Date: 1st May 2018 at 11:10pm
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The Swansea Way, attractive football, legends guiding us to European glory, Swanselona, one-touch attacking football, a club with a model and reputation envied by many others once upon a time, but now none of those things could be associated with Swansea City, and now we’re ‘not just another football club’.

Let’s be honest, we were spoilt years ago. Roberto Martinez brought a completely new brand of football to the Liberty Stadium back in 2007, nothing we had seen before and that became the norm – in League One of all places too. Us as fans expected us to play good, passing football on the floor and it was crucial that that embedded football philosophy remained a key constant for future managers and players – they all had to suit that brand of football.

Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup suited it perfectly, building on the Spaniard’s superb work and improving it further. Rodgers got us to the Premier League, and a footballing legend like Laudrup took us even further – into Europe as well as a domestic cup win.

But Laudrup’s sacking and Garry Monk’s rapid introduction to the harsh realities of football management proved to be the start of the complete demise of our footballing model and philosophy. It wasn’t Monk’s fault, after all that was his management style, but the likes of Huw Jenkins who began to forget those principles that were once crucial to the club, and started to go down a different road. And to put that into a Carvalhal analogy, that road would have no desired destination other than Championship football, one with plenty of deep potholes, that you can only for so long avoid before they cause too much damage.

We’ve never recovered from that demise of the Swansea Way, and it’s just got worse and worse ever since.

I always remember watching one particular match at the Liberty Stadium when Garry Monk was in charge, and thinking just how far back in our own half we were. None of us were used to going long spells without possession, backing off teams and letting them have the ball. But us fans mostly remained patient, wins were coming at least, we were picking up points and were back in the top half of the table – so we accepted a different approach.

We had flirted with relegation towards the end of the previous season, so we were satisfied to see us winning games again and sitting healthy in 8th or 9th place – consistently through the 2014/15 season.

We averaged 57% possession in Laudrup’s entire reign as well as 550 passes per game. That decreased dramatically to 51% and 479 passes under Monk. But those numbers are still far, far better than those of our more recent managers – Paul Clement and current head coach Carlos Carvalhal.

Monk had spoken during pre-season about the need for a plan-b and c, and we were all welcoming to that. Both Rodgers and Laudrup, but Rodgers, in particular, had one way of playing and he often struggled to find an alternative way of playing if plan-a failed.

But Monk’s plan-b became plan-a, and that was the start of pragmatic football at the Liberty Stadium. We concentrated more on the opposition than ourselves, sat deeper in our own half at home, passed less, created fewer chances and relied more on a solid defence to pick up points rather than our attacking creativity.

We averaged 57% possession in Laudrup’s entire reign as well as 550 passes per game. That decreased dramatically to 51% and 479 passes under Monk. But those numbers are still far, far better than those of our more recent managers – Paul Clement and current head coach Carlos Carvalhal.

Those numbers keep reducing as every manager comes and goes, and there’s a true trend line that you can see in the chart below. This shows average passes and possession per game per manager. The further to the right, the higher possession average (x-axis), and the higher up – the more passes averaged per game.

all of Guidolin’s attacking stats trump those of Paul Clement and Carlos Carvalhal.

So as you can see, Monk’s numbers are a lot less than Laudrup and Rodgers – whose numbers are very similar in a group on their own – in the ideal spot on this graph – top right.

But right now, we’re at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. This season under Carlos Carvalhal, we’re averaging nearly 11% less possession and 134 fewer passes per game compared to Garry Monk. Not forgetting that Garry Monk’s stats show a 6% decrease in possession and 80 fewer passes per game compared to the two star performers here.

Average Possession and Passes Per Game By Manager

Swans fans soon lost patience and confidence in Garry Monk’s rather boring, defensive style, particularly in his second season when performances suddenly dropped and we looked like a bottom three side early on in the 2015/16 campaign.

Francesco Guidolin came in and finally ended our desperate search for a replacement. But the Italian’s approach didn’t go down brilliantly with some fans. Many of which were seen to be highly critical of the former Udinese boss early doors, some of which – a minority – resorting to petty personal insults such was their utter contempt of the man that took the risk and took us on when nobody else did.

