Preview: Swansea City

An unexpected, but thoroughly deserved, win over Brentford has breathed life into a Coventry City side that looked to be on a dangerous slide. We are still in a precarious position in the league and in the midst of a challenging run of fixtures but it feels as if a realistic path to survival has opened up. If we can maintain the levels of energy and belief that we put into our previous performance, it should be enough to keep this team safe.

This upcoming fixture against a Swansea City side who – aside from an aberrant display at the weekend – are a phenomenally tough defensive unit is likely to provide a sterner inspection of our attacking ability than the Brentford game. More than the opposition, the biggest challenge this game poses surrounds the fitness levels of this side after such a big effort at the weekend.

Possible Line-Up (3-4-1-2): Wilson; Ostigard, McFadzean, Hyam; Dacosta, James, Hamer, McCallum; O'Hare; Walker, Biamou.
Possible Line-Up

Expected Line-Up

There isn’t really any reason to change a winning side from the weekend, aside from fitness concerns.

With Mark Robins’ substitutions in the Brentford game focused on sustaining energy levels in midfield and attack, if we are to see changes for this game, it is likely to be in that area of the team. Specifically, Tyler Walker and Liam Kelly are only recently back from fairly significant spells out and may well be replaced by Viktor Gyokeres and Matty James, respectively, for this game.

Although there is the positive news that Fankaty Dabo could be fit enough to be a part of the squad for this game, it seems needless to risk starting him when we have Julien Dacosta performing well at right wing-back. With two good options in that position, there is likely to be a tough decision to be made in the weeks ahead – which is unlikely to involve the strange suggestion of playing one of Dacosta or Dabo at left wing-back.

Last Time We Met

In one of our better performances in the first part of the season, the Sky Blues had the better of the game at St Andrew’s against a Swansea City side that was still feeling its way into the campaign.

Jordan Shipley put Coventry City ahead after making the kind of late run into the penalty area that we haven’t seen much from him this season. However, a swift counter-attacking move from Swansea just before half-time levelled the scores, with Andre Ayew applying the finish.

Despite Swansea starting the second-half strongly, they struggled to create anything of note before the Sky Blues had some decent chances to win the game late-on – with Ryan Giles and Callum O’Hare both spurning excellent opportunities to put the team ahead late-on in the same move.

The Opposition

The Manager – Steve Cooper

The former England youth-team manager has quietly turned Swansea City into an efficient winning unit. Without having spent anywhere near as much on players as the other teams in automatic promotion contention, Cooper dipped into his contacts at elite clubs to bring in some of the best available loan talent, got the best out of those already at the club and added some important experience here and there.

Much like Coventry City in League One last season, Swansea City are in the promotion race without necessarily creating a ton of chances every game but have won games consistently due to a rock-solid defensive unit that rarely allows teams big chances. Even in a fairly heavy defeat to Huddersfield Town last time out, it took a few really good strikes to break through Swansea’s defensive resolve.

Possible Line-Up (3-4-1-2): Woodman; Naughton, Cabango, Guehi; Roberts, Fulton, Grimes, Bidwell; Hourihane; Ayew, Lowe.
Possible Line-Up

Who To Look Out For

With the strongest part of this Swansea City side being the defence, the trio of Ben Cabango, Marc Guehi and either Kyle Naughton or Ryan Bennett at the back has been essential to the team’s performances this season, along with keeper, Freddie Woodman. Chelsea loanee, Guehi, looks to be the pick of the bunch with his combination of pace, positioning and physical strength making him almost impossible to get past.

Wing-backs, Connor Roberts and Jake Bidwell have been essential for Swansea in both a defensive and attacking sense. Both are pretty solid defenders when they need to be but are excellent in timing their runs and deliveries to not only create but also score goals from wing-back.

That solid defensive core is enhanced by the reliable presences of Jay Fulton and Matt Grimes in midfield, who are excellent in circulating possession as well as retaining a solidity to the team without the ball. Recent loan signing, Conor Hourihane, has added an x-factor to Swansea’s midfield that had perhaps been missing earlier in the season, stepping up with four goals in five appearances – most of which have been incredible strikes.

In attack, Swansea lack a recognised, senior centre-forward, and instead utilise the movement and pace of Andre Ayew and Jamal Lowe to drag opposition defences out of position. It is a testament to how effective Swansea are as a team unit that Steve Cooper didn’t address that hole in the squad in the January transfer window, instead, signing three additional forwards who are more effective out wide in Morgan Whittaker, Paul Arriola and, the now injured, Jordan Morris.

Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost

With Swansea City being such a parsimonious side at the back, the most important thing we need to do is to ensure that we don’t hand them anything cheap that will allow them to take control of the game. That possibly could tempt Mark Robins into altering the game-plan from the energetic press that we saw against Brentford so that the defence isn’t drawn up the pitch against Swansea’s quick forwards, however, we also saw last time out how much of an effective defensive measure it can be to prevent an opponent building up a passing rhythm by pressing high.

Our best chance in this game is likely to rely upon maintaining the energy levels that were produced in our last performance. The question is whether we have the fitness and quality to maintain that level of intensity for two games in a row against strong opposition and with little rest time. Getting the win against Brentford has at least reduced the pressure on the team to get a result here, but any kind of positive result in this game would boost both confidence and our survival prospects.

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