Talking Tactics | Swansea City v Brentford
Football stats experts WhoScored identify captain Matt Grimes as a key man in Swansea City's Championship play-off semi-final first leg clash against Brentford at the Liberty Stadium tonight (6.30pm).
Even a monkey hitting random keys for an infinite amount of time couldn't have scripted the drama that is the final day of the Championship season.
Needing to make up three points and at least five goals to leapfrog Nottingham Forest, there were late scenes at both the Madejski Stadium and the City Ground as Stoke secured a 4-1 win at Nottingham Forest and Swansea City did all they needed to do, earning themselves a 4-1 victory, which saw Steve Cooper’s side climb into the play-offs in the final minute of the regular campaign.
So the Swans go again, but it'll be easier said than done to book their place at Wembley. A welcome of Brentford awaits the Swans this evening in the first of this two-legged affair as the teams seek to join Leeds and West Brom in the Premier League.
The Bees ultimately ran out of steam as they looked to leapfrog the Baggies into the automatic promotion spots, falling to defeat in their final two games of the season.
And Swansea have the means to exploit this loss of momentum and set up a Wembley meeting with Fulham or Cardiff in the quest to land a Premier League spot.
While the Swans fell to a home defeat at the hands of Brentford this season, they had won the previous four home meetings with the west London side, so history is very much on their side.
Having put in a captain's display at Reading on Wednesday night, Matt Grimes will look to take that form into today's meeting as Swansea go all guns blazing to yield a first-leg advantage.
Indeed, Grimes landed the WhoScored.com man-of-the-match award at Reading in midweek, picking up a rating of 8.13.
It was Grimes' second man-of-the-match award from his last three away league outings, with a pair of assists, teeing up Rhian Brewster's opener and the first of Wayne Routledge's two goals, helping him to the individual award. It means no Swansea player has provided more assists than Grimes (seven) in the Championship this season as the skipper benefits from his role in the middle of the park in Cooper's now preferred 3-4-1-2 system.
Against a Brentford outfit that hasn't been solid on their travels on recent months, Grimes has a vital role to play in midfield, both on and off the ball. The Bees have won just three of their last seven away league matches and have kept just two clean sheets in that run, so while the visitors are one of the most exciting teams to watch in the Championship, they remain suspect at the back on their travels.
Grimes, meanwhile, boasts the requisite skills to keep the ball from Brentford and aid his side in their push for goal. Brentford's possession return of 56 per cent was the third best in the Championship this season, so keeping the ball from the Bees and their creative stars is of the utmost importance for Swansea tonight.
With a WhoScored.com strength of 'passing', though, Grimes has what it takes to ensure Brentford see as little of the ball as possible in a key area of the pitch.
Off the ball, Grimes has developed a statistically-calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'tackling' and that high work rate is going to be crucial. Brentford scored more goals (80) in the Championship this season as the likes of Said Benrahma and Ollie Watkins ran riot in the final third. Therefore, keeping the ball away from the Bees attacks is going to be essential in landing a positive result.
For Brentford, their key man from midfield is likely to be Josh Dasilva. Granted the chance to push on from midfield, Grimes needs to do all he can to make sure the 21-year-old isn't allowed to maximise his goalscorer ability from deep.
The youngster netted in Brentford's 2-1 loss to Barnsley in midweek and has now scored 10 league goals this season, though away from home, his impact is lessened considerably. Indeed, of the 10 league goals he has scored this season, only two have come on the road, but Dasilva is capable of turning a game in Brentford's favour in the blink of an eye.
However, we saw Grimes marshal proceedings in midfield against Reading on Wednesday night and there is no reason he can't do so again against Brentford.
Having worked wonders to secure their play-off spot, Swansea now need to ensure their hard work isn't in vain as they aim to inflict a third straight loss upon the Bees when they travel from the capital to the Liberty Stadium.