Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Swansea vs Newcastle: Key Players - Shelvey vs Colback

Key Players

A new feature in the preview this year, I'll be using statistical radars to show two of the key attacking threats on display

This week I thought I'd break up the preview normally released later in the week, and give us all some information to contemplate in the buildup to the match. First up, let's have a look at player radars! If you haven't seen these before, it's a way of graphically representing a player's statistical performance, in a way which makes it very easy to see who's performed well. A "full" radar - ie. one which is entirely red - is, statistically, a perfect player in that position. A tiny dot in the centre is... you get the idea.

So who will be the key performers this weekend? Resisting the urge to just look at centre-forwards, the battle is likely to be in the centre of the park, so I thought we'd look at Jonjo Shelvey and compare him with Jack Colback. This had nothing to do with the fact I'd already produced radars for both players. Honest. There are two different templates you can use to produce these radars - one for defensive contribution and one for attacking. As Shelvey & Colback are players expected to provide a contribution in both areas, we'll look at both sets of radars.

First up are their radars for defensive contribution. 

Jonjo Shelvey vs Jack Colback - Defensive contribution (2013/14)

As you can see, the only notable spikes on Colback's radar are for not losing possession and passing the ball accurately. He gives away lots of fouls, doesn't make many tackles, and (contrastingly with Jonjo) he isn't making up for defensive frailties with attacking output. Ok, he makes slightly more tackles and interceptions than Jonjo but given how few he makes in the grand scheme of things, it's hardly something to write home about.

On to attacking output, then.

Jonjo Shelvey vs Jack Colback - Attacking contribution (2013/14)


As you can see, Shelvey once again comes across as a much more rounded player. The only spikes on Colback's radar are (again) not being dispossessed and passing the ball accurately, while the amount of tackles and interceptions he makes comes across more favourably when plotted on the attacking radar. What's noticeable though is that his attacking output is essentially not there - ok, when he does actually take a shot his shooting and conversion are very good, but he gets into shooting positions so infrequently that it doesn't warrant writing about further.

Shelvey, on the other hand, fares rather better. His dribbling, goals, shots per game, assists, key passes and through balls are all a lot better than Colback's, and at this point I'm wondering just how much irony the "Ginger Pirlo" nickname came loaded with. 

To me, and it isn't just stats which lead me to believe this, I think it's ludicrous Colback was called up for England while Shelvey's good form last season has clearly gone unnoticed. Proof the England setup pick players at "big teams" over more unfashionable sides? I don't think proof is needed any more, to be honest.
Back to midfielders, and I think Shelvey will get the better of Colback this weekend. Not least because of the midfield unit he'll find himself in. I'm confident of a Swansea win, and if Newcastle play anything like they did at Stoke on Monday night our midfield will tear theirs to pieces. Try as he might, and assuming there isn't a drastic improvement in Newcastle's fortunes, there won't be anything Colback can do about it. 

Stay tuned for the rest of the in-depth preview later in the week!

Who should be our two starting wingers this Saturday?

Six games played, ten points gained and we’re sitting comfortably in fifth place. Surely, there can’t be any problems for Garry Monk? Wrong. Though the problem he has isn’t necessarily a bad one. Josh Kilmister explains...

It’s no secret that both Dyer and Routledge have both had outstanding starts to the season. Dyer has four goals in eight games in all competitions, and is the second top scorer out of all of the Englishmen in the Premier League (behind West Brom’s Saido Berahino). Routledge has had an equally impressive start, scoring one and assisting one, though that doesn’t give his performances any justice. It seems this hasn’t gone unnoticed either, as it seems that he is on the verge of his first England call up.

So we have Nath and Routs in fine form, but here’s the problem. We have an Ecuadorian World Cup star watching on, waiting for his chance to prove that he can outshine both of our Englishmen. With all due respect to our English pair, who have served us well in the years they’ve been here, I think he can. Montero (or ‘Jeff’ as he’s commonly known by Swans fans) is the youngest of the three, recently turning 25 - he's a year younger than Dyer and four younger than Routledge - and is the one out of the three to have gained a full international cap. Fourty-three of them, to be precise! 

