Talking Tactics | Rotherham United v Swansea City
The new season is upon us as Swansea City kick-off their campaign with a trip to Rotherham. WhoScored.com have previewed the game in Yorkshire, taking a look at what to expect from the Millers, the key battle and a key stat.
What to expect from Rotherham
Following their relegation from the Championship in 2020-21, Rotherham bounced back immediately as they finished second to Wigan in League One last season to secure their place in England's second tier. Paul Warne remained loyal to his three-man defence, and they reaped the rewards.
The Millers boss should stick with a similar set-up for the welcome of Swansea as he commences the task of keeping Rotherham in the Championship this season. While they were at times imperious in England's third tier, the step up to the second tier is a big one, but they do have recent experience of the division having spent two of the previous four seasons in the Championship.
Warne isn't helped with the departures of key men Michael Ihiekwe and Michael Smith, both of whom moved to Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday this summer, with Conor Washington and Tom Eaves both arriving to help ease the latter's departure.
The latter does have some history with Swansea. While at Hull he scored two times in three league meetings with the Swans, with both goals coming on home turf, too. Rotherham fans are hoping he can maintain that record this weekend. Cameron Humphreys-Grant and Grant Hall are additional new arrivals at the New York Stadium and supporters will hope the pair have what it takes to cover Ihiekwe's exit in defence.
Alongside the experienced Richard Wood, there is plenty of pressure riding on Humphreys-Grant and Hall to fill the Ihiekwe-sized void in the Rotherham defence, with the departed 29-year-old returning a WhoScored.com rating of 7.22 last term, that enough to make the 2021-22 League One team of the season.
Supporters can at least take some solace in the fact they have retained the services of Daniel Barlaser, who, like Ihiekwe, also made the League One team of the season having returned a WhoScored.com rating of 7.20. Barlaser finished first for key passes (1.9) and second for tackles per game (1.8) of all Rotherham players last season and he will be eager to show what he can do as he gets another opportunity at Championship level.
With Barlaser the key man in the middle of the park, wing-backs Chiedozie Ogbene and new arrival Cohen Bramall are expected to provide the width, and with just 23 per cent of Rotherham's attacks coming through the middle of the park in League One last season, there is an expectation on the pair to help stretch the Swans on home turf this weekend.
Rotherham were relegated in 2020-21 having conceded 60 goals over the duration of the campaign. However, the Millers conceded just 33 league goals last season, fewer than any other team in League One.
The first defensive test upon their return to the second tier will be to try and carry their League One form into keeping Joel Piroe quiet.
The Dutchman enjoyed a superb debut campaign at the Swansea.com Stadium, netting 22 league goals; only Aleksandar Mitrovic (43) and Dominic Solanke (29) scored more in the Championship last season. Of those 22 goals, nine came on the road, with Piroe not fazed at the prospect of playing away from home, something that helped him quickly settle in south Wales.
Saturday will mark the first time Piroe has come up against Rotherham in his career, and he'll need to be at his best to get the better of Wood at the heart of the three-man defence. At 37 years of age, Wood is in the final knockings of his career, yet he will look to use the nous experience he has garnered over the years against a talented, in-form opponent. The outcome of this individual tussle could well be key in the final analysis.
Swansea ended 2021-22 on a six-match winless run, which included relinquishing three-goal leads in entertaining draws with Reading and Bournemouth. They'll be looking to make a winning start to the new campaign, and they should be confident of doing so against Rotherham.
That's because Swansea have a fine record against Rotherham, winning five of their last six against the Millers, including a 3-1 win at the New York Stadium on their last visit here back in January 2021.