Look to Swansea As Masters Of the Passing Game, Not Arsenal or Liverpool


Tomorrow’s clash between Liverpool and Swansea City will be the first time the two clubs have played each other in the league in 28 years.

What I find interesting about tomorrow’s game — and what has transpired in those 28 years — is that there’s been a role reversal. Liverpool, in the late 70s and early 80s, played a very unconventional style of British football. While the vast majority of teams were playing the long ball game and thumping it into the box, Liverpool was the stand-out team that played a beautiful style of football. Liverpool’s main attribute was their passing game where they were adept at making runs off the ball into space and executing plenty of one-touch and two-touch passes.

That style seems so commonplace in today’s football, but back in the late 70s and early 80s, it was a revolutionary style of football that mesmerized tons of spectators in grounds and on television.

The reason why I believe we’re seeing a role reversal between Swansea and Liverpool is because the Swans are the ones who best exemplify the passing game in the Premier League so far this season. Liverpool plays attractive, fluid football but it’s not their differentiator any longer. Even Arsenal, who has long held the mantle as the best passing team in the Premier League, are not as reliant on those beautiful passes that they once were (partly due to the loss of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, the midfield magicians).

If you don’t believe me, consider the following facts:

  • Swansea has been averaging 476 successful passes per game in the Premier League so far this season compared to 472 by Arsenal and 409 by Liverpool,
  • In Swansea’s game last week against Bolton, Swansea midfielder Leon Britton successfully completed 100% of his passes (67 in one game). That’s the first time that has happened in six seasons of the Premier League,
  • In that same game, Swansea defender Ashley Williams completed 112 passes — more than any other player in the Premier League this season.

Passing doesn’t equal wins, but if you’re an admirer of the beautiful passing game, then Swansea are the purveyors of that type of football this season. This is one of the reasons why tomorrow’s Swansea against Liverpool match is so mouthwatering — to see how Swansea play against a top six side away from Wales. We saw how the Swans did against Manchester City in August, but the Welsh team have learned a lot of valuable lessons since then.

Whatever happens, I’m sure it’ll be an entertaining match to watch.

18 thoughts on “Look to Swansea As Masters Of the Passing Game, Not Arsenal or Liverpool”

  1. “Swansea has been averaging 476 successful passes per game in the Premier League so far this season ”

    sadly 452 of them are back to the keeper 😉

  2. Most of Swansea’s passes are in their own half. Their back four are involved in most of them. Still they are capable of keeping the ball which means the opposition cannot score.

    What Swansea supporters should be worried about is that their side does not like to tackle and when they do don’t win as many of them. They have the lowest tackle success rate of any team, 69% to Everton’s 81% which is the best. On 50-50 aerial balls Swansea are last in percentage won.

    Given Liverpool’s average record at home, they’ve drawn 3 games at home already and one of them was to Norwich, I can see Swansea getting a result tomorrow. Liverpool’s back 4 isn’t the fastest and Dyer and Sinclair could cause them problems. Liverpool will play Carroll and expect him to be physically involved with Swansea’s defenders. If Carroll were playing well then I could see Liverpool gain advantage against Swasea’s defense but with Carroll struggling I don’t think Liverpool will get the advantage. If Swansea can keep Suarez quiet they have a good chance. That is a tall order though. I’m going for a draw.

    1. I’d be happy with a draw!

      Good points regarding the analysis. I saw a stat earlier today that Kevin Davies and Grant Holt have committed more fouls combined than the entire Swansea squad this season (and Davies hasn’t had as much playing time as he usually does). It’s not in Swansea’s nature to physical and dirty. The only way they know how to play is to keep the ball and pass it around, thereby creating chances.

      It should be a good test of Swansea’s defense tomorrow. They looked sound against Bolton. And Bolton was, by far, the worst Premier League team I’ve seen this season.

      The Gaffer

  3. Liverpool have been one of the disappointments of the season given the cash they spent, over a hundred million since last year. This Liverpool side only has two players who are playing well, Suarez and Enrique. That’s why teams no longer fear Liverpool and know even at Anfield they can get something out of he game. United went there and played a weakened side and still left with a draw. Fergie knows Liverpool aren’t really a threat as some think they are. Liverpool are very average team as they bought overhyped British players .

