Optimism and hope. The great words of torture for any football fan. After the clinical demolition of Fulham at Craven Cottage in what was, by common consent, Swansea City’s best performance in a generation, Swans supporters turned up in their thousands at the Liberty Stadium yesterday, confidently expecting to put the mighty Everton to the sword. Sadly, as they exited the stadium 90 minutes later, the optimism and hope they had arrived with had turned into gloomy disappointment and frustration.
There was no sign of the ultimate disappointment to come in the early stages of the match however, as Swansea started the game extremely positively, so confidently in fact, it suggested there was no reason to doubt that they wouldn’t pick up from where they left off in West London and dominate Everton exactly as they had Fulham. This optimism was backed up by early chances that fell to Danny Graham, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Scott Sinclair, which suggested that finally, Swansea would beat a team they had never before triumphed over in any form of football in the club’s long history. However, as we now know, that history making victory was sadly not meant to be.
There have been several games this season – Blackburn and Sunderland away to name just two – where I’ve had the feeling that had the Swans got an early goal as a reward for their initial dominance and pressure, then they would have streaked away and won games comfortably. I couldn’t help feeling the same way yesterday as the first half began, but when the goal didn’t come in return for that supremacy and Everton themselves then started to get a foothold in the game after about half an hour, the optimism I had flowing through me when I arrived at the ground, began to cease and was replaced instead by an uneasy feeling of apprehension.
Whilst it was clear that the Swans were not reaching the dizzy heights of the Fulham game, they still completely out passed Everton over the 90 minutes, attempting 554 open play passes compared to Everton’s 323, with only Bolton, Stoke, Sunderland and Wigan attempting fewer passes at the Liberty this season. Swansea also topped Everton in accuracy too – 86% completion (475 passes) to Everton’s 77% (249), again, comfortably outplaying their opponents. So with passing statistics like that, how exactly did Everton manage to walk away with the victory? Well, apart from the precise excellence of Leighton Baines’ free kick, I think the answer lies in where those passes were made and the attacking intent of them.
Next Page: Further analysis of Swansea and Everton Passing…