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BPL Notebook Matchday 13: Projected title contenders overcome difficult roadblocks

Chelsea maintained their seven game winning-streak Saturday afternoon at the expense of rivals Spurs, handing Mauricio Pochettino’s men their first loss of the Premier League campaign.

The result ensures the Blues will travel to Manchester City next week as league leaders, but as expected Antonio Conte’s men endured a few issues to start the match. Within the opening 10 minutes, Christian Eriksen’s impressive opener forced Chelsea’s hands, but worryingly enough, Spurs were equally dominant in terms of their overall play.

Spurs inconsistent form prior to kickoff was slightly downplayed, but Pochettino’s men were still the best defensive team in the league, due to an energetic press that was perfectly executed against Manchester City earlier this season. However, though Spurs were undoubtedly the better side then, they endured dodgy moments when they were unable to sustain their energy levels.

What was key about the performance, in particular, was their efficient finishing in the final third. At Stamford Bridge, Pochettino’s men struggled to get behind the Chelsea defence despite negating their ability to build attacks from the back. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa were starved for service, and for large portions of the first half, Conte’s men were overrun in midfield.

Dele Alli and Harry Kane were capable of receiving intricate passes in pockets of space, with the former’s movement playing a critical role to Eriksen’s opener. Meanwhile, Kyle Walker’s pace and strength exposed Marcos Alonso’s deficiencies in a wide defensive role. But it was only until the half hour mark where Chelsea began to grow into the match.

Similar to their emphatic victory over City, Pochettino’s men began to concede space once their pressing decreased. Suddenly Victor Moses was an open outlet on the right, whereas Hazard and Costa found space to carry the ball into, albeit limited support from their teammates. Though Chelsea were presented space as the half progressed, a short spell that involved Hazard cutting off a poor Hugo Lloris pass, followed by Pedro’s incredible equalizer shifted the momentum into the hosts’ favour.

The problems Spurs encountered towards the conclusion of the first half continued at the start of the second. Hazard was constantly fouled with his back to goal, whereas Costa worked diligently through the channels, but it was Moses’ pluck to charge past Son that proved decisive.

Alonso and Moses’ proactive advanced positioning occurred subsequent to Spurs’ dominance within the first half hour, which was always the worry with Son and Eriksen operating in wide areas. Pochettino’s men simply failed to remain compact out of possession, and you can argue that they didn’t really have a plan B once energy levels decreased.

More so, this is the concern with Spurs. Still showing signs of fatigue from last season, apart from the signing of Wanyama, Pochettino’s XI hasn’t improved significantly. Therefore, the onus is on players to exceed last year’s form, and with Spurs’ overall approach largely based on running, it simply doesn’t appear to be attainable.

On the other hand, Conte deserves credit for reinvigorating his side: Chelsea’s shape didn’t change in the second half, but they closed down ball-carriers and open spaces quicker, and Alonso and Moses provided the width to stretch Spurs’ 4-4-2 throughout. Elsewhere, they equally managed the remainder of the match superbly once they went ahead.

The Blues reverted to a 5-4-1 out of possession with Hazard and Pedro maintaining narrow wide positions to ensure Spurs couldn’t overload central areas. Apart from slight defensive mistakes and Nkoudou easing past substitute Branislav Ivanovic, Spurs failed to trouble an organized Chelsea outfit.

Had this been a year ago, Chelsea may have encountered difficulties closing out a tight match, but there’s a sense of revitalization, belief, and hunger under Conte. Although the performance wasn’t comparable to previous home triumphs during this seven game stretch, champions often find ways to win matches when struggling to reach top form.

If anything, this was an audition for a flexible City side that will have alternative approaches apart from Guardiola’s traditional high pressing. It’s possibly still to early to claim title contender’s status, but overcoming multiple formations and Spurs’ heavy pressing suggests the Blues are heading in the right direction.

Ozil – Sanchez growing partnership overshadows difficult afternoon

Alexis Sanchez’s opener hinted that three points would be a formality, yet this was a difficult outing for Arsene Wenger’s men. Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pace earned two members of the Bournemouth back four bookings within the opening 10 minutes as Arsenal’s attacking quartet was built on pace and Mesut Ozil’s creativity.

This was the ideal set up for Ozil to thrive in, yet the wide players were uninspiring following the opener, and the midfield pairing of Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka struggled on both ends. Defensively, Bournemouth’s midfield trio easily bypassed the Arsenal duo en route to goal, and Joshua King simply dropped into space between the lines to combine with teammates.

From an offensive perspective, Arsenal simply lacked the control Santi Cazorla, or Mikel Arteta once provided with a mixture of short and long passes to retain possession. At times the match was end to end, and Arsenal weren’t assured on both ends of the field.

With that being said, Wenger at the very least would be pleased to see his best players doing their utmost best to salvage a result. Interestingly, Alexi’s varied positions witnessed the Chilean dropping deeper to supply penetrative passes for Ozil making runs beyond the Bournemouth back-line.

Though the two Arsenal marquee signings were rarely on the same wavelength, the desperation to create plays and surge their teammates forward was fascinating. Arsenal improved significantly in the second half when Bournemouth retreated in their half opposed to pressing.

Bournemouth was forced to chased the game following Theo Walcott’s winner, which ultimately benefitted a speedy Arsenal attack. Likewise, Sanchez doubled Arsenal’s lead and secured three points in stoppage time following a swift break featuring a well-weighed Ozil pass to ignite the move.

Wenger’s side have made a knack of earning results albeit not playing their best football, and a developed partnership with Alexis striving in a centre-forward role ahead of Ozil in his optimum position could prove decisive if the Gunners intend on mounting a proper title challenge.

Yaya Toure staking role in Guardiola’s City system

He did it again. Yaya Toure wasn’t on the score sheet this week, but the Ivorian played a positive role in a narrow win against a resilient Burnley side. Guardiola named the powerful midfield trio that featured in majority of City’s game’s last season, but Toure was involved in several dangerous moves because he was positioned closer to Sergio Aguero and free of defensive duties.

Although a brace at Crystal Palace placed Toure back in the headlines, here, he showcased what he has left to offer. Fernandinho and Fernando remained deeper in fear of the Burnley counter-attack, whereas Toure predominantly linked play with Nolito, who drifted into pockets of space in central areas.

Sergio Aguero poached both goals but his involvement from open play was scare. Raheem Sterling operated in a wide position on the right, but oddly hesitated when he received the ball in key areas and was considerably ineffective in the final third. But Toure rolled back the clock with his quick incisive combinations and powerful sprints towards goal.

Now, Toure might not feature in the City XI every week, but there was a glaring issue regarding their predictability from open play and the fear of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne being overrun in midfield. It’s the dimension City lacked in the early stages of the season, and the new dimension to a fine-tuned flexible unit presents various ways to win in the near future.

Guardiola will always be associated to the possession-based tiki-taka football that revolutionized the sport during his time at Barcelona, but his spell at Bayern proved the Spaniard can adapt to the cultural strengths that define a domestic league. In Toure, Guardiola may still require the Ivorian’s power, precision, and finishing ability around the penalty box, which further justifies his significance to the squad.

Injury-hit Liverpool encounter near scare against Moyes’ Sunderland

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool fell to second place when they failed to score at Southampton, and they appeared destined to suffer the same fate against a resolute Sunderland outfit. Moyes aligned his men to disrupt and destroy, but the hosts were dominant for extensive periods throughout.

For all of Liverpool’s patient build up and clever interchanging movement, the hosts rarely got behind the opposition’s defence. Resorting to long distance shots and poor set-piece execution kept the score-line leveled, while Sunderland were pegged so deep into their half that launching counters was nearly impossible with Defoe isolated upfront.

The second half followed a similar tempo, but Patrick van Aanholt’s inability to play a final pass and Duncan Watmore couldn’t score despite rounding Liverpool keeper Loris Karius. Coutinho’s early departure and the absence of Adam Lallana deprived the Reds of genuine guile and creativity in the final third, as several crosses through the six-yard box went astray.

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Substitute Divock Origi’s individual brilliance won the game, but there’s a fear that Liverpool will struggle to break down opposing teams that replicate Sunderland’s approach. Perhaps Origi or Daniel Sturridge’s presence will be useful to poach goals without two creative cogs in Klopp’s successful system, and in truth, being forced to identify a plan B or C could reap rewards long-term.

Mourinho and United’s issues persist at Old Trafford

It’s now come to a point where Manchester United’s results represent the Premier League’s main mystery. Is it simply bad luck? Or do the players and possibly Mourinho need to be held accountable for consistently dropping points?

This isn’t a Mourinho team we’ve been accustomed to falling in love with over the years. There’s been few significant individual improvements from the players that survived the Louis van Gaal era. Elsewhere, Mourinho’s father-esque mantra often associated with his most successful teams is non-existence.

Once again, United conceded within the opening 90 seconds against West Ham, yet they rallied well subsequent to the goal. Phil Jones was superb at the back, while the midfield pairing of Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba occupied half spaces and circulated possession in a tidy manner.

Youngsters Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford received glorious chances to put United ahead but spurned their opportunities, and though Antonio Valencia constantly motored past Dmitri Payet, the Ecuadorian’s crosses didn’t harm the West Ham back-line.

Mourinho’s decision to omit Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Wayne Rooney following positive midweek Europa League performances perturbed United supporters, but the Red Devils weren’t poor, here. The worry, however, rests in United ensuring their positive displays earn the club maximum points on a weekly basis.

Nevertheless, Mourinho will continue to be scrutinized for every United hiccup, but it’s reached the point where the Portuguese manager and the players come together and mount a legitimate top four challenge. At the moment, though, even that goal appears insurmountable.

