Talking Tactics | Swansea City v Barnsley
As the season draws towards its conclusion, Swansea are ending 2021-22 on a high. They come into Friday's welcome of Barnsley unbeaten in five, picking up 13 point in that run, as WhoScored.com preview the Good Friday clash.
What to expect from Barnsley
Barnsley started the season in a three-man defensive system, but since Poya Asbaghi took over the reins in November, the Tykes began to move away from the setup to his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation.
Initially the change did not have had the desired effect, however there have been signs of a revival under Asbaghi as they seek to complete the great escape.
They may sit eight points below 21st-placed Reading, but they do have a game in hand on the Royals and have lost just two of their last six.
However, in turn Barnsley have won only one of their last seven and, as we near the end of the campaign, they do need a minor miracle to avoid dropping into League One.
They'll need top scorer Carlton Morris to rediscover the form he showed earlier in the year, with four of the 10 goals he has directly contributed to coming in a two-game spell back in February.
In total, Morris has seven league goals to his name, but has scored just three league goals on the road in 2021-22.
Morris has upped his game following the January arrival of Amine Bassi, the Frenchman joining from Metz at the turn of the year and, despite only making his first start in February, he has more assists (4) than any other Barnsley player, while 2.3 key passes per game is the best for the Tykes to reinforce a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'key passes'.
The pair have struck up quite the understanding and it means that Morris (7.01) and Bassi (6.91) rank second and third, respectively, as Barnsley's top rated players in the Championship this season.
In a blow for the Tykes, though, their top rated player according to WhoScored.com - Michal Helik, with a 7.12 rating - is sidelined for the trip to south Wales.
The Pole is a key man for Asbaghi's side, with Helik ranking second for clearances (207) and first for interceptions (96) in England's second tier this term, and his absence for Barnsley very much hinders their quest to beat the drop.
Nevertheless, Helik's injury is unlikely to tinker Barnsley's attacking approach and with a WhoScored.com style of play of 'attacking down the right', Swansea need to keep this mind.
A greater proportion of Barnsley's attacks come down the right flank (39%), so not only is it key to ensure Morris and Bassi aren't able to add to their respective goals and assists return, but limit the effectiveness of the Tykes' left flank on Good Friday.
In recent weeks, Hannes Wolf has been used at left wing-back in Russell Martin's favoured line-up and to good effect.
Indeed, Wolf's best rated performances have come at left wing-back this season, which includes a stand-out display in the 2-1 win over Derby at the weekend.
"He was a beast. I singled him out in the dressing room – I don’t often do that because it’s all about the team – but I thought he was excellent," Martin said of Wolf following his showing against the Rams.
Wolf earned a WhoScored.com rating of 8.03 against Derby - only man of the match Joel Piroe (8.08) garnered higher - and having now had a direct hand in four goals in his last five league outings, the Austrian is certainly starting to find his feet in south Wales.
With Barnsley preferring to attack down their right flank, it could well be the defensive side of Wolf's game that comes to the fore this afternoon.
Callum Styles has featured on the right wing in recent weeks in Poya Asbaghi's preferred 4-2-3-1 setup, and while he has struggled in the final third, scoring just twice and providing just one additional assist, it's not for want of trying with the 22-year-old chipping in with averages of 1.2 shots and 1.1 key passes per game, the latter the third best of all Barnsley players.
One of Barnsley's seven statistically calculated WhoScored.com weaknesses is 'finishing scoring chances' and they have failed to score in four of their last seven away league matches.
The Tykes average the second fewest shots per game (9.9) in the Championship this season and have scored fewer goals (30) than any other team.
In addition, they have conceded the sixth most goals (59) in the division, which is why five of their seven weaknesses are defensive. Swansea are unbeaten in their last 15 competitive meetings with Barnsley and they will be keen to extend that run with another three points on Friday.