Four goals in seven league games is the stark reality of the Swansea City vintage of 2021/22 as they spurned some chances, saw others saved by the keeper but ultimately had a third 0-0 draw of the season at home last night.
Just four days after the same scoreline against Hull at the weekend, the Swans were never looking a side likely to turn their dominance in possession into sustained periods of pressure and whilst they cannot hide from the fact that both games produced just four shots on target each.
Those stats put into perspective the output from 69% possession (Hull) and 63% (Millwall) together with 654 successful passes (Hull) and 521 (Millwall) but highlights a problem that has dogged several managers before Russell Martin is that we are not a creative team.
As with last Saturday there was some nice intricate passing but the further up the field we got the less successful that passing became less and less intricate and Millwall were able – relatively easily to keep the Swans at bay.
Matt Grimes and Liam Walsh both tested the keeper with free kicks – the latter seeing a very good save produced – but outside of that the best chance fell to Michael Obafemi who agonisingly saw his effort go just wide of the post just as it looked as if it may break his duck for the Swans.
Indeed, when you look at the stats at the end of the game Millwall had as many shots on goal although- for the second game – Ben Hamer was never really tested in the home goal as the Lions joined the Tigers in taking away the point that they came here to earn.
Four games at home this season have yielded three points and just one goal – one that came when we were already three of them in deficit to Stoke – which is a worrying trend and one that has to be addressed by Russell Martin.
Whether it was the introduction of the personnel or just the visitors tiring but we were far more dangerous with Obafemi and Walsh on the pitch than off it and that has to be a lesson that is sinking in with the manager this morning.
The first half unfortunately was a tale of similarity for the Swans as static passing will never break down a side well organised in defence and there was a reason that possession and passes were far higher in the first half then the second and that was because Millwall were happy for us to have the ball in the non-danger areas of the pitch.
It is clear – and this is not unique to Russell Martin – that the first half is very much about ensuring we gain control of the ball as much as possible and retain it. Passes are plentiful and whilst some may point to them being in the opposition half, the stats of touches in the opposition box will tell you the reality of the pattern of play in the first half.
Jamie Paterson let go the best chance of the first period when he was unable to get any accurate touch on a pass from Ethan Laird who had left the defence static with his speed and touch to lay on the opportunity. It was a rare moment of excitement in a first half that really suggested a season of struggle ahead of us unless we can break down sides that line up against us like Hull and Millwall.
Second halves do change pattern likely, partly as tired legs start to come into play but partly as I believe visitors believe we are there for the taking. Spaces start to open up and we did what we could to exploit these spaces but there are different deficiencies that need addressing. We are a shot shy team (and have been for some time) and often the opportunity to shoot is given up for another pass and all too often a pass that breaks up the move itself and allows the defence to regroup and defend easier.
Grimes produced a save from the keeper from a free kick but it was a routine save but Walsh can certainly claim he made the keeper work hard from his free kick in the dying moments of the game.
It’s difficult to know which one of the two performances were better from the home double header this week. I would say the second half against Millwall filled me with slightly more confidence but it is difficult to know if this is because the players were tiring all over the pitch which opened the game up more or because we are slowly getting to where we are supposed to be aiming.
So the plus point is we went two games unbeaten with two clean sheets but the negatives are definitely one goal in three hundred and sixty league minutes at home this season and the lack of creativity is as stark and real now as it was for large parts last season. And that does worry me. Greatly.
Luton on Saturday will be an interesting test but we do need to start getting three points from games on the board soon to build the confidence as much as anything.
MATCH FACTS AND LINE UPS
OTHER CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS
NEXT UP FOR THE SWANS