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@theweekend: Toon Beat Slick Swans, Vintage Scholes and All-Rounder Arteta…

April 7, 2012

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

Swansea 0-2 Newcastle : Prolific Papiss Helps Toon Past Pass-Happy Swans…

Swansea made a scarcely believable 835/914 (91% accuracy) passes against Newcastle (v Toon’s 181/271), including a whopping 168/215 passes in the final third, however ultimately failed to find the back of the net, succumbing to defeat courtesy of two more Papiss Demba Cissé strikes. Swansea’s dominance is reflected in the comparative volume of chances they enjoyed (19), but no goals followed, whereas Toon scored twice from just five attempts to emphasise the value of an in-form c£10m striker…

Swansea’s dominance is also reflected in the game’s Player Influence boards – note not only how more involved Brendan Rodgers’ players were compared to Newcastle’s, but also how the territorial advantage enjoyed by the hosts (59% territory, 77% possession). Although goals and points did not accompany their display on Friday, the Welsh club should not be too disappointed because similar displays will be good enough to beat most other top flight clubs…

That they didn’t beat Newcastle owes much to Alan Pardew and the defensive discipline he has instilled. They are within reach of challenging for a Champions League birth, deservedly so, and entirely unsurprising when they can put in performances which are “a bit flat” (Pardew’s words) and still win. Their defensive organisation and resilience is reflected in 15/16 tackles won and a sizeable 37 interceptions over the ninety minutes. A fine defensive display by the Magpies…

One final observation is with regards to striker Demba Ba – prolific pre-Cissé’s arrival with fifteen goals in nineteen league games, he has now failed to find the net in his last eight starts. Cissé meanwhile continues to flourish (ten in nine league appearances), but Ba struggled to make an impact on Friday, with just one blocked shot all afternoon, only one successful pass in Swansea’s half, and three fouls committed prior to his 58th minute substitution. Granted, he is playing slightly deeper behind Cissé, but such a dramatic drop-off in output will surely be playing on his and Pardew’s mind, even if the Magpies continue to enjoy strong results…

Man United 2-0 QPR : Vintage Scholes, Excellent Evra & more…

United’s dominance (72.5% possession, 67% territory) against QPR obviously owed much to the fortuitous one-man advantage they enjoyed for 75 minutes on Sunday, but also to the relentless and prolific passing skills of Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick in midfield. The latter completed an impressive 119/135 passes over the ninety minutes (88% accuracy), whilst Scholes impressed further with his spell-binding 95% accuracy for the 114/120 passes he completed before being substituted on 74′. He also created a game-high five goalscoring chances for teammates (one would expect an assist or two to follow in coming games if this high standard is maintained), and banged in a trademark long-range strike to cap a fine afternoon for the seemingly evergreen 37-year-old…

Given United’s possessional and territorial advantage it was little surprise they had more attempts than QPR (28 to 9), although Sir Alex Ferguson might have rued his decision to start Danny Welbeck up front instead of Javier Hernández, with Welbeck testing QPR goalkeeper Paddy Kenny with just two of his eight attempts. Wayne Rooney was a constant threat for United however, not just scoring from the spot but enjoying four further on-target attempts and two blocked shots over the ninety minutes…

That United kept Rangers quiet owed much to the defensive performance of Patrice Evra, with the French left-back winning 5/6 tackles. In particular this helped keep Jamie Mackie quiet, with Mackie winning just one of five take-ons throughout the game…

One area where QPR did enjoy success however was in the aerial duels up front. Jay Bothroyd specifically targeted Jonny Evans (a tactic that has been successfully before against United), winning 10/12 aerial duels to Evans’ 2/10 all afternoon. QPR’s downfall instance was that they made little further progress after having won the initial challenge. United’s saving grace on this front is that they do not come across any real physical strikers in their remaining fixtures until their final-day encounter with Sunderland’s Nicklas Bendtner, with the possible exception of Emile Heskey in gameweek 34. Clean sheets aplenty seem set to continue for United then…

Arsenal 1-0 Man City : Arteta the All-Rounder Guns Down City Hopes…

Manchester City’s title challenge all-but ended as they sank to 1-0 defeat at the Emirates on Sunday. Mario Balotelli’s late dismissal might have drawn the eye away from City’s on-pitch failings, but in truth City were a shadow of the side which set the pace earlier on this season. The match stats for Arsenal’s 1-0 triumph – who themselves have improved in the last few month’s as dramatically as City have fallen away – paint a pretty clear picture of the encounter: Arsenal had twice as many shots (13-6), had five on-target shots to City’s none, completed double the amount of passes (440/539 v 223/297), had a higher pass completion rate (82%-75%), enjoyed significantly more possession (64.5%-35.5%) and more territory (61.2%-38.8%). The extent to which City were second-best can clearly be seen on the Player Influence map below…

