Talking Tactics | Swansea City v West Brom
After Sunday's resounding 3-0 win over fierce rivals Cardiff, attention now turns to the welcome of high-flying West Brom. As always, WhoScored.com preview the clash, paying attention on what to expect from the Baggies, the key battle and a key stat to whet the appetite.
What to expect from West Brom
Having worked wonders with Barnsley last season, West Brom turned their attention to Valerien Ismael as the man to steer the Baggies back to the top-flight. His appointment signalled a change in style from that West Brom fans became accustomed to under Sam Allardyce. That said, there remain elements of the direct approach witnessed under Allardyce, but Ismael, to an extent, has sought to stamp his own style of play on the squad.
West Brom seek to get the ball upfield as quickly as possible with an average of 71.2 long balls per game the fourth highest in the Championship this season. It's an approach that doesn't often pan out, as noted in a pass success rate of 60.7%, the lowest in England's second tier this term. For context, Swansea (85.2%) have the highest at the time of writing.
This has seen the Baggies develop a statistically-calculated WhoScored.com style of play of 'long balls' and it is this direct approach that has helped West Brom to second in the Championship coming into the midweek round of games, three points behind league leaders Bournemouth.
As Ismael did so often with Barnsley, he has used a three-man defence with the Baggies this term and this has improved their defensive resolve. Indeed, only Bournemouth and Derby (both eight) have conceded fewer goals than West Brom (nine) in the Championship in 2021-22, not only due to the use of a three-at-the-back set up, but also as a result of those in front of the defence. Jake Livermore and Alex Mowatt provide excellent protection to the backline, the pair ranking joint-second for tackles per game (1.9) of all West Brom players, with the latter following Ismael from Oakwell to Hawthorns.
This allows the wing-backs to get forward and support the offensive, with Darnell Furlong (1.8), Adam Reach (1.6) and Conor Townsend (1.4) ranking first, second and third, respectively, for key passes per game for the club in 2021-22. It's not too dissimilar to Swansea's approach under Russell Martin, albeit with a little more directness, and it means that this midweek showdown should prove to be an entertaining encounter.
The star of the show in Sunday's south Wales derby win was summer arrival Jamie Paterson. The former Bristol City man had a direct hand in all three goals for the Swans against Cardiff, following up his stunning opener with assists for Joel Piroe and Jake Bidwell after the break to put the game beyond reach.
Paterson returned a WhoScored.com rating of 9.02 in the weekend's 3-0 win, that the best rated Swansea performance in a Championship match this season and enough to make the team of the week as he ran the Cardiff defence ragged on home turf. If Swansea are to break down one of the toughest defences in the division, then Paterson will need to be on top of his game on Wednesday night and exhibit statistically-calculated WhoScored.com strengths of 'key passes' and 'through balls' in order to pry apart the backline.
In Mowatt, though, the Baggies have the ideal midfielder to not only keep Paterson in check, but also help West Brom in the final third. It's easy to see why Ismael was keen on bringing Mowatt with him to the Hawthorns, with the 26-year-old yielding a WhoScored.com rating of 7.21, that the fourth best of all West Brom players this term.
Mowatt has had a direct hand in four of West Brom's 21 league goals following his arrival from Barnsley and his work both in and out of possession has been a key reason for West Brom's rise to second in the table.
At the time of writing, only Fulham (27) and QPR (23) have scored more goals than West Brom (21) in the Championship this season, but if any team can stop the Baggies in their tracks, it is the Swans.
A 3-0 win over Cardiff marked Swansea's fourth successive home clean sheet in England's second tier, that the longest run of its kind this season.