Talking Tactics | Millwall v Swansea City
Football stats experts WhoScord.com take a look at Swansea City midfielder Conor Hourihane, and assess the role he can play in Saturday's clash with Millwall.
Having been one of the promotion favourites earlier in the year, a four-game losing run has seen Swansea lose momentum in their top-two push and, now 10 points behind Watford, a play-off finish would appear the likelier outcome of the campaign for Steve Cooper's side.
That's not to be scoffed at, of course, but Swansea will want to get back to winning ways as soon as possible in order to nail down a top-six spot. A trip to Millwall this weekend, then, is a testing proposition for the Swans as they look to end this losing streak. The Lions come into the home clash on a three-game winning run as they make a late push for the play-offs.
History is on Swansea's side coming into the weekend's lunchtime clash having won four of their last six league meetings with the Lions, losing just once in that run, and the south Wales side are unbeaten in their last four visits to the Den. However, given the form of Gary Rowett's side of late, Swansea know they will need to be near their best.
In Conor Hourihane, Swansea at least have a midfielder whose strengths can really test the Millwall defence this weekend. His WhoScored.com strengths play into Swansea's hands as they look to put three vital points on the board.
Indeed, Hourihane has developed a strength of 'long shots', which isn't a surprise given three of his five league goals scored for Swansea this season have been from outside of the box; only Emiliano Buendia (five) and Alex Mowatt (four) have netted more from distance this season.
Millwall, meanwhile, have developed a weakness of 'defending against long shots', so if Hourihane's team-mates can provide the chances for the 30-year-old, then the on-loan midfielder has the capability of maximising this quality to his game and adding to his five league goals for Cooper's side.
Not only does this apply from open play, but set-piece situations too. The WhoScored.com match forecast suggests that it is likely that Swansea 'will score from a direct free-kick'. Given Millwall have gained a weakness when it comes to 'avoiding fouling in dangerous areas', while Hourihane has a strength of 'direct free-kicks', it presents another possible route to goal for the Republic of Ireland international.
Of course, it'll take an all-round team effort for Swansea to get the better of Millwall this weekend and Billy Mitchell will see the welcome of the Swans as another opportunity to further nail down a starting spot. The 20-year-old has started Millwall's last two league matches and his WhoScored.com rating from his five starts alone this season is a respectable 6.85.
Mitchell has developed a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'tackling' and deservedly so with his 3.8 tackles per 90 minutes better than any other Millwall player this season, while an overall tackle success rating of 83.3% suggests little gets past the youngster.
However, Hourihane will hope his experience at this level can help him shake off the attentions of Mitchell and help Swansea get back to winning ways in south London.