Central to City’s struggles has been the gradual decline in quality of performance by a number of players. David Silva, absent for this encounter, seemed a shoe-in for player of the season at Christmas time, has returned a miserly single assist from City’s last ten games (he had eleven assists and five goals prior to this). Similarly, right-back Micah Richards averaged an assists every two-and-a-bit games around December time, but has failed to return another assist since. The issues are widespread, and Roberto Mancini will be fearing the worst come the summer. The duo were replaced by James Milner and Pablo Zabaleta respectively at the weekend, although neither enjoyed particularly impressive afternoons. Milner completed just twenty-four passes, was successful with just one of five crosses, and did not have a single shot on Arsenal’s goal, whilst the paucity of markings on Zabaleta’s attacking dashboard paints a stark picture of his lack of involvement going forward on this outing for City…

For the Gunners however, things look rosier. One man in particular, Mikel Arteta, continues to shine – the Spaniard bagged the winning goal in this fixture, but was also the most prolific passer (73/78 passes), the most accurate passer (94%), created the joint-most chances (2), attempted the joint-most tackles (4, winning 2), and made the joint-most interceptions (5) over the ninety minutes. Tomáš Rosický also impressed for Arsenal – occupying the advanced CAM role he made more attacking third passes (26/36) than any other player on Sunday…

Tottenham 1-2 Norwich : Spurs Left Yellow As Canaries Claim Scalp…

I changed the system […] and I really thought we were too open.

– Tottenham manager, Harry Redknapp (via bbc.co.uk)

Norwich continued their impressive season with an unexpected win away to Champions League chasing Tottenham. Harry Redknapp was left to rue his rotation-induced alterations to personnel and structure, with the ineffective Louis Saha removed at the interval having completed a paltry seven first-half passes, two of which were from the kick-off and the re-start after the Canaries took the lead. The Frenchman also lost both of his attempted take-ons as well as three of his four aerial duels as he was thoroughly bested by the Norwich defence. Jake Livermore also featured, replacing Scott Parker in central midfield, and although he produced a delightfully weighted through-ball for Jermain Defoe’s deftly-dinked equaliser, Livermore failed to provide the coverage and protection that Tottenham’s back four are accustomed to with Parker. The young midfielder attempted just three tackles (two successful) and made just two interceptions all afternoon as he failed to display the ball-winning tenacity and nous that Spurs probably required against a hard-working Norwich side…

All credit to the Canaries however, especially Bradley Johnson, whose impact on proceedings after the interval is clearly evinced in the Player Influence board below. In direct challenges of varying descriptions over the ninety minutes however, Johnson came away with the ball on twelve of thirteen occasions (compared to Livermore’s 4/6) – the Norwich midfielder won 3/3 tackles, made two interceptions, had an 83% pass completion rate, won 2/2 take-ons, and made three clearances, one interception and one block in an impressive central-midfield display for the Canaries. Johnson also seemed keen to bag himself a goal, popping off a game-high six attempts on Brad Friedel’s goal from all manner of distances…

The [Norwich] defence were brilliant.

– Norwich manager, Paul Lambert (via canaries.co.uk)

Norwich’s defence also deserves praise for restricting Spurs to just one goal, oweing much to the fine work of Russel Martin and Elliot Ward. Martin made five interceptions, three blocks, ten clearances, and won 1/2 tackles, whilst Ward was on hand to make a remarkable twenty clearances as the Canaries repelled Tottenham’s attacks…

After the interval, Elliot Bennett’s stunning strike was to deservedly win the game for the visitors, although Benoît Assou-Ekotto also scored a memorable goal for the hosts after neat interplay with substitute Emmanuel Adebayor. In fairness to Assou-Ekotto (who has been enjoying a fine season for Spurs), he was one of the few Tottenham players to emerge with credit from this disappointing display. The Cameroonian impressively won five out of five tackles, made two interceptions, three successful clearances, drew three fouls and created two scoring chances for teammates. Three shots (two blocked) on Norwich’s goal suggest that BAE’s attacking instincts are still intact, and with Tottenham’s next four league games against sides in the current bottom six (QPR, BLA, BOL, AVL), he would appear well placed to add to the two goals and five assists he already has to his name this season…

Everton 4-0 Sunderland : Gueye & Pienaar Prominent; McClean & Sessègnon Subdued…

It was a remarkably one-sided second-half that settled the clash between two of 2012’s most in-form sides. Everton bagged four goals from sixteen attempts after the interval while the Black Cats mustered a meagre one off-target attempt, duly affording Tim Howard and entirely save-free afternoon when coupled with the two off-target efforts Sunderland managed in the first period. Perhaps Nicklas Bendtner’s build-up play was missed after all…

Key to keeping Sunderland quiet of late has been restricting the impact of their two most effective attackers – Stéphane Sessègnon and James McClean. The Toffees managed to do this rather well, with Sessègnon losing five of seven take-ons and McClean losing four of six take-ons, so all credit to David Moyes and his troops for such effective defending – Sunderland were restricted to just three shots (all off-target) all afternoon. For the Black Cats, they can only hope – well, probably expect – that the Wolves defence (their next league opponents) will be more accomodating to McClean and Sessegnon…

For the Toffees, Magaye Gueye and Steven Pienaar were the chief orchestrators of Sunderland’s downfall. Their tenacious running and nifty footwork saw the duo create an impressive ten goal-scoring chances combined for teammates, three of which resulted in assists…

Further Premier League analysis to follow…

@theweekend analysis archive: https://sportingblogs.wordpress.com/theweekend/

Source: fourfourtwo.com/statszone

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