Do they mean us? A fine Swansea report of the game

From the Facebook page of Jim White, who did the 'Who are You?' honours

If you have come here expecting to see Pete Sixsmith’s report, you will have to be patient. That will appear tomorrow. First, let’s hear from another Pete – Peter Thomas, Swansea supporter and writer of the estimable Pierre91 in a Day blog. This is how he saw it; a fair, greatly detailed analysis from a Swansea perspective …

When one is doing the prep work for an upcoming fixture prior to that game being played, there always comes a time when you go to save what you’ve written, and, of course, the laptop asks you for a name.

It’s always tempting to give it something that’s reflects your current successful streak – always knowing that this could come back to splat you with a great big dollop of mud in your eye or, worse still, a great big Omelette’s worth of egg on your face.

Such was the case on Saturday, when BR took the flying Swans to a fixture at Sunderland’s resurgent Estadio da Luiz, albeit the North East version, not its Potugeezer equivalent. The upturn in spirit and hope at SAFC’s home has mirrored our own good results of late, and had led us to expect no more than what we got – a bruising, difficult encounter against an established Premier League side.

That the result turned out as it did will have given both sets of fans a glimpse of what’s likely to be the case for the rest of the season, if both squads stay much as they are. So, as I put this little piece of prep to bed on Friday evening, the butterflies in my stomach dictated that I was far from confident of any outcome other than that the game had always promised to be competitive, if nothing else. Which is as it should be.

The truth, of course, is that even if some of this report was thought about before hand, it’s only now, after the game, that it’s getting written down. It was certainly a game to fascinate. As it turned out, both managers selected what could be argued were their full strength sides, with MoN able to select the first choice FB’s in Bardsley and Richardson, and BR staying with last week’s second half lineup v Arsenal, with Sigurdsson retaining his place above Agustien in the middle.

All prior debates to one side, the teams lined up as follows………

Swansea City: Vorm, Rangel, Caulker, Taylor, Williams, Dyer, Sinclair, Britton, Allen, Sigurdsson, Graham Swans bench: Tremmel, Monk, Richards, Agustien, McEachran, Routledge, Moore.

Sunderland AFC: Mignolet, Bardsley, O’Shea, Brown, Richardson, Larsson, Cattermole, Vaughan, McClean, Sessegnon, Bendtner Sunderland bench: Westwood, Meyler, El Mohamady, Ji, Wickham, Turner, Gardner

Peter Thomas
The game opened as it was destined to proceed –

Swansea got the bulk of possession and thus control, but Sunderland are an experienced and cute PL side who’ve been around for a while – and thus they were happy to concede on that basis, as long as they didn’t concede the ultimate embarrassment, that of a goal.

When we look back on both the chances created and the flow of the game overall, this was, without a doubt, a really painful lesson. The trick will come when we look back and consider “did we learn from it?”.

Only time will tell, but we’ll get to see it. Back to the game. Let’s just go progressively through the opportunities that gave the impression that the Swans would come out better than they did. There were, in fact I’d suggest, two key moments when the game shifted on its axis and the result was shaped to be what it was, as opposed to what it could have been. That both involved the same player will be highlighted no doubt, but as BR will point out- hey, we’re ALL in this , together.

Early on, Sigurdsson played Dyer free, advancing into the box, but from a brave last gasp Brown tackle, the threat was blocked. When Sunderland went forward, McClean put in a great cross that Larsson volleyed onto the base of the post and out. In the 10th minute, Nicklas Bendtner got an accidental foot to the face in a challenge, and was unfortunate enough to be unable to continue, being replaced by Connor Wickham, and this immediately presaged an influential passage of play, as hinted.

The first of those two key moments came when Sigurdsson again played Dyer free on the right, and his excellent cross was deflected across goal to arrive at Scott Sinclair’s feet some four yards out and with the only decision to be made whether he should go right or left foot, to score. He went left (yes, I know, he should probably have gone right in retrospect). And ballooned his strike over the bar. Ouch, it hurt us all, Scott included, and you KNOW what happened next, because it does, regularly in football.

