Swansea City continued their home dominance with another Liberty Stadium victory on Saturday. While visitor’s Fulham had a chance to level the score with a late penalty, Michel Vorm was equal to the task – saving Clint Dempsey’s effort to preserve the 1-0 lead. Substitute Danny Graham (on 76′, Lita) ensured all three points moments later, capping the scoring with his effort on 91′.
While the story is, rightly, the fine save made by Vorm, it is important not to overlook the effort put in by the rest of the side to preserve an excellent home defensive record. As you likely know, the 2 goals allowed in eight English Premier League fixtures this season is the best in the League. In fact, league leaders Manchester City have allowed 4 goals in their home matches. Manchester City’s unblemished home record aside, it is fair to say that Swansea have actually been the most impressive home side this season.
Using the Statistical Comparison tool here at EPL Index, we can see the rough numbers for each side over the 96′ contest. This was not a one-sided affair on paper with the home side failing to get the better of it throughout. Notably, the defense of the Swans was not what won this match – it was the possession maintained by the side:
In nearly every defensive category the Fulham unit did a better job than their hosts. The Cottagers won more tackles, ground 50/50’s and aerial 50/50’s, coming away with 75% of the 12 balls contested in the air. They also posted 5 more interceptions than their counterparts and lost possession 4 fewer times. Like in previous home matches, Michel Vorm was called upon to save the defense, which he did in this match 7 times.
It was a similar tale in the attacking 1/3’s with Brendan Rodgers men not displaying much in front of Mark Schwarzer’s goal except the two goals. Perhaps this should not be surprising as Swansea City have also led the league in matches where they’ve failed to score, being held without a goal in 7 of their 15 League matches this season.
The total shots of 14 are in line with their seasons output. To date Swans have taken 187 shots, with 54 being on target. Those numbers lead to averages of 12.46 shots/game with just 3.6 shots/game on target. Unsurprisingly Rodgers’ squad have scored only 16 times, with 10 of those coming in front of their home support.
It is in possession that Swansea is making their mark and staking their claim for survival. While the disparity in their home/road records is stark, their skill and tenacity at holding the ball when playing at Liberty Stadium rates among the best in the league.
Here Swansea controlled the ball for 56.7% of the time. They attempted 546 OPP passes – 132 more than Fulham – and completed 90% of them. They also had 724 touches on the ball, and lost possession 22 times. Contrasted with Fulham’s 576 touches and 12 lost possession it is clear that a bit more ball security could have led to the above passing numbers being even more one-sided. This match is not the first where controlling the ball has dictated the outcome, as Swansea have made a habit of protecting the ball at home. In their eight matches, as evidenced below, they have never held less than 50% of the ball and have only once been out-passed at home. That one time came in the 0-1 loss against Manchester United, the sole home loss of the season.
The numbers are remarkably similar despite the varied level of skill exhibited by their opposition. With only the Stoke and Sunderland matches standing as examples of poor passing, it is interesting to note that Swansea still held their opponents to lower pass totals and completion percent in those fixtures. The possession statistic is also a misleading one to some degree as I prefer to translate it to minutes to show the disparity. For example, this last match with Fulham had a 56.7% possession for Swansea. It looks insignificant being less than 7% over an even split. However, over the course of the 96′ this meant that the home side held the ball for 54:41 compared to 41:19, or Swans held the ball for 13:22 more than their opponents.
With the next two on the road it will be paramount that Swansea continue to build on this result. A 27 December home clash with fellow promoted side QPR will be quickly followed by a visit from high flying Tottenham on New Years Eve. This stretch of home games will test Rodgers’ squad as Spurs will be followed by Arsenal and Chelsea as visitors to Liberty Stadium. Despite the well earned reputations of the bigger sides, certainly the statistics have shown that the Jacks fate will rest in their own hands.
All images in this article are from the Statistical Comparison area from the EPLIndex Stats Centre (Subscribe for Access Now and write your own articles here on EPLIndex!)