At 17:30 BST on Saturday Man City host Swansea in the Barclay's Premier League. A win for Manchester City is what most fans would predict, but what kind of challenge will Swansea pose to a Man City team just 72 hours after their demoralising 3-1 defeat in Amsterdam?
Can Man City bounce back from their meek surrender in Amsterdam on Wednesday? We all hope so, and some of you, like me, expect Man City to do so. This isn't snobbery, it's a cold evaluation of Man City's home form and Swansea's away form, especially in 2012/13. Swansea, despite their strong possession game are not a potent attacking threat, and they are struggling somewhat by the shot totals we shall look at shortly.
Swansea's Away Form
Swansea are one of the victims of the Premier League's strange fixture list that scheduled them in for 5 home games out of their first 8 games, so we only have three games of data to work with in 2012/13. I could go back into 2011/12 for some clues to who Swansea are, but a new manager. player sales and purchases would render some of the information irrelevant. We have what we have and that is 3 games.
(1) QPR 0-6 Swansea
(4) Aston Villa 2-0 Swansea
(6) Stoke 2-0 Swansea
I think we can safely assume that the opening day victory over a QPR team of strangers was the outlier, the aberration; It will be, in all likelihood, Swansea's best away result of the season.
We know Swansea are a patient, possession based team who routinely dominate the share of possession. Incredibly false claims were made last season to the tune of Swansea being British football's Barcelona. The possession totals, the rotation of personnel during passing sequences and the ability of all ten outfield players on the ball were cited as examples of Barca-esque play.
But Swansea, instead of pinning teams into their own defensive third, like Barca do, were infact having most of their possession in the middle third and their own defensive third. Swansea were using possession as a method of containing the opposition or as a defensive measure.
This season Swansea have averaged 56% possession in their three away fixtures. 50% in their first game, 57% in their second game and 61% in their third game. It would not be a surprise to see Swansea have more possession than Man City at the Etihad, and that would be a rarity for City.
-5 is not a great number, in fact it's a number that is likely, if it continues, to hinder the club in the PL this season. We don't see many teams record a minus shot per game number and go on to trouble the top half of the table. A team who gives up 5 shots more than they record in attack will, over time, concede more goals than they score.
The above graph shows us total shots vs expected total shots for their 3 away games played in 2012/13. We calculate the expected number by using Swansea possession % in that said game and multiplying it by 0.09. This figure is how many shots PL teams record for every 1% of possession they have. Swansea have excellent possession numbers which is why their expected shots for totals in each of their 3 away games are so high.
The above graph tells us that Swansea, despite their possession, under perform.
Shots On Target
We now move on to Swansea's shots on target totals and the news gets no prettier. Swansea are being out performed and out-shot to the tune of 1.66 shots on target per game. But what does -1.66 shots actually mean, how bad is that number?
Here is a look at the 2011/12 shot +/- table
Now, it's early doors and Swansea have only played 3 away games but this years number would have them sitting in 10th place when using last terms 19 games of away data.
The 5.66 shots on target against number is only going to lead to bad things in the long term future, and in the short term when talking of Man City away as their next fixture.
Expected Shots On Target
Using the same methodology as used above, we can now take a look at Swansea's actual shots on target v their expected shot on target for each of those 3 away fixtures.
Swansea outperformed their expectancy number in the 6-0 drubbing of QPR and then went on to under perform in their next 2 games.
Swansea do not possess a potent offense, even with the heavy possession numbers they register each game. It can almost be said that a majority of their possession is for nothing, but we know better than that and know that Swansea use their possession to restrict the oppositions shot totals and scoring chances. If the opposition don't have the ball they cannot score.
Shots On Target Ratio
A quick look at Swansea's shots on target ratio for their away fixtures isn't pretty. Barring the 6-0 win, they are being heavily outshot. expect a similar number when visiting The Etihad on Saturday lunchtime.
Okay, so a quick explanation. PDO is save % and Scoring % added together. Anything over 100 is considered excellent but will also regress to the mean of 100 given enough time. West Brom's 116.5 pdo score is excellent but will also be viewed as a risk case and thus likely to move toward the mean of 100.
Swansea's pdo is in the process of regressing to the mean after recording a rare and perfect 200 score in their first away game.
Swansea's save % is pretty good, but not too high. their scoring % away from home is 50% and will surely regress toward the 30% average scoring % number.
Swansea and the first goal
I'll break the rule of solely using Swansea's away form and list the club's record of scoring the first goal in 2012/13. Letters Y and N indicate the obvious and the italics are for away games.
Note Swansea's record when conceding the first goal: 3 losses and 2 draws, 2 of those losses coming away from home. Swansea, through 8 games, have to score the first goal in order to gain maximum points.
Swansea aren't a great away team, or so the three games worth of numbers say. They are an average shot event team who are under performing when we factor in the amount of shots they should be generating with the high possession numbers they routinely record.
That possession, great though it is, is used as a defensive aid more than anything else. Swansea rarely score the crucial first goal of the game(3 of 8) and it is only on the occasions that they have managed to score the first goal that they have gone on to win the fixture. The key for Man City will be to score first, to ease nerves firstly and to prevent Swansea from using that excellent ball retention to frustrate the team and nervy home crowd.
We should expect Man City to heavily win the shot and shot on target battle against Swansea, which would be quite the tonic after another European night of the opposite taking place.
Man City should score the first goal, win the shot battle, not become unsettled by Swansea's possession and the rest should take care of it's self for maximum points.
Swansea are averaging 4 shots on target per game, I would expect Man City to restrict Swansea to that same number of shots in the upcoming fixture, if not restrict Swansea to a lesser shots on target number. From this we should then see Man City go on to record their second clean sheet on the bounce at The Etihad against a relatively toothless Swansea away outfit.