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@theweekend: Odemwingie, Morrison, Hangeland, Dempsey & more

December 19, 2011

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

Everton 1-1 Norwich : Chance-Conversion, Baines, Drenthe, Holt & Whitbread…

Football is a funny old game at times. At Goodison Park on Saturday, Everton rattled off 29 attempts on Norwich’s goal, with John Ruddy saving six, the Canaries blocking ten, the rest off target and a lonely one finding the back of the net. The visitor’s meanwhile scored from their only on-target attempt on Tim Howard’s goal. Funny ol’ game at times…

Leighton Baines impressed for the hosts with five successful passes/crosses into the Norwich area – although he did not deliver an assist on Saturday, there is a good chance that similar service will result in assists in coming weeks. 72nd minute substitute Royston Drenthe, returning from injury, also caught the eye in his 18-minute cameo. The on-loan Dutchman worked four attempts on John Ruddy’s goal, the first of which resulted in Everton’s equaliser…

For the visitors, Grant Holt sparkled in scoring Norwich’s goal with a cute turn and deft finish, however he frequently cost his side momentum by giving away six fouls over the ninety minutes. In defence, Zak Whitbread impressively completed 100% of his six clearances, finding a Norwich shirt each time – crucial to prevent pressure being immediately heaped back on his own side…

Blackburn 1-2 WBA : Rovers Out-Tackled As Odemwingie & Morrison Impress…

The Baggies heaped more pressure on Blackburn boss Steve Kean with a 2-1 triumph at Ewood Park on Saturday. The visitors gave themselves a solid base from which to begin their attacks by winning 83% of their atttempted ground tackles (10/12); Rovers, by contrast, won just 58% (7/12) of theirs…

It wasn’t the easiest period for me in the head but I kept working hard all week. […] I want to build on this because I enjoyed making the runs and shooting. I’m only looking forward now.

– West Brom’s Peter Odemwingie (via wba.co.uk)

Peter Odemwingie started up front for just the second time in six games and looked hungry for his first league goal mid-October throughout. The Nigerian engineered seven attempts on Paul Robinson’s goal over the ninety minutes, the last of which resulted in a spectacular 89th-minute winner for the visitors. Odemwingie will be hoping to improve on his season tally of just three goals over the coming weeks, especially since he netted fifteen times in the league last season. Praise-aside however, his final ball was lacking somewhat on Saturday – Odemwingie failed with seven of his eight passes inside Blackburn’s area at the weekend…

James Morrison was a constant menace for West Brom, producing six successful key passes into Blackburn’s area as well as netting the game’s opening goal on 52′, despite supposedly being stationed on the right-flank. Such industrious creativity will undoubtedly please manager Roy Hodgson, especially when allied to the three interceptions he made when it came to defending. Baggies fans and, indeed, Hodgson, will be hoping for more of the same in coming weeks…

Fulham 2-0 Bolton : Lacklustre Trotters Beaten By Dempsey, Ruiz & co….

I was against the goalkeeper and I had many things in my head. But I did it like that because I have confidence in finishing like that.

– Fulham’s Bryan Ruiz (via fulhamfc.com)

Bolton sank further into the relegation mire as they went down 2-0 to Fulham at the weekend. Granted, Clint Dempsey’s header was rather special and Bryan Ruiz’s audacious lofted finish deserves to be a Goal of the Month contender (watch it here), but Owen Coyle’s side never really looked like competing. The Cottagers out-passed them in volume and accuracy, and in the first half Bolton managed to test David Stockdale just once, although there were six further off-target attempts. In the same time, Fulham mustered 15 attempts on the Bolton goal, four of which were on target with a further six blocked. In fact, one minor source of solace for Bolton is that they managed to block 10 Fulham shots over the 90 minutes…

The Trotters did not help themselves by repeatedly launching the ball into Fulham’s half, something 6ft 4″ centre-back Brede Hangeland is ideally equipped to deal with. The Norwegian skipper won six of his seven aerial challenges (86%) while the Bolton team as a whole won just 36% (8/22) of their attempted aerial challenges. Perhaps keeping the ball on the deck – albeit trickier in the absence of Stuart Holden and Chung Yong Lee – might serve them well in coming weeks…

