Skip to content

@theweekend: City-Arsenal, Fulham Win Away, Lambert, Ramírez & Lallana

September 24, 2012

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

Manchester City 1-1 Arsenal : Gunners Earn Deserved Draw…

I am pleased because [a point] was the minimum we deserved today. I am pleased also with the quality of our performance and our spirit.

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

Arsenal claimed a deserved point at Eastlands to continue their decent start to the season. Their equaliser arrived late, but was more than warranted after an excellent first-half display which saw them unluckily a goal down. Central, literally, to their impressive showing, was the control generated by their midfield, not least Mikel Arteta. The Spaniard benefitted from being the free man in Arsenal’s three-man midfield (Santi Cazorla regularly dropped back to link with Arteta and the resurgent Abou Diaby), often left unattended with Cazorla lining up against the deep-lying Javi García and Diaby going man-for-man with Yaya Touré; Arteta was comfortably the game’s leading passer with 100/106 [see below left], with five further Arsenal players before the top City passer, Touré with 55/63. The Gunners (and Arteta) were further aided by temporary right-midfielder Aaron Ramsey’s natural tendency to drift centrally [see below right], giving further numerical dominance in the middle. Such was Arsenal’s time on the ball that they had nearly 60% possession and 55% territory at Eastlands – and not many teams do that…

All this dominance helped to bring the best out of Santi Cazorla who once again stood out as the player Arsenal have craved since the departure of Cesc Fàbregas. Featuring in the hole between midfield and attack, he interlinks well with Arsenal’s central midfielders, wide players, and can spot and execute a through ball too – an ideal combination. All were on display at Eastlands, with his ability to read the game also demonstrated by five interceptions – more than any City player and second only to centre-back Per Mertesacker. Whilst Cazorla is a summer arrival that has impressed, City’s Scott Sinclair is still trying to find his feet. An inauspicious display on Sunday saw the former Swansea winger removed at half-time having completed just sixteen passes, eight of which were backwards…

He [Gervinho] is such a great mover and he is so quick that when he wants to get ahead of the central defender, it’s difficult to catch him.

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

A word on Arsenal’s current striker Gervinho. A surprise perhaps that he is featuring in the role, but Arsène Wenger clearly likes what he sees, having trialled the Ivorian up front in pre-season and seen him bag a brace in the position against Southampton last time out. Against City on Sunday, however, he failed to test Joe Hart once, and regularly found himself with defenders between him and the goal. Not to be denied, Gervinho attempted an impressive twelve take-ons (for a winger it is perhaps notable that most were out wide), but with only four of them successful there appears to be plenty of room for improvement. However, the success Wenger had converting a certain Mr T Henry from winger to striker means we will not be writing this conversion off just yet…

Finally, a few thoughts on City. Yaya Touré was pushed slightly deeper into a two-man midfield where his passing was nowhere near as prolific as usual and his surging breaks into the box were diminished. Four (highly) speculative efforts from range highlighted how restricted Touré was – City really don’t get the best out of him when he is so shackled. Lastly, Sergio Agüero’s modest contribution was marked by just twenty successful passes and just two goalkeeper-testing shots. Post-injury rustiness? Most probably…

Wigan 1-2 Fulham : Clinical Cottagers In Away Win Shock…

The opening period at the DW Stadium on Saturday was characterised by two features. Firstly, the felling of referee Lee Probert, whose prostrate writhing induced much humour and a chant of “are you Drogba in disguise” from the travelling Fulham fans. Secondly, and more pressingly, was the dominance of Wigan’s central midfielders. They regularly enjoyed a numerical advantage due to the width provided by their full-backs as well as the central drifting of “wide” attackers Shaun Maloney and Jordi Gómez. Ben Watson and James McCarthy comfortably out-passed opposite numbers Steve Sidwell and Chris Baird throughout the opening stages, with Watson especially controlling proceedings. Watson’s 42 first half passes comfortably dwarfed Baird’s 23, although Baird’s contribution was more notable for the fact that almost half of these passes were backwards (ie conservative and unthreatening, albeit perhaps pragmatic for an away fixture)…

If you go and play against Wigan in an away game you take a big gamble to play with two strikers. I made the gamble to play with Hugo up top and Dimitar, and he was probably the best No10 you can ever imagine.

