Yes, I truly believe that Swansea City could be the best team in the EPL today. Stay with me…
Let’s kick-off with an outrageous claim; Swansea are the Barcelona of the EPL. While Arsene Wenger has spent years trying and failing to get his side playing the tika-taka style football that Barca have made famous, Brendan Rodgers has managed to stroll in with his band of merry men and do just that within months. There is no doubt that the possession football which the Swans play must be admired. On average this season they have had 56% possession and 85% completion – joint top in the EPL with Chelsea and City.
But what does possession count for eh? I mean, last year’s title winners Man United only averaged out at… Oh. 56%.
Admittedly, the Swans are still a far cry from Barca’s 70% average for the 2011-12 season, but there’s still time right?
Like Blaugrana, Swansea boast some of Europe’s top passers. While Barcelona’s Xavi has successfully completed 93% of his passes, Swansea midfielder Leon Britton “far” eclipses him with 93.3% pass succession – in fact Britton is the only midfielder in the history of the EPL to register 100% passing accuracy over the course of a single match. Amazingly enough, Britton isn’t the only passmaster in the Swans’ midfield – Welsh international Joe Allen is also among the top ten passers in Europe with a 90.1% success rate.
However this possession football has not bred a mentality of dribbling the ball into the net. Statistically, around half of Swansea’s shots have come from outside of the box.
I hear you say “OK, passing and possession obsession aside for a moment, what else makes Swansea so great?”. I’m glad you ask.
87% of Swansea’s goals have come from English players. Admittedly a strange fact to bring up, but this is surely only a good thing for English football. Six out of Swansea’s starting eleven are English and there are a further six who have featured this season, and it has begun to attract the attention of England boss Fabio Capello as he begins to formulate his team for Euro 2012.
But will players from an “unfashionable” EPL side make the England team? If Brendan Rodgers and his men can keep doing what they’re doing then it is certainly a possibility. Players like Scott Sinclair, Danny Graham, Leon Britton and Nathan Dyer could definitely be vying for a place on the plane if their competition has the form of Andy Carroll, the inconsistency of Bobby Zamora, or even the criminal record of Stewart Downing…
Even beyond the England national side, the Great Britain Olympic team has also expressed interest in a few of Brendan Rodgers’ players. Alongside English starlet Scott Sinclair, Welshmen Joe Allen, Neil Taylor and Ashley Richards could be in contention for places. Realistically, Rodgers’ side could make up a large portion of the squad for this competition, especially with youngsters like Josh McEachran and Steven Caulker in his side as well.
Maybe something that underpins Swansea’s brilliance, is that their innovative approach to EPL football has showed great discipline on the part of the players. So far this season, the Swans have committed an average of 8.6 fouls per game, which is the lowest throughout the whole of Europe. In an age where referees’ decisions are questioned on a weekly basis and managers consistently challenge official decisions, it is somewhat reassuring that a side can play the beautiful game without having to bend the rules.
Of course if they can keep up this record then there could be high reward in the form of a Europa League place next season, where Swansea’s tika-taka-esque play can be flaunted on the *ahem* big stage.
The Swans’ home record has also been great this season. They’ve only lost on one occasion at the Liberty Stadium, and even that was a close-fought 1-0 loss to Man United. Michael Vorm has been a real breakout star this year and his impressive performances have been of great benefit to Rodgers’ side, so much so that the big clubs have started to come-a-knocking. Thanks to Vorm, the Swans have the second most clean sheets in the EPL this season, second only to Manchester United.
But there’s something that makes Swansea a truly magical side. That’s right, magical. Rip me as you please in the comments section, this is the Disney part of this article. Swansea haven’t spent tens of millions organising a rag tag bunch of superstars from around the world, neither have they really splashed out in general on new players. In fact eight of the starting eleven who beat Arsenal 3-2 were a part of the Swansea team who came third in the Championship in the previous season. The Swans have proved that attractive football is not necessarily the product of copious investment.
While City, United, Chelsea and whoever else in the top six of the EPL have spent inflated sums of money organising fantastic groups of overpaid players, Swansea have assembled a team whose pride for their club and ability on the football pitch has truly encapsulated the beautiful game.