Talking Tactics | Preston North End v Swansea City
Swansea City followed up their first league win of the season by beating Plymouth in midweek to book a spot in the next round of the Carabao Cup. Now, building up a head of steam under Russell Martin, attention turns to Saturday's trip to Deepdale, where the Swans take on Preston..
Here, WhoScored.com preview the action, including what to expect from the Lilywhites, the key battle and a key stat to gear up for the clash..
What to expect from Preston
Frankie McAvoy impressed as Preston boss after succeeding Alex Neil at the Deepdale helm. McAvoy won five of his eight matches in interim charge and was handed the reins permanently back in May. However, the Lilywhites have had a slow start to the season, which leaves them one point and two places above the drop zone with four games played.
McAvoy has remained loyal to a three-man backline, even after seeing his Preston side ship seven goals in the opening weeks of the campaign; only Reading (9) and Luton (8) have conceded more in that run. The trio of Andrew Hughes, Jordan Storey and Liam Lindsay have been his preferred centre-backs, though Patrick Bauer came into the defence against Peterborough last weekend and - having scored the only goal of the game - should keep his spot at the expense of Lindsay.
The setup allows for Preston to use a WhoScored.com style of play of 'attacking down the left' and with a majority of their attacks coming down the left flank (42%) keeping Joshua Earl quiet is key to ensuring Preston are unable to add to their three league goals in 2021-22. Earl missed the opening two league games of the campaign, but has impressed following his return to the side.
A WhoScored.com rating of 6.81 is the third best of all Preston players with the 22-year-old ranking second for key passes (1.5) and first for dribbles per game (2), the latter reinforcing a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'dribbling'. If Earl is unable to maximise these qualities to his game, then Preston will struggle for goals against the Swans this weekend.
Joel Piroe has made a solid impact for the Swans following his arrival from PSV.. Eindhoven. The winning goal against Bristol City last week means the 22-year-old has scored three goals in his four Swansea outings after joining the south Wales side. Only goalkeeper and man of the match Steven Benda (8.01) earned a better WhoScored.com rating than Piroe (7.39) in Swansea's 1-0 win at Ashton Gate a week ago and, with two goals to his name in the Championship, the Dutch forward will hope to get the chance to get the better of the Preston backline.
However, Patrick Bauer's return to the starting XI had the desired effect for Preston against Peterborough. Not only did he score the decisive goal for Frankie McAvoy's side, he played a vital role in a first league clean sheet of the campaign for Preston, earning a WhoScored.com rating of 8.09 in the process; only team-mate Ryan Ledson (8.14) scored higher.
Preston have won all three matches Bauer has featured in this season and supporters are hoping that record continues against Swansea on Saturday. Piroe, though, has quickly proven his goalscoring credentials for Russell Martin's side and will be looking to add to his tally..
Since Frankie McAvoy was appointed in interim charge back in March, only Brentford (19), QPR and Bournemouth (both 18) earned more points then Preston (17) in the eight-game period he oversaw at the end of last season, while a four-game winning run to see out the campaign saw the Lilywhites successfully beat the drop when it looked as though a relegation dogfight would be on the cards prior to Alex Neil's dismissal.
McAvoy only lost one of the eight league matches he managed in the interim last season, but he has already overseen more league defeats in 2021-22 (3).. What's more, Preston have already conceded as many league goals this term as they did in the final eight games of 2020-21 (7). Their hope is that a 1-0 win over Peterborough, and a 4-2 midweek Carabao Cup victory, will provide the ideal foundation for the Lilywhites to kick on now.