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Swansea City : A statistical analysis by Swans Express
Friday, 26th Jan 2024 16:53 by Swans Express on X @SwansExpresss

An excellent opportunity to see some in-depth analysis from our friends at Swans Express (@SwansExpresss) This is a decent insight in to where the Swans are across the pitch.

Do Swansea really deserve to be where they are in the Championship Table? – A Swans Express Statistical Analysis.

A new manager in Michael Duff, 13 new signings in the summer window, with Yanick Bolasie’s loan arrival in November pushing it to 14 incomings and a general excitement within the club ahead of the new season, fans had every reason to look forward to what was to come in this seasons EFL Championship. As we approach the end of the January transfer window, The Jacks’ find themselves 16th in the table after 28 games, whilst Duff’s time in charge of Swansea came to an end in early December after getting the sack. Optimism has partially been restored amongst the players and the fanbase in the past few weeks, with The Swans remaining unbeaten in 2024 so far, whilst also progressing into the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup, but the major news was the appointment of former Swans coach and previous Notts County manager Luke Williams as Duff’s replacement. This season has been one of change so far but do Swansea really deserve to be where they are in the table? Swans Express has looked at the statistics and data from the season so far to see if it’s deserved.

Attacking Threat

As a league, the Championship this season looked destined to be one that would be full of goals, with several high quality forwards on display each week. Two of The Swans’ summer signings looked to be the players to lead the line this season, with the incomings of Jerry Yates from Blackpool and the return of Jamal Lowe on a season long loan from AFC Bournemouth. Football however doesn’t just rely on strikers to get you goals, so let’s look at some statistics of both individuals but also as a team.

In the league this season, Jerry Yates has attempted 24 shots with 10 SOT (Shots On Target). He has registered 6 goals in the league this season from an xG (Expected Goals) of 6.22. For those that are not familiar with this, xG, or expected goals, is a statistical measure in football that estimates the likelihood of a shot resulting in a goal based on various factors such as the location of the shot, the angle, and the type of play leading to the shot, based on thousands of pieces of historical data. In this scenario, Yates is just ever so slightly underachieving his 6.22 xG, which in short means that from his 24 shots he has done what would be expected of him in terms score (6).

Jamal Lowe also has the same number of goals this season with the Jamaican netting 6 times however has taken more shots (40) with 18 sot, as well as 2/6 goals being scored from the penalty spot, whilst accumulating a 7.30 xG. The significance of penalties when calculating xG is important because it massively increases the overall statistic, with a spot kick counting for a 0.74 xG, which in itself suggests that if 100 players took a penalty, 74/100 would score. This shows that the striker has underachieved his expected goals, with it suggesting that Lowe has not scored as many as would be expected of him. Both strikers may sit on 6 goals, but the stats suggest that of the two, Yates is the slightly more clinical finisher when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net.

As previously mentioned, goals don’t just come from strikers and football is a team sport. In the league this season, Swansea have scored 38 goals from a 33.50 xG. As a team, The Swans are overachieving their expected goals, which highlights that from the data they have been clinical with their finishing this season. Let’s compare that to the rest of the teams in the
Championship (in current League position) with a graphic showing teams xG so far this season compared to team goals scored:

There are a few things that are worth talking about in the visual above. Firstly, you can see that the majority of teams are scoring more goals than their xG suggests, which could indicate that these teams, such as Leicester, Watford and Plymouth Argyle, are finishing their chances more efficiently or scoring from more challenging situations. It is likely from the data that these teams have a player or players who are particularly adept (clinical) at converting goal-scoring opportunities, even when those opportunities might be considered less favourable based on statistical models. This can be seen currently, with former Swans player and current Plymouth forward Morgan Whittaker sitting on 15 league goals this season, with none being a penalty and a 7.81 xG, which shows his goal tally is practically double his expected goals. This suggests that Whittaker’s finishing is at an exceptionally high level with him consistently scoring from a variety of situations including those with lower expected goal values, which supports the data shown.

The visual however also highlights teams that score fewer goals compared to what would be expected of them, such as Sunderland, Middlesborough and Sheffield Wednesday. It highlights the importance of obtaining a striker with a clinical instinct in front of goal. Luke Williams’ side sit 14th for xG and 16th in the league table and so that is something that needs to change if this team wish to climb up the table and finish the season on a high. From all the research around xG, it would suggest that Swansea as a team overachieve when it comes to scoring goals but are clinical with the chances they create, as well as the contribution from other players being very important when contributing to goals. It leaves Luke Williams with a decision to make in terms of who he wants his main number nine to be for the rest of the season, as like he said in his first interview back at the club he wants, “goals, goals, goals.”

