Although very early days, there have been a lot of comparisons between Southampton and Swansea since the south coast side gained promotion from the Championship last season – with many tipping Southampton to ‘emulate’ Swansea’s achievements last year and finish the highest placed promoted team come the end of the season.
Swansea began their first Premier League season last year by playing Manchester City away; the very same scenario Southampton faced upon their return to the top flight. Swansea lost that game 4-0 and Southampton suffered the same fate – but the margin was only one goal, with the Saints losing just 3-2.
Looking at the head-to-head statistics of these two games, it’s clear to see Swansea’s tika taka philosophy being implemented from the beginning of the season, with their passing stats far outweighing Southampton’s efforts:
Swansea impressed with a brand of football commended by most. Attempting to overwhelm the opposition with possession play, dictated by intricate and clever passing and having a patient approach to attacking (drawing many comparisons to Barcelona’s style of play) – it’s a similar philosophy that many fans enjoyed seeing at Southampton in the Championship last year, which ultimately earned them 2 successive promotions from League 1.
However, Nigel Adkins commented in a Pre-season interview that:
I like to think we play fast passing football, we score a lot of goals and create a lot of opportunities but we have got to win games. It’s got to be effective. You can play the prettiest football in the world but, if you get beat every week, people soon get disillusioned. We do know that we need to improve the quality but you can’t underestimate the importance of that team spirit.
[Source: The Telegraph]
And this was re-iterated in a post-match interview, after losing 3-2 against Manchester City:
We try to play football the right way, we try and pass it but we have to find ways to win games in the Premier League. We have to keep our belief strong that we can come away from home and win points because that’s what we have to do.
[Source: BBC Sport]
Opta Stats highlight the issues Swansea had with goal scoring:
- Average possession throughout the season was 58.01%
- Pass completion: 83.26%
- Chance Conversion: 13%
- Swansea finished the season with 44 goals – only Wigan Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa scored fewer.
- Swansea failed to score in their first 4 fixtures
- Swansea failed to score in 12 games throughout the season
And from an attacking perspective, when both teams faced Manchester City on the opening day of their respective Premier League seasons, Southampton’s stats stacked up to Swansea’s – despite Swansea’s far superior passing statistics:
By abandoning their ‘ideal’ footballing philosophy, Adkins realised by installing the optimism and belief into his players that they were going to take 3 points away from the fixture. This wasn’t a fixture to try and showcase Southampton’s footballing abilities – that had failed for Swansea the year before. This was all about implementing counter-attacking football, with faith in his Southampton side’s ability to a) still create chances, and b) turn those crucial chances into goals – pushing last year’s Champions to the edge with an incredibly gritty performance.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.