I’m going to take a different tact this week and nominate an entire defence as a Point of Difference; Swansea.
Firstly let me say that I love Swansea and how they play. They still set the benchmark in England for how the beautiful game is supposed to be played. They were the precursor, in modern times, for the styles that Liverpool and Everton are both currently trying to implement (unsurprisingly both are managed by ex-Swan’s gaffers). Back when Rodgers left, there was some concern if there was anyone available that could continue the tradition, but in Laudrup they very nearly found the perfect match. He has continued to utilise the same style as previous managers with only minor tweaking of their tactics (please take note Mr #MoyesOut) and has made them better as a result.
The POD targets…
Rangel (5.4m) – 1.8%
Chico (5.0m) – 1.4%
Davies (5.0m) – 3.6% (injured, will in a few weeks Taylor is an ample replacement)
Williams (4.9m) – 7.0% (injured, probably back the next GW)
Although Williams is currently injured, his replacement is Amat and he’s not up to scoring too many points or long term minutes. This will be the back 4 going forward barring any further injuries or suspensions. Although Williams’ ownership is a relatively high 7.2%, the other 3 have excellent short to midterm potential as PODs.
I’m basing this on two things, their upcoming fixtures and their style of play. When I say their style of play, I refer to the fact it gives their defensive players more opportunity to get involved in attacking positions as opposed to quite a few other teams. Their above average ability to keep possession allows both full backs more than enough time to get involved in attacking areas and they are encouraged to do so as the wingers can get narrow in the final third. The players playing those roles, Rangel and Davies, are both excellent attacking full backs and have a very good tactical disposition to know when to play inside the winger or outside, and when to make a forward run either way. The possession style also takes some pressure of the defence as a whole as they aren’t getting bombarded all game by opposition attacks. The remainder of the three, Chico, is a very good ball playing defender who can push forward and help out. He’s not really known to score many goals or assists (well any really, a League Cup goal last season and an assist last GW is about all) so he’ll very much be last of the group I would recommend.
One negative that could be pointed towards Swansea in recent years has been the tendency to ship more goals than you’d like when we consider picking up one of them in our teams. They did take a clean sheet on the weekend from Sunderland, but most teams will this season so I wouldn’t spend too much time analysing that. Their upcoming fixtures are very tasty when it comes to both defensive and defensive attacking points…
West Ham home
West Ham is the yin to Swansea’s yang. Although they are getting better at playing football they do still revert to type and pump it long. I can see Swansea dominating play but not easily breaking down the Hammer defence. West Ham will counter attack via the wings (ranked 18th in attacks through the centre of the pitch away from home), popping crosses into their strikers (4th most crosses per game away) but will turn the ball over frequently (20th in pass success %). Much will depend on the Swans being able to track back and put in a shift to help Davies / Rangel when West Ham do get the ball, then Chico / Amat and how they deal with the crosses and the potential Carlton Cole physical aspect late in the game. It really has 1-0 to Swansea written all over it.
Derbies are usually very tight affairs and this should be no different. The fact they haven’t played each in a while means there will be a lot of tension prior to kick off. I don’t care what anyone says but this will affect the players and will lead to a tentative game. Cardiff has the lowest possession rate at home and also the worst pass success rate whereas Swansea sit 4th and 2nd respectively for those stats. You’d suggest Swansea will dominate play. Cardiff also concedes the most shots on goal at home while having the least shots themselves, and by some margin. Cardiff do heavily favour attacking the right side of the pitch, so trading in Davies might be a risk as he may have a busy afternoon. They also spend more time in their own half than any other team and the least in the opposition half, again by some margin… How do these guys win games??? 2-0 to Swansea.
I’m not going to bother analysing Stoke in any great detail, but I will say that all their key indicators place them as an average team, nothing really stands out. You could however suggest they should be doing better than what they are. 2 goals in the past 7 games however paints a worrying picture. Unless they get their act together very soon it’s going to be a long season ahead, but unfortunately for them they don’t have any form refreshers coming up. They’ve got Man Utd away then Southampton home prior to Swansea. 1-0 to Swans.
This is another where statistical analysis is really difficult. I’m not sure where Fulham are at the moment as they’ve been all over the place. They will take some confidence out of their big win against Crystal Palace but the Swansea game is a few weeks down the track. Before Swansea they face Southampton away, Man Utd at home and Liverpool away. Grim times. This game will either be 2-0, or 7-6 to Swansea.
Out of those 4 games I could happily call that 4 clean sheets, but it’s never that easy. I’ll stick with just 3 clean sheets thanks and suggest Cardiff might get snatch a derby goal. If you want to look further forward, next is Man City away and will be tough, followed by a “Jeckle and Hyde” Newcastle at home. Hull at home and then Norwich away are then excellent opportunities for clean sheets.
So that’s it for today. Based on all of this I can say that Swansea are a good bet to get some points in their defence in the next handful of games and if I was pushed for an order of preference it would be Rangel, Davies (when he’s back) then Chico. Sorry all you Chico lovers out there!