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@theweekend: Great Britton & Super Sig, Wasteful Wigan, Valencia & Scholes’ Return

March 19, 2012

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

Fulham 0-3 Swansea: Great Britton and Super Sig See Swans Crush Sloppy Fulham…

Our possession game was fantastic and our ability to control and dominate possession was at a real high level. I rate this higher than Manchester City because it was a better performance.

– Swansea manager, Brendan Rodgers (via

Praise for Brendan Rodgers’ side will follow shortly, but at the Cottage on Saturday, Martin Jol’s men were complicit in their own downfall as Swansea deservedly triumphed by a three goal margin. For Swansea’s opening goal, Fulham’s Stephen Kelly – who was guilty of ball-watching and failing to track Andreas Weimann for Villa’s late winner last weekend – appeared unaware of Scott Sinclair’s presence and threat behind him at the far post as the young Englishman nodded down for Gylfi Sigurðsson to strike. Just after the hour mark, Cottagers holding midfielder Mahamadou Diarra was twenty yards off the pace as Sigurðsson arrived unchallenged in the box for his and Swansea’s second, whilst Philippe Senderos’ involvement in Swansea’s third goal – a sloppily misplaced pass and slip – was all too clear to see. However, as poor as Fulham were, Swansea were simply immense and deserve all the praise that comes their way. In the words of manager Brendan Rodgers, the Swans turned in ‘a phenomenal performance,’ comfortably dominating their hosts and consequently leapfrogging them in the table. The contrast in quality of performance across and throughout both sides can be clearly seen on the Player Influence maps below [it should also be noted how well Swansea’s players kept their shape, especially in comparison to Fulham]…

You can either press them or drop off and let them play and then try to break them.

– Fulham manager, Martin Jol (via

The Swans passed the ball around Craven Cottage with aplomb on Saturday – as a collective unit they attempted a Barcelona-esque 700 passes (613 successful, 87.6% accuracy) in comparison to Fulham’s 344/429 (80.2%). The sheer volume of passing (allied to superior ball retention) that the Swans undertook meant that they finished with 61.9% of the possession and were able to dictate proceedings for large swathes of the encounter. Fulham were simply unable to get close, failing to press the visitors effectively or defend successfully when sitting back, with the three goals that followed the least the Swans deserved. At the heart of Swansea’s exceptional passing game was Leon Britton. The 29-year-old midfielder, who currently possesses the highest Pass Success rate (92.3%) in European football (ahead of Xavi & co.), completed 96 of his 100 attempted passes against Fulham on Saturday, seamlessly and relentlessly linking Swansea’s defence, midfield and attack, as his passing map below-right shows. Another exceptional performance from Britton – what a season he and his teammates are having…

I looked at the squad after the first half of the season and I felt we needed a goalscoring midfielder and he has slotted in perfectly. […] Gylfi is a big talent, our style of play suits him perfectly and he has adapted well.

– Swansea manager, Brendan Rodgers (via

Two further mentions on the Swansea front. Firstly, and once again, Gylfi Sigurðsson. The Icelandic attacking midfielder has been a revelation in recent weeks, taking his tally to four goals in his last three league appearances. He suits Swansea to a T, adding a threat from midfield that saw him have four shots on Saturday and return two goals. His importance to Swansea is becoming increasingly noticeable, with the Swans unbeaten in the five matches (four wins, one draw) in which he has returned goals or assists (five and three respectively), but having suffered three defeats in the four games in which he has failed to return a goal or assist. With a potentially tricky triumvirate of upcoming fixtures (EVE, tot, NEW), his creative talents could well be key to maintaining Swansea’s fine run of form. Secondly, and briefly, a quick word of praise for goalkeeper Michel Vorm and his footballing skills. His glovework has received much adulation this season, and he is proving equally adept with the ball at his feet. Against Fulham he attempted almost fifty passes, completing 22 of 23 short passes in the process, helping to provide an alternative outlet for his defence (Martin Jol referred to him as ‘almost their twelfth player’). Such was his involvement on Saturday that he completed more passes than all-bar-four of the Fulham team, a remarkable achievement for a goalkeeper…

Wigan 1-1 West Brom: Wasteful Wigan Rue Missed Chances…

Barring divine intervention they [Wigan] are going down.

– The Observer’s Joe Lovejoy (via

There is no escaping the fact that Wigan’s biggest Achilles’ heel this season has been a lack of goals – just twenty-five goals have been scored in twenty-nine league games. The same shortcomings revealed themselves on Saturday, as the Latics contrived to draw against a West Brom side they really should have beaten, squandering twenty of their twenty-one attempts in the process (the Baggies, by comparison, had just ten efforts). On this occasion Franco di Santo was the biggest culprit, testing Albion’s Ben Foster with just one of his six shots (below left), although it has been a season-long and team-wide issue for Roberto Martínez this campaign. Despite all of Wigan’s commendable passing style, impressive build-up play and consistent chance creation – Jean Beausejour, for example, created an impressive eight chances for his teammates at the weekend (below right) – they just cannot get the ball in the back of the net on a frequent enough basis that they are able to win games. The Latics might be in the relegation zone by just a solitary point, but with tricky upcoming fixtures (liv, STO, che, MUT, ars) many are starting to write off their chances of staying up. However, and unlike Wolves, at least they are playing good football and creating chances – something to cling to at least…

The team I work with also deserve credit for their resilience, determination, character and desire to get something out of this game.