Results: Burnley 1-2 Manchester City, Hull City 1-1 West Brom, Leicester 2-2 Middlesbrough, Liverpool 2-0 Sunderland, Swansea 5-4 Crystal Palace, Chelsea 2-1 Spurs, Watford 0-1 Stoke, Arsenal 3-1 Bournemouth, Manchester United 1-1 West Ham, Southampton 1-0 Everton

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2016 in EPL Notebook, Published Work

 

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BPL Notebook Matchday 1: Debutant managers set their mark

 

Weekend in 200 words or less

And so it begins. Leicester City stole the hearts of fans a few months ago, producing one of the great underdog stories of any sport. It was a truly remarkable moment, but equally a much required wake up call for the supposed elite clubs in England.

Leicester made a statement, but last year’s underachievers fired back with a response. The three previous champions of the past decade all hired top class managers with hopes of altering their identity and goals set by the club. Now the Premier League may still play second fiddle to the Bundesliga and La Liga in terms of personnel, but what the league now offers in return is astonishing.

A league that’s witnessed their best clubs exposed constantly in Europe welcomes the continent’s elite managers, whom aim to tactically enhance their lopsided clubs. It’s a step in the right direction, and with the league currently balanced, the arrivals of these foreign managers suggests this may be the greatest domestic club season ever.

Stunned Champions miss Kante’s grit

The fairy tale that took the Premier League by storm last season initially hit a speed bump, Saturday afternoon. Claudio Ranieri’s men were humbled by new-boys Hull City, courtesy of two wonder goals from Robert Snodgrass and Abel Hernandez. Leicester haven’t regressed over night, and frankly they still possess several star performers and traits that were essential to last season’s success.

Danny Drinkwater’s long diagonals, Riyad Mahrez’s ability to use both feet to evade defenders with his trickery, and Jamie Vardy’s pace combined with his willingness to chase after every loose ball were evident on the day, but Leicester were unable to combine all three traits in one move. Certainly not every team or individual player will hit top form on opening day, but Leicester’s loss illustrated that they’re now the hunted, opposed to the hunters.

Saturday afternoon, Leicester missed their most integral hunter, N’Golo Kante, who completed a move to Stamford Bridge earlier this summer. The champions’ back-line, specifically Wes Morgan and Danny Simpson were constantly exposed, and Andy King is renowned for his late runs into the box rather than his ball-winning skills – this was on display minutes prior to Snodgrass’ winner, when Hull City midfielder, Sam Clucas, easily bypassed King in transition.

Kante was the engine in Leicester’s midfield, harrying opponents and regaining possession in central areas to ignite possible transitional attacks. The French international’s dynamism and ball-winning skills were non-existent at the KC Stadium, and Ranieri’s side were sporadically out-muscled and out-worked in midfield.

Shinji Okazaki injected guile to Leicester’s attack, whereas Ahmed Musa’s speed and direct play enables Ranieri the option to field the Nigerian in any attacking position. Still, Leicester struggled to break down a motivated Hull City outfit containing 13 fit players, which could set the precedent for what could be a difficult season for the champions.

Ranieri will hope Nampalys Mendy could be the combative, forever-running force Leicester require in midfield, as it’s impossible to overlook Kante’s impact.

Koeman outwits Pochettino despite Spurs’ late comeback

Spurs’ collapse during last year’s run-in was supposed to be a lesson for the future, but for over an hour at Everton, one could question whether they carried their form over to the new Premier League campaign. In fairness, Ronald Koeman’s debut at Goodison Park saw the Toffee’s adopt a 3-4-2-1 without Romelu Lukaku, meaning Gerard Deulofeu played ahead of Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas.

The system successfully stifled Spurs in the opening half: Harry Kane was isolated upfront, the attacking trio couldn’t find space between the lines due to adequate protection from Gareth Barry and Idrissa Gueye, whereas the advanced positioning of the full-backs saw Deulofeu constantly charge laterally into vacant space within the channels.

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Victor Wanyama enjoyed a positive debut in a Spurs uniform, but alongside Eric Dier, Pochettino’s side lacked creativity and penetration from midfield, and therefore struggled to build out the back. To be frank, Everton desperately missed Lukaku’s finishing, here, as Deulofeu constantly found himself in goal-scoring positions – Spurs centre-backs struggled throughout – but clearly displayed he must improve his productivity in the box.

The hosts’ profligacy served as a lifeline to the away side, but Pochettino deserves massive credit for altering his system to a 4-4-2 when Koeman’s men tired, pushing Vincent Janssen alongside Kane. Lamela’s equalizer came shortly after Pochettino’s change, as he got ahead of Mason Holgate to nod Kyle Walker’s cross past Joel Robles.

Everton continued to pose a threat on the counter, but with fewer men breaking forward due to lengthy spells out of possession, Spurs’ back-line were never troubled. Still, the hosts’ performance was positive despite dropping points, Koeman’s tactical prowess should provide optimism at Goodison Park – they should have won the game by half-time.

Pep’s City require time to hit peak form

All the pressure is on Pep Guardiola to transform Manchester City into a super power, and even though he may be capable of doing so, it wasn’t going to transpire over night. City required a late Paddy McNair own goal to defeat Sunderland, and though Guardiola’s side has encountered problems against the Black Cats in the past, many City supporters and neutrals expected more.

The hosts were always going to dominate possession for majority of the match, but their passing tempo was languid throughout, thus explaining why they failed to create chances in the final third. Guardiola’s attempt to stamp his identity into this City side, but the Spaniard also requires time to adjust to the league, and complete his summer clear-out.

John Stones and Nolito featured in a City XI that was initially a 4-1-4-1, and though there were brief spells displaying slick passing combinations and rapid counter-pressing, City’s difficulties ensure Guardiola’s men are still a work in progress. Aleksandar Kolarov’s role at centre-back was interesting, whereas Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy – natural full-backs – adopted central half-spaces to ensure City dominated the midfield zone.

However, neither full-back, in particular, Sagna, looked comfortable receiving the ball with their back towards the opposing goal, and they failed to consistently offer any sort of incision or proactive passing in Sunderland’s half. Fernandinho’s passing from a pivot role was mediocre, and until new signings arrive it’s evident Ilkay Gundogan will be a significant figure in Pep’s set-up.

Raheem Sterling’s threat was scarce until he moved to the left hand side for a brief period, whereas Nolito showcased glimpses of what he offers from the left. Then there’s Aguero. The Argentine has been the cornerstone for the club in recent seasons, but unlike former strikers Guardiola has managed, Aguero’s predominantly an excellent finisher that is deprived of an all-round game.

Guardiola was also responsible for a late winner following a tactical change that saw Jesus Navas and Raheem Sterling run at the opposition from wide areas. Where Barcelona was strictly about possession, and Bayern’s direct style resulted in several isolation phases in wide areas, Guardiola will seek a style suitable to the personnel at his disposal.

City will improve with every passing week and it’s only a matter of time before they begin firing on all cylinders.

Mourinho’s United take shape in tidy manner

Of all the performances this weekend, United’s 3-1 win at Bournemouth was probably the most convincing. Although, Mourinho’s men required a bit of fortune to take the lead in the first half via Juan Mata, United were hardly troubled throughout.

While United’s attacking play is still unsettled – Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s partnership is slowly improving – it was United’s back six that were thoroughly impressive. This isn’t much of a surprise considering the Red Devils hoisted the joint best defensive record in the league, but now each player is fulfilling their roles to a tee.

Ander Herrera was tidy in possession and pulled strings from deep with a combination of short and long passes. Meanwhile, Marouane Fellaini physical presence and work-rate has been beneficial in a slightly more advanced role.

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Antonio Valencia’s advanced surges from right back have also been decisive: The Ecuadorian created the Community Shield winner, and over the weekend combined with Juan Mata to double United’s lead. Eric Bailly and Daley Blind both produced another powerful performance, with the latter’s passing playing a significant role in United building from the back, whilst easily breaking up play around the box

From a defensive aspect United were superb, and clinically took the chances that were presented to them. It was the ideal Mourinho display based around a solid defensive shape, and devastating efficiency in the final third.

More so, considering United’s depth and Mourinho’s familiarity with the league, it’s difficult to raise an argument as to why any other side should pip the Red Devils for the title. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Paul Pogba yet to feature, United could get even better over the next few weeks and may be the team to beat this season.

Conte’s Chelsea clasp to the Italian’s beat

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In terms of personnel, there was one change to the Chelsea XI that started last year’s campaign at Stamford Bridge. N’Golo Kante’s arrival to Stamford Bridge forced Cesc Fabregas to the bench, but more importantly Conte’s decision to deploy a 4-3-3 resulted in an improved defensive shape.

Oscar and Nemanja Matic broke into tackles in midfield, with Kante patrolling space ahead of the back four. Likewise, Chelsea’s defensive line remained closer to goal and was within close proximity of the midfield band. There’s no doubt Chelsea missed Cesc Fabregas’ range of passing and creativity from deeper positions, but his tactical and positional deficiencies couldn’t be compromised, here.

Nonetheless, Chelsea’s attack was limp. Diego Costa comfortably dropped deep into pockets of space to receive the ball, but solely ran towards goal at every opportunity. And where Willian’s form hasn’t been great since pre-season, Eden Hazard often slowed down the attack due to limited support in wide areas.

Despite the occasional clever combinations amongst Chelsea teammates, their best chances stemmed via swift transitions – Cesar Azpilicueta dispossessing Antonio and driving towards goal saw the West Ham defender concede a silly penalty. James Collins equalized from the sole chance West Ham created throughout, as Slaven Bilic’s men were extremely poor throughout, albeit chief creator, Dimitri Payet, making a substitute cameo.

