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@theweekend: Carlos and Kun Out-Class Canaries; Allen, Fletcher, McClean & more

April 16, 2012

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

Norwich 1-6 Man City : City Hit Canaries For Six As Tévez & Agüero Sparkle…

Carlos has improved a lot over the last two weeks. […] He’s a lot better now. We were without him for five months, and if we had him along with Mario and Dzeko then maybe we would have scored more goals.

– Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini (via mcfc.co.uk)

Argentine compatriots Carlos Tévez and Sergio Agüero turned in the sort of strike-partnering display against Norwich that might well have seen the title wrapped up in City’s favour with ease had the former not spent most of the season honing his golf technique. Between them they scored five times from twelve shots against the Canaries, with their near-telepathic interplay (see Tévez’s back-heel to Agüero for City’s second) and jinking running (Agüero impressively won 8/9 take-ons) relentlessly causing Norwich’s defenders all sorts of bother throughout the afternoon. The visitors racked up six goals and a similar or better score-line should be expected next time out against a struggling Wolves outfit. Alas, given the way City’s title campaign has fizzled out since Christmas, Tévez’s bench-warming night in Munich will be a huge source of regret to Roberto Mancini and City’s fans…

We’re starting to play very well again. – Mancini

Tévez’s return also seemed to get the best out of David Silva – the Spaniard created seven chances for teammates including his first assist since February, en route to topping the list for final-third passes (23/31). Samir Nasri’s ball retention in the final-third was also impressive, misplacing just two passes prior to his 63rd-minute substitution. It is notable that the majority of these passes were on the flank, helping to give City width and thus creating further space in central regions in which Silva, Tévez and Agüero could flourish…

That City ran riot in the closing stages owed much to the introduction of Yaya Touré just after the hour mark. His influence (relative to his teammates’) on City’s final half hour is clear to see on the Player Influence board below, as the Ivorian provided an added impetus to City’s play from central midfield. His tireless running (especially on fresh legs) and imposing stature helped the visitors regain control of the central regions after Paul Lambert’s half-time switch to a midfield diamond saw Norwich come back into the game. Touré was also on hand to create three chances for teammates during his half-hour cameo, including the assist for City’s fourth (Agüero’s fine strike)…

In defence we were strong and in midfield we won our battles, so it was very positive.

– Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany (via mcfc.co.uk)

One final note on how City managed to limit their hosts to just one goal – some excellent all-round defensive play. The visitors racked up twenty interceptions (Joleon Lescott topping the bill with six, more than double any other player), and won an impressive nineteen of twenty-two tackles (Pablo Zabaleta 5/5, Vincent Kompany 4/4) as they broke up Norwich’s play when the hosts kept the ball on the deck…

City also limited Norwich to just 7/29 successful crosses (a key source of goals for Paul Lambert’s side this season) over the ninety minutes. Captain Vincent Kompany deserves particular praise for thwarting Grant Holt & co. – the Belgium international made fourteen clearances at the weekend, ten of which found a City shirt, with Grant Holt failing to win an aerial duel all afternoon…

Sunderland 0-0 Wolves : McClean, Fletcher, Bardsley, Henry, & a look at Wolves…

With [Steven] Fletcher’s header and a couple of other chances, we could have taken all three points.

– Wolves manager, Terry Connor (via wolves.co.uk)

If Wolves want to stay up they need to win games, and to do that they need to score goals. Steven Fletcher enjoyed three glorious chances at the Stadium of Light only to be denied by the reflections and agility of Simon Mignolet. Whilst some might say he should have scored, the fact that he had such good chances bodes well, for similar efforts in coming games might well be rewarded with a goal or two. Similarly, Sunderland’s young winger James McClean, who has really burst on to the scene in recent months, came close to netting on a couple of occasions and displayed his eagerness to score with five attempts over the ninety minutes. If he keeps getting into good positions and having five attempts per game, a goal or two will follow…

Further to the above, Black Cats defender Phillip Bardsley showed a clear desire to relive last season’s goalscoring form with two pot-shots from range. He has scored a belter or two from distance in the past, and another in the coming weeks would not be too much of a shock on this weekend’s evidence. Bardsley also impressed in defence for the Black Cats, winning a game-high six of seven attempted tackles against Wolves…

