Talking Tactics | Luton Town v Swansea City
Football stats experts WhoScored.com take a closer look at the form of midfielder Korey Smith, and assess the impact he can have in Swansea City's Championship clash with Luton Town.
Swansea may have been disappointed to drop points at Ewood Park in midweek, but a draw on the road is never to be sniffed at. They continue their travels at Luton in Saturday's lunchtime kick-off as they seek to leapfrog Watford in the table, even if temporarily.
After a solid run of seven points from their last four matches, the Hatters sit 12 points clear of the relegation zone and, while they lost to league leaders Norwich last weekend, they are not to be underestimated on Saturday. They have earned over half of their points at Kenilworth Road this season and have lost just two of their last 11 home league matches.
Nevertheless, Swansea will look to their fine away record in their bid to return to south Wales with all three points. Only Norwich (35) and rivals Cardiff (30) have earned more points on their travels than the Swans (28) in 2020-21 and, while Luton have been difficult to break down on home turf this term, they have struggled in front of goal at times, noted in that they have scored just 28 league goals this season, that the fifth-lowest return in the division.
They host a Swansea side that has conceded 25 league goals this season; only Watford (24) have shipped fewer. The returning Korey Smith will hope to force his way back into Steve Cooper's first-team plans this weekend after his recovery from injury and his experience in the middle of the park could prove important for the visitors.
Swansea concede fewer goals per league game when Smith starts (0.68) than when he does not (0.83) following his summer arrival from Bristol City, and the increased defensive solidity afforded to the Swans could help extend their unbeaten run to four matches.
Smith has a return of 1.1 tackles per 90 minutes and a tackle success rate of 68.6%, highlighting his ability to read the game and rob opponents of possession.
His availability for Cooper is a huge boost as it helps swell the midfield ranks and, if Smith does start against the Hatters, then the Luton offensive will know they will need to work hard to break down a tireless Swans midfield.
Head coach Nathan Jones started his side in a 4-4-1-1 system for the recent 3-0 loss to Norwich, but may revert to a 4-3-1-2 used in the 1-0 win at Nottingam Forest earlier this month and, if they use that set-up, then Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu should feature in the number 10 role once again.
The 26-year-old registered his third assist of the campaign in the aforementioned 1-0 win at Forest and, in boasting a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'dribbling', Mpanzu has the means to open up space to provide the chances for his team-mates.
However, if Smith starts, he will hope to use his experience and defensive nous to deny Mpanzu the opportunity to break into the final third and create. If he can do that, it will boost Swansea's chances of another important result on their travels.