Talking Tactics | Swansea City v Middlesbrough

23rd April 2022
First team
Cyrus Christie Talking Tactics

Swansea City are out to extend their current unbeaten run to eight league matches on Saturday as they seek to end the season strongly and throw a spanner in the works of Middlesbrough's play-off push in the process.

Ahead of this one, preview the action, looking at what to expect from Boro, the key battle and a key stat.

What to expect from Middlesbrough

Chris Wilder

With four games still to play, Middlesbrough are still in the play-off hunt. A four-game winless run may have dented their hopes of a Premier League return, but they remain just three points behind sixth-placed Sheffield United with a game in hand on the Blades.

Had the season started when Chris Wilder took over the reins in early November, then Boro would be sixth already with Wilder making a superb impact at the Riverside Stadium.

Boro have a fairly favourable run in, but they face a testing trip to Swansea this weekend in a bid to keep their play-off push on track. As has been the case for much of the campaign, Wilder should continue with a three-man backline with the onus on the wing-backs, particularly down the right, to provide the width for Boro.

They have developed a statistically calculated strength of 'attacking down the wings' with Isaiah Jones and one of Marc Bola or Neil Taylor both getting forward where possible to hurt opponents.

Jones has earned a rating of 6.93, the fourth best of all Boro players, and his performances haven't gone unnoticed with a host of Premier League sides showing an interest in the 22-year-old.

He ranks top for assists (8) and dribbles per game (1.6) of all Boro players and it's clear the idea is to get Jones on the ball to drive the team forward. Only Luton (44%) attack down their right more than Boro (42%) in the Championship this season and stifling Jones will be important if Swansea are to secure another three points on Saturday.

When Jones does go forward, Bola looks to ensure Boro aren't caught short at the back should opponents suddenly counter, with the latter the more defensive of the two. Indeed, only Sol Bamba (1.7) is making more interceptions per game than Bola (1.2) for Boro this season, while only 36% of their attacks come down the left.

The aim will be to keep Jones quiet, but even then Boro have a number of creative options in the middle of the park. Marcus Tavernier (1.6) and Matt Crooks (1.1) rank first and third, respectively, of all Boro players for key passes per game in England's second tier this term, so Wilder has ample attacking outlets if required.

He'll be desperate to see his Boro side get back among the goals with the Teessiders hitting the back of the just four times in their last six competitive games, all of which came in a 4-0 win at relegation-threatened Peterborough at the start of April.

Swansea have kept 16 clean sheets this season, that among the best in the Championship, so they'll be looking to keep Boro side out and extend their unbeaten run.

Key battle

Millwall away Cyrus Christie

Boro will come up against a familiar face when they take on Swansea on Saturday. Cyrus Christie spent the first half of the 2017-18 Championship season at the Riverside and impressed during his short stint with the club. Indeed, a rating of 7.20 was the second best of all Boro players that season prior to his move to Fulham in January 2018.

Now at Swansea, Christie will look to add to his record of two goals and four assists for the Swans following his loan move to the Stadium at the turn of the year. A rating of 6.95 is better than any other Swansea player, with his attacking output key for Russell Martin's side. He is averaging more dribbles per game (1.4) than any other current Swansea player, while 0.8 key passes per game is the fourth best for the club.

Christie can be expected to come up against a more defensive-minded wing-back in Marc Bola, who boasts statistically calculated strengths of 'ball interception' and 'blocking the ball'. However, as solid as Bola may be, three of Christie's five best rated performances have come on home turf, so fans will hope the 29-year-old can give the Boro man a torrid 90 minutes this weekend.

Key stat

Reading away Russell Martin

It was two points dropped rather than one point gained on Easter Monday as Swansea let a 4-1 lead slip to draw 4-4 at Reading.

Nevertheless, the result extended the Swans' unbeaten break to seven matches, that currently the longest streak of its kind in the Championship.

With the Swans unbeaten in their last six at home against Middlesbrough, winning five of those, they'll be looking to extend that run.