Conte gambled in the final 15 minutes by replacing Oscar, Hazard and Willian, to move to a 4-4-2 with Michy Batshuayi and Costa upfront. The Italian manager’s previous tenures have been based around two strikers constantly linking play upfront – one drops deep to lay the ball off to a midfield player, while the other forward charges beyond the defence.

Chelsea’s winner saw Batshuayi nod Matic’s lofted ball into the path of Costa – who wasn’t closed down by Collins – and the Spanish international fired the low winner past Adrian. Unless the Blues attack the transfer market and bolster the current squad, this is what we could expect from Conte’s side.

Without European football, you can’t exclude the Blues from the title race as Conte’s side will be organized defensively and extremely tough to beat.

Results: Hull City 2-1 Leicester City, Swansea City 1-0 Burnley, Crystal Palace 0-1 West Bromwich Albion, Spurs 1-1 Everton, Middlesborough 1-1 Stoke City, Southampton 1-1 Watford, Manchester City 2-1 Sunderland, Bournemouth 1-3 Manchester United, Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool, Chelsea 2-1 West Ham

Weekend Stats

  • Diego Costa scored from outside the box in the league for the first time since 15th February 2014.
  • Liverpool have scored more goals (43) than any other Premier League team in 2016.
  • Jermain Defoe has now scored 9 goals against Manchester City, he has only scored more against Aston Villa & Wigan (10 each).
  • Ross Barkley has now scored in 3 of Everton’s last 4 opening day matches in the Premier League.
  • Leicester are the first reigning champions to lose their opening match of the season in the Premier League era.
 
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Posted by on August 16, 2016 in EPL Notebook, Published Work

 

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Arsenal’s fluid midfield knocks Liverpool back to reality

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Arsene Wenger was a calm figure in his pre-match press conference Friday afternoon. Arsenal was in their darkest hour since their opening day defeat to Aston Villa, as they lost consecutive home matches to Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea in cup competitions.

However, the Arsenal manager didn’t show a sign of fear. He was confident his men would show up to the occasion. And a big occasion it was. Although Arsenal hasn’t encountered stern opposition yet, they hosted a Liverpool side in hot form. Liverpool’s success has been down to Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge’s great run of form, and Arsenal’s main goal was to keep them quiet.

While there aren’t many people buying into Arsenal’s great start this season, Wenger is confident that his men will prove the doubters wrong. He’s developed an ‘us against the world mentality’ within his squad that’s proved to be quite successful thus far. The media’s doubt in Arsenal’s title credentials has been Wenger’s fuel to motivate his men, and once again they produced a scintillating performance.

The Gunners’ superiority in midfield proved to be pivotal, as they aimed to get runners from midfield to attack space and latch onto the final ball. Their attacking midfielders dropped deeper to sustain possession, Aaron Ramsey continued to impress on both ends and Bacary Sagna is proving to be a sensible outlet on the right flank.

Similar to Olivier Giroud’s goal against Borussia Dortmund, Sagna got into an advanced position down the right flank, and delivered a wonderful cross towards Santi Cazorla – aided by Giroud’s movement, which dragged Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel out of position. Cazorla nodded the ball off the post, but quickly reacted and smashed the rebound into an open net. From an attacking sense Sagna’s role can become prominent with Arsenal fielding a narrow midfield, depending on his ability to consistently deliver quality balls from the right flank.

Liverpool did present Wenger’s men with a few scares, mainly through their direct play on the break between Sturridge and Suarez. In the early moments of the match, both men dropped deep to receive the ball and got past Mikel Arteta on a few occasions. But as the match progressed, Laurent Koscielny mirrored Arteta’s defensive responsibilities – as it was evident he needed assistance – and stayed tight on the forward that dropped deep.

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Ultimately this hampered Liverpool’s attack, as they lacked invention when Arsenal had players behind the ball.

Brendan Rodgers’ men were stifled when trying to play out of the back as Arsenal pressed higher up the pitch, winning possession in Liverpool’s third. Liverpool could have benefitted from pushing higher up the pitch as a unit, and getting their wingbacks forward, but they preferred to do neither, despite Jon Flanagan getting into decent positions.

Rodgers attempted to turn the tide in the second half, by reverting to a 4-4-2 and introducing Philippe Coutinho on the left. Although Coutinho looked a bit off pace – considering he returned from injury – Liverpool maintained a better shape without the ball. Coutinho’s impact on the match was less eventful from an attacking perspective – the Brazilian’s movement was positive, but he was unable to complete his precise passing in the final third.

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The tactical shift allowed Suarez more space to attack when he dropped into deeper positions, but it left Sturridge isolated. Suarez scampered around the final third causing mayhem with his intelligent movement, but his decision making let him down massively. With Ramsey pushing forward to join the attack, Arteta was left vulnerable, thus providing Suarez with more space to penetrate

Ramsey put the match out of reach when he received a clever pass from Ozil at the edge of the 18-yard box. The Welshman let the ball bounce and confidently struck it on the half volley past Simon Mignolet.

Liverpool failed to impress on their first legitimate test of the season, while Arsenal continued to focus on their superiority in midfield. Arsenal’s fluid, canny, relentless and patient, yet when you add in the improvement of Giroud’s overall game and their manageable schedule thus far, you can understand why the Gunners are top of the table.

Regardless of what their defensive statistic’s state, Wenger’s men still look vulnerable at the back, and it’ll be interesting to see how they develop in the latter months of the season. Nonetheless, this result should boost Arsenal’s confidence ahead of a week that sees them travel to Dortmund and Manchester United.

The Gunners have been imperious thus far, but we’ll get a better sense of their overall strengths next week.

Analysis

  • Chelsea missed an opportunity to go top of the table for a few hours, as they fell to Newcastle at St. James Park. Jose Mourinho’s men struggled to move forward a unit in the opening minutes, due to Newcastle’s early pressure. Chelsea’s fullbacks were quickly closed down, while Frank Lampard and Ramires were also unable to push forward.

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Lampard’s inclusion in away matches or against top class sides is quite bizarre considering his limited impact on the match. Due to Lampard’s inability to play penetrating forward passes, David Luiz proved to be a vital cog in Chelsea’s attack, as he played balls between the lines for Oscar and Juan Mata to receive. Newcastle was complacent in the first half, and despite Chelsea’s dominance in possession, the Blues were dull in the final third.

The onus was on Mourinho to make changes in the second half, to give his side a slight advantage. However, it was Pardew who made the most of the personnel on his bench. Vurnon Anita was superb upon his arrival, allowing Yohan Cabaye to push forward, and the movement of Loic Remy improved massively in the second half. Remy dropped deeper to help Newcastle push forward – a feat neither striker completed in the first half – while Yoan Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko were threatening on the counter, as Chelsea pushed more men forward. Coincidentally, it was Gouffran who was on the receiving end of a wonderful Cabaye delivery, which gave Pardew’s men the lead.

Samuel Eto’o, Willian and Andre Schurrle were introduced in the second half, as Chelsea gradually improved, but their passing tempo was still slow and penetration was at a minimum. Loic Remy put the match out of reach for the Blues as they fail to end their week on a high note. Chelsea missed a great opportunity to keep pace with Arsenal at the top of the table, and they now sit five points behind the league leaders.

  • Manchester United won their fourth consecutive match in all competitions, as they easily dispatched of a poor Fulham side. United scored three goals in the opening 30 minutes to earn three valuable points ahead of a monumental showdown against league leaders Arsenal next week. Fulham’s overall shape without the ball was shambolic, as Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie found it relatively easy to receive the ball between the lines. United’s notorious strike force tormented Fulham’s makeshift centre back duo, as they played a key role in all three United goals. The Red Devils were in full control of the opening 45 minutes – Phil Jones was given time and space to dictate the midfield, whereas Fulham was dismal in central areas. There was a vast improvement in Fulham’s second half performance as United were content with the result. They now await a trip to Spain midweek, and host Arsenal at Old Trafford, in a match that can truly define their season. Moyes’ men can’t afford to lose another match at home, especially when it can put them 11 points behind Arsenal.
  • Tottenham and Everton wasted the opportunity to climb to second in the table as they played to a dire draw at Goodison Park.  Andre Villas-Boas’ men were dominant in the first half pressing Everton and preventing them from playing out of the back. Aaron Lennon, Jan Vertonghen and Andros Townsend were rampant down the flanks causing the Everton fullbacks nightmares. Villas-Boas’ men struggled to play out of the back in the early periods of the match, but relied on Michael Dawson’s cross-field diagonal balls to push the North London side forward. Yet, despite Spurs’ superiority in possession, Spurs didn’t provide Roberto Soldado with quality service.

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Nevertheless, the Spaniard was poor on the night, failing to connect with his teammates when the opportunity was presented, and his touches were dismal. Everton improved in the second half when Gerard Deulofeu and Ross Barkley sparked energy in Everton’s attack – with Barkley’s movement between the lines and Deulofeu’s pace. Despite Holtby’s positive outing in the no.10 role – pressing the opposition and playing positive passes – the German midfielder, like the wide men, failed to connect with Soldado, which has been Spurs’ major issue this season.

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While Spurs continue to be impressive on the defensive end, their inability to score goals is worrying. Soldado is top-class striker, but he needs service and players to work off of, hence why Christian Eriksen’s arrival was pivotal.

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He’s the only player in the Spurs side capable of playing incisive passes in the final third, and if runners aren’t getting behind Soldado, his ability to play defence-splitting passes will be significant towards Spurs’ and Soldado’s success.

