Skip to content

@theweekend: Sloppy Suárez, Slick City, Awesome Anton, and Robin & Ramsey

October 24, 2011

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

Wolves 2-2 Swansea : Patient Swans highlight pressing problems for Wolves…

The boos and tears offered by the Molineux faithful at the weekend were rather indicative – all is not well with Mick McCarthy’s side. Having been outclassed for eighty minutes, a fortuitous first point in six games arrived thanks to a late rally on Saturday, although perhaps a more Premier League savvy side than Swansea might not have let Wolves back in. In McCarthy’s own words: ‘We were really, really lucky.’

Part of their troubles on Saturday was McCarthy’s penchant for a high-energy pressing game. Wolves challenged and tackled Swansea as early as possible, often in the Swans own half. By contrast, Swansea sat deeper and preferred to break up Wolves’ play when it approached their own area. Whilst Wolves attempted double the amount of tackles in Swansea’s half (21) to their own (11), Swansea made double the amount of tackles in their own territory (27) to Wolves’ (14). The difference in approach is all too evident (see right)…

Consequently, Swansea’s penchant and aptitude for a patient passing game meant that they were able to pass their way around on-rushing Wolves defenders. The gaps emerged, the goals were scored, the boos were heard. Swansea’s second goal epitomised this clash in tactics – a delightful 17-pass move which was started by an Àngel Rangel interception (in Swansea’s own half) and resulted in Joe Allen’s finish from six yards…

Mick McCarthy might have to have a re-think if he wants to turn their season around – you cannot always rely on Lady Luck.

As an interesting aside with regards to Swansea, it appears they are increasingly favouring the right-flank, despite the presence of Scott Sinclair on the left. The Swans made 41% of their passes down the right flank on Saturday compared to just 19% down the left – with right-back Àngel Rangel (94 passes at 86%) in particular seeing the ball with considerable frequency. By comparison, right-winger Nathan Dyer (27/37 passes) saw the ball almost twice as frequently as left-winger Sinclair (15/19). It remains to be seen whether such an obvious imbalance will benefit Swansea, or whether the opposition might use it to their advantage in future games…

Bolton 0-2 Sunderland : Poor Pratley vanquished by Vaughaniesta…

Sunderland claimed a valuable three points at Bolton on Saturday, having made their afternoon a lot easier for themselves by conceding only eight fouls in their own territory – almost half the fourteen fouls they conceded in their own half the previous week against Arsenal…

Ball retention was a big problem for both sides at the weekend – both teams finished with a disappointingly low 68% pass accuracy. Bolton central midfielder Darren Pratley was amongst the worst offenders, completing just 20 of his 37 attempted passes at only 54% accuracy. Given the importance of central midfield to a team’s performance, it is clear to see how Pratley’s inability to find teammates at the weekend will have harmed Bolton’s prospects in the game. His was a far inferior performance to that of his opposite number, David Vaughan, who misplaced just 6 of his 42 passes and ended with a game-high pass accuracy of 86%. Given the relative parity between the sides, this is a key battle which Sunderland clearly triumphed in and went a long way to helping secure a vital three points…

Liverpool 1-1 Norwich : Grant halts Liverpool & Sloppy Suárez…

Norwich bravely held on for a point at Anfield on Saturday, indebted to a handful of excellent John Ruddy saves and some seriously wasteful Liverpool finishing. Luis Suárez was chief culprit for the hosts, remarkably failing to convert any of his 11 attempts throughout the ninety minutes; ‘he just couldn’t finish the chances off,’ offered Kenny Dalglish afterwards. Grant Holt showed up Liverpool’s and Suárez’s prolifigacy by scoring with just his first attempt just three minutes after being introduced from the bench…

Aside from their prolifigacy, Liverpool were quietly impressive. They had 29 attempts on Ruddy’s goal, enjoyed 55% possession, and frequently took apart a Norwich side that had more than held their own at Old Trafford recently. Chief orchestrator was Steven Gerrard, the talismanic skipper completing 74 of his 84 passes (at almost 90% accuracy) as he ran the show. A quick glance at his passing chalkboard shows how his influence spread across the Anfield turf, suggesting that his lengthy injury-induced absence has not had an impact on his much-vaunted engine, and that assists (possibly goals too) could be likely in the coming weeks if this is maintained…

Norwich, second best for the most part, were at least able to establish a semblance of a foothold following manager Paul Lambert’s tactical adjustment on 57′. Grant Holt was introduced up front alongside Steve Morison, replacing right-midfielder Elliot Bennett as the Canaries moved to a 4-4-2 from a 4-5-1 with Wes Hoolahan shifting to the right. Holt’s presence as an additional striker helped Norwich enjoy more possession in more dangerous positions – the Canaries made 28% of their passes in the final third after Holt’s introduction compared to 22% before, and more than doubled from 5% to 11% their passes in central areas in the final third (see below). This, and Ruddy’s fine glovework, ultimately helped secure a point, as Liverpool were unable to commit too many extra men further forward in search of a winner for fear of being vulnerable at the back…

