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@theweekend: Tremendous Toffees and The Magic of Torres and Hazard

August 26, 2012

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

Chelsea 2-0 Newcastle : Magical Torres and Hazard Combine To Down Toon

The confidence is back because I’m playing more.

– Chelsea striker, Fernando Torres (via bbc.co.uk)

Fernando Torres appeared back to his best against Newcastle on Saturday, with a goal and an assist to show for a fine display in Chelsea’s 2-0 win. Torres, as he did so regularly at the height of his Liverpool career, revelled in pushing the ball past defenders (see take ons) before doing them with a burst of speed, as well as using his quick feet to draw fouls. This was perhaps best epitomised in the 22nd-minute when the Spaniard pushed the ball past Davide Santon with a burst of pace, nipped it away from Vurnon Anita, drew the foul and won the spot kick from which Eden Hazard converted his first league goal. Twenty minutes later Torres’ goal arrived, itself was a thing of beauty – a superbly instinctive first-time finish with the outside of his right-boot into the top corner from the edge of the area. The fact it was his only attempt on goal all afternoon serves to emphasize just how clinical a finish it was. Torres at his best? You bet…

It’s great to have players like [Eden] Hazard here. It’s a privilege to play with Juan Mata and Hazard. – Torres

Eden Hazard, along with Spanish string-puller Juan Mata, are bringing the best out of Torres and Chelsea this season. The Belgian winger was again at his dangerous best on Saturday – his supremely crafted back-heeled assist for Torres’ goal was one of a game-high 21/25 passes in the attacking final third. This, of course, comes on the back of a devastating midweek displaying against Reading which saw Hazard create six chances for teammates (two converted into assists) as well as winning a further penalty. Combined, this means Hazard has now scored or assisted seven Chelsea goals (from eight) in just three games – a phenomenal return for a player in the fledgling stages of his Premier League career. You can be sure that there will be more to come…

As for Newcastle, it was not all doom and gloom on Saturday. The visitors made nearly as many passes as Chelsea (440/513-395-451), completed them at a higher accuracy (86%-88%), and had almost as many attempts on goal (12-11). Demba Ba enjoyed some good chances, twice forcing Petr Cech into superb saves, whilst Hatem Ben Arfa again caught the eye with a free-running, jinking display that saw him make and win a game-high 6/10 take-ons…

If there were sources of disappointment for Alan Pardew, they probably were that returning centre-back Fabricio Coloccini won none of his five aerial duels (Torres, perhaps surprisingly, won 7/10 by contrast), whilst newly-signed defensive central-midfielder Vurnon Anita won just one of four attempted tackles. Those, and the magic of Torres and Hazard, of course…

Aston Villa 1-3 Everton : Tremendous Toffees Embarrass Poor Villa…

Aston Villa’s struggles continued under Paul Lambert as their inexperienced side were cruelly dispatched by an impressive Everton outfit. With just three established Premier League names in their line-up (Shay Given, Charles N’Zogbia and Darren Bent) it was symptomatic of their inexperience that the Villains conceded ten fouls inside their own half, which not just surrendered possession but repeatedly gave the visiting Toffees outfit an excellent platform upon which to exert pressure on Given’s goal…

I was really disappointed.

– Aston Villa manager, Paul Lambert (via avfc.co.uk)

Further to Villa’s concession of fouls was their struggle to retain possession – a low pass completion rate of just 73% (compared to Everton’s 84%) is a statistic that will worry their manager and fans alike. It was also telling that seventeen of the eighteen most frequent pass combinations involved Everton players, the only Villa inclusion in that list being Ciaran Clark (later red carded) to 22-year-old Barry Bannan with nine passes (13th). Most damningly however is the statistic that Lambert’s side completed just forty-four passes in the attacking final third (from eighty-eight attempted, 50% accuracy). This was a figure almost beaten singly-handedly by Everton’s Steven Pienaar who completed twenty-nine (from thirty-four, 85% accuracy), and one comfortably trounced by the visitors’ total of 143/188 (76%). Given that Villa’s most potent weapon (Darren Bent) is located in the final third, this is certainly an area needing improvement…

As for Everton, they deserve praise aplenty for their fine start to the season. At Villa Park on Saturday numerous players certainly earned their wages, not least left-back Leighton Baines who was regularly afforded the freedom of the left-wing (allowing Pienaar to tuck inside, a position from which he scored the excellent opening goal). Baines was the Toffees’ top passer with 62 passes (from 73 attempted), also making 26/35 in the final third including the creation of an astounding game-high eight chances for Everton teammates, one of which – a neat cut-back – resulted in an assist for Nikica Jelavić’s strike. On such form this will be a profitable season for Baines…

Darron Gibson also deserves praise for an efficient display in central midfield. The former Manchester United midfielder’s recycling and spreading of possession was subtle but effective, and consequently played a large part in their dominance of this encounter. Gibson, renowned for the odd long-range strike, also popped off a couple of shots from distance, and will no doubt fancy breaking his duck for the season in the coming weeks…

[Nikica] Jelavic looked a real threat. He had a great chance where he put it past the post and he had a header over the bar. He could have had a hat-trick in the first half hour and then he got his goal, which was great.

– Everton manager, David Moyes (via evertonfc.com)

It also looks like being a profitable season for striker Nikica Jelavić – the Croatian striker bagged his tenth goal in fifteen games since moving to Merseyside, and repeatedly found himself in good positions to test Shay Given. A game-high five attempts followed, although just one was on target – a trademark calm near-to-the-post finish from a cut-back that gave the Toffees a three-goal lead at the interval. Marouane Fellaini also impressed with another all-action display – as evinced by the volume and variety of symbols on his dashboard (shots, chance creation, free kicks won, tackles, clearances, interceptions, aerial duels, etc). With Jelavić, Fellaini, Baines, Pienaar (amongst others) in fine form, Everton look well placed to capitalise on their fine start to the season…

More Premier League analysis to follow…

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

Source: fourfourtwo.com/statszone/ & the ESPN Goals app…

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