Sunderland immediately attacked down the left and from a neat one two between McClean and Sessegnon, got the Benin man free in the box approaching goal from some eight yards out. His exquisite first time finish into the top opposite corner of Vorm’s net was a worthy contender for goal of the day thus far.

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Gardener, later in the game, may have something to say about that. 1-0, and somewhat stunned, the whole first half continued to unfold as had this early period – Swansea, from comfortable control of the ball, were excellent up until the final third, but were repeatedly denied by SAFC’s dogged and determined repelling of these attacks, coupled with their willingness to break forward when they could.

It had that familiar fear for us Swans when you know you’re on top, but don’t know quite enough whether you’ll get the reward you feel you deserve, ie, a goal back. There’s a point to be made here. I write this blog as a Swansea City fan, so my bias is always going to be prominent, but let’s also be realistic.

Both managers, going in at half time to address their teams will have said no different than what we ALL saw. Swansea had been predominantly on top throughout, and had they turned that superiority into an end result, would have been in front.

That this was confirmed by various Sky Sports and radio pundits was just affirmation of the reality. The second half, wouldn’t you just know, was not so very different. It confirmed what we’d seen before half time.

Although City were again dominant, MoN had briefed his team to be both resilient and effective, which is what they were. Gylfi Sigurdsson had provided many moments of promise, and his free kicks were getting nearer, particularly one where Mignolet beat away a direct hit and where a follow up might have payed dividends. The continuing feeling about the half was the home crowd’s almost incessant urging of their team to compete more, which reflected City’s almost constant pressing, passing and possession, all done urgently, with not quite the finishing etiquette that their on-top demeanor deserved.

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Whilst Swansea pressed forward it was no surprise that they would sometimes be under pressure to concede on a break. Sunderland created some chances thus, and Sessegnon headed wide, and was also frustrated from his flick on to Wickham, denied by Vorm.

Their clearest chance though fell to Wickham, who, from a challenging duel with Williams and Caulker, slashed a shot wide when easier to score. So, let’s go to the other key moment. Again, as is the case when you think about fate, it involved Scott Sinclair. Having been shifted inside by BR when Josh McEachran made his debut in replacement of Gylfi Sigurdsson, and Wayne Routledge’s introduction on the left for Britton, he made great progress when played free, and advanced in the inside right channel to hit a screamer that just curved from his cut across the ball to fizz just a yard wide with Mignolet beaten.

Think back to the first half, when from SS’s near miss, Sunderland broke away to take the lead. Oh my word, as Ray Wilkins is wont to say, they did it again.

From an attack down the left, the influential Sessegnon turned it inside across field to Craig Gardener, on as a sub for Vaughn. He took one touch, chested, and hit a dipping rasper from 30yds that gave Vorm no chance. Another bloody “worldy”. Hoo, hah, 2-0.

That he kept such good control over the swirling wind was evidenced by the blowing of chip wrappers and other detritus around the players in the build up, and the shot curved and swerved over our blameless keeper to leave him helpless. With just five minutes to go, it put the cap on a rewarding performance for the Mackems, and an ultimately hugely frustrating one for us.That, sometimes, is football all over. Ouch.

So, where do we go from here? This, for what it’s worth, is my assessment. # spoiler alert #……… this is a glass half-full leaning. I don’t intend to ignore the side when the performance has been poor and they’ve struggled through no fault other than their own.

When an outcome is the blatant fault of nobody but ourselves, we can have a case for admonishment. However, nor do I intend to ignore the side when they’ve played well, as today, and struggled for a variety of reasons. There was effort, skill and competitive endeavor throughout.

There was admirable pride in performance as well, and it’s not just blind loyalty that leads me to say this. Talk to many Sunderland supporters, which I have, and neutrals as well, which I’m currently doing, and both will confirm we were one of the better sides seen at their home venue this year.

