Saturday, 7 April 2012

Swansea City v Newcastle Utd, PL, Match Report

Fantastic quality finishing sees off Swansea.

Here's the tweet that confirmed it for me.......

Unbelievable - 914 passes by Swansea, 77% possession, 91% Pass Accuracy, 14 shots to 4 and they still lost.” Just not our day.!

I've decided to remind people here that this year we are playing in the Barclays Premier League, which, whatever your opinion, is considered one of the strongest leagues in World Football. Since this is our first year at this level, it does well to remember that many have tried and many have failed at this level.

We are not yet secure in the division, but we are mighty close, so please keep this in mind when making flippant judgments both for and against the way our team is playing. And, btw, enjoy, it's actually a bundle of fun.

Hey, listen, I know that peripherals and statistics don't tell the whole story, but to listen to various comments on GB's and MB's after Swansea City's 2-0 reverse against Newcastle Utd in the Good Friday PL fixture was to take in some ridiculous comments - most of which I'm able to brush aside - so here's a message for all those doom-mongers and naysayers who predict disaster on the back of yesterday's result......either grow up, or go get yourself a plastic allegiance (they tell me Man City give good value for sycophancy this year).

This is how it works in my gaff.

Having supported the Swans since 1963 from seeing my first game at the Vetch field, if you're expecting me to slaughter my own team as a result of a disappointing loss yesterday against the team that's now ensconced in 6th place in the Barclays Premier League (however temporarily) then I'm afraid you might as well log off and jog on now - because you ain't getting it here, mate.

You'll have guessed by now that, as Queen said years ago, there's just "One Vision".

That doesn't mean that our performance is beyond criticism - it isn't - but you can expect it be both rational and explanatory - the better to retain some dignity for when we bounce back - because, be assured, we will.

For yesterday's fascinating in prospect match, where we knew that NUFC would come to us seeking the win that would take them above Chelsea in the table (yes, you read that right), we expected a difficult, worthy and above all confident opponent, and in a terrific football match that's exactly what we got.

The Premier League , at it's "red in tooth-and-claw", exciting best - no wonder Sky Sports sells so well abroad - this was no "after-the-bridesmaid", no "you first Claude" powder puff pat-a -cake exhibition.

No, a genuine slug-fest, fought over by two teams of varying styles and contrasts, both of which set out to win, and settled by two of the best opportunistic finishes you'll see over the next few weeks.

There had been debate over the likely teams with Newcastle beset by some injury worries and the Swans stumbling after 2 successive losses, so the Managers choices for both were intriguing.

For Newcastle , the only change from last week v the Pool was the inclusion of David Santon, a legitimate LB, which freed Jonas Gutierrez to go to MF where he replaced Danny Guthrie.

For the Swans, Nathan Dyer returned on the right, letting Wayne Routledge go left instead of Scott Sinclair, and Luke Moore got a run up front ahead of Danny Graham.

Thus, the teams were,

Swansea City
01 Vorm, 02 Williams, 03 Taylor, 04 Caulker, 22 Rangel, 07 Britton, 12 Dyer (Sinclair - 66' ), 15 Routledge, 24 Allen, 42 Sigurdsson, 19 Moore (Graham - 66' )
25 Tremmel, 05 Tate, 16 Monk, 11 Sinclair, 17 McEachran, 27 Gower, 10 Graham

Newcastle United
26 Krul, 03 Santon, 05 Simpson, 06 Williamson, 14 Perch, 04 Cabaye (Gosling - 73' ), 10 Ben Arfa, 18 Gutierrez, 24 Tiote (R Taylor - 46' ), 09 Cisse, 19 Ba (Ferguson - 59' )
35 Elliot, 16 R Taylor, 31 Ferguson, 34 Tavernier, 13 Abeid, 15 Gosling, 23 Sh Ameobi

Ref: H Webb
Att: 19,874

Let's go straight away to the match stats, since they bear out what I feel, which is that we did really well, could have done better, but Newcastle did better still, as was testament from the result.

Swansea's overall possession was good at 68% to 32% over the 94m of the game. Similarly, City got off 19 shots to Newcastle's 5, of which 13 were on target to 4 against. The corner count was 7-0 in favour of the Home side, and fouls were 10-7.

So, from that dominance, how did we not win?

Well, most of us who've watched football over a decent period of time will tell you that it's not that simplistic. Nor was it this time.

