Talking Tactics | Reading v Swansea City
Football stats experts WhoScored.com take a look at Swansea City's joint assist leader Connor Roberts, and assess why the Wales international could prove an important figure at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday.
After a disappointing 1-0 defeat to QPR in midweek, attention turns to the weekend's trip to Reading as Swansea look to wrap up a play-off spot.
The Swans remained third in the table despite the loss, but a recent falter has seen them drop off the pace and finishing inside the top six is now the goal with automatic promotion hopes all but over.
They return to the Madejski Stadium for the first time since their memorable 4-1 win at Reading last season, a result that secured a play-off finish at the death of the 2019-20 season.
Victory at the Royals this weekend will effectively seal a top-six finish for the second season running and it's important Swansea get the job done to carry momentum into the final games of the campaign and the play-offs.
It won't be a walk in the park for the Swans. Reading boast the sixth-best home record in the division having earned 38 points from their 21 home matches this season, while only a handful of teams have won more home games than the Royals (12) in 202-/21.
However, Reading has been a happy hunting ground for Swansea in the years gone by.
The south Wales side are unbeaten in their last seven trips to Berkshire, winning five, with their last defeat at Reading coming back in 2008.
Only Norwich (45) have claimed more points than Swansea (37) on the road this season, too, and Steve Cooper's side won their last two away games at Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday.
The WhoScored.com match forecast also favours the Swans for this pivotal clash, with the corresponding weaknesses and strengths of either side suggesting that is likely that Swansea 'will score from a wingplay situation'.
Indeed, one of Reading's statistically calculated WhoScored.com weaknesses is 'defending against attacks down the wings' and with Swansea developing styles of play of 'attacking down the right' and 'playing with width', Connor Roberts could be a danger man for Cooper's side this weekend.
The 25-year-old is enjoying an exceptional campaign, benefitting from being used in a more advanced role, and his deployment at wing-back , and more recently as a winger, has seen him score four goals and lay on seven assists, the latter more than any other player in his position in the Championship this season.
A willingness to break forward and create for others has seen him develop a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'key passes' and for good reason too, seeing as only Emiliano Buendia (116) has created more goalscoring chances than the Welshman (82) at the time of writing in England's second tier this term.
Given his offensive influence, opponents look to limit his impact in the final third by any means necessary with Roberts fouled 75 times this season, that ranking among the top 15 players in the Championship, and has seen the player develop a style of play of 'gets fouled often'.
He can expect a tough 90 minutes in his quest to help Swansea to all three points on Sunday with Omar Richards the man tasked with minimising Roberts' impact.
The 23-year-old isn't one to shirk a physical battle having developed a WhoScored.com strength of 'tackling' and a style of play of 'commits fouls often'. Richards only played 17 minutes, including injury time, in the reverse fixture, where a solid rearguard showing saw Reading earn a point at the Liberty Stadium, but the young left-back is set to feature from the get go as the Royals make a late push for a play-off finish.
Nevertheless, Roberts will want to try and use his the experience at this level to deliver in this crunch clash as Swansea aim to extend their superb record at the Madejski and move one step closer to the play-offs.