Yes, he was defensive and cautious, and yes he did sub on full backs to defend leads in the final 15 minutes of games, but it got us over the line. And yet, despite all of those little frustrations, all of his key attacking stats trump those of both Paul Clement and Carlos Carvalhal respectively.

But now, on social media, you won’t see the same personal insults, the anger and frustration towards the manager for playing defensive football week in week out. So it is a case now that we’ve just become used to this new way of playing? It’s now the norm after all. We’ve been used to it for three seasons at least.

In fact, the football has got so depressingly awful that more and more comments you see about Guidolin are that we’d have been better off had we backed him, not sacked him after 7 games. It has to be said though, that claim is helped when he was replaced by Bob Bradley and his nightmare 11-game spell. It was claimed around the time of his sacking that Guidolin’s training methods were dated, to say the least. The fitness of the players wasn’t up to the standards required in the Premier League, and yet, they were praised for their game plan and approach to facing Liverpool in Guidolin’s final game in charge.

Not only that, but Wales Online also reported that the distance covered stats for our first 7 games this season under Paul Clement – a coach praised for getting fitness levels back up to the required levels, were lower than those in the first 7 games under Guidolin the previous year. You can come up with your own hypothesis as to why that was the case.

Earlier this week, I tweeted this and I wanted to publish an article that provided the exact figures, and show just how many more shots we averaged back at the end of 2015/16 compared to more recent times. So if you thought the football was bad back then, it’s even worse now.

Our approach to away games, in particular, has been one of the biggest frustrations this season. Whether it’s Paul Clement or Carlos Carvalhal, the mindset away from home has been pretty much the same between the two, and that is, in a nutshell, to defend first and foremost. The next stat for away games might surprise you, although if you’ve read this far, it probably won’t.

There are some good contrasting points made below worth mentioning as well though. This squad has got worse and worse each year, and with a limited squad, can Carvalhal do much more with the squad he’s got in terms of playing less defensively? Personally, I think, he did start adopting a positive approach, but as our good form has eased off, our defensive mindset has increased.

The graph below shows average shots per game – For and Against for away matches only. The further to the right is better – more shots per game, the higher on the chart is worse – more shots per game conceded.

So bottom right is ideal, top left is worse. Quite surprisingly, Guidolin averaged more shots per game away from home, more so than both Rodgers and Laudrup. Under Carvalhal and Clement, the figures for shots per game are around half that of Guidolin.

The stats comparison over the last three seasons acts as a warning that if this isn’t sorted out this Summer, the trend suggests that Premier League relegation will happen next season, if not this.

I’d like to point out that comparisons need to be fair. Comparing Rodgers and Laudrup with our more recent managers isn’t fair. They were at the club when we were in a much better position. The likes of Guidolin, Clement and Carvalhal were in a similar situation and make for a much fairer comparison of stats such as shots, possession and passing.

The Comparison Stats (Averages Per Game)

Only includes matches in managers’ first season, to act as a fair comparison during their survival campaigns, and because Carvalhal hasn’t had a new season to start afresh (yet?).

 Guidolin

Clement

Carvalhal

Games

16

18

15

Possession

51.19%

45.89%

40.40%

Passes

459.63

399.72

345.07

Goals

1.38

1.22

1.07

Goals Conceded

1.38

1.39

1.40

Shots On Target

3.44

3.39

2.93

Shots Off Target

8.38

6.22

4.87

Shots On Target Conceded

5.06

4.61

4.27

Shots Off Target Conceded

10.56

8.06

9.73

Clear Cut Chances

1.13

0.89

0.53

Clear Cut Chances Conceded

1.81

1.22

1.60

As you can see in the stats comparison above, Guidolin comes out on top in all of the attacking stats. The passing stats are now way down from two seasons ago, possession is down 11% and we’re scoring much fewer goals.

It has to be said as well that this isn’t exclusively a manager comparison only, but one that wants to highlight just how much worse the standard of football and the quality within the squad is getting worse as each season passes.

It acts as a warning that if this isn’t sorted out this Summer, the trend suggests that Premier League relegation will happen next season, if not this.

 

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