Skip to content

@theweekend: Lucas & Balotelli, Defoe & Adebayor, Ryan Shawcross and Juan Mata

November 28, 2011

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

Stoke 3-1 Blackburn : Stoke Clear Blackburn Thanks To Shawcross…

The Potters recorded an important three points against a disappointing Blackburn side at the weekend – Rovers had mustered just one shot on target by the 83rd minute. Stoke meanwhile illustrated the importance of taking your chances – or, conversely (from Blackburn’s perspective), of having a ‘keeper that makes at least one save! – by scoring their three goals from their only three shots on target…

Central to Stoke City’s solidity and composure was Ryan Shawcross. The young defender made a remarkable 21 clearances (11 found a teammate) at the weekend as he helped his side deal with the relentless long-ball barrage that Paul Robinson still bemusingly persists with (possibly on Steve Kean’s instruction) despite it proving regularly wasteful and rarely effective…

However, proof that at least one of the Rovers players is still giving his all for Blackburn’s beleaguered manager can be found in 20-year-old starlet Rubén Rochina. Not only did he score a quite brilliant consolation goal for the visitors, but over the ninety minutes he attempted 13 tackles, winning 10 of them – almost as many as the entire Stoke team combined (14 won). One feels such exemplary dedication and commitment will be needed by the bucketload if Steve Kean is to keep Rovers up this season…

Chelsea 3-0 Wolves : Mata Is Juan-derful Whilst Sturridge Scores (Again)…

Juan [Mata] performs very well for the team, he sets up goals and he scores goals.

– Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge (via chelseafc.com)

No prizes for guessing who the star of the show was in this win for the Blues – Juan Mata, with a goal and two assists to his name, had a telling role in all three Chelsea strikes at the weekend. Such returns should come as no surprise as he has been on set-piece duty (both corners and direct free-kicks) for quite some while now, and as Chelsea’s form picks up and he continues to adjust to the English game, one might expect such prolific contributions to increase in regularity. Interestingly however, Saturday saw Mata afforded a David Silva-esque pitch-wide licence to roam from his left-sided starting position, as he interlinked defence and attack, both on the left and the right, in a sparkling display for the Blues. This comes in stark contrast to the awkward and ineffective opening 45 minutes he experienced whilst stationed on the right against Liverpool last weekend. Getting the most out of Mata looks like being key to manager André Villas-Boas’ chances of success at Stamford Bridge, and certainly looks potentially more fruitful than adapting his team to try and get regular goals out of Fernando Torres…

Seven goals for me at the moment is great for my confidence. – Sturridge

As far as goals go, surely it is only a matter of time until Chelsea give Daniel Sturridge the lead striker position. Sturridge bagged his sixth goal in six league appearances for the Blues this season – giving him 7 in 9 in all competitions thus far. By comparison, Didier Drogba, Torres and Nicolas Anelka have a combined total of 4 goals from 22 league games this season. Go figure, AVB. Regardless, Sturridge plugs away down the right-flank as a winger-cum-striker and continues to return goals in spite of being stationed out wide. That he is still scoring regularly is telling enough on its own. Furthermore, his interplay was first-rate at the weekend, ending the game with a passing accuracy almost touching 90%. This young English striker certainly looks one to watch this season, especially with Euro2012 on the horizon…

Oriol is not a player we have to teach how to behave in that position. He was educated in the best school in the world and today showed his character and personality. He receives the ball under pressure and always chooses the best option. He’s a player you can count on for the benefit of the team.

– Chelsea manager, André Villas-Boas (via chelseafc.com)

Oriol Romeu impressed for the Blues in the holding midfield role. In just his first league start, the young Spaniard made 3 interceptions and attempted 6  challenges (3 successful) as he provided an effective foil for the more attack-minded Ramires and Raul Meireles in Chelsea’s central midfield. Unsurprisingly for a product of the Barcelona youth system he was impressively efficient on the ball, completing 65 of 70 passes (at a high accuracy of 93%) and ending the game as Chelsea’s most prolific and accurate passer. Bizarrely, the only player to make more passes in the 90 minutes was Wolves’ Karl Henry – bet Joey Barton didn’t expect that from Kelvin! Regardless, it was an impressive showing from the 20-year-old, who could well be a key player for Chelsea in seasons to come…

Finally, a little random fact for y’all – this was Chelsea’s first clean sheet at Stamford Bridge in the league since April!…

Man Utd 1-1 Newcastle : Newcastle Block United As Giggs & Vidić Impress…

Defensively our character and team spirit shone through. People were putting themselves on the line and blocking anything that came near the goal.

