Talking Tactics | Swansea City v Millwall
The final international break until March is done and dusted and attention turns back to domestic duties as a result. With Christmas looming, the games will be coming thick and fast over the coming weeks and months in what is a decisive period.
For Swansea City, they return to domestic action with the welcome of Millwall. The Swans go into the clash on a three-match unbeaten run having won two and drawn one and sit just four points off pace setters West Brom.
They face a Millwall side that has struggled to find any form on the road, with the Lions currently without a win on their travels.
Only Wigan and Barnsley (both two) have earned fewer away points than Millwall (four) in the Championship this season and while the south London side remain one of the best sides in the division on home turf, their away form is the opposite. They'll be eager to land their first way league win of the campaign at the Liberty Stadium today, but recent history between the duo suggests the Lions will struggle here.
Swansea are unbeaten in the last four meetings between the pair and have secured all three points in each of the last three clashes. While the home form has been indifferent, there's no reason why they cannot pick up another vital victory.
Our stats suggest it'll be all the more possible with Nathan Dyer in the XI, too.
While the winger has started just six of 16 Championship matches this season, Dyer has still chipped in with key goal contributions. He provided the assist for Mike van der Hoorn's winning goal in the 2-1 win over Hull back in August and bagged himself the opener in the 2-1 win at Wigan earlier this month, with his one goal and one assist earning Swansea an additional four points.
A similar clutch performance against Millwall today wouldn't go amiss. What's more, Swansea are unbeaten in the six matches Dyer has started, with the club's win percentage a solid 66.7 per cent when he does start, that rising from 40 per cent in the matches he hasn't. Steve Cooper has identified the 31-year-old's experience at this level and is maximising this quality in Swansea's promotion push.
With the number of goals per game also rising from 1.20 to 1.67 in the league games Dyer does start, it's no coincidence that his return to the XI last month saw Swansea earn recent hard-fought wins over Cardiff and Wigan and then a point at Sheffield Wednesday before the international break. With the statistically-calculated WhoScored.com match forecast suggesting that it’s likely that Swansea will 'score from a wing situation', Dyer's impact from the right could well see the Swans exploit a Millwall weakness of 'defending against attacks down the wings'.
Keeping Dyer at bay, then, will be crucial for a Millwall outfit mired on a 12-match away winless run in the Championship, which increases the pressure on Murray Wallace to churn out a solid performance from left-back. The 26-year-old's WhoScored.com rating, though, is a sub-par 6.65 this season. Wallace boasts no statistically-calculated WhoScored.com strengths and has committed the fourth most fouls (18) of all Millwall players, suggesting he reverts to desperate measures to deny an opponent.
Given Swansea have scored six goals from set-piece situations, one of the better returns in the Championship this season, this wreckless approach to defending may come back to haunt Millwall. And with Dyer impressing, and Swansea boasting a fine win record when the winger starts, the Swans will be eyeing up another three points to prolong Millwall's away day woes.