Talking Tactics | Swansea City v Millwall
Having been held to a 0-0 draw with Hull over the weekend, attention turns to the welcome of Millwall in midweek as Swansea City look to secure their first home league win of the season.
Like the Swans, the Lions have earned one victory in the 2021-22 Championship campaign to date, that coming via a 2-1 win over Blackpool prior to the international break.
What to expect from Millwall
Gary Rowett has persisted with a three-man defence for Millwall this season, with a trio of Murray Wallace, on-loan Danny Ballard and Jake Cooper his preferred set of centre-backs in the opening six games of the campaign. It has not yet had the desired effect as Millwall have conceded nine league goals, that giving them the fifth-worst defensive record in the division after six league games.
While logic would dictate that Rowett demand the wing-backs get forward as routinely as possible to help stretch opponents, Millwall have actually favoured attacking through the middle with 28% of their attacks coming through the middle of the pitch, that the third-highest ration in England's second tier.
The aim is to get central midfielders Maikel Kieftenbeld and George Saville on the ball as often as possible with the pair ranking fourth (31.8) and fifth (30.8) for passes per game, respectively, of all Millwall players. That's because Millwall look to get Jed Wallace on the ball as routinely as possible to hurt opponents.
The 27-year-old is Millwall's dangerman, having earned a better WhoScored.com rating (7.20) than any other Lions player having had a direct hand in five of the seven goals they have scored, netting three. Wallace ranks first for key passes (2.2) and dribbles per game (1.2) for the south London side, so keeping him in check will be vital for Swansea.
Rhys Williams was solid on his Swansea debut at the weekend, playing his part as the hosts limited the Tigers to just one shot on target across the 90 minutes, and even that was a pot-shot from distance from Ryan Longman in the dying embers of the stalemate.
Swansea were able to dominate Hull and Williams showed his quality in possession.
One of the 20-year-old's statistically calculated WhoScored.com strengths is 'passing', a weapon in his arsenal that he displayed to great effect as he returned a pass success rate of 96.7% at the weekend; that among the best of all starters in gameweek six of the Championship season and better than any other player in Swansea's 0-0 draw with Hull.
This distribution will be key to ensuring Swansea not only dominate from the outset, instigating attacks from defence, but keeping the ball from Wallace.
The Lions talisman has a tendency to drift to the right when in possession, so keeping Millwall from finding Wallace is vital, with Williams' skill-set key in that regard as he looks to ensure the hosts can pick up a three-point haul.
Only Reading (4) have conceded more set-piece goals than Millwall (3), excluding penalties, in the Championship this season ahead of gameweek seven.
On top of that, the Lions rank third for fouls per game (12.8) and have developed a Whocored.com weakness of 'avoiding fouling in dangerous areas'.
The visitors will hope to cut down the number of set-piece opportunities they present to Swansea, given the quality of delivery from Matt Grimes, who so nearly punished Hull when his free-kick struck the post at the weekend.