– Newcastle defender, Steven Taylor (via nufc.co.uk)

Alan Pardew’s troops produced a typically dogged defensive display to earn a point at Old Trafford on Saturday. Last-ditch defending seemed to be the order of the day, with Newcastle racking up a healthy 11 blocked shots inside their area (United made 2) to deny their hosts. The Magpies also made 24 clearances from inside their area (United made 16), although centre-back Fabricio Coloccini could certainly work on the accuracy of his clearances however – just 1 of 7 found a Newcastle shirt…

United included Fábio da Silva at right-back instead of Phil Jones, and the young Brazilian excelled when it came to defensive duties, winning 5 of his 6 attempted ground tackles. Although there is room for improvement when it comes to his passing accuracy (a modest 72%, the lowest of all United’s outfield players on Saturday), he did manage to complete two successful crosses and have a shot suggesting their is further potential in attack as well as defence for this youngster…

Talismanic centre-half Nemanja Vidić also impressed at both ends for United. Defensively his reading of the game and judgement of the ball was excellent as he produced 15 clearances to keep the Magpies at bay. United’s Serbian skipper also managed to get away three attempts on the Newcastle goal (two from corners) over the 90 minutes, highlighting just how much of a threat he is in attack, especially from set pieces. United’s opponents next weekend, Aston Villa – who he scored against last season – will do well to take note…

The best player on show however was Welshman Ryan Giggs. Now adjusted to a central-midfield role, Giggs was the most prolific passer on the pitch, completing 57 of his 71 passes (80% accuracy) including a game-high 5 chance-creating key passes into the Newcastle area. The former flying winger even found the time and space in central regions to attempt and complete four take-ons. Even at 38, Giggsy’s still got it…

We stood on Man Utd toe to toe, and I thought we were the better side if I’m honest.

– Newcastle manager, Alan Pardew (via nufc.co.uk)

As for Newcastle, they overcame the stigma of being expected to lose and the woeful distribution of goalkeeper Tim Krul (just 8 of his 46 passes, 17%, found a teammate) in order to record a well-earned point. United might have had more chances, but Newcastle kept them honest throughout, with Demba Ba netting a deserved, albeit controversial, equaliser. The Magpies are in the top four on merit and whatever the coming months hold, look almost certain to finish in the top seven, possibly in the European places. The defensive aspect we mentioned earlier, whilst Yohan Cabaye was once again industrious and efficient in central midfield, Hatem Ben Arfa seems set to sparkle as he comes back from injury, and Ba (with 9 goals and 2 assists in his last eight league games) looks good to make serious attacking contributions once Newcastle’s fixture list eases…

West Brom 1-3 Tottenham : The Defoe & Adebayor Double Act…

Tottenham’s eye-catching form continued with a 3-1 victory away to Roy Hodgson’s typically well-organised West Brom side, despite the fact that Harry Redknapp was missing key players Luka Modrić and Rafael van der Vaart for the clash. Spurs reshuffled their pack, with Scott Parker taking Modrić’s left-side-of-central-midfield position and Sandro stepping in to perform the holding midfield duties – the Brazilian winning 5 of 6 challenges and making 3 interceptions in the process. With Parker handed marginally more offensive licence than normal, it is perhaps notable that the Englishman failed to make a single successful ground tackle all game – most unusual when compared to his previous performances…

Whilst not wanting to be overly critical of Sandro (Spurs did win after all), it is noteworthy that whilst Parker and Modrić consistently make 60-90 passes each per game, the Brazilian manager just 37 successful passes from 39 attempted whilst deputising on Saturday afternoon (albeit at a high accuracy of 95%). Consequently, Spurs were less-dominant in central regions compared to usual – entirely understandable given’s Modrić’s precocious abilities on the ball – and instead sought to spread the ball wide as early and as frequently as possible. This resulted in a slightly unusual chalkboard, especially noticeable in the first half, with Tottenham’s flanks seeing a high density of action, and the Baggies being pressed into making numerous challenges down their wings…

That Spurs did not miss Modrić – in as far as they still won the game – came down to a number of factors. Firstly, by spreading the ball wide and utilising the pace and trickery of Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale, Tottenham found a way of drawing Roy Hodgson’s normally compact side out of position. This became even more apparent in the second half after Bale and Lennon had switched wings, helping to create space and opportunities for Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor in the middle…

He’s [Defoe] been desperate for a chance and he took it. I thought some of his play in the second half was fantastic.

