No shot at survival?

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Here’s some light bedtime reading for Swans fans — a table showing the teams that took the fewest shots overall and had the fewest shots on target for each Premier League season of the “Enlightened Era” (2009-10 and onwards), when such records began:

Shots per Game
On Target pg
Hull, 10.2
Stoke, 3
Birmingham, 10.6
Birmingham, 3.2
Stoke, 9.9
Stoke, 2.5
Stoke, 10.3
Stoke, 3
Palace, 10.9
West Ham, 3.2
Sunderland, 10.7
Burnley, 3.3
Aston Villa, 10
West Brom, 2.8
Boro, 9.2
Boro, 2.6
Swansea, 8
Swansea, 2

It’ll come as a surprise to no-one that Swansea are on course to set new lows in both categories, and if you think that’s a bad omen, you’d be right.

Of the 12 teams in that table which aren’t Swansea, 5 of them were relegated (in bold): Hull, Birmingham, Burnley, Villa, and Boro.

Another 4 teams survived in part because of their skill at set-pieces (in italics): all three Stoke teams and West Brom, who each owe a debt of gratitude to Tony Pulis — he managed every one of those sides (pretty sure if Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente had joined West Brom, the Baggies would qualify for the Champions League this season).

Only Crystal Palace, West Ham and Sunderland survived without leaning too heavily on set-pieces, with Sunderland eventually relegated 2 seasons later having posted remarkably similar figures the year they went down (10.2 shots pg, 3.1 on target).

Swansea’s set-piece prowess towards the end of last season in particular may have masked poor shooting figures in open play, and since this season’s dead-ball set-up is laughably bad, Swansea are under more pressure than most to score goals. It’s painfully obvious this side needs to take more shots. A this point, even the quality of shot doesn’t matter; a team this shy needs to concentrate on quantity first and foremost.

With that in mind, here’s a formation I suggested in a twitter discussion. It’s based on a back three in order to get more bodies forward, and the seven positions ahead of the defence feature five of Swansea’s top six shooters this season.

The defence is more or less the usual, but since Kyle Naughton has struggled this season, I’ve chosen Jordan Ayew as right wing back instead. Ayew is among the sides hardest working players. He also knows how to tackle (4th best with 2 per game) and is second on the team with 1.5 shots per game. Martin Olsson is the Swans best and only left back, and if he can recapture his offensive game from last season, the side can use him to provide width in attack.

The two deepest midfielders are newcomers Roque Mesa and Renato Sanches. Mesa is there as a defensive screen and to drive the engine room — his second half performance against Watford shows he knows how to run a team from deep. Sanches has had a shaky start, but anyone who watched Euro 2016 knows he has ability. The more often he plays and the more trust is shown in him, the sooner he’ll rediscover that form. I also like Leroy Fer for this position, but although I’m a fan of the Dutchman, you’ve got to hope that Sanches can play a level higher given some encouragement; he’s a wildcard whose performance level could soar dramatically at any time. The Portuguese also likes to shoot, managing 0.8 per game, which given his position and the paucity of Swansea’s attack this season actually counts as good.

Ki Sung-Yueng gets to play in the hole, the position his skill set was made for. Regular readers will know how I feel about the Korean — I’ve never been a fan of Ki in a Swansea shirt, because he’s always asked to play as a defensive midfielder, and he simply isn’t one. He’s slow, non-physical, poor in the tackle and poor in the air. He also lacks imagination when played too deep, labouring over sending five yard passes backwards and sideways, which is a waste of his talent — he’s actually surprisingly creative in the final third, and can both see and play a through ball better than anyone else on the side. Add in his long shot ability — which Swans fans have seen precious little of due to his seemingly permanent mismanagement — and I honestly believe that the midfielder I would have chosen as the most expendable of all before the season could actually unlock Swansea’s goalscoring potential, if only he is used properly for the first time in five years.

Up front we’ve got the two big boys, Tammy Abraham and Wilfried Bony, good for 1st and 3rd in shots taken per game (1.8 and 1.3 respectively). Bony’s link-up play and physical nuisance factor should theoretically open all kinds of windows for the agile and opportunistic Abraham. Bony is one tool Paul Clement hasn’t yet been able to use all that much due to injuries, but with Swansea ailing badly in the standings and posting shooting figures that will relegate the team, he’d better start using him now and hope he can find his 2014 form. If Swansea can’t literally double their shooting numbers by Christmas, this side are going to be phoning Sam Allardyce, and I’m not sure Big Sam could cope with the irony of taking a top-flight job off an English manager.