All three wingers are capable of playing on both the left and the right hand side of midfield, though you could say that Dyer is probably at his most comfortable on the right, meaning that Monk has many options. Montero is without a doubt the fastest player I’ve ever seen in a Swans shirt, closely followed by Dyer, and I know I’ve said this before but I have never seen a harder working, more consistent and technically sound player than Wayne Routledge.

Obviously, having three players for two positions is expected for a team like us [I'd argue even four! - Ed], and being able to rotate your squad without having to worry is something that we haven’t been able to do before now. In terms of our attack we’ve got Bafe Gomis in to challenge Bony for a place in the starting eleven, and the depth in our midfield is something that will be admired by many Premier League clubs. Ki, Shelvey, Gylfi, Carroll and when he’s fit, Leon Britton...we really do have some quality options to pick from.

In defence we’ve got four centre-backs that can do a job in both the cup and the league in Ash, Fede Fernandez, Jordi Amat and Kyle Bartley while in the full-back position we have Rangel, Jazz, Taylor, Tiendalli and if needed, the young Scotsman Stephen Kingsley. Finally, we’ve got Gerhard Tremmel to back up Fabianski, who’s had a fantastic start to the season.

Back to wingers, and in my opinion Dyer & Montero should start this weekend. Jeff has done enough during his cameos and cup starts to warrant a start, while Dyer's goalscoring form means he's undroppable. While that's harsh on Wayne, someone has to miss out and it's about time Jeff got the nod in the league.

We’ve got plenty of options available, and I know for a fact that Monk has got a managerial headache with Newcastle at home fast approaching this Saturday. As the subtitle alludes to though, it's the type of problem managers love to have.

Who do you think should start on the wing? Or anywhere else for that matter! Get in touch using the comment section below, and you can follow Josh on Twitter @JoshKilmister

Surely Jazz Richards will start against Newcastle?

Swansea youngster (is twenty-three still young?) almost certain to start given Rangel's suspension & Tiendalli's recent injury

Last week I wrote about how Jazz Richards could realistically look to challenge Angel Rangel for a spot in the first team, based on his excellent showings in the Capital One Cup so far this season. It now seems that he's set to get his shot following Rangel's red card against Sunderland.

I was very impressed, in particular, by his showing against Everton, and he'll have no more to fear from Newcastle than he did Roberto Martinez's Toffees. Rangel had already been exposed on a number of occasions this season before he was sent off last weekend, so if Jazz is selected and performs well, there's no reason to believe Rangel would come straight back into the team. Especially considering Monk has spoken in the past about how, if a player is given a chance and performs, he should keep his place in the team.

As to Richards in particular, Monk seems to have been as impressed by Jazz as I was last Tuesday:

"You saw Jazz against Everton, a Premier League team with very good players, and I thought he was brilliant. Along with Jeff Montero he was probably man of the match, and I have full confidence in him. 
"When he's at his confident best he's a very good full-back and he's one we will look at. He hasn't had many chances and it's been difficult for him — I remember going through that sort of thing myself, but he's stuck in there, he's a great lad with a great attitude and a lot going for him. 
"The performance against Everton will give him a lot of confidence. He had a few minutes to help us dig in at Sunderland and if he's called upon next weekend I'm sure he'll be ready." 

While he obviously hasn't come out and said "he's starting" that's as good as for me. Tiendalli has only just returned to training following a minor groin injury, and it seems pointless risking him considering how well Jazz has played so far this season. And that, in my opinion, Tiendalli didn't have the best of games at right-back in the League Cup against Rotherham.

The more competition for places in every position the better, and I for one can't wait to see Jazz playing for us in the Premier League some three years since Rodgers handed him his last start. While people may have had their doubts in the past, he's more than earned his chance. I for one wouldn't bet against him taking it. 