– Spurs manager, Harry Redknapp (via tottenhamhotspur.com)

Secondly, the impressive performance of Defoe in the hole ensured that midfield and attack were seamlessly linked and that van der Vaart was not missed. Standing in for the Dutchman, Defoe did not misplace any of his 20 passes across the 90 minutes (although 2 crosses were unsuccessful). He regularly fed the ball wide to Bale, Lennon or Benoît Assou-Ekotto, before moving into more attacking areas and helping to draw West Brom’s defenders out of position. The England striker went on to bag a fine 81st-minute goal to cap a fine display on his return to the side.

Thirdly and finally, the workrate and effectiveness of Adebayor up top really caught the eye. As the heatmap below shows, unlike some strikers Adebayor is willing to drop deep to help link play whilst still maintaining the energy to form the focal point of Tottenham’s attacks (he had 10 shots, with an astonishing 9 on target). His impressive 52 passes included the assist for Defoe’s goal, whilst the Togolese striker also bagged himself a double. Were it not for Ben Foster keeping out a further 7 on-target attempts, Adebayor would have rocketed up the Premier League’s goalscorer chart. Indeed, with kind fixtures to come and Modrić still to return, there is little to suggest that Adebayor’s goals and Tottenham’s good form will not continue…

Liverpool 1-1 Man City : Lucas Tackles Mancini’s Midfield…

Lucas was the best player on the pitch – he was amazing.

– Liverpool’s José Enrique (via liverpoolfc.tv)

Liverpool earned a point against league-leaders Manchester City on Sunday, with much thanks to their once-criticised defensive midfielder Lucas Leiva. The Brazilian won all 7 of his attempted ground tackles, all 4 of his aerial challenges, made 6 successful interceptions, and finished the game with an impressive passing accuracy of 92%, having misplaced just 6 of his 75 passes all afternoon. If Lucas can perform so effectively against the likes of David Silva and Yaya Touré then it certainly bodes well for when he and Liverpool take on less imperious opposition over the coming weeks…

As for the overall game itself, the second-half was undoubtedly Liverpool’s. They restricted their Mancunian visitors to just 2 attempts on goal in the second ’45, whilst themselves enjoying 13 attempts in the same time. Perhaps the biggest factor in why City fell away after a relatively even first period was the depreciating passing of Gareth Barry and Yaya Touré in central midfield (it is noteworthy that they were up against Lucas). Barry made 44/50 passes in the first half, but just 25/28 in the second half, whilst Touré (see below) likewise dropped from 46/51 to 23/24. As City ceded control of the central region, their hosts were able to take advantage in terms of possession and, consequently, chance creation…

That City’s passing fell away can be potentially explained by two factors. Firstly, tiredness – City, for the most part, have been playing twice a week as they balance a Champions League campaign with Premier League duties; Liverpool meanwhile, having failed to qualify for European competitions, have no such worries. Secondly, the 65th-minute subsitution of Samir Nasri, a player who had misplaced just one second-half pass prior to his removal. Not only did City lose his impressive ball retention and seamless linking between midfield and attack, but they “gained” (for want of a better term) Mario Balotelli, who hardly enjoyed one of his more productive outings…

He [Balotelli] is a young player and he is very disappointed.

– Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini (via mcfc.co.uk)

Balotelli – who has started to justify his reputation (football-wise) in recent weeks – endured an afternoon to forget. Brought on as a 65th-minute replacement for Nasri, the Italian completed just 1 pass out of 4 attempted, failed to have any shots, and made 4 fouls before receiving his marching orders a mere 18 minutes later. The only non-Liverpool beneficiary of Mario’s “endeavours” could well be Edin Džeko, who might just earn a few extra league starts in City’s competitive striker department as a result…

With City on the back-foot as the game drew to a close, they had Joe Hart to thank for a number of outstanding saves. As manager Roberto Mancini admitted afterwards, this was a point gained rather than two points dropped…

This was a good result, particularly because we had to play the last ten minutes with just ten men. – Mancini

MORE CHALKBOARD ANALYSIS FROM THE WEEKEND TO FOLLOW…

Visit guardian.co.uk/football/chalkboards to make your own chalkboards…

Advertisements
3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2011 8:22 am

    brilliant post I’m a big football fan from South Africa

Trackbacks

  1. @theweekend: Touré & Silva, Gervinho’s Return, Brilliant Bale, & The Yak Gets Fed « SportingBlogs || Football, F1, MotoGP, Cricket & Sports Blogs

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: