Skip to content

@theweekend: Touré & Silva, Gervinho’s Return, Brilliant Bale, & The Yak Gets Fed

December 6, 2011

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

Newcastle 0-3 Chelsea : Krul, Sturridge, Mata, Lampard, Guthrie & Perch…

It was a major incident for sure [David Luiz’s non-dismissal]. The decision went our way, and I can understand if Alan [Pardew] isn’t happy about it.

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

Chelsea triumphed by three goals in a relatively even game at St James’ Park [we’re using that name!] on Saturday, although the near-inexplicable non-dismissal of David Luiz for a 4th-minute foul on the through-on-goal Demba Ba undoubtedly aided their cause. One would assume the Magpies would have fared better against ten men for near enough ninety minutes had Mike Dean shown a red card to Luiz as everyone expected. Regardless, Chelsea moved on and racked up three goals in spite of Tim Krul’s excellent glovework (he saved six of nine on-target shots, including Frank Lampard’s penalty) and the seeming reluctance of Daniel Sturridge to find the back of the net – it took him eight shots and 90+2 minutes before the promising youngster finally scored. Looking forward, one wouldn’t be surprised if Sturridge continues to score regularly however, given the volume of opportunities he is currently receiving…

He [Juan Mata] has made a difference every game and we need him, he is one of the key players.

– Chelsea striker, Didier Drogba (via chelseafc.com)

The star of the show was Chelsea’s Juan Mata, and were it not for Krul’s afore mentioned excellence between the posts, further fine defensive play by Newcastle’s back four, and Sturridge’s inability to convert more than one of numerous chances, the Spaniard could well have had a hatrick of assists to his name. In particular, Mata (#10) repeatedly set Sturridge (#23) free down Chelsea’s right, as you can see from his chalkboard, but he also successfully completed eight key passes into the Newcastle area, including the assist for Didier Drogba’s opening goal…

Frank is a top professional and every player wants to spend more time on the pitch. But the manager decides things for the team. The manager makes the decision.

– Chelsea manager, André Villas-Boas (via fulhamchronicle.co.uk)

The same cannot be said for Lampard who, aside from seeing his penalty saved, made just one successful pass in Newcastle’s final third (and that was a short corner!) before being hauled off in the 61st minute. Frank might not have liked the decision, but given that he clearly was not delivering a performance expected of him, he cannot be too surprised. Expecting his 33-year-old legs to still perform their box-to-box duties each week might be proving too tall an order for Lampard, so he might well have to grow used to early substitutions and being rested in the coming months. His replacement on Saturday, Raul Meireles, made three passes in the final third after coming on, including one within seconds of arriving on the pitch…

I have to applaud my players – they were terrific in their attitude. No Coloccini, no Cheik, no Gutierrez and yet we still pushed Chelsea, so in a lot of ways, there are a lot of positives to take out of that. Then we lose Steven Taylor to what looks like a bad injury, and that is a worry.

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

For Newcastle however, a worrying number of injuries to key players are starting to rack up which threatens to derail their impressive start to the season. Already without Cheick Tioté, they lost Fabricio Coloccini early on in the first half and Steven Taylor in added time against Chelsea on Saturday. The good news is that their replacements seem to be doing a respectable job. Danny Guthrie, Tioté’s stand-in, finished the game with an impressive 91% passing accuracy (62/68 passes) to go with winning five of eight challenges over the ninety minutes, whilst James Perch – a much maligned full-back – stepped in for centre-back Coloccini on 28′ and won four of seven challenges as well as three interceptions for the Magpies. So, despite the injuries and the defeat, there are at least a few positives for Newcastle to take from this game…

Blackburn 4-2 Swansea : The Yak Got Well And Truly Fed…

The Yak is top notch, he can score all sorts of goals. He can score headers, he can score penalties, he can score tap-ins and he can score the sort of goals like the first one today. He’s excellent.

– Blackburn Rovers manager, Steve Kean (via rovers.co.uk)

Yakubu Aiyegbeni gave Swansea City an impressive lesson in the importance of taking your chances finishing on Saturday. The Nigerian striker, on loan from Everton, scored four goals from five attempts as he out-shot the Swans on his own – the visitors mustered just three shots on target (from ten attempts) all afternoon. The Yak got fed, and boy did he score. His goals – which look set to continue given how he has been the most clinical striker in the Premier League this season, scoring with 41% of his attempts – will be vital in Blackburn’s battle to avoid relegation…

As far as the ebb and the flow of the game, Swansea’s persistence with their passing game brought the dividend of a truly spectacular team goal finished by Leroy Lita (see below left), but also resulted in a staggering 28 interceptions for Blackburn Rovers (the Swans made just five by comparison)…

We weren’t great defensively and it’s ended up costing us.