  • Joe Hart was dropped from the Manchester City starting XI, thus handing Costel Pantilimon a spot in the City lineup. The Romanian goalkeeper didn’t have much work to do, as six different City players got on the score sheet in their impressive 7-0 victory over Norwich.
  • Steven Caulker’s second half header earned Cardiff City three points in the Premier League’s first Welsh Derby. It was a cagey affair that saw both sides nullify their opponent’s strengths in midfield. The main source of attack came from long diagonals behind the left back – it led to openings for Swansea in the first half, and the corner that led to Caulker’s goal in the second. Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay stated pre-match that his men had to get it right tactically to earn three points, and that’s what they did.

Results: Newcastle 2-0 Chelsea, Hull City 1-0 Sunderland, West Brom 2-0 Crystal Palace, West Ham 0-0 Aston Villa, Manchester City 7-0 Norwich City, Stoke City 1-1 Southampton, Manchester United 3-1 Fulham, Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool, Everton 0-0 Tottenham, Cardiff City 1-0 Swansea City

Weekend Stats

  • Cardiff City v Swansea City was the first ever top-flight fixture in England not to feature any English teams.
  • Spurs have only conceded one league goal in the first half of Premier League games this season, fewer than any other team.
  • Asmir Begovic’s goal 13 seconds into Stoke City’s match against Southampton makes him the FIFTH goalkeeper to score a Premier League goal and the previous fastest was in the 62nd minute.
  • Manchester United’s total of 14 points after nine matches is seven points less than they had at this point last season.
  • José Mourinho suffers his worst Premier League defeat as Chelsea manager since a 2-0 defeat at Aston Villa in September 2007.
  • Arsenal has lost 28 Premier League matches in the month of November, more than in any other month. Under Wenger, have lost 22 of 67 in November (33%).

Infostrada Sports (@InfostradaLive) provides all the stats in this recap.

Tune into the 2 Guys and a MIKE podcast as it returns this week. Subscribe to it on I-Tunes!

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in EPL Notebook, Published Work

 

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Southampton’s valiant display sees Manchester United stumble at Old Trafford

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They came, they saw, but they didn’t conquer. Well, for a Southampton side that flirted with relegation last season, a draw at Old Trafford would suffice. However, like last season, Mauricio Pochettino’s men may feel as if they underachieved.

Meanwhile, the pressure on David Moyes is at an all-time high, as the Red Devils are off to their worst start to a season in the Premier League era. Unlike last season, neither Robin Van Persie, nor Wayne Rooney could save Manchester United from mediocrity. Outscoring their opponents is no longer a genius tactic – their production in the final third is anonymous, the clinical finishing is a distant memory, while long-periods of possession was a rarity.

Although United didn’t play well, they had a few chances to put the match out of reach, but Artur Boruc and the crossbar denied Moyes’ men three points. Southampton – who’s improved significantly compared to last season – produced an impressive away performance combining excellent work-rate and movement between the lines. Morgan Schneiderlin stepped forward to press Marouane Fellaini, whereas Steven Davis and Victor Wanyama kept tabs on Michael Carrick  – and Wayne Rooney when he dropped deeper.

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Most teams don’t possess the pluck to press Carrick when he receives the ball, but if executed properly, it limits Carrick’s contribution to United’s attack. Meanwhile, Fellaini’s transfer still seems peculiar and superfluous, as his performances have been mediocre. The Belgian is sitting deep alongside Carrick, offering the same threat as his midfield partner – besides the penetrating passes between the lines – which prevents him from joining the attack.

With both midfielders nullified, and adequate pressure applied on the defenders, United struggled to dictate the tempo of the match. Schneiderlin continued to drive forward when possible, while Lallana and Davis roamed around the final third when in possession. In particular, Lallana drifted infield looking to play incisive passes in the final third, while Davis dropped deeper to help Southampton sustain possession and drive forward as a unit.

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Frankly, United were struggling to cope, and Pochettino knew his side was capable of earning a point at minimum. While, James Ward-Prowse, Rickie Lambert and Guly Do Prado were introduced to increase their attacking impetus, Moyes decided to preserve the lead by adding numbers in midfield and the backline, which was logical.

Regardless of the late Dejan Lovren equalizer, United couldn’t solve Boruc, and they didn’t assert their dominance on the match. “I am disappointed because we wanted to get a bit of momentum going and we weren’t able to do that,” Moyes said. Southampton produced an impressive away performance – one similar to the win at Anfield, and had Osvaldo been up for it, they might’ve walked away with all three points.

Nevertheless, it’s impossible for Moyes to avoid the critics after dropping points at home. Carrick, arguably United’s best player last season, was quick to highlight that luck hasn’t been on United side thus far. “It is frustrating because things are not going the way we want. But as players we have to stand up, take responsibility and get better,” Carrick said. “We are still confident. Everything is in place but for some reason, at the moment, we are not quite clicking and not quite firing,” he added.

The most concerning issue is United’s shape overall – the double-pivot sits too deep, while the three attacking players behind Van Persie have struggled to create legitimate goal-scoring opportunities. Adnan Janzuaj has been a refreshing inclusion to the squad, yet heavily relying on an 18-year-old winger is an indictment on the squad, opposed to the player.

If Saturday’s draw was any indicator to how the season will pan out, United will struggle to defeat the better Premier League teams this season. More so, majority of United’s title rivals, and mid-table Premier League sides have evolved over the transfer window, whereas United hasn’t, and Van Persie’s goals may not be enough to retain their Premier League crown.

Analysis

  • Arsenal remains two points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League, defeating Norwich City 4-1. A recurring theme in their play since Ozil’s arrival has been the urge to overload central areas. Likewise, with the inclusion of Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla behind Olivier Giroud, Norwich had no answer for Arsenal’s movement in the final third.

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While Norwich pressed Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini, the movement of the front three always provided Wenger’s men with passing options, along with handing Wilshere the license to push forward – as runners got behind Giroud who dropped deeper to link play and provide wonderful assists for Ozil and Wilshere. Despite Norwich handing  Arsene Wenger’s men a few scares, their quality in the final third was disappointing.

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Aaron Ramsey – who started the match on the bench – came on for the injured Flamini and continued to impress. He made key tackles, scored a wonderful goal, and assisted Arsenal’s fourth goal, as the Gunners continue to shine.

  • Stamford Bridge was filled with controversy, as Eden Hazard’s equalizer should’ve been disallowed. Samuel Eto’o nicked the ball away from Cardiff goalkeeper Dave Marshall when he bounced it on the ground, which subsequently led to Hazard sliding the ball into the net from close range. According to FIFA rules, the goalie is still in possession of the ball when he bounces it, meaning Eto’o committed a foul that the referee missed. However, Cardiff dropped deep into their third and frustrated Chelsea to the point where Mourinho gambled and played three at the back – thus leading to a quality strike from Eto’o. Along with an entertaining Jose Mourinho dismissal, Cardiff caused Chelsea a few problems in the final 20 minutes, but Oscar and Hazard increased the lead, pushing the Blues to second in the table.
  • Manuel Pellegrini saw his men earn their first away win of the season at Upton Park, orchestrated by David Silva and Sergio Aguero. Aguero produced two fine finishes to give City a comfortable lead, and assisted Silva’s goal late in the second half. But the main man was Silva, he floated across the final third finding pockets of space to link play and build attacks, as he thoroughly controlled the match.

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Sam Allardyce attempted to replicate a shape that saw his side defeat Spurs at White Hart Lane, but his men left too many gaps of space around the final third for City attackers to drift into, and were blitzed for large portions of the match. Another away test awaits Manchester City next Sunday, as they travel to Stamford Bridge full of confidence, aiming to overtake Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.

  • Andros Townsend stole the headlines once again, as he was one of the few bright spots in Spurs’ victory at Villa Park. Villa maintained a high defensive- line in the first half, and focused on pressing Spurs’ fullbacks and two holding midfielders. Andre Villas-Boas’ men were unable to break through the press, as Villa’s fullbacks tightly marked their wingers and Roberto Soldado was isolated upfront. But Paul Lambert tinkered with his side at half-time – seeing as Townsend was fortunate to see his cross beat Brad Guzan to give Spurs the lead. The reason behind switching to a 4-3-1-2 was to get the most out of his attackers – who also didn’t see enough of the ball in the first half – but pushing them into central positions left the Villa fullbacks vulnerable against overloads.

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Townsend was at his very best after the change, driving down the right flank and his unpredictability left Antonio Luna confused, as he was unsure whether Townsend would cut in or attack the byline to produce a devastating ball into the box. Christian Benteke did enter the fray in the second half, giving Villa a lift with his aerial presence that Libor Kozak lacks – despite his height – but Soldado’s goal minutes later was the final blow for Lambert’s men.

  • Daniel Sturridge scored his 7th goal of the season to nick a point against 10-man Newcastle. It was mediocre display from Brendan Rodgers’ men, who allowed Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye to dictate the match – and witness the French midfielder score a great goal. Prior to Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa’s sending off – for pulling Suarez in the box, thus leading to a Gerrard spot-kick – Suarez and Sturridge were deprived service, as they were forced to drop deeper to get involved with the play. Nevertheless, tactical alterations were significant, as Alan Pardew encouraged his men to drop into a 4-4-1, sacrificing Moussa Sissoko for Paul Dummett, who gave Newcastle the lead in the second half. However, Liverpool switched to a 4-2-3-1 introducing Luis Alberto, who was instructed to drift infield, allowing Glen Johnson to push forward. The change gave Suarez more space to operate in, as he drifted into the channels and between the lines, and it reaped rewards as he assisted Sturridge’s equalizer. Liverpool searched for a winner by introducing Raheem Sterling and pushing Alberto in an advanced position in midfield, but Tim Krul made a few top saves in the latter stages of the match to earn his side a valuable point.

