Reinstate the Swansea Way

Bottom of the Premier League table, things are looking particularly bleak for Swansea City. Mere months ago, the club was touted as a role model, with its unique mix of fan involvement and a distinct footballing style. Once a haven for the development of up and coming managers, with both Merseyside clubs coached by Liberty Stadium graduates in the 2013/14 season, the club has become something of a rotating door in that sense. Worse yet, the purchasing of a major stake by new American owners was done behind the back of the Supporters Trust that formed the back-bone of the club by owning 21% of it, causing frosty tension and even the possibility of a lawsuit about the nature of the sale.

How might decision makers at the club attempt to halt this descent down a slippery slope that we have seen so many other clubs topple down before?

Reinstate the Swansea Way

The defining feature of Swansea City has been, until recently, its style of football. The club enamoured hipsters all over the world, myself included, with its unique blend of possession based football from Roberto Martinez to Brendan Rodgers to Michael Laudrup. One of the most unfortunate developments of the last few years has been the loss of this identity, beginning with the appointment of club stalwart Garry Monk as manager.

Monk led the club to a record high 8th placed finish with a slightly more pragmatic style than fans were used to. At the time, no one was complaining, but the following season’s early problems quickly complicated matters. To those of us involved in assessing underlying performance, Swansea’s regression came as no surprise. Before long, Monk was gone and replaced. His replacement, Francesco Guidolin, met the same fate and was succeeded this season by Bob Bradley. Barely a year later after Monk was sacked by the club, Bradley was also on his way out.


Having a distinct tactic is useful for a variety of reasons. It forces recruitment through an extra layer of checks, moving the question from ‘Is this player good?’ to ‘Is he good for us?’. The same check applies to managers, and, in truth, it is here that decision makers at the club have abandoned the club's distinct style.

In Swansea’s case, a possession style was most useful as a defensive tool. Where big clubs with high average possession often spend most of it in their opponent’s half, Swansea would recycle the ball in their own half as a defensive tactic. This made breaking them down hard, while also making their attacks slow.


This season, Swansea’s defence has been anything but hard to break down, and their attack has been anything but slow. Considering many of the personnel in the team are the same as under Michael Laudrup, this seems a bizarre state of affairs. This is clearest in the futility of the performances of Leon Britton, whose conscientious and careful possessions of the ball are completely undermined by the team’s overall system and focus on optimistic wing play. 1

On the other hand, having a similar squad spine to the possession days should make it easier to reinstate the style. The most difficult part, and the most controversial of my suggestions, would be in resisting the urge to hire a manager with a different system for the sake of it.

Resist Panic Hiring

Alan Curtis is an extremely experienced member of staff, and one that has been at the club throughout its entire journey. His training methods will be familiar to the players, as will his ideas, as has been evident from his caretaker stints: last campaign when Guidolin was unfortunately ill, Curtis stepped in and coached the team for a couple of games. Against West Bromwich Albion, the team played closer to the Swansea Way than they had in years, and strolled nonchalantly to a 1-0 win.

Appointing him as a caretaker manager until the end of the season isn’t even a new idea – the club did it after Monk was sacked, only to back-track and appoint Guidolin shortly after. Curtis should be given the reigns until the end of the season not because there is a chance that he may be long-term manager material like Monk, but because the mid-season options for replacements are so dire.


Considering the financial might of the Premier League, these are rather uninspiring possibilities - lest we forget that Rafa Benitez is manager of Newcastle in the division below. Clement and Rowett are managers with the potential to be future candidates, but, ideally, you’d like to see them with at least another Championship club first. Premier League experience is not a necessity, but some suitable level of experience is, and it's hard to say either of them have it yet. Marcelino is another one I would be interested in, but has already been interviewed for the position before and concerns about his grasp of the language reportedly put the club off.

As much as it may initially seem risky, waiting until the summer allows the club to appoint a manager with the advantage of certainty about what competition they will be in, a much larger pool of targets, and enough time for suitable due diligence.

It seems odd to say this about a club with a recent history of managerial casualties, but the biggest obstacle for Swansea City’s survival isn’t who is manager, it is who is playing.

Recruit with focus

For a club lauded for its intelligent recruitment, particularly the time-old legend of £2m Michu, the squad has deteriorated to an almost laughable state. Wayne Routledge is starting in the Premier League in 2016. Ashley Williams, long-time captain, was replaced by Ajax bench-player Mike van der Hoorn and Barnsley's Alfie Mawson. Andre Ayew, who scored an impressive 12 Premier League goals last campaign, was replaced by Nathan Dyer returning from a loan to Leicester City.

