle of the table. We have one more than Brighton, four more than Watford, West Brom, five more than Southampton and six more than Huddersfield.”
It’s quite the contradiction right there. Sky Sports titled the video “Carvalhal’s six-minute rant”, which is a bit harsh in fairness to him.
He came in at such a difficult time, we were dead in the water as Carvalhal said when he first arrived. In the press conference this week, he said the surprise element helped at the start as the form improvement was instant. But he felt that later on, teams would then adjust the way they played against his side, which coincided with a drop in form again.
You can’t help but feel that Carvalhal threw away what was such a promising position to stay in the Premier League
I personally can’t agree with that point. Did opposition teams really change the way they played against us that much? Carvalhal himself adopted more negative tactics, and even during some of the FA Cup away games, it felt like we were watching us under Paul Clement again.
There was a lack of attacking creativity and invention in the opposition’s half, the build-up play was far too slow, predictable and easy to defend against. He mostly stuck with a back five system too that frustrated the fans, especially when we produced a more exciting performance at home against Everton when he switched to a 4-2-2-2 formation. It seemed like a no-brainer at the time to stick with that system, but he quickly reverted back to a very limited 5-4-1.
Carvalhal also saw quick improvement from some individual players. Most notably Fer and Clucas, as well as Jordan Ayew who scored some crucial goals, but the latter two weren’t able to maintain their performance levels as their form dropped off again along with the teams.
You can’t help but feel that Carvalhal threw away what was such a promising position to stay in the Premier League. After 30 games, we were 4 points clear and had the likes of West Brom, Southampton and Bournemouth to play, but we managed just a point against those three. 2 goals in 8 games followed, no wins saw us then relegated with a game to spare. It was an opportunity for himself as well. What an achievement he’d have had on his C.V, keeping the Swans up having been rock bottom at the end of 2017. He’d have surely guaranteed his Premier League job, but now, you wonder who will be interested in appointing him this Summer after his contract at the Liberty Stadium won’t be renewed.
Carvalhal also highlighted the absence of some key players, mainly Bony and Fer as well as Jordan Ayew who was banned for 2 League games.
Again, these factors didn’t help him or us in our survival bid, but you have to wonder what happened after such an excellent win over West Ham, a 4-1 thrashing at the Liberty Stadium. There was no Bony, or Fer, Sanches or Mesa available that day, but it was still one of our top performances under Carvalhal. Yet we haven’t won a game since, and have scored twice, so what exactly went wrong?
The Huddersfield game followed, where we had to park the bus following Jordan Ayew’s early red card. We then missed him for League games against Manchester United and West Brom, but he was soon back for another 5 games afterwards.
But was it the 4-1 defeat at Brighton before the West Ham win that acted as a warning to Carvalhal? He was quick to make changes after Brighton took the lead, and it backfired badly as we shipped 3 quick goals soon after the subs were made to suffer a heavy loss.
Did the defensive display at Huddersfield also convince him that we could simply defend our way over the line? After all, a clean sheet was welcomed after the heavy Brighton defeat, but only 2 goals were scored after that game, and we’re also currently on a 4-game goalless run.
Only Carvalhal himself knows, but whilst he did throw the opportunity away, he’s far from being solely to blame for our relegation. He did the best job he could and it was a good effort in the circumstances. It’s been coming for a long time now and it’s mainly down to poor planning at board level and poor player recruitment. He mentioned our 18-game spell under Paul Clement, as well as the chairman and investors for feeling the responsibility of our fate, adding:
“We will try and do our part and the problem is not the 20 points but the 13 we achieved in that period.”
[Do the players feel guilty about relegation?] “This is a general question. The players, me, the chairman and the investors, we feel the responsibility, we are all responsible. If you ask if I could do more, I can say I was at my limit, you would have to ask all the people if they were at the limit, but I think all the professionals here were.”