Arsenal 3-1 Stoke City : Ramsey & Robin see Gunners past Potters…

Young midfielder Aaron Ramsey ran the game at the Emirates on Sunday as Arsenal overcame a Europa League weary Stoke side. The Welsh captain completed a staggering 84 of 88 passes with a pass accuracy of 95% and provided the assist for Gervinho’s opener. Mikel Arteta also saw plenty of the ball, attempting 98 passes of which 78 were successful. Disappointingly for Arsenal fans, a large number of his misplaced passes came either in the final third or attempting to penetrate the final third…

Stoke once more defended their area from crosses with the utmost efficiency – just 2 of Arsenal’s 15 crosses found a man in a red shirt…

Indeed, Arsenal were restricted to only a handful of chances at the weekend, such was the impressive nature of Stoke’s defence. Furthermore, with Robin van Persie rested, Arsenal’s finishing left a lot to be desired – just 1 of their 6 attempts on goal was accurate (Gervinho’s goal) prior to van Persie’s introduction as a substitute in the 67th-minute. Alas, Robin arrived to save the day with two goals as Arsenal were on-target with every attempt after his introduction. However, should he get injured (as he has a habit of), Arsenal fans and Arsène Wenger might well be worried…

Man United 1-6 Man City : Slick City undo ten-man United…

A remarkable scoreline for sure, but one hell of a City performance to boot. David Silva sprinkled the stardust, Gareth Barry was the epitome of efficiency (48/51 passes at 94%), and James Milner – perhaps a surprise selection ahead of Samir Nasri and Nigel de Jong – was the personification of industry. However, to assume United played poorly would be unfair. They were perhaps the better team in the first half, out-passing City in both volume (306-233) and accuracy (82%-79%), although they did have three fewer attempts on goal than their ‘noisy neighbours’ (4-7).

The dismissal of Jonny Evans undoubtedly hindered United as much as it aided City, with United’s second-half passing accuracy falling to 78% (143/183) and City’s rising to 89% (232/262). Roberto Mancini used the extra man to good effect, pushing Micah Richards higher up the pitch and forcing Ashley Young to concentrate on defensive duties instead of attacking. Prior to Evans’s dismissal, Richards made just 25% of his 13 passes in the final third, but after the red card this figure ballooned to 67% (of 19), and included the assist for Sergio Agüero’s goal. Furthermore, Richards did not make a single pass in his own back third after Evans’s dismissal, highlighting the attacking licence he was afforded…

Indeed, Ashley Young became a passenger from Evans’ dismissal onwards – he made just 1 successful pass in the following 25 minutes and just 5 (from 10) in the entire second half. Opposite number, David Silva, by contrast managed 36 passes (from 40) in the same time, including an assist, to go with his well-taken goal…

City killed the game with two goals of devastating class. Both involved now-customary patient City build-up play, allied to neat one-touches and superb movement. The first – City’s second – was a sixteen-pass move culminating in a tap-in for Mario Balotelli; the second an eighteen-pass move finished off by Agüero. Achieving this against United, even if they were down to ten men, is no mean feat…

With a significant lead established, City were able to sit back and see the game out. United, with nothing to lose and a fine Darren Fletcher strike (81′) boosting morale, committed increasing numbers of men forward in the hope of salvaging a point. This left them vulnerable on the break, something City exploited with ruthless efficiency as the final whistle approached…

QPR 1-0 Chelsea : Anton’s the man…

QPR went into the game planning to attack Chelsea from the off: ‘I’d rather have a go and lose, than create nothing and still get beat,’ said manager Neil Warnock in the build up. Rangers took the game to Chelsea in both attack and defence, moving the ball quickly when in possession whilst pressing Chelsea high and early when without (see below). The former tactic resulted in a converted penalty for Heiðar Helguson and then a red card for José Bosingwa (for bringing down an on-rushing Shaun Wright-Phillips), whilst the latter tactic saw Didier Drogba hounded into a red card worthy two-footed lunge. Evidence of their high-up pressing game came as QPR attempted 19 tackles in Chelsea’s half, but just 9 in their own, prior to Drogba’s 41st minute dismissal…

Unfortunately for QPR, this high-tempo game plan was not suited to facing a nine-man opposition. Throughout the second period they frequently surrendered possession whilst breaking with pace, when perhaps a conservative and patient pass-based build up game would have been more successful at pulling apart their numerically depleted opponents. Indeed, despite their two-man disadvantage Chelsea still made more passes and had more shots on target than QPR in the second half and can almost consider themselves unlucky not to have picked up an unlikely point. That QPR held on is testament to a fine defensive performance by Anton Ferdinand, who in the second half alone made nine successful clearances and won all five of his tackles…

Next week, a Chelsea-Arsenal London derby is the headline fixture, whilst Roy Hodgson hosts his previous club Liverpool at the Hawthorns…

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: