Swansea City RAI 19-20 Awards & Analysis

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Swansea City Team Leaders

Among players who played at least a quarter of the season (11.5 games, or 1035 mins). League and playoffs matches only. Reference the 2019-20 season RAI figures here.

Overall Leaders
Most Points (Goals + Assists): Andre Ayew 30
Most Goals: Andre Ayew 16
Most Overall Assists: Connor Gallagher 15
Most Primary Assists: Matt Grimes 10
Most Secondary Assists: Connor Roberts 7
Most Game-Winning Goals*: Andre Ayew 6
Most Set-Piece Goals: Andre Ayew 3
Most Penalties Won: Andre Ayew & Jordan Garrick 2
Most Penalties Scored: Andre Ayew 5 of 6

Per-Game (90 mins) Leaders
Most Points-per-Game: Rhian Brewster 0.83
Most Goals-per-Game: Rhian Brewster 0.53
Most Assists-per-Game: Connor Gallagher 0.73

Reading Between the Lines

The Good

MVP: Andre Ayew. The leading goalscorer also led in game-winners (6) and set-piece goals (3). His Points-per-Game total is only lower than some of the other players because of the monster amount of minutes he played, and because he played half the season without Connor Gallagher and Rhian Brewster to combine with.

Lethal Weapon: Rhian Brewster. The on-loan striker averaged a goal every other game in a Swans shirt, and his ability at the business end of the pitch meant Swansea finished as the league’s 8th-highest scorers.

Unsung Hero: Jay Fulton. The unglamorous midfielder beat Bersant Celina in Points-per-Game, no mean feat for a player ostensibly used in a deeper defensive role. He tied for fifth-top-goalscorer (3), netting more than attack-minded players like Celina or George Byers, and chipped in with 10 total assists.

Secret String-Puller: Connor Roberts and Jake Bidwell notched 13 secondary assists between them, a bigger contribution to the Swans attacking play than less comprehensive statistics would ever show. The full-backs thrived as wing-backs once Steve Cooper took the shackles off by switching to 3-4-1-2. To illustrate how much the formation change benefited the pair consider this – Bidwell and Roberts combined for 22 points (goals plus assists) this season. 13 of those points came in the first 41 games of the season. The remaining 9 points – a 41% share of their total – came in the 7 games played with the new formation.

Iron Man: Matt Grimes played every single minute of league football available this season (4320 minutes), which is why his PPG (0.27) doesn’t look particularly impressive, despite notching 13 assists (the majority from corner kicks). Given Swansea’s lack of deep midfielders, an injury to Grimes this season could have seriously derailed the Swans playoff push. His durability was a huge asset to a thin squad. With a considerably shorter off-season this year, Swansea have to pick up proper cover quickly or risk running Grimes into the ground before Christmas.

One to Watch: Yan Dhanda. The young playmaker hit 0.75 points-per-game in just under 10 games worth of minutes, with a nearly equal blend of goals (3) and assists (4). If he can sustain that production given more playing time next season, he’ll be a serious asset to Swansea.

Special Mention: for Wayne Routledge. The veteran’s heroics in the season finale versus Reading pushed his points-per-game total to 0.85, a pinch better than Rhian Brewster’s 0.83. Routledge missed out on the above awards section having just fallen short of the minimum games-played mark. The winger played a total of 955 minutes, just 70 minutes short of the cut-off. Not so much “impact sub” as “impact player”.

The Bad

Room for Improvement (Player): When a number 10 is getting out-gunned by a number 6, something’s wrong. Bersant Celina slumped a little this year (0.47 PPG vs 0.55 from last season) though that was in part because he was shunted out wide, victimised by the January acquisition of Connor Gallagher who was more consistent and ultimately deserved to start ahead of the Kosovan.

However, another look at Swansea’s first goal in January’s 2-1 win over Wigan shows what might have been had the two been allowed to play alongside one another centrally in a “Magic Rectangle” formation or similar. If Gallagher doesn’t rejoin the club next season then Steve Cooper has to trust Celina to take over, not least because Swansea could use his pace, an asset he’s seldom given credit for – witness his burst through the middle on the Brewster goal in the second leg versus Brentford, for example.

Room for Improvement (Team): Swansea managed to go a whole season without scoring from a direct free kick. The closest they came was Rhian Brewster’s strike against Millwall which was awarded as an own goal as it went in off the back of the keeper. Next season, the Swans either need to sign a free-kick specialist or revise their direct free kick strategy. Perhaps a more creative approach can work instead?

Flattering to Deceive: George Byers. Byers’s stock shot up this season largely due to a single heavy tackle in the South Wales derby, but his figures are bewilderingly low compared to his peers. In the equivalent of 23 games, Byers managed only 2 goals and a solitary secondary assist, and that’s using my generous Regressive Assists model.

Apologists might be quick to point out Byers was often used in a defensive role – typically as relief for Jay Fulton – and so shouldn’t be expected to produce, but Fulton’s own numbers destroy that argument. Just as often, Byers was used as an 8 or 10 and still produced next to nothing. The midfielder’s greatest asset – his willingness to commit to the cause – has actually hurt him, as he has been used by Steve Cooper as an energetic band-aid to cover holes in midfield and relieve others from the bench, rather than having his own role carved out based on his footballing skills.

None of this is the player’s fault. Swansea’s dearth of proper defensive midfield cover has been the catalyst for Byers’s unsuccessful transformation into a midfield swiss-army knife. It takes an elite standard of player to be able to cover two or more completely different roles equally well, and Byers is still learning the game. He needs to be coached into a specific role where he can polish the associated technical aspects of his play (probably as a #10), or risk becoming just another utility man in a lower league system overflowing with them. For his effort alone, Byers deserves better.

The Unknown

The Future: Swansea’s January loan signings elevated the team to playoff-contention this season, but assuming Brewster and Gallagher will be gone next season, Swansea will be looking to replace 9 goals and 18 assists – and those are partial-season figures, which project to 23 goals and 47 assists over a 46-game schedule. It could easily be worse if Ayew is sold, and suitors should be forthcoming given his figures this season. Celina has to reprise his role at #10 in place of Gallagher if the team are to maximse his talent, but with players in other positions leaving or likely to (Mike van der Hoorn, Kyle Naughton, Ben Wilmot), next season’s Swansea will be an entirely different beast.

Cooper would do well to stick with the 3-4-1-2 and identify new faces that will fit into any vacant roles as naturally as possible. A team with diminished resources cannot afford to carry a barn full of wingers while playing a winger-less system, or hamstring their best talents by shoe-horning players into the wrong positions. Cooper has caught a lot of flak this season largely for learning on the job, but it is his connections in football’s youth set-up that allowed Brewster, Gallagher and Marc Guehi (who was excellent in the final stretch) to come to Swansea. Those players transformed Swansea’s season.

An Under-17’s World Cup winning manager, Cooper’s reputation at developing talent is such that Chelsea pulled Gallagher out of Charlton mid-season to have him work under the Welshman instead – a move that probably relegated Charlton. That speaks volumes about the respect Cooper commands as a talent developer, and Swansea will need to parlay that reputation into further fruitful loan signings to compete again next season.


All mentions of assists refer to my Regressive Assists model.
*Game-winning goals are the goal which made the difference in the result. For example, the second goal in a 3-1 victory, or the third in a 3-2 victory.