The one area that the club did solve a problem was up-front, with the signings of Fernando Llorente and Borja Baston, the latter of which has struggled to get game time but will likely still come good. Unfortunately, the Spanish pair are forced to rely on their chances being created predominantly by the ineffectual Modou Barrow, who is a player with clear potential but with equally clear deficiencies, and Routledge, who is useless in a wing-oriented counter-attacking system at the age of 31. Jefferson Montero, by far the club’s best chance-creator, has failed to cement a place in the starting eleven so far, but will hopefully soon.

More than anything, the combination of a deterioration in squad quality and incoherent tactical style has damaged Gylfi Sigurdsson, unquestionably the club’s star player. Since Wilfried Bony was sold to Manchester City, the Icelandic talisman has been forced to carry the increasingly heavy burden of the team’s attacks on his shoulders. This can be seen most clearly in the ratio of his shots to key passes over the last few seasons, and in the number of shots from outside of the box.


The club desperately need another winger and a centre-back. They will already be working on this, and have brought in famed analytics-community pioneer Daniel Altman as a ‘transfer consultant’. However, if reports are to be believed, it could be argued that Altman’s expertise will be used at the wrong end of the recruitment process - WalesOnline reported that Altman will not suggest players to the club, but rank their separately created shortlists. Given the depth of statistical data available and the relative ease with which tactical styles can be profiled, it would surely make more sense for shortlists to be generated through statistical filters before further holistic analysis is done with more traditional methods.

Regardless of the process, the focus of January's recruitment should be honed on the specific qualities needed from new players. Ideally, the initial check would be whether or not they are suited to a possession-based tactical system, but this would depend on that style being revived. Recent reports have linked Swansea to Luciano Narsingh, PSV's speedster winger, but I would argue that the team needs more of a Dusan Tadic style wide player - one that can join in comfortably with build-up, like Andre Ayew did last season and Wayne Routledge used to be able to. Centre-backs are particularly difficult to recruit, so before doing so the club should figure out who it is that he is likely to be playing with: Jordi Amat or Federico Fernandez? Each have different individual weaknesses that should be complemented by their new partner.

Conclusion The task of saving Swansea City is a huge but not impossible one. It takes investment from the new owners, conscientious decision making, and the ability to hold nerve when panic alarms are ringing all around. To maximise the club's chances of survival and also build a stable foundation for rebounding back from relegation, three recommendations should be adopted: reinstate the Swansea Way, resist panic hiring, and recruit with focus.

Appendix: Post Clement Update

Since this piece was posted, Paul Clement has been appointed as the manager of Swansea. Of all the candidates available, he is the one I would have complained about least. There are some obvious caveats, like his limited experience as a first team manager, but to what extent you can criticise him for that is difficult to say given that his sacking at Derby was confusing (to say the least). Stylistically, Clement's Derby were reminiscent of the Swansea of yesteryear, attacking slowly and indirectly: u1

This is a promising finding for those who, like myself, are keen for the Swansea Way to return. Although I may have waited until the summer myself, the Clement appointment can hardly be accused of being made in a panic and, hopefully, signals a return to the style of football that the club became known for. Let's see how the January transfer window plays out - over to you, Altman.

Unpacking Packing

You've probably heard of Packing data by now. If you haven't, it may be worth having a look at Raphael Honigstein's primer. In effect, Packing is assigning a value to the amount of opposition players 'taken out of the game' by a pass or dribble.

Its popularity comes predominantly down to its intuitiveness. Where more complicated metrics can alienate in their codification and complicated statistical methods, this is a fairly comprehensible way of coding something in football terms. That has value, especially when it comes to selling to football people.

Nonetheless, there has been an obvious question to those with experience with event data. Is Packing really an upgrade? Put more articulately: Does Packing provide significant additional value over what we already have?

For Euro 2016 data that I kindly received a sample of,  I found around 70% of the variation in 'average outplayed opponents', effectively the mean amount of times a player 'takes out' other players per 90, could be explained in a linear regression model with only forward passes and successful dribbles per 90 as inputs. These aren't complicated or unintuitive metrics, rough proxies for 'verticality', and yet they can explain a significant portion of the Packing numbers. That isn't great.

