TALKING TACTICS: Swans v West Brom
26th December 2015
Ahead of the Premier League meeting with West Brom, we havepartnered up with football stats experts WhoScored.com to preview the Boxing Day fixture.
After a spirited showing at Manchester City followed by a 0-0 draw with West Ham, Swansea will be confident of returning to winning ways when they welcome West Brom to the Liberty Stadium on Boxing Day.
While it is the season of goodwill, there's unlikely to be an abundance of that in South Wales as the hosts look to heap pressure upon the Baggies.
Tony Pulis' side are on a poor run of form having failed to win any of their last four Premier League fixtures, while the Baggies have lost three of their last four league meetings with Swansea at the Liberty. Moreover, only Newcastle (five) have scored fewer goals than West Brom (six) away from home in the top flight this season.
With key attackers James McClean and Salomon Rondon suspended for the trip to Wales, back-to-back clean sheets is indeed a possibility, which would certainly help Swansea to a positive result.
With the consistent Neil Taylor expected to start, their chances of shutting out West Brom increase. The Welshman has played every Premier League minute for Swansea this season and is one of only 14 outfielders to have achieved the feat this term.
Taylor gained a commendable WhoScored.com rating of 7.17 in the 0-0 draw with West Ham and another solid showing will go a long way to shutting out a profligate Baggies outfit on Saturday.
The 26-year-old has gained a statistically-calculated strength of 'concentration' and boasts the mental capacity to ensure West Brom don't get the better of him when attacking down their right.
While also providing an offensive threat from deep, overlapping his attacking team-mates to help stretch the opposition, Taylor has the know how to ensure he carries out his defensive responsibilities when it's required of him. Given the Swans' preference of playing the ball out from the back rather than thumping the ball forward, Taylor's quality in possession is essential to ensure he does not get caught out by the opposition.
'Holding on to the ball' is another strength of the left-back, with opposing sides struggling to rob him of possession when he is on the ball. Not only does this mean he is not caught out in dangerous positions, but that he is capable of instigating attacks when the ball is played to him at the back.
His defensive qualities will need to be on show when the Baggies make the trip to the Liberty, with Craig Gardner expected to be the man he comes up against on Boxing Day. The 29-year-old provided the assist for Garath McAuley's goal in their 2-1 defeat to Bournemouth last weekend, with Gardner's WhoScored.com rating (7.10) the second best of all West Brom players in the loss.
The tenacity the Englishman provides on the right will ensure Taylor hardly gets a moments rest on Saturday, but given the left-back's unassuming approach to defending, he has the ability come out on top against Gardner.
If that is indeed the case, Swansea have a much stronger chance of securing a positive result at West Brom's expense.
*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.