Talking Tactics | Barnsley v Swansea City
This is a crucial period for Swansea. After a run of only one win in five league matches, the international break was an opportunity to refocus the players on the task ahead.
The shock 2-1 home loss to bottom club Stoke prior to the domestic hiatus wasn't a disaster in the grand scheme of things, with the Swans still just a point off top spot, and the trip to Barnsley provides them with the perfect chance to bounce back.
The Yorkshire side sit 23rd in the table having failed to win their last 10 Championship matches and have earned just six points from 11 league matches this term.
Indeed, only Stoke (eight) have lost more games than Barnsley (seven) in England's second tier and the managerless Tykes have started their return to Championship action poorly.
They have scored fewer goals (eight) than any other side this season, which bodes well for a Swansea outfit that has conceded just nine goals from 11 matches; only Leeds (seven) have shipped fewer.
Unbeaten in their last six meetings with Barnsley, winning four, history favours Cooper's side going into this clash at Oakwell.
If they are to maintain their fine defensive resolve against a goalshy Barnsley outfit, then Cooper can take comfort that another solid showing from Connor Roberts at right-back is a distinct posibility. The Wales international has started 10 of 11 league matches this season and has been a first-team regular since the start of the 2018-19 campaign for the south Wales side and against this Barnsley outfit in disarray, it makes the perfect opportunity to kickstart another good run of form.
The Swans may be unbeaten in their last seven away league matches, yet Cooper needs his players to get back on track, particularly with things so tight at the top of the table.
Barnsley have conceded 12 times in their six home league matches this season and have lost three of their last five at Oakwell and Roberts has a key role to play if Swansea are to add to their woes this afternoon.
One of Barnsley's statistically-calculated WhoScored.com weaknesses is 'defending against attacks down the wings' and with Cooper demanding his players maximise the flanks to stretch opponents, the WhoScored.com match forecast notes it is likely that Swansea 'will score from a wingplay situation'.
If Roberts puts in yet another high-energy performance which he is known for, then Barnsley could once again struggle to stop an opponent from hurting them from the flanks.
Yet as the Stoke result proved, Swansea can't merely expect to turn up and walk to a result and it's important that Roberts, along with his team-mates, keep their wits about them if they are to put another three key points on the board, particularly with seven of the eight goals Barnsley have scored this season coming at Oakwell.
The 24-year-old right-back, though, has what it takes to ensure that the league's lowest scorers don't add to their total.
With averages of 1.4 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per game both ranking among the top five of all Swansea players this season, it's helped Roberts develop a statistically-calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'defensive contribution', so Cooper can rest assured that he will bear witness to another solid showing from the Welshman.
And having recently relieved Daniel Stendel of his duties as Barnsley boss, it's impossible to really determine how Barnsley will operate, or who Roberts will come up against, under the guidance of caretaker boss Adam Murray. Should the 38-year-old continue with a 4-2-3-1 setup regularly seen under Stendel this season, then it could be that Luke Thomas is the one who Roberts faces today.
The winger played no part in the 5-1 loss at Preston prior to the international break, but could return to the left, with three of his last five league starts coming on this side of the pitch.
In what has been a hugely underwhelming season for Barnsley, Thomas' WhoScored.com rating of 6.61 is the fourth best of all players for the club.
Having had a direct hand in two of their eight league goals scored, the 20-year-old is one of Barnsley's dangermen coming into this clash, so Roberts needs to be on top of his game in order to minimise his threat.
A consistent defensive force, however, the full-back has the defensive means to deny Thomas across the 90 minutes and ensure Swansea put another three points on the board.