– West Brom manager, Roy Hodgson (via

For the Baggies, it was mostly an underwhelming afternoon. Undoubtedly second-best for the most part, they still emerged with a point however, and for that they deserve credit (even when Wigan’s goal-conversion limitations are taken into account). Although the visitors leaked twenty-one chances to Wigan, there was at least one defensive plus point – the highest tackle success rate (17/19 successful) across the weekend’s admittedly curtailed Premier League program. Manager Roy Hodgson, a former defender no less, will be undoubtedly pleased with such statistics, and, with four winnable home games in their next seven fixtures, will undoubtedly be targeting a few clean sheets as the season draws to a close. Another positive further up the pitch have been the performances of James Morrison in recent weeks, which he continued by creating four chances for his Baggies teammates on Saturday…

Wolves 0-5 Manchester United : Valencia, Rooney and Scholes Shine as Wolves Wobble…

His form before he got the injury was outstanding. Now he is back we hope he stays back fit. He is such an honest, hard-working player. You get two sides to Antonio. He is prepared to work really hard. He can tackle, he can run, but he can also beat a man. He has got everything.

– Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson (via

First things first – Antonio Valencia. What a performance! The Ecuadorian returned from injury and instantly replaced Ashley Young in the United line up, repaying his manager’s faith with a impressive display that saw him score a goal, create six chances for teammates (including two assists) as well as tracking back to make three defensive challenges. As Sir Alex Ferguson explains above, his versatility, tenacity and professionalism ensures that he is currently one of United’s most potent assets and as such is close to being one of the first names on their teamsheets. He has brought a near-consistent return of assists (and goals) to the United team this campaign and in all probability will prove key to United’s hopes of winning the title…

Also impressing for United on Sunday was Wayne Rooney, with the England striker often at the heart of United’s best and most incisive play. Interestingly however, Rooney’s role against Wolves was slightly more withdrawn (more akin to an attacking midfield role) as he consequently failed to get into the area as frequently as he did the previous week against West Brom when he scored twice from four inside-of-the-area attempts – against Wolves, a couple of shots from range were all he mustered. In fairness, that is not to say United were harmed by such a change, whether intentional or by accident – Rooney still provided one assist and created five goalscoring chances for teammates and, as stated before, was central to much of United’s best play. They still scored five after all!

A quick nod to Danny Welbeck who, by virtue of winning all five of his attempted tackles, ended the game with the accolade of top tackler, as the young England striker epitomised the notion of defending from the front. Finally, and, arguably, most significantly, on the United front – a word or two on the Ginger Prince. Paul Scholes‘ vast title-winning experience is clearly being exploited by Ferguson, with the recently returned-from-retirement midfielder starting all of United’s five most recent league fixtures. Against Wolves he turned in a vintage passing display, completing 96 of his 98 attempted passes – a mouth-watering accuracy of 98%. What was even more impressive about his passing was that just nine of these passes were backwards (usually a safer option), completing all 37 square passes and 50/52 forward passes. For those that doubt his importance to United’s title challenge, consider the following: Scholes was brought back in following consecutive league defeats to Blackburn (at home) and Newcastle (by three goals), since when he has featured in all nine league games (starting seven) with United winning eight and drawing once (Chelsea away). United clearly look all the better for his return…

Finally from Molineux, a word or two on a seriously struggling Wolves side. Short of confidence in their passing ability, the hosts hit the ball long (from back to front) a whopping 33 times, with United winning all-bar-two of the ten aerial duels consequently contested in between their penalty area and the halfway line. Terry Connor could perhaps do with getting his boys playing football a tad more, although this time last year a key protagonist in their survival was Jamie O’Hara, and he is currently out with a groin injury. As for the deficiences in defence, they have been all too apparent, with slack marking, sloppy clearances, and poor decision making forming a key part of why the West Midlands club are enduring such a torrid campaign. With three defeats in four since Mick McCarthy’s sacking (and, indeed, just one win in their last fifteen league games!) it is looking an increasingly tough ask to turn their fortunes around…

Further Premier League analysis to follow…

@theweekend analysis archive:


One Comment leave one →
  1. March 20, 2012 12:54 am

    If anyone would like us to look at a specific player (or type of statistic) in recent or upcoming games then just add it to the comments below…

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