Eric Imhof takes a look at how spotting patterns is key in turning around your fortunes
I remember it being said by I can’t remember who that all human problems ultimately stem from one of two mistakes: not recognizing a pattern when it exists, or thinking they recognize a pattern when in reality it doesn’t. With that said, I understand the tenuous nature of pointing out trends, especially over such short periods as four-game stretches (I’ll also comment on a longer pattern to even it out). However, with Monk’s recent comments about the refs and cheating in mind, I think there are some patterns he’s recognizing correctly and others he’s strangely omitting.
On the refs, I think (as I’ve written previously) that Garry Monk is technically correct: the Swans have gotten the short end of the stick, especially over the past four league games. Not only is this pattern concerning because the decisions have all turned out to be game changers in retrospect, but because it demonstrates for all other teams a very simple formula for beating the Swans: foul, early and often. Not only will you not be punished, but you’ll be rewarded—both by grinding the game to a halt and, as we’ve seen recently, winning penalties while the Swans are simultaneously reduced to 10 men.
Some stats to ponder: over the last four league games (L-D-D-L in form), the Swans have been out-fouled 60 to 44, while the Swans have seen 9 yellow cards, resulting in 3 sendings off. The opposition has only seen 13 yellow cards, and no reds, despite fouling at will (60 called fouls, it needs to be pointed out). Stoke alone fouled the Swans 17 times, accruing 4 yellows. But again, no reds, and a cheeky penalty bonus to boot. Frustrating.
But here’s a more worrying statistic: the Swans only scored 1 goal in the second half during those same four matches, and that was at home against Newcastle in a game they should’ve won 5-0. Now, the Sunderland and Southampton games could reasonably be chalked up to calls going against the Swans, rendering them limping through the last 45 minutes, but the last two games have been a replay of the same script - a reprise of so many games last season - where the Swans miss early chances, get the short end of some “inconsistent” (I would say flabbergasting) calls, and ultimately wither away in the end, out of ideas and out of energy.
It’s actually such a common script for the Swans that it’s gone from frustrating to boring in my mind; so boring that I don’t even want to write any more about it.
In short, the Swans are getting screwed, and in a league of such tight scores and little room for mistakes, red cards and penalties can really manifest in the table. If not for the Bony & Rangel reds, and if not for opposing teams being allowed to hack away at Swans with relative impunity, Swansea might be looking down at the table from the top four.
But at the same time, one goal in four second-halves is not helping the matter. I’m not sure what Monk is telling the lads at half time, but at least one fan on Twitter speculated this morning that he’s not talking at all, but instead filling them all with morphine. I think the substitutions in the second halves of games have also been rocky, and I know I’m not alone in questioning some of the decisions as of late.
And yet, one final pattern to point out, in an attempt to pull everyone back from the ledge: you don’t win every game, and especially for a team at the level of Swansea, some groundedness will go a long way.
To put things in perspective, in the turbulent roller-coaster that ended up being A-okay that was the 2013/14 season, the Swans were 11-9-18. The previous year, in the 2012/13 season—the Best Season Ever because of the celebration of the centenary and the League Cup win—the Swans were (surprise!) 11-13-14, with a goal difference of negative 4, and with a 3-2-3 record over the first eight matches, including 2-nil losses at Aston Villa and Stoke. Sound familiar?
In conclusion: calm down, everyone, things will even out - providing Monk fixes some minor issues. The calls will probably almost certainly not start suddenly going in the Swans’ favour, but there’s not much Monk can do about that, despite his righteous (and right) public statements. What Monk can fix, however, is his team’s performance in the second half. He needs to help them concentrate, while making smart substitutions that play to their benefits and/or to the deficits of the other side.
Hopefully they can stay away from red cards, and get some confidence-boosting results (not necessarily wins) in November, a brutal part of the Swans’ early schedule. Also, Shelvey will be back. Britton will be back. Amat will be back. Ki is no longer looking lost. Fabianksi is a legend. As we usually say at the end of any disappointing performance: plenty of positives, plenty of positives...
Thanks to Eric for his latest piece - you can follow him on Twitter @AustinJackArmy