The Premier League season is played over 38 games and any team’s final position is likely to be an accurate reflection of it’s performances over that whole rather than specific games, whether they’ve been of the “one off brilliant” type, or the “we are doomed” viewpoint.

Hold fast, me hearties. Perspective, as I’ve said before, is all. This was a performance where the sum of the parts didn’t quite give us the whole. Despite a possession stat of 67% to 33% away from home, we didn’t do anything, results wise, but get beat, and thus statistically at least, we got nothing.

However,consider this The Analysis carried out this week will also show some telling factors, and this is where the learning we’ve seen from games like Wolves away, and Tottenham and Arsenal at home will hopefully again bear fruit . All those examples show that we do bounce back from frustrations and disappointments to decent effect. Yesterday, we were playing a side that’s a PL resident, with a recently appointed top-flight manager who has dragged their recent performances to something approaching NE satisfaction. We lost to a side who scored two “worldies”.

We introduced for his first full start Gylfi Sigurdsson, an £8m creative midfielder, and Josh McEachran, a priceless gem of the English game. The guy copping the flak for “misses” is the same guy whose 27 goals and play off hat-trick took us to this division – Scott Sinclair. Cut him some slack you mindless Internet twonks. We are managed by one of the brightest young Managers in the British game. Have a listen. Despite an abundance of possession, two top class finishes saw us off, and in the end it turned out to be a decent test at a decent club, albeit it one we couldn’t quite meet.

We are at home, to Chelsea, next, and then have another sixteen games to confirm our position in the hardest League in the world. Coupled with that next Saturday we travel to Bolton to meet our fellow Premier League team in the 4th Round of the F.A. Cup. I don’t care what anybody says, if we can’t enjoy THAT, we really do deserve to cop all we get.

26 thoughts on “Do they mean us? A fine Swansea report of the game”

  1. I had missed that link earlier Mr Johnson. Your argument and viewpoint was so cohesive, persuasive and compelling that there was no need for corroborative evidence from anywhere else.

  2. “BUT – to suggest that Swansea didn’t play well is nothing short of deluded.”

    OK Leighton. I will bite on this.

    Swansea didn’t play well. They just didn’t. They were able to keep possession for long periods. Most of this time was spent in their own half; not ours. Keeping the ball is an admirable goal and you must do this at any level of football. For whatever reason the territorial advantage doesn’t get reported in the media and this would be more telling than the possession statistic. There is no advantage to having the ball if you are pegged back in defence for most of the time that you have it. (72% of possession in the first half to Swansea).

    The excellent precis offered here doesn’t even include a stat for territorial advantage.

    Swansea didn’t pose a threat and without looking dangerous you can’t really claim to have “played well.” Not where we come from anyway.

    • I could not agree more with, both, your assessment and selection of link.

      Maybe, that is why I posted it earlier!

  3. Happy to surrender. Its been amusing.

    Good Luck Keith

    Ps – I’ve been thinking – sometimes the chess pieces are made from plastic or even glass!!! (what will they think of next!?).

    On the other hand People are just made from skin and stuff – PLUS they wear football boots and socks – EVEN more differences – you were right all the while….

    The chess pieces dont even wear a kit!!!!!!!! what WAS I thinking?


  4. Dear Leighton
    Your off hand dismissal of my views I take as a tactical surrender and if I have caused you to any nuisance I sincerely apologise I have posted many views on this site and they are just that my views and are not and never will be derogatory or personal. Never the less certain points could possibly need clarification especially your (and others it appears) romantic view that there is a thread of connection between chess and football and it is my intellect that causes my failure to understand such a high browed view. Footbal is a dynamic game played with a ball at speed, the object is to score more goals than the other team. Chess is a game plyed with various wooden pieces in a slow and timeous manner. Yes I see where you are going now. Chess is a game of destruction football is a a game of dominance. Sunderland beat Swansea because they scored two goals and Swansea scored nil. Swansea did not have any ideas, which I would assume is necassary in Chess and clearly the coach thought they played brilliantly which they obviously did not. BR may are may not have a great career ahead of him and I hope for his sake he does I wish him no harm, but if he thought Swansea were brilliant on what was that based? Swansea were well and truely beaten and seldom has a defence had so little to do in the PL these are facts. It is rare to play brilliantly and lose and to create little or no clear chances does not fit in with my views or understanding of brilliant. I must therefore deduce that they were not brilliant and this assement is in fact false and the rambling of a romantic. For being practical functional and realistic, forgive me for not connecting with esoterica side of a game and seeing its artist worth understand my ignorance. I am a simple working man with limited views

