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What is causing Swindon Town to concede so many chances?

Swindon Town have struggled defensively this season and have often given up presentable chances to their opposition. Total Sport’s Joe Acklam looked into what has been making Swindon defensively frail so far this season.

According to data from The Analyst, Swindon have given up the  highest open play xG in League Two, having conceded 14.19 across their 16 matches.

This stat shows in very basic terms that there is a problem defensively for Town as they are consistently conceding high quality chances, however it does not show what is going wrong in their structure to cause them to give away these opportunities.

To attempt to diagnose what frequent problems that existed in the Swindon defence, I decided to watch back every goal that Swindon have conceded this season to see if there were any patterns and themes to the goals opposition teams were scoring.

Chance Location Volume
Left 3
Right 3
Centre 6
Goal type Volume
Turnover/ transition/ counter attack 6
Set Piece 3
Error 1
Cross/ cutback 5

The things which came up frequently were that Swindon struggled defensively when they were not able to be in their set shape, two of the three set piece goals were conceded during the second phase, and four out of the five crosses were scored either in transition or in the second phase of the original cross.

When Swindon are able to keep their shape and defend in the positions they are comfortable in they rarely give away goals and chances, but when they aren’t allowed to be in position then they struggle.

Swindon have the second highest average possession in League Two with 59% and it is natural for a possession based team to concede more goals in moments of transition as opposition teams will rarely sustain attacks for long periods because they have fewer of these moments within games.

Swindon have conceded most of their goals originating from central areas, but this is slightly deceptive as that has changed as the season has gone on.

It would appear that area of weakness has been solved in the last few games but instead Swindon have become more exposed out wide, possibly due to the higher positions the full-backs have been taking up.

Prior to Tyreik Wright’s opener for Bradford, the previous four goals Town had conceded were all scored by third man runs by players who were not the striker in a situation where Swindon had not been able to regroup defensively.

This shows the centre backs have more or less done their jobs defensively as the last striker to have scored against Swindon was Ryan Taylor for Grimsby Town, but the players in front of them have not been recovering well enough to prevent midfielders and wide players from scoring.

There are two potential explanations for that, it could either be because of a lack of effort in recovery from players in forward areas or that Swindon's rest defence is putting players in positions which make it difficult to effectively get back and stop the opposition.

Their current shape when Swindon have the ball creates a four-man box in the middle of the pitch where the two centre backs and the two deeper midfielders are the deepest players and puts Swindon in a good position to stop counter attacks coming up the middle.

In doing this, it creates space out wide for teams to attack and this has been causing problems as it is in these situations where goals are coming from.

However, football is all about compromise as you will never be able to cover off the whole pitch with 11 players, so if Lindsey believes that playing this way is going to lead to his side scoring more goals than they concede then it is a risk worth taking.

However, if it continues to be an achilles heel that costs them then Lindsey needs to look to to strike a balance between getting players forward to be creative and score goals, but also being aware of space behind them and being in the right places for when the ball does change hands.

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Swindon Town FC

Swindon Town Football Club

STFC are Swindon's top football team, based at The County Ground Stadium.

The County Ground, County Road, Swindon, Wiltshire , SN1 2ED

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