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.


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