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@theweekend: Arteta’s Debut, Roaming Rooney, Wasteful Fulham & Stout Stoke

September 13, 2011

Our weekly dose of chalkboard analysis from the Premier League at the weekend…

Arsenal 1-0 Swansea City : Life After Fàbregas

Bought as a replacement for Cesc Fàbregas, Mikel Arteta made his debut for Arsenal at the weekend and fitted seamlessly into Arsène Wenger’s side. The Spaniard was clearly comfortable on the ball and calmly dictated proceedings in the middle of the park in manner reminiscent of his predecessor, completing 71 passes at a success rate of almost 90%…

Bolton 0-5 Manchester United : Hernández Lets Rooney Roam

Danny Welbeck’s injury-induced absence facilitated a recall for Javier Hernández this weekend. The diminuative Mexican’s pace and movement in the final third, superior to that of Welbeck’s, enabled Wayne Rooney to drop deeper and help United control the game – something always tougher to achieve away from home. Alongside Welbeck against West Brom earlier this season, Rooney attempted only 40% of his passes in the middle third of the pitch and United laboured to a 2-1 victory, whereas with Hernández up front against Bolton, Rooney attempted 70% of his passes in the middle third as United dominated a tricky away fixture and cantered to a 5-0 triumph…

Fulham 1-1 Blackburn Rovers : Crossed Wires For Cottagers

You can read our in-depth report on Blackburn’s 1-1 draw with Fulham this weekend via this link. After an even first half, Fulham dominated the second period but were unable to find a winner. Part of their trouble was poor delivery from promising situations, with only two of thirty-five crosses finding a Fulham player. Damien Duff was amongst the worst offenders, completing 0/12 crosses and thereby highlighting the perils of playing a left-footer on the right-flank. Credit must go to Blackburn for making forty-nine clearances in a resolute defensive display however…

Stoke City 1-0 Liverpool : Stout Stoke Repel Reds

Stoke City continued their fine start to the season with a hard-earned victory over Liverpool at the weekend. The Potters spent most of the game with everyone behind the ball, making an astonishing 71 clearances whilst Liverpool were forced to make just 13. Liverpool’s dominance was further confirmed by their passing statistics, completing 478 of 629 passes at 76% in comparison to Stoke’s meagre 141 from 237 at 59%. Liverpool’s 24 shots to Stoke’s 3 paints a pretty clear picture, but ultimately a stout defensive display from Stoke counted most and saw them home…

Sunderland 1-2 Chelsea : Mobile Meireles Makes His Mark

Raul Meireles made his Chelsea debut in place of John Obi Mikel at the weekend, and his enhanced mobility and superior passing repertoire helped the Blues to what would have been a comfortable two-goal victory were it not for a late consolation goal for Sunderland. With fellow central-midfielders Frank Lampard and Ramires detailed to near identical roles, Meireles was a straight swap for Mikel, and he completed 73 passes at an accuracy of 88%, an improvement on Mikel’s 49 at 87.5% the previous week. Notably Meireles also attempted seven key passes into or to the edge of the opponent’s box, whereas Mikel only attempted one. Chelsea have been searching for a creatively-minded central player, they might just have found him…

Wolves 0-2 Tottenham : Spurs Win With Possession & Width

After an even first half at Molineux on Saturday, Tottenham dominated the second period and claimed a 2-0 victory. Spurs were able to take hold of the game in the second half by controlling possession and improving their pass success rate to 83% (it was just 76% in the first period); comparatively Wolves’ pass success rate feel from 80% to 74%. Spurs made 264 second-half passes compared to just 210 in the opening 45 minutes but also passed to the flanks more readily, hoping to utilise the pace and trickery of Gareth Bale and Nico Kranjčar. After the interval Spurs made 57% of their passes on the flanks (it was 49% pre-half time) which helped to stretch the Wolves back-line and helped create gaps in the middle, eventually allowing Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe to score and Spurs to claim their first win of the season…

One For The Road: Distribution of Robinson vs. de Gea

Much has been made of Manchester United’s fine start to the season, scoring eighteen goals in four games, built on an impressive passing game that has seen them control fixtures, out-passing all of their opponents and with a higher accuracy. By contrast, Blackburn are languishing at the foot of the table, having been out-passed in three out of four fixtures and registering a lower % accuracy than all of their opponents thus far. The distribution tactics of their goalkeepers, especially so at the weekend, goes a long way to highlighting the difference in approach between the two sides, as well as their effectiveness…

Next up, United host Chelsea in the most eye-catching of the weekend’s fixtures, whilst fellow high-flying free-scorers Man City travel to Craven Cottage. Spurs-Liverpool should be an entertaining affair, whilst Swansea will be hoping to breach a solid-looking West Brom defence and score their first goal of the season…

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