Talking Tactics: Alfie Mawson
Ahead of the visit of Manchester United, football stats experts WhoScored.com preview the Swans’ first home game of the new Premier League season.
Following on from last weekend’s stalemate with Southampton, Paul Clement’s men return to the Liberty Stadium for the first time in the new campaign, where they host early pace setters United.
Jose Mourinho’s men got off to an excellent start with a 4-0 rout over West Ham to offer their fans encouragement for the season ahead, but Saturday’s game will be no pushover by comparison if the hosts’ finish to the 2016/17 campaign is anything to go by.
It was, after all, Swansea’s superb home record in the final months that ensured the club avoided the drop, winning six and losing just one of their last eight Premier League matches in Wales. Moreover, a 1-1 draw when these sides last met in April should inspire confidence that this won’t be an easy game for the visitors.
It was a valiant defensive display that saw Clement’s men get off the mark at St. Mary’s, and while Saints applied plenty of pressure the Swans’ rearguard limited the number of clear cut chances Pellegrini’s men could create, hitting the target with just two of their numerous attempts on goal.
While Swansea certainly have the players capable of hurting Manchester United at the other end, another solid showing at the back will be key then, with Alfie Mawson picking up this season where he left off last term.
The 23-year-old has become a real fan favourite at the Liberty, and for good reason. Since the beginning of last season the club has won 10 of the 28 games the young centre-back has started compared to just 2 of 11 that he has not, whilst conceding markedly fewer goals on average (1.61 from 2.27).
With statistical strengths of ‘aerial duels’ and ‘blocking the ball’, the England Under-21s international will certainly need to be at the top of his game. Indeed, United are deemed ‘very strong’ at aerial duels, and ‘strong’ at creating scoring chances, so Mawson’s skill set will no doubt be required to keep the away side in check.
That’s certainly the case following the arrival of Romelu Lukaku at Old Trafford, whose physicality will need to be countered. The Belgian made his Premier League bow for the club in fine fashion against West Ham, though his record when facing the Londoners throughout his career is far more favourable than when he has come up against the Swans.
In fact, Swansea have proven to be one of the striker’s least favourite opponents, with a modest return of 3 goals in 11 appearances. Not since March 2014 has the former Everton man netted against the Welsh outfit, while his only goal at the Liberty Stadium came in a 3-1 defeat for West Brom back in 2012.
There will be plenty of fantasy football managers that may be banking on Lukaku continuing his fine form to start the season.
However, Mawson and co have had the 24-year-old’s number in the past, and keeping the Belgium international at bay once more could prove half the battle.
In a bid to improve the supporter experience on matchdays at the Liberty Stadium, the club will be erecting additional fencing outside the East Stand – on the red tarmac.
This will allow supporters to take food and drink outside at half-time at future games to ease congestion in the concourse areas.