From the start, that statistical superiority was established, and the first chance of the game came from a ball turned inside via Dyer on the right to Gylfi Sigurdsson in the inside right channel, and his decent control was thwarted when his shot was somewhat off-balance as he stumbled and drove the ball across Krul's goal and wide. A half chance - but keep count of the number, it's important.

Swansea were pressing decently, but Newcastle would not just take whatever came, and from breaking up an early midfield move, Guttierez passed to Cabaye, who sent a dangerous first time pass to Cisse, in the inside right channel, and crucially just 2 or 3 yds free of the nearest defender. The in-form striker took one touch, and immediately struck a fast and low shot across Vorm and into the corner of the Swansea net.

1-0, and it felt like we'd been pick-pocketed, and the Geordies at the North End burst into delighted life.

The only equivalent goal I remember from this season was when Van Persie did similar to us to get Arsenal's first. A truly top class immediate finish from a striker who's in top class form. We Swans were gobsmacked. The team, I suspect, felt the same.

Still and all, the Home team set about recovering the deficit by continuing to play the only way that they want to - this is, by passing the ball around both patiently and consistently, with the only drawback being a certain steadiness of tempo, because it can be argued that by not injecting sufficient pace it can allow the defending team the time to organise better their resistance. And , to be fair to Newcastle, that's exactly what they did.

Pardew has shaped his troops such that there were several occasions where a member of the back 4 put in a crucial interception or tackle as the Swans went forward, with Santon, Williamson and Perch all doing so at least once in this period, and they were being admirably protected by the powerful Tiote and the scrambling Jonas in the Midfield.

This protection was keeping Swansea away from Krul's goal, which was next tested by two shots after about 15m , one by Rangel which went over the bar, and one from Joe Allen, which the safe Krul gathered low and comfortably.

Sigurdsson, too, tried often to shape to shoot but again was being prevented by the disciplined press from a resilient Toon, with even Ben Arfa and Cabaye grafting back into deep protection.

The Icelander won a good free kick though after half an hour, only to see Krul make a good save and further on 38 m the keeper again went to his left and gathered safely and low. He showed the value of complete confidence in his defense, and you could sense now that with all of their players showing commitment and purpose, this was likely to be a long and difficult process for Swansea in attempting to pass round and through the Newcastle rearguard.

Luke Moore was being pushed to drop deepish to collect, and whilst both Dyer and Routledge wide were trying to link with the pushing forward Taylor and Rangel, it was often the case that either Caulker or Williams was being forced to carry the ball forward by a team confident enough in their own ability and structure to resist, and despite Swansea's rat-a-tat-tat, almost metronomic pass and move, the game was managed well enough by Pardew's team to get them to the half time interval without any further major threats on their goal.

Howard Webb blew for half time at 1-0 to Newcastle, and despite the good support from the ever present JackArmy, the Newcastle fans streamed to the concourse for their refreshments in good heart and cheer, whilst we Swans generally had a more worried frown on our faces.

The puzzle and test would be for us to work out a way to break down the resistance without leaving ourselves open to any counter thrust. Little did I know that it would come back to haunt us.

There was a single replacement at the interval with Ryan Taylor replacing the influential Check Tiote in MF, who had protected his defense well. So one assumes it was an injury of some sort.

The second period saw Swansea keep to their philosophy of keeping the ball, and the Toon, although offering decent competition for any 50/50's were generally content that they do so, leaving them to play on the break as City threw more and more men forward in their attempt to get even, and they looked extremely dangerous from raids via Ben Arfa particularly.

There was quality on view all round, and he played his part as Pardew has asked him to do by becoming involved more and more.

This was City's best spell, and on 53m Joe Allen hit a screamer that took a slight deflection and all but confused Tim Krul before spinning wide for a corner.

Again from a decent move, Routledge chipped in narrow from the right, but Luke Moore's on-target header was confidently clutched by the busier Dutch keeper.

Swansea's pressure had been building but again without creating any out and out clear chances, and Newcastle were firm in their denial and let's not bitch about any refereeing indiscretions. Mr Webb didn't get everything right yesterday, but can in no way be blamed for leaning toward the visitors - he was equally fair both ways I thought.

The next change to proceedings came on 59m, with Pardew replacing the peripheral Demba Ba, who had worked hard out wide left generally with the busy winger Shane Ferguson, the better to capitalise on any break forward.