Karl Henry’s doggedness in midfield will also be important to Wolves’ slender survival hopes in the remaining gameweeks. Against Sunderland he was the game’s top passer with 40/48 passes finding an orange shirt, whilst he also won all four of his tackles – the most by any midfielder at the Stadium of Light on Saturday…

One area where Wolves undoubtedly improved on Saturday was in their defending – this was their first clean sheet since the third game of the season, an appalling but totally indicative record. In recent weeks, Terry Connor’s side have shipped a number of sloppy goals, and as such it was little surprise to see the visitors attempt to clear the ball with a relentless regularity against Sunderland (48 times in total) – in essence it was a ‘take no risks, just get it clear’ strategy, and one which paid off with their first league shut-out since August. One area they will undoubtedly need to improve however will be a reduction in the number of fouls committed – a sizeable twelve were conceded against Sunderland on Saturday, including six in their own half. Such fouls will leave them vulnerable to set-piece free-kicks in coming matches, an unneccessary extra risk when every single goal matters…

Swansea 3-0 Blackburn : Sigurðsson Shoots Down Rovers as Allen Runs the Show…

It was a wonderful goal. We talk a lot in training about shifting and shooting and it’s difficult to tell which is his [Gylfi Sigurðsson’s] stronger foot.

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

There was something fundamentally reminiscent about this match and it’s outcome on Saturday. As has been the case for the most part this season, Swansea passed the ball around with aplomb (549/612 passes, 90% accuracy), Gylfi Sigurðsson displayed his penchant for (and prowess at) spectacular long-shots (more goals will follow before the summer), and the Swans kept a clean sheet…

We were loose in our possession and not as potent as we have been.

– Blackburn Rovers manager, Steve Kean (via swanseacity.net)

The Blackburn that arrived in Wales bore all the hallmarks of the Steve Kean-led performances that so frustrated fans in the first half of the season – ineffective in possession (just two shots-on-target), uncertain on the ball (an abysmal pass completion rate of just 66% for the embarrassingly low 139/212 passes), an optimistic reliance on Paul Robinson’s ineffective long-balls, and, ultimately, an all-round performance that just was not good enough. When you compare Swansea and Blackburn’s juxtaposed approaches to possession and distribution (perhaps best characterised by goalkeepers Michel Vorm and Paul Robinson) and then glance at the league table, it is clear to see which approach is more effective, which set of fans are happier, and which club (in their current state) is better suited to the top-flight…

It was fantastic ball from Joe (Allen) across the box.

– Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurðsson (via swanseacity.net)

On Saturday, Blackburn were all-too-happy to let Swansea centre-back Ashley Williams have the ball – Williams made a game-high 91/109 passes. By contrast, the visitors man-marked Leon Britton (a tactic that worked for Everton), with Swansea’s normally most prolific passer substituted on 70′ having made just twenty-eight passes (albeit all of them successful). Considering his average is well over sixty-per-game, this was quite some drop for Britton. Unfortunately for Blackburn the tactic was ultimately unsuccessful, firstly because Swansea’s defence were not pressed well enough (Swansea’s other centre-back Steven Caulker was third top-passer with 73/78), but secondly because Joe Allen was not pressed with the same gusto as Britton. Allen was able to take up Britton’s pressurised slack and distribute the ball calmly and efficiently, thus helping to maintain Swansea’s passing patterns and style of play, as well as creating a game-high four chances. Finally, moments of composure and quality are still required to capitalise on possession and dominance, and the vision and execution involved in Allen’s cross-the-box assist to Sigurðsson for Swansea’s opening goal (let alone Sig’s finish!) was a joy to behold…

West Brom 1-0 QPR : Shooting and Aerial Issues for QPR…

We played some very good football in the first half, lost our way in the second when there looked to be an element of fatigue, but we showed grit and determination to keep them at bay.

– West Brom manager, Roy Hodgson (via guardian.co.uk)

A quick glance at West Brom’s Player Influence boards below  for the first and second half reveals just how much better the hosts were prior to the interval. That ten of their fifteen shots came in this period – including Graham Dorrans quite spectacular winning goal – serves to confirm that the Baggies did indeed lose their way as relegation-threated QPR pressed for an equaliser in the second half…

If we can bring him [suspended striker Djibril Cissé] back I think we will see a lot from him, he has been frustrated from not playing and has a lot to give to the side.

