Talking Tactics | Swansea City v Derby County
Football stats experts WhoScored identify Freddie Woodman as a key man in Swansea City's Championship clash with Derby County at the Liberty Stadium.
Coming away from Deepdale with a point is not to be sniffed at this season as Swansea City achieved the feat in their 1-1 draw with Preston last weekend.
The stalemate kept the Swans within touching distance of the play-off places, but now four points off the top six, so Steve Cooper needs to mastermind a win today in order to keep their promotion hopes alive.
Fortunately for the Swans, they have one of the most accommodating opponents in the league making the trip to the Liberty Stadium this afternoon. Only Preston (33) have earned more home points than Derby (32) in the Championship this season, but away from home the Rams have shown relegation form.
Indeed, only bottom clubs Luton and Barnsley (both six) have earned fewer away points than Derby (eight) in England's second tier this term. Phillip Cocu is struggling to find the right balance between home and away performances and it means Derby are mired in mid table as they falter in their push for a Premier League return.
Their quest for promotion could suffer another blow today as they make the trip to South Wales. Swansea has been an unhappy hunting ground for Derby in recent seasons, with the Rams failing to win their last four visits to the Welsh coast. And today presents the Swans with the ideal opportunity to prolong Derby's dire away form.
Cocu's side have failed to win their last 13 away league matches - only Greek side AE Sparti (15) are only a longer current away winless run in Europe - as they face the uphill struggle of getting the better of a Swans side unbeaten in their last five on home turf.
Given only Preston (11) have netted fewer away goals than Derby (12) in the Championship this season, another clean sheet for Freddie Woodman isn't out of the question.
One of Woodman's nine clean sheets in the Championship this term came in the 0-0 draw at Pride Park back in August.
The game saw the 22-year-old earn the WhoScored.com man-of-the-match award with a rating of 8.40, and remains his best rated performance in a Championship game this season. That draw alone saw Woodman exhibit statistically-calculated WhoScored.com strengths of 'shot stopping' and 'penalty saving' with one of his three stops in the clash to deny Martyn Waghorn from the spot and contributed to his total of 81 saves in the Championship this season - the sixth best return.
Derby have failed to score in seven of their 14 away league matches this term so if Woodman can perform to the standards expected of him, and replicate the fine showing from the 0-0 draw earlier this season, than a clean sheet and a home win will ensure Swansea can close the gap on the play-off spots.
That said, Derby go into the match with a legend of the game returning to England earlier this year, and one who has made a solid start to life back in the country.
Wayne Rooney's move to Derby was confirmed months ago, but he only officially joined in January. However, he has quickly established himself as a key man in Cocu's XI.
While he has made only five league starts for the Rams, Rooney has two goals and two assists to his name and his WhoScored.com rating of 7.25 is already the best of all Derby players.
The 34-year-old may be playing deeper for Derby, yet he remains a potent goal threat that can swing a game in the Rams' favour in the blink of an eye. With two of his three Championship shots on target resulting in a goal, Woodman needs to be wary of the goalscoring threat Rooney carries as he seeks a 10th clean sheet of the season.
Woodman is one of the most promising goalkeepers in England and he has shown why time and time again for Swansea.
Another man-of-the-match showing to extend Derby's miserable away run will see his stock rise further as the Swans strive to make up the four-point gap between themselves and the top six, starting with today's welcome of the Rams.