  5. Dear African Keith – I don’t have the time nor inclination to dwell on your words for too long so I will be as brief as my incredulity will allow:

    Firstly, thanks for inserting the first rule of football for us all…….. super.

    Chess and Football – as if.
    The fact that you fail to draw any comparisons between chess and football leads me (and probably many others) to draw my own conclusions about your limited views which shall remain undisclosed.

    You are clearly entitled to your own views on football aesthetics – I cant say I understand them but the rest of your views are equally puzzling to me.

    You’ll never make it?
    My personal favourite amongst some gems was your ‘insight’ suggesting that “Mr Rodgers never played the game at a high level and coaches from the text book as should a Junior Coach”. This suggests that no coach could possibly attain success without having first played as a pro at the top level. Probably true right?….. I mean its not as though you can succeed in football management if you haven’t played as a pro at the highest level is it? Maybe you could use Twitter or some other social network to let Jose/Arsene/AVB amongst others know your pearls of wisdom on the matter.

    “Mr Rodgers statement they were brilliant is not based on the facts” – What was it based on then? If only those pesky stats were available online and suggested more possession, shots overall, shots on target, less fouls conceded…stuff like that?

    In summary – yes Swans lost (damn that first rule in football….. I’ll reiterate to Brendan when I’m down the Liberty next – #BrendonRogersprobablyneedsarecaponthefirstruleoffootball). BUT – to suggest that Swansea didn’t play well is nothing short of deluded.

    Cheers chaps

    London Jack
    PS – Malcolm – spot-on – a Swansea exile.

  6. Many thanks for an excellent article.

    May I, though, at the risk of appearing pedantic, refer to the following:

    “It had that familiar fear for us Swans when you know you’re on top, but don’t know quite enough whether you’ll get the reward you feel you deserve.”

    One of the main complaints that Villa supporters had, against MO’N was that his teams (at home) were prepared to concede possession UNTIL that possession became threatening.

    Cattermole had revealed that SAFC would, indeed, be employing that tactic, in an interview last week.

    For me, that suggests that, in the game in question, one needs to ask “which manager’s game plan is working better”?

    Only then (IMHO) can it be determined who was “on top”!

    I would, therefore, respectfully, suggest that it was NOT Swansea, although the stats, regarding possession/passes may, initially, suggest that.

    Another, excellent, article from a Swansea perspective, where this is commented upon can be viewed at:

    What I found, particularly, interesting were the notes, regarding the author, at the bottom.

    Self aggrandisement, or accurate, I don’t know BUT his article would suggest the latter!

  7. My appraisal is just that, mine but it is based on what I saw and not some romantic ideal about free and flowing football. Swansea are certainly not free flowing they pass the ball forward then sideways then back again Mr Rodgers statement they were brilliant is not based on the facts. The Sunderland defence had and extremely comfortable afternoon and Sessegnon showed more skill and inventitiveness than the whole Swansea team combined. Is there some point in the tactic of not attacking when you are a goal behind. I am not an avocate of the long ball game but rule No 1 in football states the ” team that scores the most goals will be deemed the winner”. Having possesion in your own half for long periods of time without attempting to penertrate the opposition defence is dreary as is chess , chess and football have nothing in common therefore I request an explaination as to what is beautiful about “chess like football” Swansea at no time on Saturday looked like overcoming Sunderland and they lost because they did not try to win, they seem happy to get their passing stats improved. There it appears to me nothing fasinating or clever about that nor is it entertaining the game was a poor spectacle because Sunderland were not seriously threatened and Swansea could not make them break sweat, Mr Rodgers never played the game at a high level and coaches from the text book as should a Junior Coach. They will be found out and it could all end in tears for Swansea. But I hope I am wrong Maybe Bors Spatsky should start coaching.

