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@theweekend: Midfield Moussa and Prolific Pog Help Cottagers Humble Woeful Wolves

March 5, 2012

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

Fulham 5-0 Wolves : Prolific Pog & Midfield Moussa Help Humble Woeful Wolves…

I didn’t think it would be so good so early. But I’m really happy that everything is going well and I thank my team mates for everything that has happened so far.

– Fulham’s Pavel Pogrebnyak (via fulhamfc.com)

Pavel Pogrebnyak grabbed the headlines with yet more clinical finishing for the Cottagers – three Fulham appearances have returned five goals from five attempts. Accuracy and efficiency would appear to be the Russian’s forte – key attributes for any striker. Pogrebnyak’s passing against Wolves was also tidily efficient, with 16 of 18 passes (89%) finding a white shirt. Indeed, the majority of these passes were short and would seem to suit Fulham’s system which involves linking up with attacking midfielders such as Dempsey, Duff, Ruiz and Dembélé. Fulham fans will be wondering why they bothered worrying when Bobby Zamora departed in January – they look more far more dynamic with the Pog instead of ol’ Bob…

Moussa Dembélé seems to be revelling in his new central-midfield role alongside Danny Murphy. His ball retention was superb against Wolves, regularly gliding past orange-shirt challenges with ease and completing an impressive 94% of his 84 attempted passes. Furthermore, the Belgian completed 30/33 passes in final third, helping to ensure that the Whites maintained possession in the most dangerous areas. His ghosting forward runs from central midfield look like becoming a key part of Fulham’s game as this season progresses, and his dashboard – littered with attempted challenges, clearances, etc – clearly reveals just how dynamic a player Dembélé would appear to be. A key asset for the Whites, it would seem…

Fulham’s dominance was reflected in the volume of shots they mustered – 27 in total, with twelve on target and five goals to boot. In truth, the gap could have been larger. Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer was essentially rendered a well-paid spectator for the duration, not facing a single Wolves on-target attempt in the last minute of injury time. As impressive as Fulham were, Wolves were woeful. Their fans must be worried…

Elsewhere, Fulham left-back John Arne Riise was clearly keen for his first Fulham goal, popping off four shots from a number of unlikely distances and angles, including being thwarted by a brilliant finger-tip save from Wayne Hennessey in the first-half. Excellent intent from Riise though – surely that first goal will arrive shortly. Finally, a word of praise for striker Andy Johnson. The fleet-footed striker is finally getting a run of games under Martin Jol and the Whites look all the better for it. Against Wolves at the weekend, not only did he bag two assists as well as hitting the crossbar, but his in-behind running was a constant menace to the Wolves back four. A look at Johnson’s ‘received passes’ dashboard highlights how he was repeatedly fed into the channels and sought to stretch the opposition defence, helping to provide room for the likes of Pogrebnyak, Dempsey and Dembélé to shine. And boy, did they do just that…

Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal : Reds Cross As On-Target Gunners Pinch Points…

There was much made about how Liverpool made more long passes than Stoke this weekend, although a noticeable contrast in approach can be seen when comparing the number of attempted crosses between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield. The hosts attempted thirty-eight, of which just eight found a red shirt; Arsenal meanwhile attempted just eight, some thirty less than Liverpool, as if to emphasise their preference for trying to pass the ball into the net. As far as this match went however, the one Arsenal cross which found an Arsenal shirt resulted in a goal – evidence that varying your approach does pay off…

The performance was outstanding, the result is the disappointing thing.

– Liverpool manager, Kenny Dalglish (via liverpoolfc.tv)

Liverpool might consider themselves unlucky not to have earned a point from this game – not only was Dirk Kuyt’s penalty kept out by Wojciech Szczęsny, but the hosts had more shots (12-10), made more passes (357/466-319/412), had more possession (54%-46%), more territory (56.1%-43.9%) and made almost twice as many final-third passes as their visitors (134/202-79/126). However, despite the statistical dominance, getting the ball in the back of the net is what ultimately counts, and whilst Arsenal can call on Robin van Persie, Liverpool have endured a frustrating season of missed chance after missed chance. At the weekend, Liverpool had ten shots inside Arsenal’s area but missed the target with six (40% accuracy), whilst the Gunners were on target with six of their seven in-area shots (86%), with their Dutch talisman duly obliging with another brace…

One interesting observation on the back of the ‘long pass’ comments above was how Charlie Adam repeatedly failed with his attempted play-spreading long-balls and cross-fielders – just two of seven (29%) found a Liverpool shirt in their defeat on Saturday. When the Scot was at Blackpool last season he was regularly seen attempting such passes, somewhat affectionately known as ‘Hollywood balls’ in some quarters of Bloomfield Road. Whilst they were not always successful last season, against some teams he did enjoy particular success with these monster play-spreading long balls. One such team was his current club, Liverpool, who the Tangerines defeated 2-1 at Bloomfield Road, with Adam having completed eight of ten long passes (80%) in a famous night for the Lancashire club…

Tottenham 1-3 Man United : Tackling & Shooting, plus Modrić, Livermore & Rooney…

As with Liverpool, Spurs did play rather well – the volume of shots they attempted (18) in comparison to United (just 6) would suggest the two-goal difference between the two sides to flatter the victors somewhat, although it should be noted that where as United were on-target with 83% of their shots (5/6), Spurs were on-target with just 33% (6/18), only two of which were from inside United’s area…

In Gareth Bale’s absence, Luka Modrić was shifted to Tottenham’s left flank. The Croatian string puller, more accustomed to central midfield, was impressively disciplined positionally, as highlighted by where he received his passes (below left). However, it is clear to see just how eager he was to control proceedings from the middle when we look at the passes he made, and just how many of them were from central regions attempting to switch play to the right-flank. Although Spurs were not considerably harmed by Bale’s absence (Modrić created six chances for teammates), they will undoubtedly look forward to the Welshman’s return for his own threat as much as it allows Modrić to return to the middle where he seems most comfortable…

In the middle, with both Modrić (on the left) and Scott Parker (suspended) unavailable, Spurs opted for young Jake Livermore alongside Sandro. Livermore impressed more than the Brazillian – completing 64/73 passes (88%) and making four interceptions. Having already seen the likes of Kyle Walker graduate from the academy to the first team, it would appear Tottenham’s youth set-up have another talent on their hands…

Where Spurs were undoubtedly outperformed by United was when it came to tackles – the hosts won just five of thirteen attempted tackles (38%) in comparison to United’s thirteen of nineteen (68%). Furthermore, as can clearly be seen below, Spurs lost the four tackles they attempted in the key central region around their area. United, on the other hand, won a number of challenges in the said region, failing with three out to the right of their area and just one inside the box. Credit is due to Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand who, between them, won six of seven attempted tackles…

Further up the pitch – but not too far, mind – Wayne Rooney was operating ‘in the hole’ between midfield and attack. He received the ball in the vicinity of the half-way line on the majority of occasions, receiving just three passes in open play (plus a further two crosses, from corners) in and around Tottenham’s penalty area. Whilst Spurs deserve credit for limiting the supply to such a dangerous footballer, one can’t help but feel Sir Alex Ferguson would like to see his prime asset granted more of the ball in areas where he can really hurt the opposition. It was quite revealing that Rooney did not create a single chance for his teammates on Sunday, unusual for him, although he did score one goal and, ultimately, United did emerge victorious from a tricky fixture. United have an appealing run of fixtures in the coming weeks and an eleven-goal deficit to City (on goal difference) to overturn – getting the best out of Wayne Rooney could be key to this…

Further Premier League analysis to follow…

fourfourtwo.com/statszone

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