Another version of Packing looks only at the amount of defenders taken out by players. Using another regression model with only passes and dribbles in the box per 90, 50% of the variation in these player values can be explained. Again, these are really simple metrics explaining a lot of what is meant to be unique insight.

With event data, it is sometimes forgotten that although something is not explicitly measured, this doesn't mean that it is totally ignored. When players are passing forwards or successfully dribbling, they are implicitly taking players out of the game. Another example is that although Opta shot data doesn't include defensive pressure, there is an implicit relationship between how close you are to the goal and the likely amount of pressure you face to take a shot; caveats, like whether or not an attack is a counter attack, also carry implicit connotations about the amount of pressure faced.

Any metric being marketed as a one-hit solution to football analytics is going to be a disappointment, as they can't really exist in a game this complicated. Packing may be a useful part of quantifying player and team verticality, but I would be hesitant to call it much more than that, and it isn't really anything that couldn't be done with, say, Opta's event data. To be fair to them, I know nothing about their pricing system, and it may be that clubs who want to only gain specific insights to complement coaching styles prefer to buy into something like this than an event data subscription.

I do also think that Packing and its popularity highlights a weakness in the analytics community's current attempts to quantify stylistically past, say, goalscoring or chance creation. There is a lot of hype about positional data at the moment, but we are still nowhere done with analysing event data in unison with football theory to quantify tactical styles on a player and team level. What is the difference between how Sergio Busquets and Luka Modric play, and how are those differences useful in their respective team styles? These are questions that are perhaps more about efficient use of data to empirically answer football questions than actual statistical methods, but this is all part of what I believe to be the future of actionable analytics in the game.

Using the first regression model, I predicted Packing values p90 for the Premier League 15/16 season for players who played more than 10 90s. To clarify, this is players ranked by the predicted amount of opponents they 'take out of the game':

  1. Santi Cazorla
  2. Gianelli Imbula
  3. Yaya Toure
  4. Mousa Dembele
  5. Cesc Fabregas
  6. Ross Barkley
  7. David Silva
  8. Eden Hazard
  9. Bastian Schweinsteiger
  10. Alexis Sanchez
  11. Jordon Ibe
  12. Aaron Ramsey
  13. Mamadou Sakho
  14. Fernandinho
  15. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
  16. Michael Carrick
  17. Wilfried Zaha
  18. Manuel Lanzini
  19. Lucas Leiva
  20. Francis Coquelin

It's notable that Mamadou Sakho is the only centre-back in the top 20, and this is because of his unusual rate of forward successful passes per 90. In the Euros list, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng ranked highly because they do this too.

Some interesting results there, and a decent first attempt at quantifying player 'verticality'.

Is Packing the future of football analytics? Generously speaking, maybe in spirit, but probably not in practice.

What Happened To Everton?

Everton finished 11th. That may not mean much to you right now, desensitized by the difficulty of maintaining long term schadenfreude (unless you’re unhealthily obsessed Arsenal fans on St Totteringham’s Day), but it’s pretty insane and has kind of gone completely under the radar (pun intentionally not avoided). In his StatsBomb preview for the 2014/15 season, Paul Riley predicted that they would finish 5th-7th. And that was pretty reserved, especially for a fan – when Everton signed Lukaku, it was seen as a declaration of intent; not to languish in midtable or, indeed, even Europa, but to compete for the Champions League. Yet here we are, a year later, with all the joys of hindsight and the destruction of a 38-game implosion in front of us. Magnifying glass in hand, we start to sift through the debris, an aching question on the periphery of our minds: Dafuq happened to Everton? The overall picture Everton’s TSR, 10th highest in the league, doesn’t present us with anything initially shocking, although they slightly underperformed according to the metric. Everton1   Everton’s Expected Goals Ratio ranks them 13th in the league. Their season doesn’t seem to be one of huge ExpG over-performance like Chelsea or Swansea, or under-performance like QPR, though their Expected Goal Difference (-7.7) was 5.7 goals lower than their actual Goal Difference (-2). But that should, in theory, mean that Everton’s poor (relative to last season) point performance is explainable by the model. Through separating attack and defence, we may be able to find out more about the difference between this Everton and the one of yesteryear. Everton2   Woeful attack Everton of 2014/15 scored 13 less goals than the year before, and took the 11th most shots (471) in the league, which ties up pretty well with their league position. But, if we look at Expected Goals For, the picture drastically changes. Everton3   According to Michael Caley’s Expected Goals model, Everton had the second worst attack in the league last season. That’s an attack worse than Sunderland. That’s an attack worse than West Bromwich Albion. You get the picture, you understand rankings – you fully comprehend that’s an attack worse than EVERYONE other than Hull City. And that’s backed up by Paul Riley, who said, of this season, “It’s the worst attacking performance from Everton I have on record”. But, why? What about Everton’s shots isn’t translating into Expected Goals? Everton4   Everton take 49% of their shots from outsize of the box, according to WhoScored, while only 4% of their shots were in the 6 yard box. I’m sure all of us, even you, Charlie Adam, can see why that’s stupid. To contextualise a bit, Chelsea took 41% of their shots from outside the box, and 7% from the 6 yard box. Stoke, with aforementioned punter on the books, took 48% of their shots from outside the area but managed 9% in the six-yard box. Shot location being an issue for Everton explains, at least in part, why Expected Goals rates their attack so poorly. Everton5   The message is echoed in volume, too. Everton managed the 3rd fewest shots in the danger zone, and according to Paul Riley, “along with Hull, [Everton had] the lowest number of danger zone SoTs last season”. Interestingly, Paul goes onto say that “in two of the the three years I have for Martinez at Wigan they were in the bottom two on this measure”, which would imply that this is a direct consequence of Martinez’s idiosyncratic tactics. You have to feel sorry for Romelu Lukaku. On the surface, his mere 10 goals in the league seems poor for someone bought for £28m, but being a striker is as much about finishing chances as getting them. Looking at shots per 90 and key passes per 90 as a crude measure of selfishness/creativity, we can see how uncreative the attackers behind Lukaku are. Ozil is there as a sort of altruistic benchmark – it may be that you can only have one designated creator in a 4231, but Everton have none in their attack (except…err…*arguably*…Aaron Lennon…). Everton6   Everton lean on Baines for his creative ability – in 13/14, he assisted 0.13 per 90; in 14/15, that number rose to 0.29. This could just be random variance, but Baines of the season to just finish played 0.58 more key passes per 90 too. From 13/14 to 14/15, Everton had a marked drop in attacking strength according to Expected Goals. Since there hasn’t been a huge personnel change (signed Lukaku, replaced Deulofeu with Atsu), it may be that Martinez’s tactics are failing to create as many chances as they used to. Perhaps teams have clued up to the Spaniard’s game-plan, or maybe the attackers just had really poor seasons (Mirallas’ assist rate dropped from 0.31 P90 to 0.06, though his NPG90 increased from 0.31 to 0.44). Figuring out the exact cause of Everton’s attack becoming so blunt would probably take more granular analysis, but that it is blunt is there for all to see. This isn’t ExpG under-performance that could be classed as unlucky or variance, this is a massive observable difference in the team’s ability to create chances. Everton7   Average defence and the R word In terms of Expected Goals Against, Everton rank 13th in the league. Everton8   Their defence isn’t particularly bad, but it’s by no means brilliant either. They were expected to concede 7.7 goals more in 14/15 than in 13/14 – in reality, Everton’s 14/15 defence was 11 goals worse off than the one of the year before. Everton9   A big difference that the model won’t be picking up (and may account for the extra goals conceded) between this season and last year can be found just behind the defence, in between the goalposts. Tim Howard’s save % from the danger zone was 57% last year, while the league average is 44%. This year, Everton’s was 43.59%, worsened only by Liverpool and Newcastle. As I pointed out in my piece on Swansea, and Paul did in his Everton season preview, danger-zone save percentage isn’t the most repeatable of metrics. Furthermore, according to Objective Football, Everton’s overall save % (half of the make-up of PDO) of 61.2% was the lowest in the league this season. Paul’s prediction of the effect of the inevitable regression in save percentage was almost perfect: “the numbers suggest it’s far more likely that more of the same next season will result in nearer 50 goals conceded than 40.” In the end, they conceded 50. Conclusion Dafuq happened to Everton, Bobby of a thousand words and countless graphs ago? Well, two extremely noticeable things, as far as we can tell: their attack retired, and Tim Howard regressed from Superman to Clark Kent. The former is a way bigger issue, because attacking prowess is something that can (in theory) be rectified and repeated, whereas danger zone save percentage is always likely to regress to the mean. The difference in Expected Goals For was also much bigger (16.7 goals) than in Expected Goals Against (5.3 goals). If the defence and attack were boats, the defence has a slightly bigger hole in the bottom this year round, while the attack has capsized altogether. Quite why Everton’s tactics worked so much less than the year before, considering a minimal amount of change in personnel, is a harder question to answer. The evidence is there – a lack of danger-zone shots, not enough creative play from attackers, too much shooting outside the box – but pinning the exact causes would probably take far more granular and comparative analysis. It may be infinitely more complex than needing a creator in attack, but I do wonder how this Everton team would play with someone like Gylfi Sigurdsson behind Lukaku. Martinez has to fix his attack, or his promise to Bill Kenwright of Champions League football will become increasingly laughable.         Thanks for reading, and many thanks to Paul Riley and Michael Caley for data. I can be found on Twitter if you wanna discuss the piece.  

