Talking tactics (MSN)

The Xavi from the Valley

By SportUK 17/01/2012 13:25

Conventional wisdom holds that Xavi is the best passer of a football in Europe, and probably the world.


But it's wrong. And the stats prove it. Nor do any of the the midfield magician's Barcelona stable-mates hold the crown, despite gaining an impressive eight nominations between them in Fifa's player of the year competition. Leon Britton, Swansea

In fact, among Europe's top five leagues the player you can back to pick out a team-mate most often is Swansea City’s Leon Britton.


The 29-year-old midfielder tops a pile that features some of the best-known footballers from the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1.


Britton’s central midfield partner Joe Allen also features in the top 10, which illustrates the style of football Brendon Rogers has instilled in his side.

Best passing players table

                                            Players with 1000+ passes only


As for the team as a whole, Swansea lie sixth in the table; above Italian giants AC Milan and Roma and north London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal – who are generally credited with playing the most attractive football in England at the moment.


Less of a surpries is that all-conquering Barcelona lead the way in passing, a full 2.2 percentage points better in their accuracy than closest rivals Bayern Munich.

Best passing teams table

So should Fabio Capello give Britton a chance? Should Rogers be a genuine candidate for the soon to be vacated England manager’s role?


Let me know @msnuksport_rob


Whatever your thoughts, there's no doubt that Swansea have been refreshing to watch this season and maybe results like that against Arsenal will become less of a surprise from now on.


  • You can compare the stats from Swansea players with any of their Premier League rivals on our club pages.
17/01/2012 19:20
Some of the comments below are lame, at best. Having a go at a player just because he's statistically the top passer of a ball in Europe, come on... Stinks of jealousy.... If Leon was in your team you'd be delighted.
To be fair his success is not just down to him knocking the ball around, but also the fact that the other players at Swansea are excellent off the ball and find space so Leon can pass. Swansea play posession football and Leon is the distribution hub.

Too many people are hung up on big name players, all they are interested in is making a name for themselves. Football is a team game, Swansea are an excellent team with players who understand each other and play for each other.
I assume any criticism aimed at the SWANS is down to them destroying "the best footballing side in England."
17/01/2012 14:23
Good on the lad....great pass completion rate, but its not the amount of passes, or how successful they are.
Instead its how influential the pass is, i can can have a 100% pass completion rate from 5 yard passes.....but only the best can thread a 30/40 yard ball that can split a deffence wide open
17/01/2012 18:02
I wonder how Xavi would get on playing in the Swansea side ?
I wonder how Britton would get on in the Barcelona side ?

Reading some of the comments, there's a bit of snobbery against Swansea and Britton, it's a small squad with lower resources but they are handling themselves well for now, and hopefully will continue to do so for a while.

17/01/2012 15:23
Agree with Luke, look at Xavi, the passes he plays are not only consistent, but regular defence splitters, or phenominal long balls and switches through play. I watched Swansea v Arsenal and being a Gunner myself i have to admit Swansea impressed me, they don't use moves like barca, or not even Arsenal on the night. But their consistency playing from back to front without giving the ball away is flawless, very impressive. Thats whats costing Arsenal for me and Swansea deserve credit for their acheivments and style
17/01/2012 14:11
it is fantastic for  British players to receive such an accolade . Let's hope Fabio reads it about Leon too...
17/01/2012 15:36
when u look at each players stats in the league this season...

leon britton has played 19, scored 0, made 0 assists and taken 23 shots.

xavi has played 17, scored 6, made 6 assists and had 19 shots.

still a good stat for britton though
17/01/2012 18:12
What isn't mentioned is that Xavi has made some 700+ more passes than Britton, yet still maintained incredible accuracy.  Presumably this would also count an easy short pass the same as a 50 yard long pass.  Stats are stats though, I wouldn't go as far to say Britton is a anywhere near the quality of player as Xavi, but credit where it's due, to have 2 players that the rest of Europe probably won't recognise amongst a host of big (and expensive) names is a testament to both players and their Manager. Hopefully Swansea can hang onto these players and maintain their place in The Premiership as they clearly deserve it.  In answer to the question about Rogers for England, I wouldn't get carried away with that idea. In my opinion the obvious candidate since the World Cup is and has always been Redknapp.
17/01/2012 14:28

I think it is nice to get these stats up, a lot of fantastic teams such as Swansea are hidden behind the shadows of the so called big teams such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Man Utd...but, the stats to speak for themselves.


I believe Capello will definitely be looking into the smaller, up coming clubs when putting together the England XI and should dazzle opponents rather than stick to the biggest names of football who probably cannot do as much as players such as Britton and Nathan Dyer.


