Season in review 2020-21 | Talking Tactics
Football stats experts WhoScored.com take a look back at Swansea City's 2020-21 campaign, assessing some of the stand-out performers and statistics from a memorable season.
Swansea City were right in the thick of the promotion battle all the way through a gruelling season, but there just wasn't enough left in the tank to secure a Premier League return at Brentford's expense. The Swans fell to a 2-0 loss to the Bees at Wembley at the end of May and, while promotion would have been the cherry on the cake, 2020-21 was still a season of positives for the South Wales side.
In his second full season in club management, Steve Cooper won a legion of admirers throughout the division for the way he set his side up to play on the front foot, but with a solid defensive foundation underpinning it all. Indeed, Swansea ended the season with a WhoScored.com rating of 6.73, that the joint-fourth best in the division.
Excluding the play-offs, only Watford (30) and Norwich (36) conceded fewer goals than Swansea (39) in the Championship last season, a fine achievement considering the sale of Joe Rodon to Tottenham last October. Up stepped Ben Cabango to succeed his compatriot, and after a solid breakthrough campaign, the Wales international excelled in the Swansea backline.
Cabango finished the season as Swansea's best rated player with a WhoScored.com rating of 7.12 and, while he was unable to help the Swans to a spot in the Premier League, the 21-year-old can head off to Euro 2020 with the Dragons with his head held high.
The youngster ended up making 4.9 clearances per game in 2020/21, that more than any other player aged 21 and under, and this proactive approach to defending the Swansea goal was a key reason for their watertight backline.
Another was the work of those shielding the defence from dangerous opposition attacks. Matt Grimes put in another solid shift from midfield over the course of the campaign and, while he didn't quite play every possible minute for the Swans as he did the previous campaign, he still clocked up the fourth most minutes (4,147) in the division.
Skipper Grimes put that playing time to good use, too, as he made more tackles and interceptions combined (167) than any other Championship midfielder in 2020-21. An adept performer off the ball, the Swansea skipper also impressed when he won possession with 2,063 accurate. passes. That figure second only to Norwich loanee Oliver Skipp (2,208) among midfielders.
Considering Grimes boasts statistically calculated WhoScored.com strengths of 'passing', 'ball interception' and 'tackling', these were three traits he put to exceptional use to help Swansea to within 90 minutes of Premier League football for 2021-22. These qualities to his game saw Grimes return a WhoScored.com rating of 6.97 in 2020-21, that the fourth best of all Swansea players, with Andre Ayew (7.10) and Ryan Bennett (6.98) finishing second and third, respectively, behind Cabango.
Ayew once again played an important role for Cooper's side last season as he ended the campaign with 17 goals and four assists to his name, meaning he had a direct hand in 36.2% of Swansea's total Championship goals. They were important, too, as they earned Swansea an additional 10 points over the season, while his strike against Barnsley in the play-off semi-finals gave the Swans the ideal platform to book their place in the final.
The 31-year-old also earned seven WhoScored.com man-of-the-match awards last season, matching his best return in a domestic campaign from 2019-20 and he leaves Swansea a fan favourite after yet another impressive season under Cooper. Ayew isn't the only key performer that will be leaving Swansea this summer either.
A host of loan players will be returning to their parent club following the culmination of the campaign. Freddie Woodman and Marc Guehi both remained in Wales following their respective impressive stints in 2019-20, while Conor Hourihane joined the Swans in January on loan from Aston Villa.
Woodman was a fine last line of defence for the Swans in 2020-21 and he kept more clean sheets (21) than any other goalkeeper, while a 70.5% save success rate was the seventh best of those to have featured in more than half of their games for their respective side.
"It's probably been the best two years of my life playing here. I've fallen in love with the place and developed so much. I hope this isn't the last game I play in a Swansea shirt," Woodman said following the Championship final defeat to Brentford and supporters have been appreciative of a player who has brought into the club and the city and local community.
Guehi is another whose good form in the Championship has not gone unnoticed. The 20-year-old Chelsea defender has Premier League suitors, but he'll be fondly remembered by Swans supporters and for good reason. Of the 190 players to attempt 50 or more tackles in the Championship last season, Guehi's tackle success rate of 84.3% was the seventh best in the division to reinforce a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'tackling'.
Hourihane enjoyed a commendable campaign in a Swansea shirt following his January arrival. The Aston Villa loanee scored five times in total for Swansea last season, three of which were from outside of the box. Given he only joined at the beginning of 2021, and only four Championship players scored more goals from distance, it's a notable return for the Republic of Ireland international.
Nevertheless, while play-off final heartbreak is tough to stomach, Swansea will be all the stronger for it coming into the 2021-22 season. The defeat to Brentford will only add to the motivation and, having finished in the semi-finals in 2019-20 and in the play-off final last season, fans will hope that the third time is the charm for the Swans in the coming campaign.