Were Swansea Lucky To Finish 8th?

It’s been a confusing season to be both a Swansea fan and maintain an interest in analytics.  On one hand, a record points finish and altogether hugely celebrated season; but on the other, repeated pessimism about Swansea’s “underlying numbers” from the analytics community:

I’ve been left in a sort of un-opinionated grey area – I know that mere point totals aren’t everything, but I’m similarly aware of problems with metrics in general.  A full season since I claimed to be optimistic about Swansea’s chances of breaking into the top half in my StatsBomb Season Preview, I’m unable to gloat shamelessly.

And so, people of the analytics underworld, Swansea fans and any neutrals brave or interested enough to read this, I shall attempt to answer the question that undoubtedly keeps you up at night – “Are Swansea crap?”

Why would they be?

Swansea didn’t shoot much this season relative to how many shots they conceded, basically. Their Total Shots Ratio (TSR) is the 3rd lowest in the league, better than only Burnley and Sunderland.  TSR is a reasonably good indicator of team performance:


But it isn’t perfect.

Swansea are obviously anomalistic here, but two other teams are similarly so: Chelsea and QPR, who over and underperformed respectively based on their TSR.

There’s some explanatory power lost in TSR - this season, the power to explain the best and the worst teams in the league. Which is why the analytics community upgraded with Expected Goals.  In layman's terms, ExpG are the amount of goals a team might have expected to score/concede in a game based on historical trends, predominantly location i.e. Bobby shot from X yards away, and he might have expected a Z chance of scoring. In more complicated terms, they’re this.


As can be seen immediately, ExpG Ratio (ratio of ExpG for and against) was markedly better at explaining point performance this season than TSR. Chelsea and QPR still over/underperformed, but by less.

Swansea, though, are still a prominent outlier, their 16th placed ExpGR contrasting harshly with their 8th placed finish. And this is where one might conclude Swansea are ‘crap’ (or at least not good enough to be 8th) and lucky. Not one of the two, but both. Their point performance should, over some period of time, regress, possibly deflating the wheels of the Monk bandwagon balloon before it had any time to properly get going.

Picking apart their overperformance

Michael Caley’s wonderfully public ExpG model has Swansea scoring 41.2 goals last year and conceding 53.7. In reality, they scored 46 and conceded 49, which (+4.8 and -4.7) is almost identical overperformance in both Swansea’s attacking and defending.

The question, then, becomes not “Are Swansea crap?” but “Is there anything that might suggest Swansea’s overperformance is a product of anything other than luck/variance?” A less catchy title, and one with huge confirmation bias problems for a Swansea fan to examine.  But maybe, just maybe, Swansea are anomalistic because of footballing idiosyncrasies.

Unusual attacking style

Swansea are a hipster club for a reason, their possession football mantra setting them apart from the otherwise boring mediocrity of mid-table.  This season, though, Swansea’s football has been (on the surface) much less atypical.  Monk is far more focused on adaptability and contextualised match tactics rather than the poetic Laudrupian ‘go forth and pass’ mantra, which has been hard for people to criticise given the record points total etc.

But if you look at the type of shots Swansea take, they remain unusual for a mid-table side. The percentage of shots they take from a through-ball (6.4%) is the fifth highest in the league, with Arsenal, Manchester United, West Brom and Manchester City ahead of them in this particular measure.  And the percentage of shots they take from a cross (40.7%) is the sixth lowest; only Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, City and United rely on crossing less.  Swansea’s attack shares some of the characteristics with the ‘big sides’ that tend to differentiate them from the minnows, but differs in terms of volume of production.

Examining United’s overperformance in the 2012/13 season, Daniel Altman highlighted two possibilities (other than luck) – set piece goals, and Robin Van Persie.  Swansea, however, scored the least set piece goals last season (4) and Gomis, although he came to late form, only scored 7 of his 69 Premier League shots while Bony, at the club until January, scored 9 of his 66. Ki Sung Yueng managed 8 goals from 28 shots though, giving him a ridiculous conversion rate of 28.6% from centre-midfield. According to objective football's numbers, this is the highest shot conversion rate of ANYONE in the league to have played more than 1000 minutes.

I’m trying desperately to avoid a “the key to…is Ki” pun here, for the record, but Monk’s switch to a diamond in January allowed Ki more freedom to attack and he definitely made the most of it. It’s unlikely that Swansea’s over-performance in attack comes from them creating chances uniquely unexplainable by ExpG, especially given their similarity in style with the big clubs for whom ExpG was pretty accurate this season.

A fair portion of their 4.8 goal over-performance might be explained by Ki’s unusually high conversion rate. Sadly for us Swans, this isn’t particularly repeatable - Ki’s own conversion rates were 7.5% and 0% in the two seasons prior to this one. For Swansea’s attack to score as many or more next season, Monk should look to drastically increase the amount of passes they make in the final third. Only Palace manage less than Swansea per90, and that suits their extremely different attacking style more.  Gylfi Sigurdsson is key to this.

His drop in performance in the second half of the season may have been because of a formation change, but I’d be wary of viewing Bony’s exit as only a loss of goals.  Bony’s hold up play facilitated Swansea’s slower attacks and gave Gylfi freedom, Bafe Gomis has been less good at this despite his late surge of goals.

Fab-ulous defence

PDO is a loose measure for ‘luck’ or unsustainable variance.  It combines a shooting component (goals for/shots on target for) and a saves component (100 minus goals against/shots on target against). Swansea’s PDO for last season was 105.4, the 4th highest in the league and noticeably higher than the league average of 100. Based on what we’ve already been through, it may be obvious that Swansea’s high PDO isn’t primarily attack driven: Swansea’s shooting component (scoring %) is 31.4, closer to the league average of 30.4 than any other team.

One man is the reason for Swansea’s high PDO, and his name is Lukasz Fabianski.  Swansea’s saves component (save %) is 74.3, the highest in the league, followed closely by Chelsea with 74.2 and less closely by West Ham with 73.7.  According to Paul Riley, Fabianski has the highest danger zone shots saved percentage of any goalkeeper in the league in the last five years.

This would go some way to explaining Swansea’s over-performance in defence against ExpG, which can’t account for Fabianski’s ridiculous shot stopping. In one of his weekly round-ups, James Yorke illustrated the effects of a noticeable difference in save percentage on the output of the otherwise statistically similar Swansea and Leicester.

So that’s good, right – Swansea have a great keeper?

Well, much like with Ki but to a far more important degree, the issue here is repeatability.  Fabianski might be a fantastic keeper, and is almost certainly better than the general perception of him a year ago, but keeping up this level of shot-stopping is extremely unlikely.

Swansea need to look at stopping the danger zone shots altogether, not relying on Fabianski to save them.

Wrapping it up

Are Swansea crap? Err. Umm.

Completely objectively, they’re probably lucky to be 8th, especially given they’re the 6th worst team both in terms of ExpG for and against. Through separating and cross examining attack and defence, we’ve seen that the factors that probably pushed their ExpG overperformance to allow them to finish so high are also unlikely to be repeated.

This isn’t great news for a Swansea fan. But issues only really start to arise if Swansea, and Monk in particular, were to take their 8th placed finish for granted. Of course luck is involved, albeit to an arguable degree; it would be criminal for Monk to look back at the 1-0 away wins at Arsenal, United and Southampton and not realise that in most timelines you come back with 0 points, not 9.

My analysis has been inherently retrospective, but how well one can evaluate this season depends hugely on the next.

Say Swansea post similar numbers and still finish 8th, it becomes increasingly likely that they’re doing something unique (and repeatable) that the models aren’t picking up.  Sure, hoping this happens might be naïve on my part, but isn’t that kind of the point of supporting a football team?

Discussion: I'd be really interested in any thoughts on this piece/methodology.

You can find me at @BobbyGardiner on the ol' Twitter.