– QPR’s Nedham Onuoha (via guardian.co.uk)

That QPR failed to equalise despite having eighteen attempts across the ninety minutes speaks volumes for the waywardness of some of their finishing. In total, thirteen of their shots failed to test WBA’s keeper Ben Foster, and when striker Bobby Zamora did finally locate  the target for the visitors, he found Foster in surpeme shot-stopping form. The return of striker Djibril Cissé cannot come quick enough for Rangers – the Frenchman has scored in all three of the five league appearances he has avoided a red card in…

QPR central-midfielder Samba Diakité caught the eye on Saturday. In defence, Diakité won a joint game-high four tackles (from five attempted) as well as making three interceptions, providing a consistent cover for the QPR defence. In possession, he provided drive and energy from central positions, winning four of six take-ons for the visitors. Allied to Adel Taarabt’s mercurial creativity and Bobby Zamora’s often-impressive build-up play, there is every chance that QPR will be able to provide Cissé with the chances to win matches and take them to survival in their remaining fixtures – even if they are against tough opponents (TOT che STO mct)…

Worryingly for Rangers, they did lose eight of ten aerial duels in their own half against the Baggies – themselves a team hardly renowned for aerial prowess. Considering that in their next three fixtures they will potentially face aerially-proficient strikers in Emmanuel Adebayor or Louis Saha, Didier Drogba, and then Peter Crouch, this could be a serious hinderance to their chances of survival. Adebayor (next up) for instance, won six aerial duels in Tottenham’s 3-1 win back in October, including two within close proximity of QPR’s goal…

All credit to West Brom for winning this game however – they are now all-but-mathematically safe from relegation this season. Chris Brunt made a game-high 24/31 passes in the attacking third, creating four chances for teammates in the process. Jerome Thomas also caught the eye whilst also creating four goal-scoring chances for Baggies teammates. Expect an assist or two to follow when Villa come to town in two gameweek’s time…

Man United 4-0 Aston Villa : Welbeck, Rooney, Valencia & Rafael…

United’s dominance over Villa is heavily reflected in the game’s statistics: possession 65.2%-34.8%, passes 474/547-213/289, completion 87%-74%, shots 29-12, on-target 9-2, and – most importantly – goals 4-0. The Player Influence dashboards confirm this – look how unbalanced and congested Villa’s players were at Old Trafford, especially in comparison to United’s structured approach. Full-backs high and wide, wingers stretched, clear room for Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick to operate in the middle etc…

United’s dominance was also reflected in the volume of chances (fourteen in total) enjoyed by their strikers, Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney (seven apiece). Welbeck’s chances in particular were excellent, with five of these shots coming within eight yards of goal. He scored once but was denied by two blocks and two saves on the other occasions. Wasteful use of excellent chances perhaps, or unfortunately denied by a determined Aston Villa defence?… you decide! Javier Hernández will probably tell you he would have had a hattrick though. Regardless, Rooney’s chances tended to be from the penalty spot or deeper (indeed he scored yet another penalty, literally ‘won’ by Ashley Young*, on which you can read more via this link), highlighting how the duo work – Welbeck seeking the gaps between defence and goal, Rooney operating in the gaps between defence and midfield…

*Ashley Young ‘winning’ penalties for United, England and Aston Villa (click to enlarge)…

He was careless. Wayne has to play on the edge of a game, when it is really close and competitive. When the game gets to that casual bit, he is worse than the rest of them.

– Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson (via telegraph.co.uk)

Athough Rooney scored twice, Sir Alex Ferguson took the 26-year-old off on 75′ having been disappointed with some facets of his performance. Just one chance created and a meagre seven successful attacking-third passes (from fourteen attempted, 50% accuracy) was an unusually low return for Rooney (one bettered in Sunday’s match by this remarkably long list: Carrick, Rafael, Valencia, Welbeck, Scholes, Evra, Ireland, Young, Bannan, Weimann, Nani and Evans) and indicative of a casual performance which so irked his manager. This contrasts vividly with Rooney at his best, for instance in their early-season 3-0 triumph over Spurs, where Rooney made 24/35 attacking-third passes, duly creating six scoring chances for teammates…

