Talking Tactics | Swansea City v Hull City
As Swansea City host Hull in their opening Championship fixture, football stats experts WhoScored.com preview Saturday's encounter at the Liberty.
After a long drawn out summer, Championship football returns to the Liberty Stadium today as Swansea City host Hull City.
It’ll mark the beginning of a new era in south Wales as Steve Cooper oversees his first competitive game as Swans boss.
Having guided his side to a 100 per cent pre-season record, culminating in a fine 2-1 win over Champions League side Atalanta last weekend, Cooper will hope his young guns can hit the ground running in the second tier.
At this stage of the campaign anything can happen, but one thing for sure is that newly-appointed captain Matt Grimes will put in another solid showing in the middle of the park.
Cooper chopped and changed with his captains in pre-season, but Grimes will skipper the team for the coming campaign and the midfield controller will be looking to repay the faith shown in him by the new Swansea boss.
The 24-year-old enjoyed a fine season under former manager Graham Potter as he won four awards at the club’s seasonal event, reflecting what was a superb campaign. A WhoScored.com rating of 7.02 was the second best of all Swansea players in the Championship last season, with his composure in the middle of the park a vital weapon in his arsenal.
One of Grimes’ four statistically-calculated WhoScored.com strengths is ‘passing’ and for good reason as he made more passes per game (70.8) than any other player in England’s second tier last term.
It’s this quality that enables Swansea to dominate opponents and with Cooper looking to implement a possession-based approach, Grimes is set to be the heartbeat of the team, starting with the welcome of Hull today.
Considering Swansea’s possession return of 56 per cent was the second best in the Championship last season, Grimes’ ability to pick out a team-mate with ease allowed the Swans to ensure opponents saw as little of the ball as possible and doing so against the Tigers means they won’t be able to bring the best out of Jackson Irvine.
The Australian enjoyed a commendable campaign for Hull, netting six times, as he capitalised upon one of his statistically-calculated WhoScored.com strengths of ‘finishing’.
In the air, too, Irvine impressed. His sole strength marked as ‘very strong’ is ‘aerial duels’ and it’s easy to see why as the 26-year-old won more aerial duels per game (4.4) than any other midfielder in the Championship last season.
If Swansea can keep the ball on the deck and play their natural game, then Hull will struggle to maximise Irvine’s heading quality, but the afternoon could quickly turn sour if the Tigers are able to pump the ball forward and allow the Australia international to pressure the Swans backline and look to bring others into play.
With a 100 per cent pre-season record behind them, however, Swansea have gained momentum as they look to get their campaign off to a running start and while Hull won’t make things easy at the Liberty Stadium, Grimes has the quality to captain the Swans to an opening-weekend victory.