Talking Tactics | Barnsley v Swansea City
Football stats experts WhoScored.com take a look at the excellent recent form of Korey Smith, and how the midfielder can play a key role in Swansea City's clash with Barnsley.
Following their progression to the fourth round of the FA Cup at the expense of Stevenage, attention turns back to the league as Swansea City seek to maintain their promotion push. The Swans come into the trip to Barnsley second in the table, four points behind Norwich, and will look to keep their place in the automatic promotion spots this weekend.
A 2-1 win over fellow promotion hopefuls Watford was a fine result and it means Swansea are now unbeaten in their last four, winning three. However, while they sit nine points clear of Saturday's opponents, Barnsley are not to be underestimated, particularly on home turf.
The Tykes have won their last three home league outings and boast one of the better home records in the Championship having picked up 20 points from 11 matches at Oakwell in 2020-21. That said, Swansea boast a fine record against Barsnley and are unbeaten in the last 12 meetings between the pair, winning six, and come into Saturday's clash with a spring in their step.
The 2-1 win over Watford was certainly a statement of intent by the Swans, and while Jamal Lowe came away from the victory over the Hornets with the man-of-the-match award having earned a WhoScored.com rating of 8.56, Korey Smith was another deserving the plaudits following the narrow triumph.
Smith came away from the clash with a WhoScored.com rating of 7.87, that marking his best-rated performance in a Swansea shirt following his summer arrival, and with the confidence that came from such an impressive showing, he'll look to following that fine outing with another superb display from the middle of the park against Barnsley.
The 29-year-old played no part in the reverse fixture, which saw Swansea come away as 2-0 victors last month, so will be keen to make up for lost time and play his part in the Swans' push for another three points.
Head coach Steve Cooper has given Smith licence to get forward from his midfield role in the favoured 3-4-1-2 setup, and it's in this position that the former Bristol City man can maximise a statistaically calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'through balls'.
Given the WhoScored.com match forecast suggests it is very likely that Swansea 'will steal the ball from the opposition often', if the Swans can win the ball high up the pitch, then Smith will be able to utilise this quality to his game to pry apart the Barnsley backline and create chances for Lowe and Andre Ayew.
In the home ranks, there is plenty of pressure on the shoulders of Herbie Kane to keep Smith quiet in Saturday's evening kick-off. The 22-year-old has rarely featured for Barnsley this term, but is expected to earn more playing time between now and the end of the season after Matty James left the Tykes for Coventry.
Kane is still chipping in with a commendable 2.4 tackles per 90 minutes in the Championship this season to reinforce a WhoScored.com style of play of 'likes to tackle' and he'll need to be at his ball-winning best to ensure Smith is unable to split open the Barnsley backline to assist the frontmen.
However, given Smith's performance against Watford, Swansea will feel they have the momentum and the means to pick up another valuable three points.