Talking Tactics | Stoke City v Swansea City
Football stats experts WhoScored.com take a look at the recent form of Swansea City skipper Matt Grimes, and the key role he can play in tonight's clash with Stoke City.
Two defeats in the last three would not be what Swansea City were hoping for at this stage of the season, and they will know how important it is to get back on track at Stoke in midweek.
Leaders Norwich face second-placed Brentford on Wednesday evening and capitalising on the pair facing off would be a big boost.
Coming into the midweek games, the Swans sit just four points behind Brentford with two games in hand, so they need three points at the bet365 Stadium on Wednesday night to ensure their fate remains in their own hands regardless of results elsewhere.
Back-to-back defeats has seen Stoke drop to 10th in the table, but the Welsh outfit will not underestimate the Potters, particularly on home turf. They're unbeaten in three at the bet365 Stadium, winning the last two, and have won their last four home meetings with Swansea.
Stoke may sit seven points off the top six and will be keen to use their home form as a means of bolstering their play-off aspirations.
However, they head into the game on the back of successive losses while on the road, and it's vital Swansea capitalise upon this as they seek to secure a return to the Premier League.
It'll need a captain's performance to help Swansea return to winning ways and Steve Cooper will look to his skipper Matt Grimes to push his side to secure all three points. Grimes has been a dependable performer for the Swans this season, yielding a WhoScored.com rating of 7.00 in 2020-21.
Fortunately for Cooper and Swansea, Grimes has made a habit of showing up where needed on the road. Indeed, three of his five best rated performances in the Championship this season have come in away wins over QPR, Rotherham and Barnsley.
Cooper will be hoping Grimes puts in another fine performance at Stoke on Wednesday night in order to keep the pressure on their rivals.
While Stoke have conceded a modest 37 goals this season, their three statistically calculated WhoScored weaknesses are focused on defending, including 'defending against through ball attacks'. This plays into Grimes' hands in his bid to help pry apart the Stoke backline.
One of the 25-year-old's WhoScored.com strengths is 'through balls' and this knack for picking a pass for an attacking team-mate would help maximise the space between the defenders to create chances for the likes of Andre Ayew and Jamal Lowe.
Out of possession, too, Grimes has a huge role to play in Staffordshire. One of Stoke's WhoScored.com strengths is 'coming back from losing positions', so if Swansea do go ahead at the bet365 Stadium this week, they are likely to face a fightback.
However, three of Grimes' seven WhoScored.com strengths focus on defending, so even if Stoke do go behind and seek to haul themselves back into the game, they'll have the tough task of getting past the Swans skipper in the middle of the park given his ability to read the game and win back possession.
Grimes will have a battle on his hands to win this midfield battle, as he faces his opposite number and skipper in the experienced John Obi Mikel.
The Nigerian has been a key man in the middle of the park following his arrival last summer, after departing Turkish Super Lig side Trabzonspor. The 33-year-old is making more tackles per 90 minutes (2.0) than any other Stoke player this season, and his defensive work will be crucial in if they are to deny Grimes the opportunity to create chances for his Swansea team-mates.
Given the time and space to pick his pass, Grimes is more than capable of continuing his strong recent form and making it a tough night for Stoke, as Swansea look to return to winning ways at the Potters' expense.