Talking Tactics | Swansea City v Birmingham City
Ahead of Swansea City's first home game of the season against Birmingham City, football stats experts WhoScored.com take a look at the form of Freddie Woodman.
Preston huffed and puffed but could not break Swansea City’s resolve at Deepdale last Saturday as the Swans got their 2020-21 campaign off to a winning start.
Morgan Gibbs-White's goal early in the second half – on his league debut - proved to be the difference between the two sides as Steve Cooper oversaw a 1-0 win in Lancashire.
It's back to the Liberty Stadium this weekend as the Swans gear up to welcome Birmingham City for their home opener. Like Swansea, Birmingham also earned a hard-fought 1-0 win on the opening weekend, picking up a victory at Brentford's expense to secure all three points.
However, the Blues need to improve their fortunes on the road if they are to build on that triumph over last season's play-off runners' up.
Birmingham have lost their last three away league matches and have failed to score in their last four. That doesn't bode well for the Midlands outfit against a Swansea side who have conceded just 23 home league goals since the start of 2019-20, and they'll need to find a way past one of the Championship's more solid goalkeepers in the form of Freddie Woodman.
A shut-out at Deepdale means Woodman has kept 13 clean sheets in England's second tier since the start of last season, one of the best returns in the league.
Woodman kept a clean sheet in this fixture last season and given Birmingham's goalscoring difficulties - since the start of 2019-20 only a handful of teams have scored fewer goals than the Blues tally of 52 - he'll be looking to add to his impressive clean sheet record on home turf.
Indeed, Birmingham’s chance conversion rate of just 8.8 per cent is one of the worst of all Championship sides over the same period. Not that Swansea will be taking anything for granted with a new man in the Blues dug-out looking to revitalise their fortunes.
When it comes to head-to-head record, the hosts hold the upper hand in the recent meetings between the two sides.
The Swans are unbeaten in the last six clashes against Birmingham, winning four, and they did the double over the Midlands side last term. How they would love to continue that sequence and make it six points from six at the start of the new campaign.
That's not to say Birmingham are to be underestimated, and Swansea certainly won’t be taking the visitors lightly.
New Blues boss Aitor Karanka is an experienced Championship head coach and he has the tactical nous to make life difficult for opponents.
The Spaniard is likely to look to Lukas Jutkiewicz to lead the line once more and, while he was unable to get on the scoresheet last time out, the striker has still scored more league goals (15) than any other Birmingham player since the start of the 2019-20 campaign.
Dominant in the air, Swansea may need to be wary of Birmingham looking to play the ball long to maximise his aerial ability, and try and find a way to unsettle a Swansea defence that showed great resilience at Deepdale last weekend
Jutkiewicz did score in the meeting at St. Andrew's last season, so he is aware of what is needed to breach the Swans defence.
But, if Woodman plays to the best of his ability, the Swansea keeper will back himself to prevent the 31-year-old from opening his account for the season at the Liberty Stadium.
Considering their record against Birmingham and a strong end to last season, Swansea can come into Saturday's clash with confidence but knowing they need to avoid complacency.
And Woodman and his defence will look to keep their focus and continue from the solid foundations laid last time out.