    • Chess and football do have things in common and I can draw parallels between chess games and football games:

      In chess you have to come out of your half or you get crushed. In chess your strategy and your tactics have to be better than your opponent’s or you get crushed.

      But there are differences; pieces can be wood, plastic glass, metal, or whatever but they don’t cheat. I’ve yet to see a chess piece fall over and roll around in agony when another piece lands on the adjacent square

  8. re the rubbish flying around – no need to get tetchy chaps…. I just thought that the article provokes thought beyond discarded refuse blowing around and thought it was slightly harsh (and unintentionally funny) that the first 2 responses made reference to the rubbish and the weather rather than the ….um …insightful football article.

    Taking things literally?
    For the record – I’m not from the Midlands or London. I merely live in London as an economic refugee! :o) I’m quite familiar with Irony – thanks!

    Also no need to take my last comment as criticism of this website – I found the great article through Newsnow in the first place mr salut.

    re Mr Hutton in Africa – you appear to be a man who enjoys percentage direct football rather than a man who might appreciate a chess-like beautiful game. From your brief post, it appears you understand little (read – ‘nothing’) about the style and rationale of football adopted by BR and Swansea.

    The philosophy isn’t just easy on the eye (or ‘pointless’ as you state…) but allows a team to retain possession whilst frustrating both the opposition players and fans. It’s not nice as a home fan to watch your team with 11 men behind the ball is it? The possession itself is how we defend – rather than ‘parking the bus’. The patient build-up also then provides us chances to attack down either flank – but only when the time is right. Sunderland defended pretty well as you would expect from a MoN team – thus Swansea’s opportunities were limited to a handful of chances which we didn’t take. On another day, had DG and SS been a little more composed when they had escaped ‘the pockets’ of their illustrious opponents – Swansea would have left the SOL with at least a point.

    Granted, Sunderland have some good individual personnel (the difference on Saturday) and we’d probably trade you a player or 2 given the opportunity. However – if you asked me who i’d rather watch based on style – (I think you can see where i’m going with this..) – it wouldn’t be Sunderland.

    We’ll take our 2-0 loss, lick our wounds and move-on quickly. I (like most other observers) think we’ve got enough in the tank to stay up and our team will evolve slowly as we build with (sustainable…) resources.

    Good luck to SAFC for the remainder of the season.

    London Jack

    • Leighton – I enjoyed your comment and gave it a thumbs up! Your name and tag hints at a Welshman or a man of Welsh descent living in London. Am I right?

      The comment about irony etc. is a delayed response to many comments on here from the hard of thinking followers of some clubs. We also get to read lots of intelligent well thought out responses too mind you – but for an example of what I’m on about look at the 100+ comments on Sixer’s piece about Coventry!

      Besides I couldn’t miss the opportunity to have a dig at the two clumsiest Premier League players could I?

  9. I think you are a tad harsh, Keith and you should expect some angry comments from South Wales.
    They have a difficult secomd half of the season as good managers will have worked them out and will look to prevent Swansea from getting behind their defences.
    I think they will be fine, but second season syndrome may affect them next year as it did Reading a few years ago.
    Mind you, I would rather watch them than Stoke City!!

    • I agree with your sentiments, Pete. For me, Keith’s comments are not only harsh but also have echoes of the arrogance we have recently experienced in postings from Man City and Chelsea fans.

      Beware hubris!

