Talking Tactics | Swansea City v Sheffield Wednesday
Football stats experts WhoScored identify full-back Jake Bidwell as a key man in Swansea City's Championship fixture against Sheffield Wednesday at the Liberty on Sunday (12pm).
On the back of their 1-1 draw at Millwall in the week, Swansea City are back in action on home turf on Sunday when they host Sheffield Wednesday (12pm).
The stalemate at the Den, combined with results elsewhere, means the Swans didn't really lose ground in the race for the play-offs, but there is still a four-point gap to make up between themselves and rivals Cardiff in sixth.
However, in Sheffield Wednesday, the stats suggest Swansea will welcome a hospitable opponent. Indeed, two wins in 13 leaves Garry Monk's side mired in mid-table, though one of those two victories came in their last away jaunt - a 2-1 win at play-off chasing Bristol City, so caution must be applied here.
Yet, in south Wales, Swansea hold the upper hand against their Championship counterparts. The Owls have failed to win their last four trips to the Swans, losing the last two. Swansea earned a 2-1 win in this fixture last season and Cooper would like nothing more than to oversee a repeat of that victory as they look to close the gap on the top six.
However, while Sheffield Wednesday have struggled in front of their own fans, their away form leaves plenty to be positive about ahead of this meeting. Only Brentford (33) have scored more away goals than the Owls (32) in the Championship this season and with 'attacking down the wings' a statistically-calculated WhoScored.com strength of theirs, left-back Jake Bidwell has a big 90 minutes on his hands.
The 27-year-old is expected to feature from the off at the back once more for Cooper's team having started 30 of 40 league matches this season. And he'll face a tough test against Sheffield Wednesday, but with a statistically-calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'concentration', Bidwell has the means to keep his wits about him to order to limit any attacks down his side of the pitch.
With Sheffield Wednesday developing a WhoScored.com style of play of 'attempt crosses often', Bidwell and fellow right-back Connor Roberts can expect a testing afternoon, so it's vital they remain alert in order to ensure the Owls enjoy as little luck as possible down the flanks.
Conversely, though, Swansea will hope to maximise home advantage and put the Sheffield Wednesday backline to the sword.
The Swans boast a WhoScored.com style of play of 'attacking down the left' and this plays into Bidwell's hands given he has gained strengths of 'crossing' and 'key passes', so he is the ideal player to ensure this style of approach reaps the desired rewards.
However, for any defender, the first port of call is ensuring the Swansea goal is kept quiet and given Sheffield Wednesday play in a three-man defence, making sure wing-back Jacob Murphy has minimal impact in the final third is crucial.
A winger by trade, Murphy has been required to operate in a deeper role, but that doesn't negatively impact his attacking output. The 25-year-old has five goals and two assists to his name this season, including an assist for Connor Wickham's opener in the 2-1 win at Bristol City.
With a WhoScored.com strength of 'dribbling', Murphy has the means to ghost past an opponent and either drive for goal himself or get down the right to put a ball into the box.
With that in mind, Bidwell needs to do all he can to keep Murphy quiet. If able to, then Swansea will at least keep a clean sheet and if afforded the opportunity to get forward, then the defender can add to his two assists and help Swansea to a vital three points in their promotion push.