Brendan Rodgers then tried to re-invigorate the Swans on 66m with the dual substitution of Dyer and Luke Moore with Scott Sinclair on the left and Danny Graham up front, but before it could become in anyway effective, Newcastle broke on 69m to take a further grip on the game with an outstanding second goal.

From a rapier strike, Newcastle showed the value of outstanding players performing at their very best in a contest that had even balance generally, but was turned by this very quality, and in retrospect it remains one of the best goals we've seen at the Liberty this season.

Ben Arfa's possession on the right led him to feed inside to Yohan Cabaye, and the French midfielder picked out a firmly driven 20+yd pass to the fast advancing Pappis Demba Cisse, who had got a crucial 2 yds only on Ash Williams in the inside left channel and just a dozen yds from goal.

Cisse, to his eternal credit, killed the ball stone dead with the feathered outside touch of his right foot, and then, as he fell to his left, used that same right foot to dink the ball over and curving beyond the advancing Vorm and to nestle into the far corner of the net.

2-0, and a truly stunning goal, which if it's bettered this weekend I'll be more than amazed.

It was scored directly in front of the Geordie faithful, and their riotous positive roar greeted the scorer with the accolade he deserved.

At 2-0 down we Swans were more than just stunned, we were stupefied almost, to think that from a game where we'd had the bulk of possession and attacking intent we could be behind as we were. This tells you though that there's more than one way to win a football match, and that quality striking will always play a huge part.

The Swans tore back, and both a Scott Sinclair shot, a Graham effort from a neat move, and a Sigurdsson free kick all went close, just not close enough.

Gosling had replaced Cabaye on 73m, the better to close the game out, and the ex-Everton youngster showed impressive resolve, often dropping in at the back to make an extra defensive body particularly in the middle, and he made a great tackle on the almost free Danny Graham to deny the Swans again.

The last few minutes of the game played out to Swansea's incessant desire to get forward, but only to be met by a truly resilient and impressive defensive effort from Newcastle's supremely confident team effort.

Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to a team that, on the day, has had the better of the outcome, if not the better of the over-riding stats. However much possession we had on the day it remains the case that NUFC used theirs better, on this occasion.

No shame in that, since this is a grand old club in the tradition of British Football which gets 50,000 plus at Home, that we're more than happy to be competing with in this fantastic division. That in itself is not reason enough to be content with a Home defeat - getting beaten at Home is never,ever pleasant, but it does suggest that we might put this game in some kind of perspective.

So, let's have a look at it overall.

Our last 3 games against Newcastle have seen us lose 2-0 yesterday, and no complaints there. Last December, most of us Swans were happy to come away with a point from St James Park, on a day where our undying defense had held out to claim equality at the end.

Prior to that, in our Championship days, most of us Swans remember dominating them at the Lib, only to see a 1-0 that could have been more turned into a 1-1 by Andy Carroll's late header. My, my, how things change, even when they remain the same!

Carroll is long gone, and both sides have moved on a great deal.

Please don't forget that they sit justifiably 6th in the table, so it was no disgrace to lose. Disappointing, yes, since we've proved to ourselves that we can do better, but I wish them nothing other than the best of luck in their quest for European Football, and an invite, which I hope we're capable of keeping, to come back next year.

For that one we will do better I'm confident.

Both Managers expressed some decent honesty in their Press Conferences, which can be found here.

We must quickly dust ourselves down, particularly with Wednesday's fixture against QPR fast approaching. Then, as we all know, next Saturday's home match against Blackburn comes hot on its heels.

I like to think that the next 4 games - QPR, Blackburn, Bolton, Wolves - are the ones that will finally seal our membership of this wonderful division. Whatever, it's still a wonderful season.........

What we don't need at this moment is any wobbling and cursing toward a team that's performed with its heart on its sleeve throughout the season, and did exactly that yesterday, despite the disappointing result.

Please, please, keep the faith.

Onward, Swansea City.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU PIERRE. Put nicely into perspective - yet again. We are talking about losses to 3 top teams from the EPL here. Replay to this time last year, and I think there wouldn't be too many disappointed Jacks with our position,prospects and accolades received at this point of the season. I'm still predicting 48 -50 points. Can't wait for the rest of the games! Great read as usual Pierre. Thank you once again. Come on the Swans!!