  10. Swansea had the bulk of their possession with 11 Sunderland players behind the ball. Sunderland pressed hard until they scored in the 12th minute a well deserved and great finish. They then sat back and expected Swansea to attack which they simply could not do. BR has very niave tactics and if he thought his team were fantastic he is dillusional. The tactic of passing the ball around for large periods of time in your own half when you are behind has no point, Bardsley had Sinclair in his pocket the Richardson/ Dyer encounter was more even but Richardson came out on top and rarely will O’shea, Brown and Mignolet have easier afternoons. Swansea flatter to deceive they were well and truely beaten by a team with better tactics and more nouse. If Swansea continue with passing the ball about in their own half ( and every PL manager must have seen their tactics) they will be relegated their performance was inept, hard but very very true

  11. This is a thoroughly excellent piece of writing. A really good match report which would put a great many professional football writers to shame.

    That said, I found myself a little bit disappointed with Swansea in this game. Their discipline and understanding of what they are supposed to do is evident in every tackle and pass and chase, or at least until they reached the edge of our box, where nous, instinct or ability is glaring in its absence.

    The summariser for the game whose surname escapes me at the moment (Andy…………little Scottish stiker who used to play for Bolton) who was excellent througout was making reference to the fact that they never “aim for row Z.” as they try to get the ball out of defence. They do this, even on occasions when “row Z” would be preferable to the risks run by trying to pass themselves out of trouble. Their predilection for passing and passing is consistent from the front to the back and the lack of penetration witnessed in yesterday’s game has been a common feature for them this season. It’s always difficult for newly promoted sides to find the net and whilst I would not decry the objectives and principles that Brendan Rogers has instilled in his players they may find that playing percentage balls into the box in a more direct manner may yield better results away from home. That is not intended to sound like a major criticism of the way they play, but you cant always pass the ball into the net. Sometimes this happens with sides that are over coached. Like Bill I’ve enjoyed watching Swansea this season and wish them well for the rest of it. There are a lot of good things about the way that they do things, but over deliberation in the final third is something they will need to change if results are going to improve.

    Wonderful article from Pete. Please come back and see us on Salut from time to time.

  12. More than fair assessment of the game. As SAFC fans we left the ground thinking of the newly promoted years when we too had games where we dominated but got nothing. Welcome to the Premier League, which is more a mental battle between managers than a game of football. And well done to the taffs who made the journey, excellent turnout on a horrible day. Proper supporters like us.

  13. I completely agree about Swansea. Nothing of the Blackpool gung ho and then later burnt out, about them. The team shows real class-well managed, well organised and consistently entertaining. They will survive, I am sure.

  14. The season, I think, will bring a fair measure of success to Swansea. They and Norwich will certainly stay in the Premiership — they’ve both made the league a more interesting place.

  15. That’s a very insightful and accurate report my friend. You are an excellent footballing side and should be proud of that no matter what the season brings. Well done you lot.

    • not quite excellent, as the lack of goals showed, but you get the impression they’ll learn from this and other similar games. I hope we see them next year

  16. I love that 2 of the replies to this crafted and painstaking article are about rubbish blowing around! Genius Benality.


    • Leighton/London Jack – my comment about the paper bags was a lighthearted aside. The North East sense of humour is heavy on irony, tongue in cheek and self deprecation. I find Londoners and Midlanders take everything so literally.

      Mind you the rubbish is bad when the wind gets up. Won’t be too long before Peter Crouch or Emile Heskey sues the club for negligence after they’ve tripped over a crisp packet!

  17. I know that controlling the weather is beyond even the genius that is M O’N. But SURELY something can – and should – be done about the assorted chip/burger/pie wrappings that are constantly blowing across the pitch.

  18. A pretty good assessment from an oppo fan. Two things though.

    Firstly, from my red and white perspective, whilst I won’t dispute the fact that Swansea had a lot of possession there were no “heart in mouth moments” when I felt the Welsh team would score. The first effort that went over the bar was the nearest they came to giving me an anxiety attack.

    Secondly, they weren’t chip wrappers blowing around the ground but Gregg’s paper bags!

    • “Secondly, they weren’t chip wrappers blowing around the ground but Gregg’s paper bags!”

      Mrs Doubtfire’s stash is, continually, coming to light but, surely, must be cleared soon!

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