Swansea make their most important signing yet
Wednesday, 22nd Jun 2022 07:30 by Keith Haynes
The arrival of thirty one year old Andy Parslow, at least on the face of it just another addition to the Swansea City training staff. But these days specialists are found at every club, specialists who improve the quality of delivery for their club, and impact on every player on the field of play.
That’s Andy Parslow’s gift, and he comes with the credentials to prove it.
To understand Andy’s addition to the swans you have to look back at why a coach would choose a role that like no other, has to prove itself as a football season progresses. And that for the stats watchers is why Andy Parslow is at Swansea City. Andy’s progression in to the role of set piece coach ( it’s called restart coaching ) owes a lot to throw-in coach Thomas Gronnemark. Thomas works on all manner of defensive and attacking restarts from throw ins. He has an obsession that has ranked him as the worlds most respected throw in coach. Plus he holds the world record for the longest throw in. Liverpool are one of a number of clubs he is employed by. A throw in is another area Andy works because that’s a ‘restart’ to the game. Andy explains, “I just find the detail of it all quite fascinating. They are only small gains – we’re not going to win the league on throw-ins. But let’s say we retain possession at sixty per cent of our throw-ins, if we get that up to eighty five to ninety per cent then we have more opportunity to dominate the ball and therefore more opportunity to score more goals. Throw-ins are such a frequent occurrence during a game. If you’re losing possession eight times out of ten from your own throw-ins, and it’s not uncommon for that to be the case, if those were normal passes there would be serious questions being asked about your capabilities as a team. A throw-in is just another pass. Giving it proper attention to see how effective we are in those situations, I think it’s a no-brainer”
As soon as swans fans think of set piece coaching we see Matt Grimes taking a corner, and to be honest that’s exactly what I thought as well. How best to get the ball in to an area of play where a goal can be scored. Parslow’s role is a lot more than that. In 2019 he was on the staff at AFC Wimbledon working in the academy and specifically the under 14 side. And like many others during lockdown he spent a lot of time taking stock and making a very negative time a lot more positive. He made use of his time honing in on his belief that restarting a game is one of the most reoccurring things that happen on the field of play, and it can be made to work to your benefit. That can be throw in’s, set pieces, goal kicks, you name it if the game stops it needs a ‘restart’ Andy explains, “Every time the ball goes dead, that’s when I’m getting to work - throw ins, free kicks, corners, kick offs. I want to start looking at goal kicks as well. It’s for and against, the attacking and defensive side of it. It’s just about marginal gains. I looked at things closely and the average conversion rate for corners was just under 2.5%, which was next to nothing. The best team in the League that season were Rotherham, who scored twelve goals from their corners, meaning they were up at 5%”
Wanting to test his theories it was Wimbledon who benefited almost immediately. That lockdown time he spent working on and then challenging his own processes was soon to pay off. Talking about this specialist field to Thomas Gronnemark regularly was a huge help. Parslow, who now holds a UEFA A Licence worked at Watford’s Academy before joining AFC Wimbledon. On his Dons experience he said, “The players had been open to his new role” Then manager at AFC Wimbledon Mark Robinson saw the benefits in Andy’s analysis and theories and immediately brought him in to the first team set up in 2021. “They’ve been really receptive to all the ideas,” Andy said. “I think there’s been quite a cultural shift. It’s not just a case of me coming to the players with an idea - 'this is what we’re going to do' - some of the players have been texting me, saying, 'have you seen this corner, have you seen this routine ? It’s more of a two-way communication and ownership from the players. It shows they’re thinking about it. They’re not just taking on information, they’re being proactive.”
Restart coach Andy Parslow
Swans official reported yesterday, ‘Prior to his arrival, AFC Wimbledon had scored the lowest number of goals from attacking set-pieces across the 2019-20 season, as well as conceding the second highest number of goals from defending set plays during the same season. However, by October 2021 the Dons had scored the most goals from set pieces of any club in the Premier League and EFL, going on to finish the campaign with the joint-most goals scored from wide free-kicks in the country’
The effect of Andy’s appointment had clearly impacted on the teams performance and that was reflected in their results. Swansea City manager Russell Martin acknowledges his teams failings last time around and see’s Andy Parslow as some one who will impact on an area the swans have found difficult to master. "Andy has real expertise in set-pieces and has had great results with his previous club. It's a clear area that can make the difference and we have to be better at it. We scored a lot of goals from open play last year which was brilliant, but now we need to add something else to our armoury and that is set-pieces."
As a restarts coach Andy Parslow has adapted and to some extent been his own pioneer in this specialist field. From being an analyst at Luton he has progressed his thinking and literally after two years of implementing his ideas at AFC Wimbledon, and one year in this current role he finds himself in the glare of the championship. If he can get across to the swans players how they can progress and dominate games even more - but this time with a positive end result nobody will argue with this latest appointment. If it comes off, and the stats state it will Andy Parslow without doubt is the most important signing the swans have made this summer.
A free flowing Swansea City with the ability to convert restart possession in to attacking sequences with an end product of goals is just what is required. Another step in the right direction by Russell Martin.
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Watch Andy Parslow on Wimbledon TV below.
Photographs licensed from Reuters and Swansea City AFC
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