Results: Newcastle 2-2 Liverpool, Swansea City 4-0 Sunderland, Stoke City 0-0 West Brom, Arsenal 4-1 Norwich City, Chelsea 4-1 Cardiff City, Everton 2-1 Hull City, Manchester United 1-1 Southampton, West Ham 1-3 Manchester City, Aston Vila 0-2 Tottenham

Weekend Stats

  • Manchester United fail to win successive Premier League home matches for first time since 2007.
  • 16 points from seven ‪Premier League matches, is the most points that Arsenal have had at this stage of the season since 2007/08.
  • Daniel Sturridge has scored in six consecutive Premier League away matches. Only one player in Premier League history has more – Robin Van Persie in nine.
  • Liverpool is undefeated in their last 8 Premier League away matches for the first time since Apr–Oct 2008.
  • Robin van Persie needs 1 more goal to reach 127 in the Premier League. Would make him equal Hasselbaink’s Dutch record and join him in 10th all-time.
  • Steven Gerrard has scored his 100th ‪Premier League goal in his 449th appearance.

All stats are provided by Infostrada Sports @InfostradaLive

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2013 in EPL Notebook, Published Work

 

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Tyrrell’ BPL Weekend Recap – Young creative debutants make their mark for London clubs

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Courtesy of Steindy

Weekend in 100 words or less

The battle for the final Champions League spot has become entertaining over the past few years. This season, North London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal, have been tipped to challenge for the final spot in Europe’s prestigious tournament, which has led to Spurs spending approximately £110.5m in the transfer window. However, Arsene Wenger made his big move on deadline day, when he managed to persuade a world-class talent to take his talents to the Emirates. Both sides acquired talented players in the no.10 role, and this weekend they showcased why the clubs aspiring to solidify Champions League football sought them out.

Analysis

United’s issue in the final third

David Moyes celebrated his first win at Old Trafford, as the Red Devils cruised past 10-man Crystal Palace. For what it’s worth, United struggled to find their rhythm until Kagisho Dikgacoi was wrongfully sent off for a foul on Ashley Young that actually took place outside of the 18-yard box. Ian Halloway’s men were organized well and they maintained a compact shape for majority of the half. Dwight Gayle, Mile Jedinak, Dikgacoi and Jose Campana tucking infield kept Michael Carrick and Anderson quiet, but it also left United space on the right to exploit.

Fabio and Valencia worked hard to create overloads and isolate Dean Moxey, but the Palace fullback coped well. Moyes’ men dominated possession but they lacked thrust, penetration and creativity in the final third. A recurring theme in United’s style of play under Moyes is their intent on pressing the oppositions defenders on goal-kicks or when they attempt to play out of the back – which led to the Young controversy – and it’s been successful thus far. In fairness, United didn’t really face any scares on the defensive end, as Halloway’s men struggled to complete three successive passes, along with Carrick doing a fantastic job in breaking up play.

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United stamped their authority on the match in the second half with the man advantage, as Wayne Rooney began to drift around midfield picking up the ball and linking play, while substitute Adnan Januzaj was a direct threat from wide areas. However, United struggled to create legitimate goal-scoring opportunities, and relied on a Rooney free-kick to put the match out of sight.  United has failed to score from open play since their opening day victory against Swansea, which shouldn’t be overlooked. The service from wide areas has been mediocre and Rooney still looks somewhat disinterested, thus leaving Van Persie craving service – because there doesn’t seem to be a link between midfield and attack.

Nevertheless, United can’t complain about claiming seven points from four games – equaling title contenders Manchester City and Chelsea’s point tally – but they’ll need to improve in the final third if they intend on being victorious in next week’s Manchester Derby.

Ozil proves his worth, while Ramsey continues to dominate 

Mesut Ozil displayed to Premier League fans why he was worth the £42.5m Arsenal splashed on him at the end of the transfer window. The German international enjoyed a fantastic debut for the Gunners, and was one of the few influential players in a third consecutive Arsenal victory. It took the German 11 minutes to make a statement, as he ran into space and calmly brought down a long ball, which he squared for Olivier Giroud, who gave Arsenal an early lead.

Ozil laterally glided across the final third, combining with wingers and dropping into midfield to overload central areas. Overloading central areas in midfield has been a feat in Arsenal’s approach over the past few matches – Ozil and Wilshere dropped into deeper to help Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini assert their dominance in midfield. Ozil was most threatening on the counter attack, where he played two defence splitting passes, sending Theo Walcott 1v1 with Keiren Westwood, but the Sunderland keeper denied Walcott on both occasions. Ozil was imperious throughout the match, specifically in the first half, where he was allowed to attack pockets of space in the final third.

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Frankly, Paolo Di Canio’s approach to the match was lethargic. His side sat in two banks of four with his forwards failing to apply pressure to the centre backs and his midfield sitting off – with Adam Johnson tucking in – which allowed Flamini and Ramsey to dictate the tempo of the match and Kieran Gibbs to freely surge into advanced positions.

Sunderland improved in the second half, and was awarded a penalty when Laurent Koscielny committed a clumsy challenge on Adam Johnson, which substitute Craig Gardner converted. Di Canio’s men limited the gaps of space in midfield, sitting narrow and compact, and Arsenal struggled to break them down. Meanwhile, Johnson began to penetrate in wide areas, and Sunderland was catching the Gunners out of shape on the counter. Wenger’s men were fortunate not to go down a goal, when referee Martin Atkinson wrongfully halted play when Jozy Altidore was clearly fouled by Bacary Sagna – but Altidore was on a clear breakaway and put the ball in the back of the net.

Arsenal took advantage of their fortunes minutes later when Jenkinson got forward and played in a wonderful cross to Ramsey, who displayed great skill to volley the ball past Westwood. Ramsey put the match out of reach when he made a pass to Ozil and ran into space and collected a pass from Giroud, after he combined with Ozil. Ramsey was superb defensively, and he continues to show maturity going forward in midfield.

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This was one of the better Arsenal performances over the past few years, albeit it coming against a feeble Sunderland side.

Eriksen makes his mark 

Spurs bounced back to winning ways with a convincing victory against Norwich City. Andre Villas-Boas handed Christian Eriksen his Tottenham debut, and the Danish midfielder flourished. A significant factor in Spurs’ loss to Arsenal two weeks ago was a link between midfield and attack, and Eriksen filled that void in a fantastic manner.

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Eriksen received balls between the lines and played key passes out wide and penetrating balls between defenders. The Danish midfielder provided a defence-splitting pass for Gylfi Sigurdsson’s opener and his ball out wide to an advancing Paulinho led to Sigurdsson’s second goal.

Villas-Boas men cruised through the match due to Norwich’s lack of pressure and defensive structure. Soldado dropped into midfield and wide areas to link play, Dembele and Paulinho were allowed time to play sideways passes into wide areas and push forward, Sigurdsson drifted infield and made runs from midfield, while Andros Townsend’s direct running caused the Norwich backline several problems.

Norwich rarely provided an attacking threat, but they did identify spaced behind Kyle Walker to exploit. Chris Hughton’s men attacked the right side several times, and they created their best chance of the match by doing so. Nathan Redmond broke free behind Walker and played a ball into the six-yard box for Ricky van Wolfswinkel, but Danny Rose recovered well and cleared the danger.

The inclusion of Eriksen to the Spurs squad is a massive improvement – they now possess an attacking link that can create chances in the final third, which is an element AVB’s men required in their quest for Champions League football.

Naismith nods unbeaten Everton past Chelsea 

Roberto Martinez earned his first win as Everton manager this weekend, as his men showed grit and resilience to fend off a strong Chelsea side. Samuel Eto’o and Gareth Barry made debuts for their clubs, while Juan Mata started in a no.10 role for the Blues. It was a tight opening half that saw Everton maintain a slight advantage in possession, but Chelsea got into better areas in the final third. John Obi Mikel tracked Leon Osman, Ramires kept tabs on Ross Barkley, and Mata pressed Barry when he dropped deep, while Eto’o occupied both centrebacks.

Mourinho’s men aimed to hit the Toffees on the counter, but they failed to make the most of their chances. Mata slowed down the tempo when Chelsea broke on the counter, Eto’o lacked match sharpness and Andre Schurrle was poor in front of goal. Ramires and Mikel were allowed space in midfield to play forward passes, while the attacking three drifted between the lines to receive the ball in pockets of space.

Eto’o didn’t have a poor debut, and in the first half he displayed why he’s a better option than Fernando Torres and Demba Ba. Mourinho wants his centre forward to link play with the attacking three and interchange with them, thus providing fluidity in the final third. In the opening 45 minutes, Eto’o drifted to the right flank to allow overloads and connect with midfielders making forward runs. The Cameroonian striker should’ve handed the Blues the lead in the first half but Schurrle played a poor pass to the striker allowing Barry to block his shot.

For all of Everton’s possession, they failed to create legitimate goal-scoring chances, often being stifled around the 18-yard box, but the Toffee’s found an area to attack. Surprisingly, Baines and Coleman were cautious about moving forward – and it was logical based on the space left available to expose on the counter – yet Coleman was more adventurous with his positioning. There was vacant space behind Cole to exploit on the right, encouraging Naismith and Coleman to overload the right flank. Despite Eden Hazard replicating the great defensive work of Naismith in tracking back, Barkley often drifted over to the right to maintain a numerical advantage.

Everton took the lead at the stroke of half time when Ramires was dispossessed in midfield. The attack was pushed to the right and a cross was played into Nikica Jelavic, and the Croatian nodded the cross back to an open Naismith, who headed the ball in from two yards out. Terry was left marking space, while Cole failed to track Coleman’s run into the box, and after several attempts to exploit space on the right hand side, Martinez’s men succeeded.