Possession and Accurate Passes

Having previously done our deep dive into what to expect from a Luke Williams side, there’s another guarantee of something other than goals which is possession, but first let’s look at some statistics based on the season so far. Overall, Swansea have averaged 52.5% possession in matches this season, which is the ninth highest in the current league campaign. While that might seem like a number which suggests that the majority of Swans games are even in terms of possession, it does highlight them to be in the top half of teams for highest possession, which shows that they don’t fully dominate matches however the players do have certain amount of control in games.

A team can obtain this level of control based on the certain profiles of specific players, especially in midfield. It is no surprise to see that club captain Matt Grimes has a big influence on games with an average of 72.9 accurate passes per90 (88.8% pass success). Grimes’ specific player profile is one of the best with his passing accuracy being the 12th highest in the entire league and the third highest for a midfielder in the Championship, behind Harry Winks and Flynn Downes (both with 94.7% pass success).

The Swansea captains high accuracy in passing per90 is instrumental in dictating the tempo of a game, orchestrating attacks and maintaining possession back for his teammates, with Grimes accumulating 172 recoveries and a 55.3% Tackle success rate so far this season. There is also no shame in remembering that both Winks and Downes are Premier League level players, which further highlights the quality in Grimes and what he does for this Swansea team is exceptional. These three players are crucial for the clubs they represent, as they are needed for transitions from the back, creating opportunities in attack and controlling the flow of a match which is why finding a unique profile is so important to a team. It is not always that easy to find these types of players, so when you have someone that can contribute like they do to a team, you don’t want to lose them. With Williams likely to get Swansea playing in his favoured 3-5-2 formation, Grimes’ profile seems statistically to be a vital asset to this Swansea team right now and for the future seasons to come.

Defensive Stability

“A strong attack can win you games but a strong defence can win you titles.” A quote I am sure most football fans have heard. Whether you’re fighting for titles, promotions or simply just to avoid relegation, strong defensive stability is vital. There are many adjectives that could describe The Swans defending this season but for now were going to take a look at the statistics.

Let’s have a closer look at the number one for Swansea, Carl Rushworth. The goalkeeper has started every minute in the Championship this season, conceding 44 goals in 28 league matches. However, He averages 3.57 saves per90 and has made 100 saves this season, which ranks as the fourth highest in the league this season. Whilst Swansea are conceding a lot of goals, Rushworth on a few occasions has bailed them out, so what is the main cause?

The main talking point has to come down to the defenders, whether it be a back four or five. As previously mentioned, they concede far too many shots on goal for a side that wants to build from the back and control games, and are lacking in potential leaders at the back to see out games from winning positions.

Swansea this season have failed to win nine of the 17 games in which they have been ahead/taken the lead, with four ending in draws and five ending in defeat, which is two more than any other team in the league. Overall, that is 27 points that have been lost from winning positions. When it comes to defending, the team has an average of 9.5 successful tackles per game (60.6%), which ranks 17th in the league as well as conceding 44 goals from 45.9 xG (conceded xG is the goals they are expected to concede). This highlights the potential imbalance within the team, as the defensive stats so far this season are poor, with the data showing how The Jack’s this season have allowed far too many shots on goal which as a result supports the xG conceded data. Let’s have a look at other teams conceded xG value against their goals conceded:

This graphic separates teams that have a solid defensive unit (Leicester, Leeds, West Brom) and the teams that conceded a high volume of goals (Rotherham, Blackburn, Huddersfield). It is clear to see why Swansea are where they are in the league when you compare their statistics to the rest of the league. It is no surprise to find that teams such as Leicester, Leeds and West Brom all find themselves in the top six of the Championship, because the defensive data backs up their league position.

For Swansea, it is a worrying prospect to see how many goals have been conceded. A new fresh system might be just what the players need as they head into the business end of the season. Luke Williams knows he has a big job on his hands and it would not come as a surprise if the defensive numbers is one of the first things he looks to address. If you are pushing for promotion, there is no way you can be dropping 27 points from winning positions, but by no means is this season a write off just yet. The goal tallies might not be high but the finishing is somewhat clinical, with the bonus of having a unique profile in the heart of The Swans midfield in Matt Grimes. As of right now it won’t come as a surprise to many to see where the club sit in the league table however if they can work on improving that defensive stability and ability to see out games when taking the lead, with 18 games remaining and a new manager in charge, there’s no reason why this team can’t push up the table and sneak into one of those play-off places. There’s still a long way to go.

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ncswan added 19:10 - Jan 26
Good article. After yesterday's debacle, Swans do need a lot of defensive help! 2nd half saw several chances to score but the defense was so poor that led to an overall fan feeling of despair and disgust. Midfield was poor as well with too many bad passes & turnovers.

ncswan added 19:14 - Jan 26
Not playing Whittaker last Spring, and then allowing him to leave for peanuts was criminal.

KeithHaynes added 20:25 - Jan 26
Three million potential incoming though 👍

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