Talking Tactics | Bristol City v Swansea City
Swansea City's fine unbeaten start to the season came to an abrupt end last weekend as they fell to a 1-0 loss to Nottingham Forest. However, the Swans can be proud of their position and form after seven league matches this term as they sit joint-top with 16 points to their name.
Now, it’s of the utmost importance they don’t dwell on the setback and instead turn their attention to their looming trip to Bristol City.
The Robins have also begun the campaign strongly and sit just two points behind Swansea coming into today’s clash at Ashton Gate. In arguably the game of the weekend in the Championship, Bristol will fancy their chances of securing a positive result against Steve Cooper’s side, having kept a clean sheet in five of their last six meetings with the south Wales side.
That said, the Robins would be foolish to underestimate the Swans. This afternoon’s opponents and Preston (both 13) are the only sides to have scored more goals than the Swans (12) in the Championship this season, while only Leeds (three) have conceded fewer goals (five).
With a solid defensive record, Cooper will hope to see both a return to winning ways and another clean sheet.
With Jake Bidwell impressing from left-back, Swansea will be looking to keep a potent Robins' attack in check. The defender joined from QPR over the summer and has made a starting spot his own having started all seven league matches to date to return a WhoScored.com rating of 6.72.
Against a Bristol side that has developed a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of ‘attacking down the wings’, Bidwell can expect a busy 90 minutes in the West Country, but having blocked more crosses (three) and blocked the fourth most shots (six) of all Swansea players, the summer arrival has the defensive nous to repel any opposition danger on his side of the pitch.
Lee Johnson has implemented a three-man defensive system of late and, with the Bristol boss demanding his wing-backs stretch opponents, Bidwell needs to keep his wits about him.
Having developed statistically calculated WhoScored.com strengths of ‘defensive contribution’ and ‘concentration’, however, the left-backs boasts the defensive capabilities to ensure little, if anything, gets by him in Bristol.
And it’s not just Swansea who need to be wary of what the opposition full-backs and wing-backs can offer going forward. That's because Bidwell boasts WhoScored.com strengths of ‘crossing’ and ‘key passes’ and with the Swans developing a strength of ‘attacking down the wings’; Cooper can be confident that, when handed the opportunity to push on, Bidwell will make the most of his chance to catch the Bristol backline napping.
Only West Brom (seven) are on a longer unbeaten run than the hosts (six) and much of that has come from the utilisation of the aforementioned three-man defence and in pushing Jack Hunt to right wing-back.
This has seen Johnson's side able to maximise WhoScored.com strengths of ‘key passes’ and ‘crossing’ to good effect. Hunt has provided two assists in his last four league outings, both of which were key goals in narrow wins over Derby and, more recently, Stoke.
The 28-year-old’s WhoScored.com rating this season is a solid 6.85 and if he is given the freedom to attack then the hosts will have reason to be confident of extending their unbeaten streak.
However, Bidwell has quickly proven his credentials in a Swansea shirt and if he can remain focused and exhibit a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of ‘concentration’, then the likelihood of Cooper overseeing a return to winning ways will surely increase.