    Swansea know only one way to play and that means if they take the game to Liperpool then they have an excellent chance of beating Liverpool. Swansea played well against both City and Arsenal and those two teams right now are playing much better than Liverpool. Swansea will get chances and if they take them should win. What we don’t know is how the youngsters at Swansea will react to the Anfield atmosphere which is second to none in the EPL. If the atmosphere overtakes them then that could be their undoing. Otherwise Swansea are playing Liverpool at the right time and should cause them problems enough to nick it.

    1. Forgive me for saying so, but you sound like a complete idiot. LFC only spent about 40-50m, no where near the 100m figure you quote.

  4. Liverpool are unbeaten at home, their problem is converting chances, which is why they have ended up drawing games they should have won by a healthy margin. They are also on a 7 game unbeaten run. Carroll also, has scored in his last two starts.
    They have lost the same amount or less games than Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs. All while bedding in a bunch of new players.
    My favorite of the various stuff posted above is the line “They are playing Liverpool at the right time.” What when they haven’t lost a game in the last 7? Off the back of 2 away wins? Off the back of a clean sheet? Off the back of their record signing starting to score goals? Off the back of their number 7 being in brilliant form?
    Swansea are a good side, but I am sure they will play 5 in the middle and hope for their wingers pace to get them some chances. If Liverpool play just Adam and Lucas in the middle then they may be able to overwhelm them and both can get booked too easily.
    Swansea have a chance, but I would expect Liverpool to pick up the win, and the best Swansea can hope for is that Liverpool have the same shooting boots on as they did against Norwich, when they had 27 shots and 1 goal.

  5. Liverpool paid 35 million for Carroll, 20 million for Henderson, 20 million for Downing, 20 million for Suarez, 8 milio for Adam and 9 million for Enrique. All since January.

    1. Henderson was 16m, Downing was 18m, Suarez was 22m Adam and Enrique were 7m. They also recouped 65m+ via player sales. You’re clueless.

  6. Pet peeve as a football analysis fan is the ignorant lobbing of spending figures about in the press. It seems everyone loves to focus only on the amount spent on players, but not the NET spending after selling, which is certainly all that the owners care about.

    If a team sells, say Fernando Torres for 50 Mil and then buys, say, Andy Carroll for 35 and Luis Suarez for 23, then LFC has spent not 58 Million for their two strikers, but rather 8. Add 4 Mil for the sale of Ngog and LFC have spent 4 Million pounds net on their front two.

  7. A draw is two points dropped. That’s why looking at a team’s unbeaten streak can be deceiving. It’s better to win one and lose one than draw two. All these draws for Liverpool will come back to haunt them at the end of the season.

    Carroll’s two goals recently gloss over his poor play. He still hasn’t impressed ina single game he has played. Last week against West Brom he took a poor touch and almost didn’t score the goal he scored. I still believe Liverpool play better without him than with him in the team.

  8. Liverpools net spend is less then $40M.

    The way you go about each result is more important then comparing a loss to a draw. Ie is you play shi* and get a draw its a bonus. If you play well and get a draw it is a massive regret. Liverpool may find it hard to break into the top 4 again if they fail to hold on to leads in the game.

    Carrol may not be scoring goals but Suarez has only scored 1 goal without Carrol partnering him.

  9. All this nonsense about how much was spent on players overlooks the fact that even if a player was sold for 50 million he was bought for a certain amount. Shouldn’t that factor in too?

    It doesn’t matter how you get the money, sales of players. shirt sales, donation, etc. when you buy a player for a certain amount that’s what you paid. Can United claim that they won the title last season without spending anything (they got 70+ million for Ronaldo) despite buying players? Of course not. They spent what they spent on players.

    Carroll did cost 35 million no matter how Liverpool got the money. The same for the other players. Because these overhyped British players have been so average to poor people like to come up with excuses by citing that they really didn’t cost what the club paid for them. Except Liverpool did pay crazy money to buy mediocrity. Of course one person’s mediocrity is another’s gem.

  10. Last season Henderson and Downing had more key passes than anyone in the league barring Florent Malouda. Mediocrity at its best…

  11. So Liverpool draw again. What else is new. Mediocrity at work. Swansea ran them ragged. Maybe now Liverpool will buy more overhyped British crap!

  12. Swansea looked really impressive today. Dyer, Routledge, Allen, all ran the midfield ragged. Where’s all the big-money signings now? Downing in particular is the biggest waste of ’em all.

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