Chelsea rallied in the second half, upping the tempo and applying more pressure, but the Blues created minimal chances. Mourinho introduced Oscar and Frank Lampard for the unimpressive Schurrle and Mata, but they didn’t have a significant impact on the match. Martinez reverted to a 4-5-1, introducing James McCarthy for Jelavic, thus leaving Mirallas, Barkley and Naismith upfront – three players capable of causing havoc on the counter. Mourinho’s last attempt to salvage a result saw him introduce Torres for Cole, pushing Mikel to centre back and David Luiz to the left – but Torres was poor and Luiz didn’t offer much going forward.

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Osman and Naismith were standout performers on the defensive end – Naismith tracked back effortlessly to prevent Eden Hazard from isolating Coleman, while despite failing to dictate the match, Osman prevented Chelsea’s midfield from dominating midfield.

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Also, Barkley continues to display his significance to this Everton side, as he used his pace, trickery and vision to help Everton break on the counter, while playing a few key passes in the final third.

Chelsea produced a good performance, which should’ve seen them up a goal or two in the first half, but the lack of quality in the final third led to their downfall – Everton took their chance and defended admirably in the second half, which merited three points.

Saints lack creative spark against Hammers 

Southampton was one of many Premier League sides that made significant improvements in the summer, which has tipped many to believe that they could finish in the top half, this season. Yet, they’ve been ridiculed for their lack of creativity in their attack. Mauricio Pochettino continued to experiment with Rickie Lambert and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo upfront, but once again they failed to have test the West Ham back line.

Sam Allardyce’s men pressed West Ham on goal kicks and when they aimed to play from the back, forcing Pochettino’s men to concede possession. Ravel Morrison, Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble closed down Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin, who struggled to get forward to join the attack. Southampton created a handful of chances throughout the match, but Jussi Jaaskelainen made several top saves to keep the score leveled. Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez drifted centrally, while Lambert moved into wide areas to receive the ball, but the quality in the final third was dire. Pochettino’s men improved in the second half with Schneiderlin occasionally making darting runs into the box, Rodriguez running at defenders from central positions and West Ham’s press dwindling.

West Ham struggled to create opportunities going forward, receiving their best chances from wide areas, specifically Jarvis’ delivery. Allardyce looked for another element of attack by introducing Ricardo Vaz Te, but the Portuguese forward was merely an isolated figure. The Hammers had a chance to take the lead in the dying minutes of the match, but James Collins skied his shot from six yards out.

More importantly, Southampton lack a link between midfield and attack, and the Lambert/Osvaldo experiment is failing miserably, without a creative spark. It was surprising to see James Ward-Prowse enter the match so late, and Pochettino’s reluctance on using Gaston Ramirez. Nevertheless, Southampton drop more points in another match that they dominated, and it’ll be interesting to see how much longer Pochettino sticks with the Lambert/Osvaldo duo and keeps Ramirez on the bench.

Other Results: Stoke City 0-0 Manchester City, Fulham 1-1 West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa 1-2 Newcastle United, Hull City 1-1 Cardiff City,

Weekend Stats

  • Robin van Persie scores his 125th Premier League goal and the first vs. Crystal Palace. Of the current Premier League clubs, he has now only not yet scored vs. Cardiff City.
  • Since the start of 2008/2009, five players have been sent off for fouls on Ashley Young, joint most of all current Premier League players with Scott Parker.
  • David Moyes recorded his first-ever win as a Premier League manager at Old Trafford (P13, W1-D4-L8)
  • Christian Benteke has now scored 9 goals in his last 10 Premier League home matches for Aston Villa.
  • Laurent Koscielny caused his sixth penalty in the Premier League since the start of 2008/09, joint most with Robert Huth, Sebastien Bassong among players now active in PL
  • Chelsea’s 7 points after four Premier League matches is the WORST start for the club in the Roman Abramovich era (Jul 2003)
  • Everton & Liverpool keep clean sheets in their opening two top-flight home matches of the same season for the first time in history.

@InfostradaLive provided all the stats used in this recap

Follow me @TEEWHYox

Tyrrell Meertins.

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2013 in EPL Notebook, Published Work

 

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Manchester City, United And Chelsea Start With A Bang While Arsenal Stumble

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Weekend in 100 words or less

Two months ago Manchester United were crowned Premier League champions for the 20th time. The Red Devils won the league by a remarkable 11 points, cruising through the best team’s England had to offer, at the expense of rivals, Manchester City. Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing my tactical insights on the Premier League every week – so as we embark on a new season, one that’s being tipped as potentially being the best of the Premier League era, it’s only right that we sit back, fasten our seat belts and enjoy the ride.

City look to be the real deal!

Manuel Pellegrini enjoyed his debut in the Premier League as Manchester City comfortably dispatched of Newcastle. It was the dawn of a new era, as City has parted ways with several negative influences in the dressing room. Pellegrini’s side operated in a 4-4-2, which often looked like a 4-2-2-2, but provided balance in all aspects of their attack.

 City displayed nifty combination plays, intricate passing and most importantly width – thus leading to a positive atmosphere at the Ethiad Stadium. Spaniard’s David Silva and Jesus Navas operated on the flanks, both producing quality performances – Navas provided the width City often lacked during Mancini’s tenure, while Silva drifted infield to receive balls between the lines, played key passes in the final third and combined well with Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero, which led to City’s opening goal.

Matchday #1 Statszone

Aguero and Dzeko combined on numerous occasions throughout the match, and it led to Aguero’s goal in the 22nd minute, when Vincent Kompany intercepted a pass, and played a forward pass to the Bosnian striker, who back heeled the ball to Aguero and the Argentinian striker calmly slotted his shot past Tim Krul. More so, Dzeko had one of his best games at the Ethiad Stadium, despite not being on the score sheet. The Bosnian striker dropped deep to link play with the midfield, ran the channels throughout the match and was unfortunate not to find the back of the net.

 For what it’s worth, Newcastle rarely tested Joe Hart, and with them already missing Yohan Cabaye due to transfer speculation, things got worse when Steven Taylor was harshly sent off for an aerial challenge on Aguero. Cisse was an isolated figure, Ben Arfa showed glimpses of magic, while the midfield duo of Cheick Tiote and Moussa Sissoko was woeful offensively and defensively.

There was always concern that Yaya Toure and marquee-signing Fernandinho would be unable to find a balance in midfield, but the duo displayed that they’re capable of forming the best midfield in the Premier League. Fernandinho shined in his Premier League debut – he adds another physical presence in the middle, a proficient passer, has the tactical awareness to shield the back four and he made several well-timed interceptions and tackles. The Brazilian also has the ability to make powerful runs forward, but his inclusion in the side will allow Toure to get into advance positions and vice-versa.

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It was a fantastic performance by Pellegrini’s men, as they’ve fully responded to results from the other legitimate title contender’s, and demonstrated why they’re favourites to lift the title in May.

Van Persie and Welbeck shine, but Rooney shines brightest

The champions kicked off their title defence at the Liberty Stadium with a tenacious 4-1 victory. Robin van Persie continued to impress, with two wonderful goals, while Danny Welbeck matched last season’s goal tally.

 Swansea dominated possession throughout the match, but Michael Laudrup’s men didn’t make an impact in the final third. Jonjo Shelvey’s debut was tarnished because of their production in key areas – despite finding space between the lines to receive the ball – penetration was non-existent in the final third.

In the span of two minutes, United doubled their lead courtesy of strikes from van Persie and Welbeck – the first goal displaying van Persie’s ability to link play and improvisation, while the second highlighted that width is still a key component in United’s attack.

Laudrup shifted his side into a 4-4-2 in the second half, introducing Wilfried Bony and Pablo Hernandez, which saw Swansea improve significantly.  Bony and Michu took turns dropping between the lines to link play, while Hernandez’s movement allowed Rangel to push forward from right back. Despite improving in the second half and creating better chances, United looked comfortable defending deep, with their only problem being the amount of space between the midfield and defence.

In the 60th minute, want away striker Wayne Rooney made an appearance, and he contributed to both United’s goals in the second half. His off the ball run to drag defenders out of position allowed van Persie space to get into a great position and score his second of the night – and the Englishman found space between the lines to receive a pass, and played a lovely ball for Welbeck to end the game.

United should not be overlooked as title contenders, albeit possessing a frail midfield, as they still possess a strong core, but keeping Rooney is pivotal to their success domestically this season.

 Chelsea cruises past Hull City with Oscar as the no.10

Unity has been assembled at Stamford Bridge with the return of Jose Mourinho, and it was evident in the atmosphere in Chelsea’s opener against Hull City. Fans were in unison when expressing their love for the Portuguese manager and their Russian owner Roman Abramovich.

 Chelsea started the match positively earning a penalty shot in the 6th minute, when Allan McGregor clipped Fernando Torres in the box – thus leading to Frank Lampard stepping up to the spot, but McGregor made an exceptional save to deny the England international. The Blues continued to run rampant on the visitors and received their opener seven minutes later when Kevin De Bruyne played a nifty pass for Oscar to slip past McGregor.

Oscar started the match in the no.10 role, and showcased why it may become a permanent role for the Brazilian throughout the season. Oscar’s ability to find pockets of space to receive the ball is pivotal, as it opens up space for Eden Hazard, De Bruyne and Torres to exploit. The Brazilian’s tactical awareness is exceptional, and unlike Juan Mata he’s able to form a midfield three and close down deep-lying playmakers on the defensive end. There’s no question Mata will play a vital role in Chelsea’s season, but it may be from a wider position, whereas Oscar can make a huge difference against the top sides in England and Europe playing as a no.10.

Chelsea added to their lead in the 25th minute when Frank Lampard rifled a 35-yard free kick past McGregor to make up for his missed penalty. The Blues were in cruise control – Oscar’s movement was pulling defenders out of space, De Bruyne was attacking the space provided, and even Torres looked sharper on the ball.

