Anyone looking at the Championship table before the start of the Swans win at Barnsley last night, would have probably thought an easy three points was on its way back to south Wales.
The reality was however that it took the Swans until the 74th minute to open the scoring, after substitutes Ryan Manning and Olivier Ntcham combined for the Frenchman to slide in Swansea’s opener.
Five minutes later, Jamie Paterson had made it 2-0, after a length of the field move started by goalkeeper Ben Hamer.
What was probably the most surprising is that it took the Swans so long to score, having completely dominated the ball with 79% possession up to that point.
Truth be told, although the Swans had the monopoly on possession, it did feel sometimes that it was passing for the sake of passing, with little end product – illustrated by 81.4% possession and 478 accurate passes, but 0 shots on target in the opening 45 minutes.
Some might say it was the Swans merely playing a patient, starve the opposition of the ball tactic against a clearly poor and low in confidence Barnsley side – only Russell Martin and his staff will know the real reason for what was, at times, a ponderous first half showing, despite the dominance.
Thankfully, the introduction of Ntcham for Downes on 64 minutes and Manning for Bidwell on 72 minutes, had the desired effect, as the Swans finally began to show some purpose and threat to match their dominance of the ball.
Naughton the Pass Master
Perhaps the most telling stat of all though involves Kyle Naughton, who played in the middle of the three centre backs last night, with Ben Cabango on the left and Ryan Bennett on the right.
During the 90 minutes, Naughton produced a total of 161 accurate passes, which quite remarkably is 9 more than the entire Barnsley team put together – they mustered just 152 between them!
Matty Grimes produced 147 accurate passes, so he wasn’t far behind either.
You can make up your own mind whether or not that says more about Barnsley than it does about our possession based game.
Passing Teams to Death
Of course, whilst a possession and passing based game may sometimes lack penetration and not always be productive, there is no denying that without the ball the opposition can’t hurt you.
The Swans total of 811 accurate passes in the win at Barnsley was the most by a team in a league game within the top four tiers of English football this season.
It was also the highest game total by a Championship side since Fulham in August 2019, who managed 935 passes against Millwall.
And with the Swans now just 4 points outside the Play-Off places, it is easy to see why Russell Martin is clearly making an impression just shy of 4 months into the job.
Barnsley v Swansea City Highlights
Next up for the Swans is the visit of Reading to the Swansea dot com stadium on Saturday.