– Swansea manager, Brendan Rodgers (via swanseacity.net)

What is gradually emerging as this season progresses is that although Swansea’s passing-based game plan is both commendable and pleasing to the eye, it is not necessarily effective – the Swans have failed to score in seven of their fourteen games and have just one win from their last seven outings. This is especially so when allied with indiscipline (Joe Allen’s sending off) and poor defensive showings, most notably the lax marking at corners for Yakubu’s second and third goals but also their lowly 68% tackle completion rate on Saturday (15/22), inferior to Blackburn’s 89% (24/27)…

One can’t help but wonder if Swansea’s tactics – however commendable – are just beginning to come under a bit of scrutiny, and it would not be a surprise to see a 0-0 scoreline in their next league match – an encounter with defensively solid but traditionally poor travellers, Fulham…

Man City 5-1 Norwich : Touré Terrific As Silva Sparkles…

Yaya Touré today made more passes (124) than any other player in a PL game since Xabi Alonso (129 v Bolton) on 26/12/2008 (via @OptaJoe)

Central to Manchester City’s dominant 5-1 triumph over Norwich City at the weekend was Yaya Touré’s relentless penchant for passing. The former Barcelona midfielder completed a prolific 118 of 124 passes (95% success rate) as he maintained possession and kept City ticking over all afternoon long; by contrast, Canaries central midfielder Bradley Johnson completed just 16 of 31 passes at a lowly accuracy of 52%. With Touré also delivering a smartly taken goal – City’s third – who knows how much Roberto Mancini’s side will miss the Ivorian when he departs for the African Cup of Nations in just over one month’s time…

Also central to City’s victory, certainly in terms of the volume of their goals, was David Silva. The diminutive Spaniard (#21) is a magician in and around the opposition area, and against Norwich he completed an impressive 13 passes into the visitor’s area, including the assist for Touré’s 68th-minute strike. It is little wonder that, as @OptaJoe highlights, Silva has ‘created more chances (41) and set up more goals (8) than any other player in the Premier League’ this season, and it will be little surprise if this continues over the coming months…

Finally, City were impressively clinical in front of goal against Norwich on Saturday – the Citizens scored five goals from ten shots on target. Then again, John Ruddy might consider he perhaps should have saved a few more of City’s on-target attempts, especially Samir Nasri’s (#19) tame free-kick. The league leaders attained this comfortable triumph in spite of the prolifigacy of Edin Džeko – the £27m striker, who is yet to fully justify his price tag (except against Spurs), failed to test Norwich ‘keeper Ruddy with any of his six attempts before being substituted on 82’…

Tottenham 3-0 Bolton : Bale’s Hot Streak Continues As Walker Impresses…

Gareth Bale has scored four and assisted three goals in his last five Premier League appearances for Spurs (via @OptaJoe)

Spurs enjoyed a comfortable win over Bolton at the weekend, partly thanks to Gary Cahill’s debatable sending off, but also thanks to the latest in a string of impressive displays from Gareth Bale. The Welshman – whose passing heatmap illustrates how he was not restricted exclusively to the left flank – scored one goal and assisted another as he continued his productive run of form for a flying Spurs side that in truth deserved more than just the three goals they managed. That they didn’t score more was largely due to the heroics of Jussi Jääskeläinen in the Bolton goal – the Finnish goalie kept out nine of Tottenham’s twelve on-target attempts…

We needed that second goal and I wanted it before half-time, but we managed to get it at the start of the second half. Once that came, it was all over.

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

Kyle Walker – who played a part in the build up to Tottenham’s crucial second goal – also impressed for Spurs, not misplacing a single pass in open play all afternoon; indeed, just one throw-in and two crosses failed to find a Spurs shirt. The young England full-back continues to catch the eye with his pacey and willing raids down the right flank, an impressive level of comfort and efficiency on the ball, and an aptitude for defensive duties to boot – Walker made three interceptions (all in Tottenham’s defensive third) and won 100% of his ground tackles against Bolton. Micah Richards and Glen Johnson face fierce competition for England’s right-back slot this summer…

Wigan 0-4 Arsenal : Gervinho’s Effective Return & Arteta v Ramsey…

Robin Van Persie has scored or assisted 40 Premier League goals in 2011 – 14 more than any other player in the division (via @OptaJoe)

Arsenal returned to winning ways with a comfortable four-goal triumph over Wigan on Saturday. Robin van Persie once again grabbed the headlines having had a hand in three of his team’s strikes, although it was perhaps notable that Gervinho returned to the starting line-up in place of Andrey Arshavin. The Ivorian finished the game with a pass completion rate of 84%, having linked play down Arsenal’s left-flank all afternoon long; Gervinho also made six successful passes into the Wigan area. In the previous week’s draw with Fulham, Arshavin failed to make one such key pass and finished the game with a far inferior pass completion rate of just 69%. Arsenal, it would seem, appear far better off with Gervinho in their starting line-up…

In the middle of the park, Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey continue to produce near-identical passing chalkboards for the Gunners. On Saturday Ramsey held the edge in accuracy (94%-88%) whilst Arteta shaded it in terms of volume (85-73, successful passes), but – as you can see below – both were largely similar in their location and direction (as well as volume and accuracy). The only real difference between the two is their shooting – Arteta netted his fourth goal of the season at the weekend, whilst Ramsey has just one league strike to his name…

One possible source of consolation for Wigan fans is that they managed to keep Theo Walcott relatively quiet – until the 78th minute at least. The England winger finished with a lowly cross completion rate of 33%, and lost all four of his take-ons until skipping past his marker on 78′ en route to setting up van Persie for Arsenal’s fourth. Then again, that Walcott once again delivered lends further credence to the argument that he is finally showing the mature consistency Arsenal and England supporters crave…

Fulham 1-0 Liverpool : Cottagers Get Lucky And Take A Chance (For Once)…

I have to say that after the sending off we had a little bit more space and we took advantage of that.

– Fulham manager, Martin Jol (via fulhamfc.com)

First things first – Jay Spearing’s debatable 72nd minute red card [see right] undoubtedly handed Fulham the edge they needed to claim a valuable three points at the Cottage on Monday. A match that Liverpool were perhaps just shading up until that point swung in favour of the hosts, with Fulham consequently enjoying more space in the middle and engineering five shots inside the Liverpool area (including the striking of a post and Clint Dempsey’s winner) from 72′ onwards. Liverpool, by contrast, were reduced to speculative long-range efforts and did not have a shot inside the Fulham area until the fifth minute of added time…

A big pre-match debate was just how much Liverpool were going to miss holding midfield Lucas Leiva. The Brazilian – who was so influential against Chelsea last week, winning 100% of his 11 ground & aerial challenges – was replaced by 23-year-old Jay Spearing, who tidily made five interceptions and won 75% of his four ground tackles. It was efficient enough from Spearing, but not nearly as prolific, and when allied with his important sending off (regardless of its merits), one has to say that Lucas was indeed just about missed on Monday night…

Tonight we probably had the rub of the green. – Jol

Whilst Spearing saw red, Fulham’s Philippe Senderos remained on the pitch despite a triumvirate of fouls in dangerous areas having been booked in the 59th minute. Lucky man indeed. Senderos did not help his side’s cause on that front, although he did at least make five key interceptions in dangerous areas to help thwart Liverpool in attack, as well as winning 100% of his ground tackles. Regardless of these plus points, similar fouls by Senderos in future games might not receive such lenient punishment…

Clint is a good player. He scored 13 goals in the league last year and tonight it was a much-needed goal and a much-needed win. – Jol

However, decisions by the officials aside, perhaps Liverpool’s biggest source of disappointment (given that it was something they had control over) should be the continued prolifigacy of their strikers in front of goal. Home games with Swansea and Norwich returned just one goal and two points as numerous chances went begging, and although – given his price tag – Andy Carroll is an easy target for abuse on the matter, it was once again Luis Suárez who failed to convert despite five attempts on the opposition goal. Indeed it has now been two months since the Uruguayan last scored in the league.

The same has been the case all too often for Fulham this season, not least against Tottenham, although Dempsey finally converted a chance (his ninth shot of the game) on 85′ and duly won the match for the Cottagers. It might have been his easiest chance of the game, but as Richard Allen shows here, it was only a tap-in because of his excellent off-the-ball movement…

Two further points of note. 1) Clint Dempsey did not have much joy when it came to taking on his opponents on Monday – the American won just one of six take-ons over the ninety minutes. 2) Jordan Henderson seems to be adjusting to life at Liverpool with increasing comfort – he was the game’s top passer with an accuracy of 95% at the Cottage, with 54 of his 57 passes finding a red shirt…

MORE CHALKBOARD ANALYSIS FROM THE WEEKEND TO FOLLOW…

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

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sandy permalink
    December 6, 2011 7:41 pm

    Fantastic blog. An excellent read.

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: