How can Swindon’s opposition score if they don’t have the ball?
Swindon Town’s strategy under Mark Cooper is meant to be one of dominance in possession and passing football, and yet our opponents seem to be scoring frequently of late. Ron Smith asks how can the opposition score if they seemingly don’t have the ball?
Looking at the key statistics after the pathetic weekend FA Cup defeat, I couldn’t have been the only one to notice that victors Macclesfield Town scored four goals without reply despite Swindon Town winning 59% of the possession. It was also how the Silkmen turned their 41% possession into 14 shots – of which eight were on-target – when Town managed only five shots and a single Ryan Mason shot on target.
The ability of our opponents to score more than one has been the story of the season so far. In Swindon’s 20 games, we’ve conceded in a total of 13 and on averaging conceding 2.08 goals per game. Compare this ratio to the 2012/13 season when Town conceded an average of 1.56 goals per game.
Swindon have been largely dominant in possession too this season, winning the battle for the ball on 12 matches, playing out for 50/50 in three, and losing possession five times – versus Wolves, Preston, Walsall, Plymouth and MK Dons – but only in two of these matches did the opposition’s percentage go above 52%. However, the percentage won by Town has been hardly Barcelonaesque, flirting around the 50-58% level, still providing opponents with important time to build their own momentum.
Importantly, winning the possession battle does correspond to higher instances of Swindon being able to secure a clean sheet. Town have secured seven clean sheets from their 20 games, with six of those secured in games when 53% or more possession has been won by the Robins. A further one instance occurred when drawing possession. However, of those 12 games in which Town have won more than half of possession, it still remains just a 50% likelihood for clean sheets in those circumstances. But is this high a enough return..?
The worry is that in the previous two games Town have won – above average – 59% and 63% respectively of the ball, yet they’ve conceded six goals. While five were easily scored against Port Vale, the fact they were able to seemingly waltz through the central defence twice underlined the weakness in the defence to concede at least two per game. As for Macclesfield, I just can’t bear to watch as Town’s defence make such simple errors against the Silkmen’s rapid attacking.
Fortunately, excluding Port Vale and Macclesfield, Town have conceded in only two games in eight when winning at least 53% possession – at Peterborough and Shrewsbury. However for whatever reasons, whether it be a dip in form; laziness; complacency; tiredness after dominating possession; or purely retaining possession deep and making mistakes close to our goal, these instances are inexcusable and exceptions to the usual rule that our opposition fortunately don’t score when they don’t have the ball.