TALKING TACTICS: Aston Villa v Swans
21st March 2015
Continuing our partnership with football statistics website WhoScored.com, here is a preview of this afternoon's trip to Villa Park.
Only an unfortunate ricochet off Jordan Henderson could break through a resolute Swans defence on Monday night as the Liverpool continued their fine form in the Barclays Premier League. A draw would certainly have been a fair result as the Swans matched the Champions League hopefuls all over the pitch and could easily have come away with at least a point.
As predicted in this column last week Jack Cork stood out for the hosts with a statistically-calculated rating from WhoScored.com of 8.04. He was flanked impressively in midfield by Jonjo Shelvey, who again put in a good display against his old club, and it could be the former Liverpool man that is key for the trip to Villa Park this weekend.
Shelvey scored an absolute peach of a goal in Swansea's 4-1 trouncing of Aston Villa last season, pouncing on a mistake by Ron Vlaar to lash home a volleyed effort from all of 45 yards over a helpless Brad Guzan, also setting up two of the other goals on his way to the man of the match award and an incredible WhoScored rating of 9.56.
Villa will be wary of the threat Shelvey carries, and they should be concerned about his ability on the ball. According to WhoScored, which rates teams' and players' characteristics based on their stats compared to others in their position, Shelvey is 'strong' when it comes to both long shots and through balls.
Worryingly for Villa, their stats suggest they are 'weak' when it comes to defending against long shots and 'very weak' at defending through ball attacks. No wonder Shelvey seems to have such an impact when playing against the Villains, and he could well be in for another impressive afternoon today.
Tim Sherwood does bring his team into this game on form though, having galvanised the players after they had stagnated under Paul Lambert. They have won their last three matches in all competitions - the first time they have won three successive games since January 2011.
Scott Sinclair has been reinvigorated in recent weeks, and the winger - who was such a huge success at Swansea earlier in his career - has been in fine goalscoring form, particularly at home. He has scored three of Villa's last four goals on home soil, doing so over just 193 minutes of action.
Garry Monk will know all about the threat he carries, but with defensive contribution amongst Sinclair's WhoScored weaknesses, there could be space for Swansea's right-sided players to exploit down his flank.
*WhoScored.com is a unique website and one of the fastest growing in the sports industry, specialising in the in-depth analysis of detailed football data. Provided with unique stats, they compile and create comprehensive analysis on the major European divisions, including live match stats and player ratings. You can follow @WhoScored and their editor-in-chief @alitweedale on Twitter.