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@theweekend: Juggernaut Jones, Top Passer Terry, & A Growing Barry Bannan

October 3, 2011

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

Everton 0-2 Liverpool : Enrique Impresses…

Whilst Jack Rodwell’s controversial 23rd-minute dismissal dominated the headlines and handed Liverpool an advantage on Saturday, there were a couple of performances worth noting elsewhere on the pitch. In defence, Liverpool’s Martin Škrtel helped keep his team clear of trouble, winning all six of the tackles he attempted, whilst in midfield Lucas Leiva once again put in a superb shift, completing a game-high 68 passes (with a 91% accuracy) and winning an impressive six of nine tackles for the Reds. José Enrique proved a superb outlet for Liverpool however, willingly raiding down the left flank and eventually setting up Andy Carroll for Liverpool’s 71st-minute opener. Indeed, Enrique completed an impressive 59 of 70 passes (85%), only bettered by Lucas, and deservedly earns our plaudits. The £6m full-back seems to be settling into life on Merseyside very nicely indeed…

Aston Villa 2-0 Wigan : Bannan Stands Tall…

Whilst Gabby Agbonlahor grabbed the headlines with his fourth goal and third assist of an impressive start to the season, it was little Barry Bannan in the middle of the park who really kept Villa ticking over at the weekend. The 21-year-old Scot was ‘often at the centre of [Villa’s] brightest moments,’ picking the ball up in his own half before finding Agbonlahor down the left for Villa’s opener, as well as delivering 11 passes or crosses into the Wigan area over the 90 minutes. Having scored the late equaliser against QPR last weekend and assisted Agbonlahor’s opener in the draw with Newcastle a week previous, the diminutive Bannan has played a key role in three of Villa’s last four goals and is growing into a key player for Villa this season…

Man United 2-0 Norwich : Juggernaut Jones…

Had Norwich packed their shooting boots at the weekend they might well have got something out of their trip to Old Trafford. Unfortunately for them they didn’t, and none of their seventeen shots found the back of the net; indeed, only three of them were classified as ‘on target’. But not many teams will conjure so many chances at Old Trafford, so there is hope for the Canaries yet…

There is also great hope for United’s young English centre-half, Phil Jones. To quote the Guardian: ‘There have been few sights more thrilling this season than Phil Jones imperiously marauding forward from the back like a cross between Franz Beckenbauer and Juggernaut from The X-Men.’ Quite. Visual evidence of this was in abundance at the weekend when we compare Phil Jones’ endeavours (71 passes) with those of his opposite number, Norwich’s Leon Barnett (10 passes). Admittedly it’s a tad harsh on Mr Barnett to use him as a reference point, but it really does emphasise just how much Mr Jones – Phil, that is (not his namesake Vinnie, the actor who plays Juggernaut) – loves his unstoppable marauding. Jones also made over double (22) the number of passes in Norwich’s half than fellow United centre-back Jonny Evans (9)…

Bolton 1-5 Chelsea : Top Passer Terry…

4-0 up inside the opening half-hour, Chelsea were rampant and looking every inch serious title contenders. Frank Lampard returned to the starting XI and duly gobbled up three goals, and – ignoring three errant corners – completed 68 passes at an impressive accuracy of 95%. Still, Frank was not the game’s best passer; this accolade went to an unusual recipient, John Terry, who completed a game-high 85 of 87 passes – a 98% success rate. A remarkable achievement from a centre-back hardly renowned for his on-the-ball skills, but an achievement indicative of the level of dominance and control enjoyed by Chelsea at the weekend (584 completed passes at almost 90% accuracy). Comparing Terry with centre-back partner David Luiz, we see two contrasting approaches. Although he was more willing to maraud into Bolton’s half, Luiz was far more reliant on Terry as an outlet than vice versa, frequently passing laterally to his fellow centre-back, in contrast to Terry who almost exclusively passed forward to midfielders or wide to full-back Ashley Cole. Terry as Chelsea’s ball-playing centre-half eh – who’d have thought it?!…

Fulham 6-0 QPR : Bob’s Back & The Full-Backs Stay Wide…

Whilst Norwich failed to take their chances at Old Trafford on Saturday, Fulham certainly took theirs at Craven Cottage on Sunday, banging six goals from 22 attempts past a hapless, albeit depleted, QPR defence. Despite rumours of a midweek bust-up, Martin Jol gave Bobby Zamora a start and was rewarded with a brilliant performance alongside Andy Johnson – proof that variations of the traditional big man / little man forward pairing still have a place in the English game. The duo bagged four goals and three assists between them, although it was Zamora’s link-up play (and two assists) which caught the eye, with Fulham’s midfield and attack acting as one fluid unit thanks to his presence…

Manager Martin Jol can take a lot of credit for this demolition however, with a number of his selections paying off, not just Johnson & Zamora’s up front. Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembélé were deployed on the left and right of Fulham’s midfield, although both players played narrow and frequently drifted in-field as they interlinked with the strikers and central midfielders (Danny Murphy and Steve Sidwell). As instructed by Jol, Fulham’s width came from full-backs Zdeněk Grygera and John Arne Riise, the latter of whom made a remarkable 46% of his sixty passes in the final third. Both players fastidiously hugged their touchlines whilst the men in front of them drifted centrally, as evinced by this passing heatmap comparison of left-back Riise (60 passes) with left-midfielder Dempsey (39 passes), and right-back Grygera (57 passes) with right-midfielder Dembélé (44 passes)…

Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal : Spurs Tackle Arsenal…

Spurs enjoyed a memorable victory over Arsenal at the weekend, although it was far from being a certain outcome. In fact Arsenal were the better team for large parts, and their three-man midfield certainly saw more of the ball, with Mikel Arteta (80/91 passes), Francis Coquelin (55/63) and Aaron Ramsey (60/74) comfortably outpassing Luka Modrić (31/41) and Scott Parker (35/40) over the ninety minutes (although Scott Parker did deservedly earn praise for an excellent all-round performance)…

Despite their overall statistical dominance (565 passes at 79% vs. 361 passes at 71%), Arsenal could not find the goals to win the game. This was largely due to brilliant defensive performances from Tottenham’s back four who astonishingly and impressively won 22 of 23 attempted tackles in their own half (by contrast, Arsenal’s defenders won just 10 of 18 tackles in their own half) – Benoît Assou-Ekotto (2 from 3), Ledley King (5/5), Younès Kaboul (9/9) and Kyle Walker (6/6): take a collective bow…

Finally, Spurs improved after the introduction of Sandro Raniere (for Rafael van der Vaart) in the 64th minute. Sandro slotted into central midfield, with Modrić moved to the flanks, giving the hosts a better presence in the middle and improved ball retention in the final third. Consequently Spurs had eight attempts on goal in the final 26 minutes, whereas Arsenal only mustered two. A 73rd-minute moment of brilliance from Walker (no. 28) was to settle the game…

When we return from the international break, Liverpool entertain Manchester United in the weekend’s stand out fixture, whilst two of the league’s in-form sides, Newcastle and Spurs, meet at St James’ Park. Bolton will be looking to get their season back on track with a trip to fellow basement dwellers Wigan…

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2011 10:01 pm

    good article mate. like the fulham analysis – spot on!

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