Talking Tactics | Swansea City v Blackburn Rovers

5th February 2022
First team
Hannes Wolf Talking Tactics

With a host of teams in FA Cup action this weekend, Swansea focus their efforts on league duties as they welcome high-flying Blackburn to the Stadium.

Here, take a look at what to expect from Blackburn, the key battle and a key stat ahead of this encounter.

What to expect from Blackburn

Tony Mowbray

Tony Mowbray has worked wonders for Blackburn this season with Rovers second in the table ahead of their trip to Swansea.

Blackburn come into Saturday's game five points off Fulham in first, but have played a game more than those around them, so they really need to win to give themselves some breathing space from those below them and to put the pressure on the Cottagers at the top of the Championship table.

A run of two wins in their last five doesn't make for great reading for Blackburn fans ahead of their meeting at the Stadium, however they do have a solid away record to call upon. Twenty of their 53 points have been earned on the road this season, that marking the sixth best away record in England's second tier.

Having initially started the season with a four-man backline, predominatly using a 4-2-3-1, Mowbray has recently favoured a three-man defence, the system yielding some much-improved results.

Indeed, Blackburn have conceded just 30 league goals this season, that record dropping to just six goals shipped in the 13 games in which they have used a three-man backline.

Of those 13 games, Blackburn have used a 3-4-1-2 nine times, winning eight of those and conceding just one goal in the process. They dropped points for the first time in the system at Luton last weekend as the Hatters held Rovers to a 0-0 draw on home turf, but that is unlikely to deter Rovers as they seek to get back to winning ways.

The system grants top scorer Ben Brereton Diaz the opportunity to operate on the frontline and it is no coincidence that Rovers failed to score against Luton last weekend without their talisman, who was on international duty with Chile, though he is touch and go this week.

In this setup, John Buckley is granted the license to maximise his creative qualties, the youngster having registered six assists this season - only Brereton Diaz (7) has more in the league this season - though the 22-year-old is also able to pressure opposition defences higher up the pitch.

Buckley is making more tackles per game (2.4) than any other Blackburn player and his tenacity helps Rovers force opponents into making mistakes, thus presenting more goalscoring chances.

Lewis Travis is an effective ball winner to help mop up behind the attack, with the experienced Bradley Johnson in contention to start alongside the 24-year-old given the absence of his usual midfield partner Joe Rothwell.

Blackburn are also hindered by injury to Harry Pickering, who'd usually start on the left to provide additional width to support the offensive.

In the three-man defence, Darragh Lenihan is the key man with Jan Paul van Hecke and Scott Wharton making up a backline that has been so resolute in a 3-4-1-2 shape. 

Key battle

Luton Town home Hannes Wolf

Like Blackburn, Swansea also dropped points at the hands of Luton last time out and they'll be eager to bounce back on Saturday evening.

Despite dominating periods of the game, the Swans fell to a 1-0 defeat on Tuesday night, though there are positives to take from the loss.

Hannes Wolf joined on loan from Borussia Monchengladbach last month and made his third league start for the Swans in the loss, but he did all he could to help his side.

A return of five key passes is the second most by a Swansea player in a Championship match this season and that helped the young Austrian to a rating of 7.35.

In addition, Wolf has developed a statistically calculated strength of 'long shots', which could work in Swansea's favour against Blackburn.

The match forecast suggests that it is very likely that Swansea 'will score a long shot' and with Wolf statistically impressing from distance, he would love to bag his first goal at Rovers' expense on Saturday.

It'll be up to Lewis Travis to ensure Wolf isn't presented with these opportunities to go for goal from distance if Rovers are to keep yet another clean sheet. The tally of 1.9 tackles per game is the second most of all Blackburn players this season, while two interceptions per game ranks first for Rovers and among the top five in the Championship in 2021-22.

Key stat

Ben Brereton Diaz

Blackburn not only have one of the best defensive records in the league, but only Fulham (74) have scored more goals than Mowbray's side (45) in the Championship this season.

However, with Brereton Diaz being Rovers' top scorer, and by some distance, the visitors will hope he is available after his recent international exploits with Chile.

The 22-year-old has scored a higher proportion of his team's goals (44.4%) than any other player in the Championship.

A late return from international duty, during which Diaz played 164 of a possible 180 minutes, could well impact Mowbray's decision whether to use their star striker.

Whatever the outcome of that decision, Swansea will be hoping he doesn't have the chance to add to his 20 Championship goals this season on Saturday.