– Fulham manager, Martin Jol (via guardian.co.uk)

Despite this dominance the hosts struggled to create clear cut chances (with the exception of a well-created crossbar-striking effort from Gómez and a far-post header for Emmerson Boyce; the rest of Wigan’s efforts were predominantly speculative and wayward. The difference between the two sides was the creative nous provided, unsurprisingly, by Dimitar Berbatov. His interaction with other Fulham players and his defender-drawing presence enabled Fulham to create ten first-half chances, four of which were on target. On the half-hour Berbatov’s superbly weighted cross was met by the surprisingly aerial Hugo Rodallega and the visitors had the lead; it was rich reward for manager Martin Jol’s decision to field two strikers. Fulham held this lead to half-time, and given the superior quality of their created chances and thus their better use of the ball in the final third, on balance the Cottagers deserved it…

The second-half saw the hosts control proceedings with the better chances duly following [this was largely thanks to a tiring Berbatov offering less defensively; the Whites improved significantly when Bryan Ruiz was introduced, dropping into the hole between midfield and attack (with Berbatov pushed up front and Rodallega out to the left), giving Fulham an added player in the middle to restrict Wigan’s central passing, but also a ball-retaining option which they had lacked previously]. Fulham needed Mark Schwarzer to be at his best to thwart an onrushing Arouna Koné before athletically tipping over a dangerous header from a Wigan set-piece. The Latics failed to take any of their chances however (aside from Koné’s injury-time consolation) and it fell to the more clinical Cottagers to increase the scoring in normal time. The Whites had just three attempts in the second half but importantly all three were on-target. Ruiz’s free-kick forced a fine save from Ali Al-Habsi before Duff emphatically fired past the Oman ‘keeper, while Berbatov should have given the visitors a three-goal cushion but was smartly denied from eight yards by Al-Habsi. Wigan might have been the better side in the second half, but the Cottagers were more clinical. The win duly followed…

Finally, a word for the evergreen Damien Duff – a player who has (again) quietly excelled for Fulham this season. Could it be that the departure of Clint Dempsey has done Fulham’s right-winger a favour? The American was a very narrow left-midfielder, always drifting inwards and congesting the central area, consequently reducing space down Duff’s right flank. With Dempsey departed, his replacement Alex Kačaniklić is more of a traditional touchline-hugging left-winger, enabling the Cottagers to stretch play on both flanks and giving Duff (and Sascha Riether, see WBA last week) more space down the right. Duff, found in acres of room on the right for Fulham’s second, has revelled in this extra space and has three goals to his name already this season. Life after Clint, it would seem…

Southampton 4-1 Aston Villa : Lambert, Ramírez and Lallana…

Rickie Lambert had two clear chances against Aston Villa and duly scored twice; Southampton’s talismanic striker now has four goals from his first five Premier League games – an excellent start to his top-flight career. That fails to tell Lambert’s full story however, as his all-round performance was superb. He created two chances for teammates, but also laid on the pass before an assist/chance creation (as Luka Modrić so frequently did for Spurs), as well as contributing a couple of defensive clearances and contesting nine aerial duels. His workrate was superb, and his contributions will go a long way to determining whether the Saints will stay up this season…

Gaston [Ramírez] has come in and been outstanding since he has joined us.

– Southampton manager, Nigel Adkins (via saintsfc.co.uk)

Central to Southampton’s second-half turnaround was the balance they were able to strike throughout their side. More on the midfield below, but the creativity of winger Adam Lallana and CAM Gaston Ramírez (both five chances created each) meant that they had a threat across the pitch and not just restricted to Lambert. Lambert’s goals will draw the headlines and consequently might just attract the attentions of opposition defenders more readily, further freeing up space for Lallana and Ramírez to operate in. More assists (and potentially) goals for the duo might well follow…

Further on the subject of balance, the Saints midfield duo of Steven Davis and Morgan Schneiderlin combined supremely well to get the best out of their teammate’s attacking talents. On one hand, Schneiderlin’s adeptness for defensive contributions (below left) saw him repeatedly break up Aston Villa’s play, making four tackles and seven interceptions. On the other hand, Davis repeatedly and deliberately spread the ball wide (see below right), feeding wingers Lallana and Jason Puncheon and helping to stretch play; the obvious benefit being that it frees up room centrally for Lambert, whilst also allowing the fleet-footed Lallana to work his magic. It is a well-balanced combination for the Saints that will need to work effectively throughout the season if they are to stay up…

More Premier League analysis to follow…

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

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

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: