Talking Tactics | Nottingham Forest v Swansea City
Football stats experts WhoScored identify defender Kyle Naughton as a key man in Swansea City's Championship fixture against play-off rivals Nottingham Forest at The City Ground tonight (6pm).
Swansea City succumbed to last-minute heartbreak on Sunday as the former player curse struck again as Leeds United moved closer to automatic promotion.
Sub Pablo Hernandez proved the difference, coming off the bench to score an 89th-minute winner at his former stomping ground.
It ended the Swans' three-match unbeaten run and prevented them from moving into the top six.
Now, the Swans can either dwell on the loss or turn that frustration into a positive when they take on Nottingham Forest tonight.
It's a crunch clash in the race for a top-six finish with Forest sat just six points above Swansea in the table. A win for the hosts would secure a spot in the play-offs, but they can't rely too heavily on home advantage here.
Swansea go into the tie unbeaten in four on the road, picking up wins at Middlesbrough and Birmingham in that time, and, at the time of writing, boast one of the better records in the Championship since league duties resumed last month having picked up 10 of a possible 18 points.
Shutting Forest out will be the first port of call, but given the home side's profligacy at The City Ground this term the visitors should be confident of keeping them at bay.
Indeed, coming into the midweek round of fixtures, only Sheffield Wednesday (18) and Middlesbrough (19) have scored fewer home goals than Forest (24) in the Championship this season. A home conversion rate of 7.9 per cent is among the worst in England's second tier this term, so while Forest will look to maximise a statistically-calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'creating goalscoring chances', whether they put them away is another matter entirely.
And having conceded just five goals in the last six league matches, Steve Cooper will be confident that his defence can shut Forest out.
Cooper has recently moved to a three-man defence, which is evidently yielding the right results as Swansea chase a play-off finish.
Kyle Naughton has benefitted from the change in set up, with the 31-year-old featuring in the three-man backline.
With Naughton's three starts at centre-back bringing about six points, yielding a WhoScored.com rating of 7.00 in the process, Swansea will hope the system delivers another victory, this time in Nottingham.
With 'holding on to the ball' and 'passing' two statistically-calculated WhoScored.com strengths of Naughton's, he has the necessary composure to operate in a three-man backline and the ability to pick out a team-mate with ease to instigate attacks from the back and keep the ball away from opponents.
It'll be key to ensure Forest forward Lewis Grabban sees as little of the ball as possible. The 32-year-old was the WhoScored.com man-of-the-match in the reverse fixture, returning a rating of 8.14, as he provided the assist for Alfa Semedo's late winner.
Having scored 20 of Forest's 55 league goals this season, Grabban is a striker who maximises a statistically-calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'finishing' to great effect, but having scored just two goals in his last six home league outings, both of which came against relegation-threatened Huddersfield, he needs to improve his home return if he is to challenge Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ollie Watkins for the Golden Boot.
However, our stats suggest he is unlikely to be gifted the chance to improve his home goal return tonight. Naughton has been solid in a back three and if the defence can continue to remain steadfast as they have done in recent weeks, then the Swans can bolster their play-off chances at the expense of Forest.