A key player for United in their post-derby mauling title charge has been Antonio Valencia. The Ecuadorian international has been a near ever-present since finally getting over his injuries and returning to regular football in December, since when he has provided a massive fourteen assists in just eighteen appearances (one every 1.3 games) and missed just three games. Only Manchester City’s David Silva has created more goals (fifteen assists) this season, but these have come from thirty-two appearances (one every 2.1 games). Against Villa, Valencia was once again at his creative best, linking well with right-back Rafael down the flank, winning a game-high four of seven take-ons and creating a game-high six goal-scoring chances for United teammates, including the assist for Rooney’s second (United’s third). Valencia also got away four attempts on Shay Given’s goal in attempt to add to his tally of four goals for the campaign. One really would not be surprised if more assists (and maybe a goal or two) arrived between now and the end of the season…

I can feel what he [Valencia] wants to do and vice versa and that is probably the reason why we have so much understanding on the pitch.

– Manchester United’s Rafael da Silva (via manutd.com)

Right-back Rafael da Silva also impressed for United against Villa, especially so from a defensive perspective. The Brazilian won all eight of his attempted tackles, was on hand to make six clearances and contested a game-high five aerial duels (winning two). That he managed all this whilst also making the second-most attacking-third passes (17/22), including two chances, speaks volumes for his engine and stamina, but also for the understanding that he has with the player directly in front of him, Antonio Valencia. The duo are forming a rather formidable RB-RM partnership and United are all-the-better for it…

Arsenal 1-2 Wigan : Magical Moses Helps Wigan Win Against Frustrated Arsenal…

I was still confident at 2-1 especially but unfortunately in the second half we did not have a lot to offer.

– Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger (via arsenal.com)

Central to Wigan’s memorable win at the Emirates on Monday was the jinking running and general trickery of Victor Moses. Moses won five of his six attempted take-ons and played a key role in helping to set up Wigan’s second goal, turning Bacary Sagna a couple of times before beating him to the bye-line and crossing the ball. In contrast to Moses’ excellence, Theo Walcott had a rather more subdued evening – the England winger failed to win a single take-on (from four attempted), did not create a single chance for teammates and failed with both of his paltry two crosses…

They defended well. We had a tremendous amount of possession but didn’t create a lot in the second half. – Wenger (via arsenal.com)

All credit to Wigan defensively (for once!) as they impressively won 20/26 tackles and made twenty interceptions (nineteen in their own half), as well as stretching every sinew to block nine Arsenal shots over the ninety minutes. The Latics have been ropey at the back this season far too frequently, so to limit the Gunners to just one goal should be an extreme source of pride for Roberto Martínez, even if it will have taken some by surprise…

The high volume on interceptions they made as they beat Arsenal on Monday was not a one-off, in recent weeks at least. In their unexpected 1-0 triumph over champions-elect Manchester United last Wednesday they also made an impressive twenty-five interceptions; again, the majority of which were in their own half. The Latics will be hoping to repeat such statistics when they take on Moussa Dembélé (87.2% passing accuracy) & co. at Craven Cottage next time out…

For Arsenal it was a frustrating and disappointing night. Although Tomáš Rosický did his best to inspire his side towards an equaliser (he created six goalscoring opportunities for teammates), Arsenal’s charge towards earning a point or more never really materialised – indeed, they failed to force a single save from Wigan ‘keeper Ali Al-Habsi after the interval…

A lack of progress on the offensive front was an obvious source of frustration for the Gunners, and this was reflected in the high volume of fouls (eleven) they committed in Wigan’s half. Furthermore, with Walcott struggling (as mentioned above) there was a knock-on effect for talismanic striker Robin van Persie – he failed to receive the sort of clear-cut chances that he normally buries, instead being reduced to two hopeful efforts from range and a blocked shot from a ridiculously narrow angle as his only shots other than one off-target attempt when well positioned ten yards out. An undoubtedly frustrating evening for Arsenal then, especially with Mikel Arteta’s injury added in for good measure, although Wigan deserve significant praise for a resolute display that has seen them inch five points clear of the relegation zone. And not many were predicting that back in December!…

Further Premier League analysis to follow…

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

Source: fourfourtwo.com/statszone/

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