Well done Swansea, exposing such talent.

17/01/2012 17:16
These are only stats,and they prove that Leon had 93.3% passing accuracy and Xavi had 90%, nowhere does it say Leon is a better player. If you  think stats are worthless why bother looking at them and wasting your time writing in ,what ever you think about the Swans all the pundits are praising their football, Sparky is right Xavi made 1702 good passes to Leons 1051, but that also proves that Xavi made 101 bad passes compared to Leons 76.I attend all Swans games, and I appreciate the visiting teams performances so why do some of you not give them the credit they deserve. I was next to the stand at Anfield where all the home supporters stood to give the Swans a standing many other teams have experienced that
17/01/2012 17:25

In any league if your not in the top four - six teams you willalways struggle to keep your best players. Its that simple so i dont see how thats an insult to Swansea.


Three  points are important to remember..

1. How the team have delveloped with very little funding behind the club

2. If they lose their big players then they will get alot of cash for them. It scares me a little to how much more they could develop with millions behind them.

3.This is Swanseas first 6months in top flight football. (give them a break - its actually nice not seeing the same 8 teams in the news for once)

If more clubs had faith in players and took time to develop them then the world of foodball would be less of a carousel.


Hat goes off to Swansea 

17/01/2012 17:37
Leon Britton can pass the ball, Xavi can PASS the ball & create a goal opportunity out of nothing. That's the difference, not that this is even an argument. Good on Leon though it shows he's a quality player  :~)
17/01/2012 14:46

As a Spurs fan even I know that of his 89.8 per cent, 87 percent of Scott Parkers passes are meaningless ping pong type over a couple of yards. That said so are many of the Barcelona passes. This does mean they keep possession, but to compare skill maybe the stats should reflect 'good' passes or those exceptional ones that split a defence and lead to a goal being scored?

If that were the case, Giggs, Modric and probably a host of others would be in the list. As for instilling a style, well football really is a simple game, if you have the ball the other side won't score. 

17/01/2012 14:39
think they will be pushing liverpool off 7th place soon well done the
17/01/2012 22:24
Swansea a nutshell they are  a team out &out stars but play has a unit ... that ,s what  football is all about...end of.   
17/01/2012 15:47
Blackpool flattered to deceive at this time last year if I remember correctly, playing lovely football, so we need to remember that form is transitory. Swansea may be the real deal but it'll take more than one season to make a convincing case that the team can challenge Barcelona in any way. Good luck to them, the players know they can do it and that's all that matters for now!
Watch Barca and see how many 5 yard passes to and back they make. Possesion football, I know, but it does inflate the stats. Having said that  when they let loose theres nearly no stopping them.
17/01/2012 14:20

Now surely something stats don’t take into account is the difficulty of the pass & the vision required to see the pass. To a statistician a 3 yard pass to your centre midfield partner is the same as a thierty yard through ball over the oppositions defence. It’s the amount of “wonder” passes that Xavi plays that makes his achievement so incredible.         

17/01/2012 15:28

The first set of stats are a complete farse as they tell you nothing about anything.


Hell if you want to beleive those stats, Terry is the best passer at Chelsea (ROFL) Its a shame to think people actually spend money and get paid to come out with these moronic stats.


What is interesting however is to see where Swansea are as a team. I say fair play to them for having such a great passing success rate, that I think goes some way to explaining their position in the league. Whilst as others stated having a good pass % doesnt mean goals, it does mean the opposition cant get hold of the ball so your unlikely to conede as many.


Anyways good luck to Swansea, they are a great addition to the prem and their style of football is admirable. Hats off to the lot of them.

18/01/2012 00:02
I think the article fails to note that Xavi has made 703 more passes and yet has only 0.3 less on accuracy than the 'the xavi from the valley'
17/01/2012 21:13

Credit to everyone at the Swansea City set-up for overachieving in this opeing half of the season and keeeping realistic hopes of survival alive with only half of the season gone, they do play a superb passing game which is a joy to watch for any neutral and the undesputed talent of the midfield duo of Britton and Allen who are the sole reason (also credit to GK Vorm) why they are where they are in the league and i expect them to maintain this level and even a decent FA cup run in this the 2012 championship year. Should capello take the risk? Take the theo walcott saga from world cup previous, no form and no experience didn't get a game, if the likes of nathan dyer or say leon britton get a chance for 15-20mins they would create and stretch defences, they should get every chance as previous campaigns prove not all the stars make a side with poor results in knock-out stages. But hands off rodgers he's ours!

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