Talking Tactics | Rotherham United v Swansea City
Football stats experts WhoScored.com take a closer look at new Swansea City signing Conor Hourihane, and the impact he could make in Saturday's Championship fixture at Rotherham.
All things considered, a point against fellow promotion rivals Brentford on Wednesday night was a good result for Swansea City. Having been reduced to 10 men with 20 minutes left to play, Conor Hourihane cancelled out Tariqe Fosu-Henry's opening goal as Swansea held out to share the spoils on home turf.
The stalemate extended the Swans' unbeaten run to six league matches, that the second current longest streak of its kind in the Championship, while four wins in that run means Steve Cooper's side occupy one of the two automatic promotion places coming into the trip to Rotherham.
The Millers sit in the bottom three ahead of Saturday's clash but, despite their position in the table, they are not to be taken lightly. Paul Warne has overseen a three-game unbeaten run of late, with a 3-0 win at Middlesbrough meaning it is seven points from the last nine available in that period.
Home form has been the issue for Warne's Rotherham side, however. They have picked up just one win from their last five and their 12 points accrued on familiar turf is among the lowest in the Championship. Conversely, Swansea have picked up 21 points on their travels in 2020-21, that the fourth best Championship tally coming into the weekend's round of fixtures.
Swansea also boast a solid record against the Millers, winning four of the last six fixtures between the two sides, though the sole defeat in that streak came in this game the season before last. Nevertheless, given Swansea's away form this season, Cooper will be keen to guard against complacency at the New York Stadium and ensure his side returns to south Wales with another crucial three points.
It's likely that Cooper will again turn to the Premier League experience of Hourihane in a bid to secure another victory. The 29-year-old, who joined from Aston Villa on loan earlier this month, made his Swansea debut in the 5-1 FA Cup win over Nottingham Forest. Having netted on his league debut for the Swans, he'll be aiming to maintain his good start to life in Cooper's side.
Rotherham's record of 15 home goals conceded in the Championship this season is the fourth worst in the division and Hourihane boasts the attacking qualities to try and take advantage of that record..
Indeed, one of Hourihane's five statistically calculated WhoScored.com strengths is 'key passes' and, with a keen eye for prying apart opposition defences, the 29-year-old will be confident of utilising this quality to try and put Swansea in the driving seat in Yorkshire. And it's not just from open play where Hourihane can really test the Rotherham defence.
One of Rotherham's four statistically calculated WhoScored.com weaknesses is 'avoiding fouling in dangerous areas'. Hourihane, meanwhile, boasts strengths of 'taking set-pieces' and 'direct free-kicks', so if the Millers do commit offenses around their 18-yard box, then the on-loan midfielder has the means of punishing Saturday's hosts.
Hourihane, though, is not the only central midfielder with top-flight experience that'll take to the New York Stadium field on Saturday. Shaun McDonald, made a handful of Premier League appearances for Bournemouth and his top-flight knowledge in the middle of the park is key for Rotherham. Boasting statistically calculated WhoScored.com strengths of 'tackling' and 'ball interception', McDonald has the means to keep Hourihane and co. at bay.
Yet Hourihane has made a fine start to life for the Swans and will be looking to maintain that on Saturday. After his first goal for the club helped Swansea to a point, the Republic of Ireland international will be out to ensure he can play his role in securing his first league victory in Cooper's side.