Revenge is a dessert best served cold. I never fully understood that quote until I looked it up a while back. In case you don’t know, what it basically means is that it’s better to get your revenge over somebody after a significant amount of time has passed, as you’ll enjoy it better having had more time to reflect on things and therefore revel in your retribution when it finally arrives. I’m guessing that at the final whistle yesterday, for those Swansea players who were beaten by a 4-2 score line at Ewood Park last December in a game they actually dominated more than they did at the Liberty yesterday in a comprehensive 3-0 victory, their revenge for that earlier defeat was indeed, sweet.
So how do the two games statistically compare? Well, in the game yesterday, Swansea attempted 612 passes, completing 549 for a 90% accuracy rate. In the away fixture, they actually passed the ball more – 694 passes – completing 618 for an almost identical accuracy of 89%. In terms of attacking intent, again, Swansea were more threatening in the away fixture with 47% of their passes forward against 26% yesterday. I remember walking away from Ewood Park in December, scratching my head that after such dominance, Swansea had managed to allow Yakubu the opportunity to score four goals from Blackburn’s five shots on target, in a game that Blackburn had offered very, very little. I wrote last week about a smash and grab by Newcastle United in their 2-0 victory at the Liberty, well that first Blackburn game was a mugging of Great Train Robbery proportions.
I have no doubt that at some point during the last week, Brendan Rodgers would have looked at the DVD of that previous game with the squad and pointed out the way that Swansea’s passing game had completely nullified Blackburn and, with a little tighter defending, should have delivered a certain and deserved victory. Swansea City are a better Premier League side now than the one they were back in December, I’m guessing Rodgers would have suggested to his players yesterday that Blackburn Rovers are not.
But one thing that I would have thought Blackburn would have been yesterday was hungry. Hungry and committed in a battle to attempt to secure their Premier League safety, but frankly they were neither, and I will be stunned if they now manage to avoid the drop. As most fans know, analysing the midfield is an area that is usually a relevant guide in understanding how a team performed and the stats are quite damning for Blackburn when the midfield players from both teams yesterday are compared.
Swansea’s midfield three of Britton, Allen and Sigurdsson combined yesterday to make 136 passes and only missing just six of them for an astonishing completion rate of 96%. When we add in Mark Gower’s stats after he replaced Britton on 69 minutes, the passes rise to 167 with 154 completed, which sees the accuracy drop slightly to just over 92%. How Blackburn would like to see accuracy like that. Their main midfield three of Dunn, N’Zonzi and Pedersen attempted 91 passes – over a third less than Swansea – completing only 65 for a success rate of just 71%. It doesn’t take a footballing Einstein to work out that with stats like that going on in the boiler house of your team, you are going to end up losing more games that you will win.
Next Page: Comparison between David Dunn and Joe Allen (click top right or bottom left for pages)
The comparison between Dunn and Allen is particularly interesting. I remember Dunn when he was about Allen’s age, very confident, bordering on the arrogant and a player who in his first spell at Blackburn scored 30 Premier League goals in just over 130 appearances to win him an England cap and a big money move to Birmingham City. At 32, he’s now at the opposite end of his career to Allen but you would still think as a seasoned “been there and done it” professional, Dunn might have known how to control a youngster like Allen yesterday. Sadly for Blackburn fans, that wasn’t the case for a single moment. Whilst he did manufacture Blackburn’s only real chance with an excellent curling shot that smacked into Michel Vorm’s left hand upright and also had two good headers from corners, apart from an ongoing verbal joust with Ashley Williams, Dunn contributed very little to Blackburn’s cause. He attempted just 32 passes compared to Allen’s 83 and completed just 19 of them for a passing accuracy of just 59%. If I tell you that the lowest pass accuracy for any Swansea player yesterday who completed the full 90 minutes was Ashley Williams’ 83%, then it puts Dunn’s inaccuracy into further context. Allen in the meantime completed 78 of his 83 passes for a 94% success rate. It doesn’t get much better than that. Unless you are Leon Britton of course who completed 100% of his passes yesterday.
In highlighting Dunn’s poor pass completion, it’s actually wrong to use Ashley Williams’ 83% passing accuracy as some sort of negative figure. If you take away Yakubu’s five successful passes out of six (83%), the highest accuracy by any Blackburn player yesterday was Pedersen’s 81%, two percent less than Williams’ 83%. When you consider that Williams’ 83% is made up of 91 successful passes out of 109, and Pedersen’s 81% only saw him attempting 26 passes, over three times less the number than Williams attempted, then it again shows that, as they had done in the previous fixture, Swansea City completely passed Blackburn off the park.
Watching the game yesterday, I couldn’t help but reflect back to the four recent defeats suffered by Swansea. Of the four, you could only really say Swansea played badly in one, QPR. Of the others, a combination of not taking advantage of excellent starts with an early goal, or conceding a goal against the run of play, meant that Swansea subsequently found it very hard to break down teams who then chose to concede Swansea possession but not allow them any opportunities to penetrate. The difference yesterday was that Swansea didn’t allow Blackburn any significant chances when the game was nil-nil, and whilst they didn’t score an early goal that their attacking endeavour deserved, the fact that Swansea scored their second goal just six minutes after the first meant that Blackburn had neither the fight or the quality to do anything about it as the match progressed, and ultimately ceased to be a contest of any real note.
In fact, one passage of play, early in the second half summed up Blackburn’s performance yesterday for me. It was a move that ended up in Angel Rangel bursting into the box for a shot he put over the bar, in a move that contained over 20 odd passes, and was akin to the moves put together in Swansea’s best performance this season, away at Fulham. As Swansea were stroking the ball around, constructing a move that would result in Rangel’s chance, not a single attempt was made by any Blackburn player to tackle or get a toe in to break up the move. When I remember Scott Parker at Tottenham for example, busting a gut to break down every passing sequence Swansea attempted, for a team supposedly desperate to avoid relegation, I couldn’t understand why not one Blackburn player attempted to emulate Parker’s industry and try to break up the move. Either Blackburn’s players have already resigned themselves to the drop or maybe it was a subconscious compliment to Swansea’s passing style and ability, that they simply felt it was pointless as they were never going to get the ball. Neither reason will give any comfort to the travelling Blackburn fans as they face four games to define their future in this division.
One thing is now certain following yesterday’s game however, Swansea City do have a future in this division, as the celebratory huddle of the players at the final whistle demonstrated, and despite Brendan Rodgers stating clearly after the game that he is not beginning to celebrate until his team’s survival is mathematically certain, the players now know that they have secured themselves safety, in some style, in the best league in world football. And they did it comprehensively yesterday, against the team who had inflicted one of their most undeserved defeats in a long season.
I don’t think revenge comes any sweeter than that.