Swansea City will be targeting their first win since late August when they face Charlton this evening on the back of a 1-1 draw with a struggling Reading side over the weekend.
Steve Cooper’s side raced into an early lead courtesy of Borja Baston’s fine header, but his Swansea side were forced to accept a point from the match when Andy Yiadom scored a late equaliser for the visitors.
The hosts dominated large spells of first half and looked like they were going to see out the victory, but their one-goal lead was cancelled out by Yiadom’s late strike which means Swansea have now not won in their last three league matches.
Cooper has received some criticism for his side’s tactical set-up of late with George Byers starting in a central attacking midfield role which has forced Bersant Celina on to the left-wing for the majority of the season so far.
The Kosovo international produced his best performances in a more central role last term and has not looked too comfortable out wide in recent matches, with his lack of pace occasionally holding back Swansea’s quick breaks forwards.
Byers has now started Swansea’s last three matches in all competitions including their Carabao Cup match against Watford, so has the midfielder warranted his spot at the tip of the midfield ahead of Celina?
We take a closer look…
Byers has featured regularly in Cooper’s plans this season as he has now started seven matches this campaign, with there having only been one match where he did not make it off the bench. This means the midfielder has played a total of 713 minutes in the league and cup this term, while he has played the full 90 minutes in an attacking midfield role during Swansea’s last two league outings against Bristol City and Reading.
He boasts a healthy goalscoring record from midfield so far this season with his three strikes having included two goals against Northampton and Cambridge in the Carabao Cup, as well as a crucial finish during the 3-2 league victory over Preston. The 23-year-old has a good eye for goal and often finds success with his trademark low and powerful efforts and the goalkeeper.
Byers has managed just one assist so far this term with this coming against Cambridge and this is perhaps an element of his game that he needs to improve if he wants to maintain his central attacking role.
However, the former Watford man does often look confident in possession of the ball and this is reflected in his 88.8% passing accuracy so far this season. This is a remarkably high percentage for a player such as Byers who is playing in a position where he needs to take some risks, and this may explain why Cooper has favoured Byers in recent weeks as he can rely on him to retain the ball.
The fact he has also made an average of 10.73 forward passes per game this term shows this strong passing accuracy is not a result of him always playing it safe, as he has indeed been striving to launch Swansea attacks. The one criticism that could be made is that Byers needs to be more ambitious in his balls forward, as his sole assist suggests these forward balls have not quite been unlocking defences.
One key difference between Byers and Celina is their number of dribbles per game, as Byers’ score of 1.51 is under half of what Celina was able to achieve in the attacking midfield role last term.
While Byers has showcased his obvious passing strengths so far this season, it would appear that Celina possesses a more rounded skill set to feature in the role with his ability to unlock defences and also travel with the ball at his feet effectively. Cooper should certainly consider re-familiarising Celina with a more central role during Swansea’s visit to Charlton on Wednesday night.