Steve Bruce’s side improved in the second half, once Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore entered the match. To be fair, Chelsea dropped off, sitting deeper and looking to break on the counter, but Mourinho’s double-pivot was unable to control the tempo of the match. Huddlestone’s forward passes got Bruce’s men into better positions, while Hull’s midfield began to get behind Ramires and Lampard.

The Lampard and Ramires duo succeeded in the first half, but when Chelsea focused on shutting up shop, their flaws were exposed. They’re unable to control the tempo of the game, vulnerable to quick counter-attacks, and it limits Ramires’ attacking threat going forward. Once again this pivot failed to inspire, even against one of the weaker sides in the league, which should worry most Chelsea supporters.

But, most importantly, it was a positive return to the Premier League for Mourinho, and he’ll be looking to improve as Chelsea have fixtures against Aston Villa and Manchester United in the next eight days, which should test the depth of the squad.

Liverpool’s front three dazzle against Stoke

With the Luis Suarez situation being the main talk at Anfield in the transfer window, many have overlooked the work Brendan Rodgers has done in the off-season. Anfield said goodbye to the likes of Stewart Downing, Jonjo Shelvey, Pepe Reina and Jamie Carragher, and introduced Iago Aspas, Kolo Toure and have Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Coutinho from January.

One of the main problems the Reds encountered last season was their production in the final third, especially at home. This weekend at Anfield, Rodgers’ men looked destined to repeat last season’s failures, as they ran into a hot goalkeeper in Asmir Begovic, who made several vital saves to keep the match close. But in the 33rdminute, Daniel Sturridge was allowed an ample amount of space in the final third to unleash a fantastic strike past the Stoke City goalkeeper.

One of the key feats in the match was the fluidity and movement of Aspas, Sturridge and Coutinho. Their pace frightened the Stoke back four and they drifted into key spaces around the pitch to drag defenders out of position – their interchanging was positive, which allowed them to create numerous chances in the final third. Coutinho had himself an exceptional first half, drifting centrally to receive the ball, and the Brazilian played in several incisive passes in the final third, but Liverpool was unable to increase their lead.

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Jordan Henderson also had an excellent outing on the right of an attacking three. Without the ball he tucked into midfield to help Liverpool compete in midfield, but he surged forward whenever the opportunity was presented – having a few shots saved by Begovic and hitting the post in the second half.

Mark Hughes Stoke City debut was quite disappointing – to be fair, it will take time to implement his philosophy, but Stoke was dire. The midfield was dull, with most of the play going through an isolated Peter Crouch, and they were unable to create any chances. But in the 87th minute, they received a gift, as Daniel Agger conceded a silly penalty for a handball. Jonathan Walters stepped to the spot, but had his spot kick saved by new signing Simon Mignolet.

Liverpool start the season off with three points, and look to have formed a devastating attacking line that will cause many teams problems – this without their talisman Suarez.

Arsenal stumble at the Emirates

The Emirates Stadium was filled with jeers when Anthony Taylor blew the final whistle in Arsenal’s opening day defeat to Aston Villa. Arsenal supporters were angered at Taylor’s officiating throughout the match, but were left heartbroken when Antonio Luna fired his shot past Wojciech Szczesny in the 85th minute, to give Villa a 3-1 lead.

It was a dream start for the Gunners, as Olivier Giroud opened the scoring when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain played in a delightful ball for the Frenchman to direct past American goalkeeper Brad Guzan. An Arsenal onslaught looked evident, but the Gunners failed to build on their lead. Thomas Rosicky had a quiet first half, Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey were making safe passes and Giroud was doing well to connect with the midfield, but there were no runners playing off of him. Oxlade-Chamberlain was one of Arsenal’s influential men in the first half drifting from the left flank infield to receive the ball and attempt to link play with Giroud – but Wenger’s men were unable to increase their lead.

Once again Wenger aligned his side in a stagnant 4-2-3-1 and failed to make any tactical alterations throughout the match. When Villa was in possession, Giroud and Rosicky were not ordered to press the Villa backline, allowing Paul Lambert’s men to build from the back. Arsenal kept a high line, but their attempt to press the midfield was lackadaisical and Villa was able to find pockets of space between the lines – a fine example was Gabriel Agbonlahor’s individual run that won Aston Villa a penalty, and should’ve led to a Szczesny sending off.

Villa came to life after Benteke’s equalizer, as they dropped into a 4-5-1 without the ball – their wide men tracked back efficiently, which prevented overloads and the Arsenal fullbacks from pushing forward, while the midfield three of Fabian Delph, Ashley Westwood and Karim El Ahmadi kept Wilshere and Ramsey quiet in the final third.

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Wenger, who was forced to make an early substitution for Kieran Gibbs, was hit with another injury worry as Santi Cazorla replaced Chamberlain at half time. Cazorla played behind Giroud, pushing Rosicky to the right and Walcott to the left. Wenger’s men continued to pour on the pressure, and it was Rosicky who began to thrive, nearly giving the Gunners the lead on a few occasions. But Guzan made several saves in the second half to deny Arsenal from taking the lead.

In the 61st minute, Guzan’s saves looked to have paid off as Laurent Koscielny was booked for a desperate challenge on Agbonlahor in the box to hand Villa their second penalty of the match. Benteke converted his spot kick giving Villa the lead, and in the 67th minute things got worse, as Koscielny received a second booking, reducing the Gunners to ten men.

Arsenal continued to push for an equalizer and lacked balance going forward – ultimately it was Wilshere and Ramsey who failed to control the tempo of the match and Wenger’s men began to be exposed on the counter-attack. Lambert urged his men to sit deeper and break when possible, and in the 85th minute Premier League debutant Luna produced a wonderful finish at the near post, to hand the visitors all three points.

For what it’s worth, let’s step away from Arsenal needing to spend, because that’s inevitable – at this point they need at minimum three top class players to be title contenders. It also looks like they will spend, but it will be another late desperation buy at the end of the transfer window.

 “We were on the market before the game and it is the same after the game,” Wenger said.

What is interesting is the other comments Wenger made in his post-match presser.

“It’s a big disappointment because we started well and suddenly everything went against us. Even at 10 men we had chances to come back to 2-2,” Wenger added. We could have won the game, there were a lot of positives in our game. That is what we have to focus on,” he said.

The French manager is tempted to blame the referee for their poor result, but it’s Wenger who should be held accountable. He continues to display that he’s tactically inept – he was unable to motivate his players to play at a high level in a home opener, and when Arsenal was struggling against a side that flirted with relegation last season, he failed to react.

We’ve come to understand that the players aren’t good enough, which is why Arsenal supporters are adamant on signing new players, but how much longer can they ignore the assessment of their manager.

Unlike their London rivals and the two Manchester clubs, Arsenal lack depth – and for the first time in Wenger’s tenure, Arsenal are in legitimate danger of missing out on Europe’s elite competition this season and in the future.

 Soldado sees Spurs past Crystal Palace

Roberto Soldado’s second half penalty was enough to earn Spurs a hard fought victory against Ian Halloway’s Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Andre Villas-Boas was still without Gareth Bale, but he was able to field summer signings Paulinho, Soldado, Nacer Chadli and Etienne Capoue.

 Spurs started the match positively, often looking to overload the right side. Paulinho, Kyle Walker and Aaron Lennon worked several combination plays down that flank, but the superb Dean Moxey either cut them out or the delivery was mediocre.

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 Spurs dominated possession in the first half, but their ball circulation was slow, and they were unable to find gaps in Palace’s backline, which sat deep in their third. Mile Jedinak played a major role in Palace’s midfield, working hard to break up play and keeping the midfield organized.

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Luckily for Spurs, their constant attempt to penetrate the right flank paid off, as Lennon took on Moxey for the umpteenth time, and his cross hit the Palace defender’s hand, and Spurs were awarded a penalty.

It was Soldado that stepped up to the spot and converted the coolest of penalties past Speroni. Soldado showed glimpses of his talents in his debut – often dropping deep to link play, and his movement allowed him to get into great positions, but the Spaniard didn’t receive quality service. Soldado, known for his proficient poaching, rarely received the balls in the 18-yard box, which forced him to focus on linking play, and creating chances for his teammates.

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Palace had their fair share of chances in the final 30 minutes, as Villas-Boas men dropped into a 4-4-1-1, looking to break on the counter. Halloway introduced Marouane Chamakh, Jonathan Williams and Kevin Phillips to give Palace an attacking thrust – the home side was direct with their play, and began to create chances out of desperation. In the 89th minute, Palace received their best chance through Kagisho Dikgacoi, but Hugo Lloris made two vital stops to preserve all three points.

Van Wolfswinkel ruins Martinez’s Everton debut

Three goals in ten minutes was the main talking point at Carrow Road, as Ricky van Wolfswinkel earned the Canaries a valuable point at home. Chris Hughton’s men were pegged in their box for large portions of the match, but there were three distinct elements to their attack.

 Nathan Redmond’s ability to skip past defenders with ease was pivotal, but the Norwich winger was left with the task of tracking Seamus Coleman’s runs and was responsible for Everton’s second goal. Steven Whittaker’s forward runs from right back were positive, and led to the home sides opening goal, as the Norwich fullback followed up on his shot that hit the post, and tapped the ball into the net. Finally van Wolfswinkel’s constant runs into the channels caused Phil Jagielka and Silvain Distin several problems.

It was fitting to see the Norwich trio combine exceptionally for van Wolfswinkel’s equalizing goal – Redmond glided into a central position and played a ball out wide to Whittaker, and the fullback delivered a cross to van Wolfswinkel who cleverly directed the ball past Tim Howard.