Routledge rumoured to be set for England callup

Tabloid media reporting that winger will get the nod ahead of teammates Nathan Dyer & Jonjo Shelvey

One of two "EXCLUSIVE" articles (link) published by the Daily Star late last night/early this morning (the other being a list of one sentence snippets like "Leon Britton is out for another six weeks" with no substantiation) claims that following Rod Hodgson's trip to the Liberty Wayne Routledge is set to receive a callup to the England squad for the qualifiers against San Marino & Estonia.

I've made my feelings on this matter clear in the past - notably that Andros Townsend is a liability who should be nowhere near international football - and if this rumour is true it's no more than Wayne deserves. It just seems a shame that Dyer & Shelvey may miss out. 

Hopefully if we maintain our current level of performance and keep picking up points it won't be long before our other English hopefuls get the recognition they deserve.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Sunderland's "grass too long"? Don't mower the tone, Garry...

Eric Imhof wants no talk of how long the grass is...or anything other than the football, for that matter

“There’s a regulation maximum length but that was probably at the highest level. It’s no excuse though. We’ve had much worse, we’ve trained on cow fields in the past and still played good football.” Garry Monk

That’s an actual quote from Garry Monk following the 0-0 stalemate (stale being the operative syllable) at the Stadium of Light yesterday.

So that’s what it’s come to, eh? It was only four months ago that the Swans gaffer said, after being asked if it was annoying to lose the way they did against Southampton (via the cartoonish Ricky Lambert looper) in a “meaningless” match, i.e. after having already secured safety, that “no match is meaningless; we want to win every game.” I guess that quote should’ve come with a qualifier: “...and by every game I mean every game where the grass is cut to the exact length we have at The Liberty.”

Honestly, when I first read the phrase “long-grass gamesmanship” in the headline, I thought it was some kind of regionalism, or else a euphemism for nicking, fouling, stalling, etc. in order to not let a football match break out: as in, “they were pulling our shirts so much that it was as if they didn’t even cut the grass.” But no, Monk’s actually talking about the grass! I can’t wait until the next away game now, to see if Garry is out there with a ruler and a cylinder mower at half time.

It was fitting, too, that Ki had kind words to say about his former co-Black-Cats, considering that A) they seemed to be passing just fine through the undergrowth, and B) he was chasing players around like a confused child who’s lost his parents in a supermarket. I love that Ki is back, but I’m not sure if he just needs to play deeper or if he should come in for Gylfi later in games and let Shelvey (or Britton, hopefully soon) bolster the defense. Remember that Southampton’s goal a week ago was set up by Ki losing a step on his “mark”, if you can call it that, since Ki was completely turned around by a simple angular pass, as if an offensive player arriving on the flank was an unthinkable and miraculous fluke. 

That’s all I’ll write about tactics for now, though, since I don’t want my analysis to get stuck in the weeds (sorry, had to). But bear with me, lest you think I’m turning into one of those overly critical grumps: I’d like to clarify that I only mention my eye roll over long-grass-gate because such excuses should seem slightly troubling to us highly reasonable Swansea supporters, if only because the headline gives the impression that the Swans are becoming a bit fastidious - if not downright petty (er, dare I write, barmy?), as if their early fifth-place position is going to their heads. 

As an American trying to get others to even recognise my belov├Ęd squad’s existence - let alone watch a match with me - media coverage is crucial in building the case, and the headlines from yesterday aren’t exactly helpful. Again, fittingly, Ki summed up yesterday’s slugfest well: 

“A bit boring to be honest.” Ki

See, I love that about him: no excuses needed.

Furthermore, and more importantly, such equivocations bely everything endearing about the Swans: their dedication, their teamwork, their commitment to doing the little things right - in short, their humility. I don’t think Monk will ever approach Mourinho levels of theatrics, but why even get anywhere close? Just shake the other guy’s hand, say a point’s a point’s a point, and look ahead to the next match. 

