Talking Tactics | Swansea City v Birmingham City
Football stats experts WhoScored take a look at George Byers' role in today's Championship clash with Birmingham City
Goals from Bersant Celina, Borja Baston and Sam Surridge secured a 3-1 win at QPR on Wednesday night and the Swans are flying high.
As one of four sides yet to lose a league match this season, Steve Cooper has rapidly endeared himself to the Swansea faithful and he’ll be keen to maintain their blistering start to the campaign with the welcome of Birmingham today.
Swansea’s home record is well documented, with the south Wales side unbeaten in their last 13 league matches at the Liberty Stadium. Having won eight of their last ten home Championship games, Cooper will see no reason why they can’t add another three points at the Blues’ expense today.
Birmingham have failed to win six of their last eight away Championship outings and have won only one of their last five competitive meetings with Swansea, so the pressure is on the Midlands outfit to get the better of their league counterparts.
Having been humbled by Nottingham Forest on their last away encounter, Swansea can draw inspiration from an insipid Birmingham performance at the City Ground as they seek to make it 13 points from 15 available at lunchtime.
Birmingham may be sitting just three points behind the Swans in the table, but having drawn largely on home comforts to sit eighth after four matches, we believe they will struggle when they make the trip south west.
If Cooper’s side play to the standards expected of them, then Birmingham will see little of the ball today, particularly as Swansea’s possession return of 55.1% in home matches ranks among the top third of all teams.
One of Birmingham’s statistically-calculated WhoScored.com weaknesses is ‘keeping possession of the ball’ and it’s for good reason too, with their overall possession return just 42.8%, - the second lowest in the Championship this term.
With that in mind, George Byers could be in line for a third league start of the season.
Having come off the bench to net in the 3-2 win over Preston last weekend, landing a WhoScored.com rating of 7.17 in the process, the 23-year-old may keep his place in the starting XI having featured from the off at QPR in midweek.
If Cooper is aiming to deny Birmingham the chance to control proceedings, then Byers is the ideal fit to start here. One of the Scot’s statistically-calculated WhoScored.com strengths is ‘passing’, with his ball retention qualities vital in Swansea’s bid to keep the ball from the Midlands side.
Indeed, his pass success rate of 86.2% is better than any other Swansea player this season and if he can maintain this average today, Birmingham could spend much of the 90 minutes starved of possession.
That said, Birmingham have previous when facing possession-based sides this season having seen little of the ball in their opening weekend 1-0 win at Brentford, and while they spent much of the game under the cosh, they still did enough to come away with all three points.
Two of their four statistically-calculated WhoScored.com strengths are focused on attacking, including ‘counter attacks’, so Swansea need to be on top of their game to ensure they aren’t caught out at the back by Pep Clotet’s side.
The Spanish boss will look to ball winner David Davis to disrupt Swansea’s rhythm and with Birmingham having developed a statistically-calculated WhoScored.com strength of ‘stealing the ball from the opposition’, the 28-year-old has the means to ensure Byers is unable to dominate the visitors today.
Davis’ 2.8 tackles per game is the second best of all Birmingham players and reinforces a WhoScored.com strength of ‘defensive contribution’.
Having played every minute of Birmingham’s season so far, the ball-winning midfielder is a vital cog in Clotet’s team as he carries out the dirty work in the middle of the park with aplomb.
Should Swansea encroach upon Birmingham’s defensive third, Davis will seek the ball with ruthless efficiency, which adds to the Swans’ tough task of breaking down this Birmingham side.
That said, of the four goals Birmingham have conceded this season, three have been away from home, and when factoring in Swansea’s impressive home record; all signs point to a home win.
If they can replicate their previous form at the Liberty Stadium, then the Swans will, at the very least, end the weekend in second, with Byers tipped to play a central role in their efforts to sweep Birmingham aside.