Talking Tactics | Swansea City v Birmingham City
Swansea City are back in league action today when they take on Birmingham at the Swansea.com Stadium. Here, WhoScored.com preview the clash in south Wales, taking a look at what to expect from Birmingham, the key battle and a key stat.
What to expect from Birmingham
John Eustace has largely favoured a three-man defence this season, but last time out used a 4-4-2 setup, albeit to no avail as he watched his Birmingham side fall to a 2-1 loss to Preston.
The Midlands side are now on the end of a five-game losing streak in England's second tier, with the sole reprieve in their last eight in all competitions coming in the form of a 2-1 FA Cup win at lower league opposition Forest Green.
Birmingham have also failed to win in three on the road, losing their last two, and shipping seven goals in those back-to-back losses. It is a sequence Eustace and his players will be keen to arrest, and it may be that he reverts back to a three-man defence for today's trip to the Swansea.com Stadium with the onus on the wing-backs to hurt opponents.
Birmingham have developed a statistically calculated WhoScored.com style of play of 'plays with width' and with Russell Martin himself favouring a setup that relies on wing-backs to stretch teams, Eustace may be tempted to use a similar setup.
That's largely due to the fact that Birmimgham have scored just 30 league goals this season, among the lowest returns in England's second tier. However, in turn, they have shipped just 35, that level with promotion chasing pair Blackburn and Middlesbrough.
Indeed, Birmingham will give opponents a tough 90 minutes with their return of 16.6 tackles per game the seventh highest in the division.
But history is on Swansea's side. They are unbeaten in their last four home meetings with the Blues, scoring six times in that run and keeping clean sheets in the last three clashes between the sides in south Wales.
Considering Birmingham rank high for fouls per game and have a low possession return, their frustrations can sometimes get the better of them, and it's seen them develop statistically calculated WhoScored.com weaknesses of 'avoiding fouling in dangerous area' and 'keeping possession of the ball'.
Considering Swansea's strengths and style of play, we can expect the home side to dominate the ball at the Swansea.com Stadium today, but to be able to deal with robust opponents in order to secure victory.
Matt Grimes has scored one league goal this season, and that came in the reverse fixture as Swansea were held to a 2-2 draw with Birmingham.
In that one, Grimes returned a WhoScored.com rating of 7.48, marking his fourth best-rated performance of the season. Considering the 27-year-old's quality in possession, he'll be the one dictating the tempo against Birmingham.
As such, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Eustace task midfielder Krystian Bielik with keeping tabs on Grimes in order to disrupt his rhythm. Bielik ranks second for tackles per game (2) of all Birmingham players in the Championship this season, while 1.1 interceptions and 1.3 fouls per game also rank highly. The Pole isn't afraid to get stuck in, and he'll be key as Birmingham look to negate Grimes' influence.
The World Cup break came at a bad time for Birmingham, who have won just one of their seven league matches since Qatar 2022.
Five successive defeats is also the longest run of its kind in the Championship this season. Swansea will seek to make six as they look to boost their play-off hopes.