Alex Keble assesses where Saturday's game at the Liberty Stadium could be won and lost...
Historically, this fixture would provide an aesthetic battle between two sides attempting tiki-taka-inspired possession and movement, but this season both Swansea and Southampton have found success in a more direct approach utilising pace and power. With Southampton relying upon the marauding runs of their full-backs to provide support, and Swansea looking particularly effective when exploding down the flanks on the counter, Ronald Koeman's side could be brutally exposed on Saturday.
Under Garry Monk, Swansea have evolved into a more diverse and unpredictable unit; their average possession (50.4%) and passes per game (480) are down significantly from last season (57.1% possession and 564 passes). The largest influence on this shift has been the acquisition of Gylfi Sigurdsson, and his propensity for threading the ball expertly into wide areas for Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge to break into.
The speed and assertive forward movement of Dyer has caught out many teams this season.
Although their playmaker is suspended, Swansea's explosive wingers should be able to find plenty of space against a team whose high pressing and roaming full-backs leave them vulnerable to the counter.
Ryan Bertrand and Nathaniel Clyne were constantly caught out by the pace of Crystal Palace's attacks in the FA Cup last weekend; like Wilfried Zaha and Jason Puncheon, Dyer and Routledge could have plenty of fun.
The defeat against Manchester City was a perfect example of what can happen when playing full-backs so high up the pitch: Bertrand frequently left his team exposed.
This game could be decided by the Chelsea loanee's defensive discipline, and the speed with which Swansea can break in the absence of Sigurdsson.
Monk's men may have been out of sorts in recent weeks, but given the space Dyer will be afforded on Saturday, this is the perfect opportunity for him – and Swansea – to rediscover their early-season form.
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