Match Analysis: Ashley Williams

28th October 2013

After a 0-0 home draw with West Ham at the Liberty, Anthony Colangelo reflects on returning captain Ashley Williams' performance via statistical analysis.

Ashley Williams returned to captain his Swansea City side superbly in their tense scoreless draw with West Ham on Sunday afternoon.

After a spell out of the side with injury, Williams did not only slip back into the team comfortably, he controlled the contest both defensively and offensively.

While his team typically monopolized possession and the attacking flow of the game, Williams's prime responsibility remained in repelling a gritty opposition and this determination was called upon in this particularly tense and quick encounter.

Below, Williams' defensive dashboard shows the vital 12 clearances the Welsh skipper made. For comparison sake, the Premier League average high is 12, held by Nemanja Vidic.

Represented by the circles, half of these were made in the box with all of them being deemed effective. Williams is ranked ninth in the Premier League for this statistic averaging 9.8 a game.

West Ham chose to hurt the Swans by counter attacking from an ultra-defensive base and the first half in particular saw Sam Allerdyce's team take a cautious approach to the match.  It proved effective as they had 10 shots on goal to two by half-time.

It also meant Swansea had a lot of time in possession, in particular Chico Flores and Williams.  The pair passed the ball to each other a staggering 44 times. Williams also passed or received the ball in exchanges with midfielders Leon Britton and Jonathan de Guzman 20 and 18 times respectively.  He also had 39 passes with left-back Neil Taylor.

This meant Williams not only took on a huge defensive responsibility but also led the side when generating attacks. He was forced to recycle possession when his team could not find a hole further forward.  Impressively he passed with an 89% efficiency rate with a total of 94 passes.

Williams' average positional heat map below demonstrates how high up the pitch he influenced the match. This high position was not affected by the fact West Ham were by no means suppressed by Swansea's grip on possession. The Londoners still managed 15 shots on goal to Swansea's 10 for the game.

In comparison, look at the average position of his opposite number, Winston Reid - a much more reserved illustration of a central defender.

With the deepest outfield player in Williams and Chico taking up such high but risky base positions it allows the rest of the team in front of them to attack the opposition closer to goal.

Williams' dominance when blocking West Ham counter attacks and setting up and controlling Swansea's build up showed just how important a player the captain is.  He could be heard clearly from the stands marshalling his side into shape and his return is a welcome one before the Swans travel to Cardiff for the Barclays Premier League's first ever Welsh derby.