For Fulham, Dempsey and Ruiz obviously stole the show with a goal and an assist apiece. However, whilst Ruiz commendably stuck to his right-flank station, Dempsey once again spent more time drifting in-field (to where Moussa Dembélé is positioned)…

The effects of Dempsey’s in-field wanderings are two-fold. Firstly, in attack it gives Fulham an extra option in and around the box, which has paid-off recently with goals against both Liverpool and, of course, Bolton. Secondly, however, it can occasionally overload the central areas, with the Whites struggling to penetrate defences due to the sheer volume of players in the middle. Furthermore, Martin Jol’s side notoriously struggle for width down the left as a consquence, with full-back John Arne Riise having to take up advanced positions to balance out their play. This leaves larger gaps behind which are ripe to be exploited by the opposition, especially faster opponents (such as Tottenham’s Kyle Walker). Against the limited threat offered by Bolton on Saturday (Darren Pratley was duly subbed at half-time), Fulham remained relatively comfortable despite this weakness. Entertaining Manchester United midweek, with Antonio Valencia or Luís Nani expected to be the right-wing threat, might not end so pleasingly for the Cottagers…

I’m very happy that my forward players could make a difference because that is always an important thing, if you don’t concede to score a few goals and that is what we did today.

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

All said, Fulham were tidily efficient on Saturday. They have produced a number of impressive displays this season that have not, for various reasons, returned either the goals or the points they have deserved. As such, beating Bolton – regardless of their current deficiencies – should send them into the United game with good confidence and hopeful of a result. Given they have already achieved draws against City and Arsenal, on top of beating Liverpool, Fulham stand a good chance of getting something from Wednesday’s game…

Newcastle 0-0 Swansea : Tioté Returns, Ba Shoots, Unambitious Swans Survive…

Remember, Swansea are a mid-table team, and we absolutely bossed them without getting the win.

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

Swansea held on for a draw against Newcastle on Saturday, although in truth they never really looked like troubling Magpies ‘keeper Tim Krul. The Swans managed a meagre three off-target attempts over the ninety minutes. Their lack of creativity and productivity can be part explained by Newcastle’s returning defensive solidity, but also by the visitor’s lack of ambition, as perhaps best illustrated by centre-back Steven Caulker’s passing heatmap – he made an astonishing 87% of his passes in his own final third. However, seeing as they earned a point, perhaps the Swans deserve at least some praise…

Newcastle’s Demba Ba – with an impressive eleven goals to his name already this season – tried his best to break the deadlock, attempting eight shots on Michel Vorm’s goal on Saturday, including striking the post on 24′. Such a large volume of efforts would indicate that the goals will return soon enough, although give that Ba on his own had almost three times as many attempts as Swansea, perhaps the hosts can count themselves a tad unfortunate not to have claimed all three points. Midfielder Yohan Cabaye also seemed to have his heart set on finding the back of the net – the Frenchman shot four times on Saturday, including three from outside of the area…

Yes it’s good to be back because I haven’t played for a long time. […] I needed to work for the team and for my midfield partner Yohan Cabaye, because it has been a long time since I have been alongside him.

– Newcastle’s Cheick Tioté (via nufc.co.uk)

Cheick Tioté returned from an injury-induced six-game absence – notably six games in which Newcastle have failed to keep a clean sheet – to anchor the Magpies midfield, winning six of seven challenges (including 100% of his four ground tackles) to break-up Swansea’s passing game. Newcastle’s defensive endeavours were also aided by 20-year-old left-back Davide Santon, who won six of his eight challenges, including four of six ground tackles. Ryan Taylor might well face a tough battle, in spite of his eye for a goal, to earn his place in the starting XI back when he returns…

MORE CHALKBOARD ANALYSIS FROM THE WEEKEND TO FOLLOW…

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

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