TALKING TACTICS: Swans v Bournemouth
21st November 2015
Ahead of the top-flight meeting with Premier League new boys AFC Bournemouth, we have partnered up with football stats experts WhoScored.com to preview the encounter.
The Cherries have struggled to adjust to the rigours of Premier League football following their promotion to England's top tier and are currently in the relegation zone, two points off safety. Of course, defeat to Newcastle prior to the international break was due to an inspired Rob Elliot performance, but contributed to their fourth consecutive top-flight defeat of the campaign - only Aston Villa (7) have been on a longer losing run in the Premier League this season.
Eddie Howe's side have won just three points from a possible 18 on the road this term, further hindering their chances of consolidating a place among England's best 20 teams come May. A trip to the Liberty Stadium does not aid their cause. Swansea have won three of the last four league meetings between the two sides on home turf and one would not bet against them improving that record this weekend.
Garry Monk has at his disposal ample attacking options as he looks to put another three points on the board, but key to victory on Saturday could well be Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Iceland international has thus far failed to hit his very best form following an excellent campaign upon his return to South Wales 18 months ago, but his ability from dead-ball situations could be crucial against Bournemouth.
The south coast side have developed a statistically calculated WhoScored.com weakness of 'defending set pieces', conveniently an area Sigurdsson excels in. The Icelander bagged the equaliser in the 2-1 win at Aston Villa last month, netting just his second goal of the season. Indeed, Sigurdsson has gained statistically calculated WhoScored.com strengths of 'direct free-kicks' and 'taking set-pieces'.
Sigurdsson's creative capability is another quality of his game that will trouble the Bournemouth back line. Only Sunderland (18) have conceded more goals away from home in the Premier League this season than the Cherries (16), who evidently struggle to contain opposition attackers on the road.
Given that Monk is able call on Andre Ayew and Jefferson Montero in the final third - two players capable of getting the better of any Premier League defence on their day - it's Sigurdsson's keen eye for a defence splitting pass that can play the pair in to hurt the opposition. The one expected to be tasked with limiting his impact is midfielder Andrew Surman.
Like many of his team-mates, Surman has struggled in the Premier League, despite his previous experience in the division. The South African's WhoScored.com rating (6.49) is the lowest of all outfielders to start every top-flight game this season, further accentuating his difficulty to adapt. While he has the ability to instigate attacks, with his 681 accurate passes the third best in England's top tier so far, his input off the ball often leaves a lot to be desired. A WhoScored.com weakness of 'tackling' suggests the game could pass him by, leaving the defence vulnerable to wave after wave of Swansea attacks.
If that is indeed the case, Sigurdsson will be expected to be at the centre of every offensive move in the final third for a Swansea side looking to hit the ground running following the international break.
*WhoScored.com is a unique website and one of the fastest growing in the sports industry, specialising in the in-depth analysis of detailed football data. Provided with unique stats, they compile and create comprehensive analysis on the major European divisions, including live match stats and player ratings. You can follow @WhoScored and their editorial assistant Ben McAleer on Twitter.