Swansea’s Premier League debut was a fairly rude welcome. The Welsh side controlled the ball superbly at Manchester City, yet ended up as 4-0 losers after a second half goal glut from the hosts.
Their inefficiencies with the ball were made clear in the aftermath; City were far more productive in the final third despite having 42.4% of possession.
Of course the opposition was as tough as it was going to get for Swansea, and they’ve shown plenty of improvement in the two and a half months since the defeat, currently sitting 10th in the league.
As a side that prefers to maintain possession and pass the ball, it is imperative they make good use of it. I recently wrote about the futility of possession in the Premier League; whilst this shouldn’t act as a deterrent to their style, Swansea should certainly bear in mind that it’s the final scoreline that counts.
Thankfully, they’ve begun to make their possession count, reflected not only in results, but also better work in the final third:
A steady rise in final third pass completion rates bodes well for Swansea; they’re showing confidence in their passing game and are beginning to make passes in areas that really matter.
Their pass completion has also steadily increased, whilst they’ve had the majority of the ball in all but one match this season.
This has culminated in their best performance to date, a 3-1 win over Bolton at home last weekend. The scoreline probably flatters Bolton too; Swansea had nearly 70% possession and twice as many shots as their opponents. Zonal Marking’s Michael Cox points out:
Joe Allen and Leon Britton attempted 152 passes between them, misplacing only one. Britton’s 100% pass completion rate is extremely rare, and his 67 passes without misplacing any is the most by any Premier League player for six seasons.
The number of successful (blue) passes in the final third is also a vast improvement on the City game, albeit against much weaker opposition.
The media enjoyed a love-in with Ian Holloway’s Blackpool last season – this season Swansea are most definitely the “breath of fresh air”. Brendan Rodgers’ side is far less naive and far more intelligent with the ball. Above all they’ve been brave and are making steady progress, and I can only hope they stay in the Premier League for many seasons to come.