In this sense, Jonjo hit the nail on the head: 

“I think on Tuesday night we performed really well against Everton and got a point today and we’ll just look to get three points next weekend against Newcastle.” Jonjo Shelvey

Who'd have thought Jonjo Shelvey would be the one imparting sage advice? Thanks to Eric for his latest piece - he runs @AustinJackArmy (a Twitter feed for fans of the Swans in Austin, Texas) - give them a follow!

Two minutes - that's all I waited for a pint against Southampton!

Following criticism last season, the bar service in the Riverside has improved dramatically

Swansea City. The club that listens. Following an exasperated rant last season (after our win over Aston Villa - link) about the speed of service in the food and drink outlets, it seemed I struck a nerve amongst fans who got in touch to say that they too had grown disillusioned with trying to get a pint at half time, and had long since stopped bothering. What happened next I didn't expect though - I received an email inviting me to the stadium to discuss the issues - an offer I was all too happy to accept.

It was explained to me that logistically and legally, it is very hard to improve the situation with the current layout in the East Stand concourse. Nevertheless, the company in charge of running the bars in the stadium were very, very keen to improve the situation and asked if I'd organise a Q&A with fans to answer their most-repeated questions. This took place over the summer and here was their response to that: link.

I'm writing this now because against Southampton I didn't leave my seat early to get a pint, and despite that I waited no more than two minutes for a pint of Doombar in the Riverside Bar. That's a great effort by the barstaff, and they must now be pre-pouring a large number of pints, as well as going about their business in a more brisk manner. What's more, I kept an eye on the bar (in the interests of science, obviously), and I can honestly say that at no point did any kind of "throng" develop, which as anyone who frequents the Riverside regularly will attest truly is a rare occurrence. 

I write this because I criticised the service in the bar and they've responded. If and when expansion happens facilities will improve so that'd further help congestion, but for now I think it was worth mentioning the improvement in service at the stadium in what is, realistically, a short space of time. Southampton was only the fifth home game to take place following my rant, so it really has turned around very quickly. 

As I said at the time, I can't imagine many Premier League clubs would invite some random blogger into the fold if he was annoyed about not being able to get a pint. I'll be in the West Stand this weekend so I won't be able to get to the Riverside myself but if you've stopped going because of the wait to get a pint it's worth another look. You may be quenching your thirst sooner than you think.

Another Swan to follow Tancock to Newport?

Swansea U21 captain Scott Tancock made his loan debut for The Exiles on Saturday, and it seems he's set to be joined by another young Swan

A player who's had to bide his time as he progresses through the Swansea youth system, Scott Tancock got some competitive action this weekend following his loan move to Newport. They're currently seven games unbeaten in League Two, and personally I find it very pleasing to see The Exiles back in the league system, as when I was growing up and getting into football they'd not long fallen out of the professional system. 

Tancock found himself being loaned to the east as County boss Justin Edinburgh is currently completing his UEFA Pro License, with Swans boss Garry Monk also on the same course. Edinburgh has revealed how he's been discussing loan deals with Monk, and that Tancock may not be the only player heading to Rodney Parade:

“Scott was immense, in terms of having only just walked into the dressing room, he was assured and accomplished and I’m looking forward to having him here,” he said. 
“It was one that I discussed with Garry at Dragon Park along with another player we will look to bring in next week, which should boost our numbers. That is great, because we are light at the moment. 
“We want to forge close links with Swansea and once Russell Slade gets his feet under the table at Cardiff that’s another phone call to be made as well.” 

We can only speculate as to who the second potential loanee may be, but it's good that Tancock has made such a positive impact already. Hopefully he can use the experience gained by playing first-team football to come back a better player, and try to force his way into the team.

Why Edinburgh would want to borrow players from that lot up the road though is beyond me...