Marouane Fellaini started the match in the double pivot alongside Leon Osman opposed to playing behind the striker, and we were able to witness a different side to the Belgians game. He dropped deep between the centrebacks to receive the ball, often dictating the tempo of the match and playing positive passes across the pitch. There were a few rare occasions when Fellaini did surge forward looking to connect with the attackers ahead of him, but for the most part he displayed his ability to play in a deeper role.

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 Another bright spot for Martinez was the performance of Ross Barkley – the 19-year-old that was praised by the Everton manager post-match, was constant threat to Chris Hughton’s men. He was receiving the ball between the lines, taking on defenders at will, and spreading key passes in the final third – and he capped off his impressive outing with an exceptional goal from 21 yards out.

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Despite all the possession the Toffee’s maintained, they were dull in the final third, besides Barkley’s threat – Coleman and Leighton Baines had fairly quiet games and once again Nikica Jelavic struggled up top. As for Norwich, there were a few positives to take from this result, as they look to finish in the top-half of the table this season

Other Results: Sunderland 0-1 Fulham, West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Southampton, West Ham United 2-0 Cardiff City

 Weekend Stats 

  • Daniel Sturridge scores his 11th Premier League goal for Liverpool this calendar year, surpassing Luis Suarez (10) as club top scorer.
  • Stoke set a new top-flight record for successive visits to Anfield without a goal (8) – Blackburn, Derby, Leeds and Wolves had streak of 7.
  • Arsenal suffered their 1st home defeat on opening weekend of a Premier League season for 20 years. Micky Quinn scored hat-trick for Coventry (3-0) in 1993
  • Steven Taylor picked up Newcastle’s 40th DIRECT red card since start of the Premier League. Only Blackburn (42), Everton (43) have more.
  • Frank Lampard is the Premier League’s top scorer among all active players on 166 goals, more than twice the total goals Hull City have in the PL, 73.
  • First time in 55 years, two Manchester United players score 2+ goals in their opening top flight match of season (1958, Bobby Charlton 3, Alex Dawson 2)

@InfostradaLive provided all the stats used in this recap

 

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2013 in EPL Notebook

 

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Tyrrell’s EPL Weekend Recap – The Premier League is filled with abysmal defending

Weekend in 100 words or less

           Order looks to be restored in the Premier League as another weekend comes to an end. The pressure continues to mount on Nigel Adkins, Mark Hughes and Martin O’Neil as results continue to go the other way. Manchester United complete another remarkable comeback, City save it for late, Chelsea choke when it matters and Arsenal…. well they’re continuing to be Arsenal. It also must be said that defending overall, specifically from set pieces has been poor. In short, despite some diabolical defending, the two teams from Manchester are beginning to build their gap.

Analysis

  • 32 minutes of Hernandez completes another United comeback– Manchester United have been handed the ‘Comeback Kings’ title by their large fan base and this weekend they displayed why. United had the chance to go 4 points clear at the top when they visited Villa Park this weekend and Sir Alex Ferguson fielded a strong 4-2-3-1 with Paul Scholes returning into the XI. Paul Lambert’s Villa was a side with confidence after an impressive against Sunderland last weekend. Christian Benteke led the line, while the duo of Barry Bannan and Ashley Westwood, both 22 years of age sat deep in the midfield. As expected United dominated possession, but they were unable to carve open a resilient Villa side that sat narrow in a 4-5-1. United were spreading the ball to wide men Ashley Young & Antonio Valencia, but they were nullified by Villa fullbacks Matthew Lowton & Enda Stevens. Also Steve Ireland was performing his defensive duties as he kept Paul Scholes quiet in the first half. In the final moments of stoppage time Benteke pushed aside Chris Smalling and found Andreas Weimann who smashed his shot past David De Gea. Villa doubled their lead in the early in the second half when Rafael fell asleep, which allowed Weimann to tap in Gabriel Agbonlahor’s cross from two yards out. Ferguson took off Ashley Young at half for the in form Javier Hernandez, and boy did he deliver. Along with Robin Van Persie striking the crossbar twice in a minute, Hernandez scored two goals and created a Ron Vlaar own goal in 32 minutes. Villa’s young squad troubled United on many occasions, but they ran out of gas, and conceded three goals in 32 minutes thanks to some woeful defending. Hernandez has now scored seven goals in his last five Manchester United appearances, as the Red Devils remain top of the table.

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  • Dzeko does it again as Spurs concede late againLast year it was a Mario Balotelli spot kick at the death that sunk Spurs and their title hopes. This year it was Bosnian striker Eden Dzeko that saved City. It was Spurs who took the lead from a Steven Caulker header, as City conceded another goal this week from a set piece. City like United controlled the game, but was unable to find an equalizer. Mancini made a bold decision by introducing Maicon and going with a back 3. Not only was Maicon providing width and sending dangerous balls into the box, but it allowed David Silva and Yaya Toure space in the middle of the park. Ultimately City relied on two moments of individual brilliance, as Sergio Aguero equalized with a superb strike past Brad Friedel. Throughout the game City were caught offside as Spurs played a high line, their problem was they failed to get Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon into the game. Moussa Dembele was and still is dearly missed. With 3 minutes remaining, Silva played in an exquisite ball to Dzeko and he fired his shot in the roof of the Spurs goal. AVB’s Spurs concede in the final quarter of a game for the seventh time this season, and have lost three of their last four games. Dzeko scored his fifth goal of the season, four of them earned City three points. The win sees City climb the table as they sit one point behind their city rivals at the top of the table, and yes, they’re still UNDEFEATED!
  • The month of November is Chelsea’s kryptonite – Over the last three years the Blues have claimed 13 points from a possible 30 in November, as a Luis Suarez equalizer saw Chelsea drop two valuable points. Chelsea welcomed back captain John Terry into the XI as his four-match ban had been served. Brendan Rodger’s sidelined up in a 3-5-1-1 like they did in the second half against Everton. Luis Suarez & Raheem Sterling started upfront and Jamie Carragher made his first Premier league start this weekend. Rodgers’ tactical change had nullified Chelsea’s creativity, as Liverpool had most of the ball but they failed to penetrate the Chelsea backline. Chelsea took the lead from a Juan Mata free kick that Terry nodded home, courtesy of some awful defending from Daniel Agger. Unfortunately for Terry his night would come to an end, as the Chelsea captain was stretchered off the field when he collided with Suarez. Chelsea had the opportunity to double their lead at the end of the half when Mata was 1 on 1 with goalkeeper Brad Jones, but the Spanish international fired his shot over the net. Rodgers’ noticed his that his 3-5-1-1 wasn’t working going forward, so he reverted to a 4-2-3-1 by introducing Suso who replaced Sahin. Liverpool began to take a hold of the game and captain Steven Gerrard thrived in a deeper role. It was Suarez who equalized from a corner that Carragher flicked on to him and he nodded the ball into the net from two yards out. The game overall lacked quality, and Chelsea will rue the several chances they squandered as they now drop to third place. Liverpool will be content with the point as their second half performance was better. The formation change was key, as Liverpool was able to get the ball to Sterling, Enrique and Suso in positions where they can attack the Chelsea defenders. It also allowed Suarez more space to drift into, which gave Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic nightmares.

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  • Arsenal REALLY don’t like two goal leadsArsenal looked to bounce back to winning ways as they hosted Fulham in one of their many London derbies. With Wilshere suspended after being sent off at Old Trafford last week, Francis Coquelin played beside Arteta in a 4-3-3. Fulham lined up in a 4-4-2 with Bryan Ruiz playing off of Dimitar Berbatov. Like they did away to Shalke midweek, Arsenal took a two-goal lead when Olivier Giroud and Lucas Podolski found the back of the net. Unfortunately for Arsenal, Martin Jol’s side knows how to score goals, and so they did. Arsenal conceded another set piece from a Berbatov header, and then Fulham equalized minutes later, as Berbatov crossed a ball to the unmarked sub Alexander Kacaniklic who headed the ball down past Vito Mannone. Arsenal’s problems got worse in the second half as Mikel Arteta was dispossessed by Bryan Ruiz and then brought Ruiz down which forced referee Phil Dowd to award a penalty. Berbatov calmly converted his penalty and Arsenal found them behind. Giroud saved Arsenal from a disaster as he headed home his second of the night from a Theo Walcott cross. Controversy loomed in injury time as referee Phil Dowd awarded Arsenal a penalty when Andrei Arshavin’s shot hit Chris Baird’s arm. Arteta stepped up and had his penalty saved by Mark Schwarzer to end the game. It’s Arsenal’s worst start to the Premier League season as they’ve picked up 16 points from 11 games. Along with poor defending, Ruiz and Berbatov dropping deep caused Arsenal problems throughout the game. They were provided an extra passing outlet, and Arsenal was unable to contain them. Fulham continue to score goals for fun, and Ruiz did a great job marking Arteta out of the game. 

Observations 

  • Steve Clarke continues to impress as West Brom defeated Wigan 2-1 at the DW stadium. Clarke’s men stay in fifth place and seven points away from the top of the table. They’re bound for a dip in form at some point this season, but Clarke has shown that he’s capable to coach at this level. They play some great football at home and they know how to win on the road. The objective this year apart from survival is Europa league football, and the Baggies look more than able of achieving their goals.
  • Southampton is going down? Well they still have time to turn things around but Nigel Adkins might not be the man to keep them safe. The Saints hosted Swansea over the weekend, and despite the numerous chances they created, the Saints failed to pick up three points. Swansea was far from their best, but Laudrup’s introduction of Nathan Dyer paid off as he dispossessed Maya Yoshida in his third of the field and equalized. It was two massive points dropped from the Saints, and even when they’re playing well, they can’t seem to keep the ball out of the net.
  • Everton scored two goals in three minutes, as they came from behind to defeat Sunderland at Goodison Park. Marouane Fellaini was the heartbeat of the comeback with his superb strike, and cheeky back heel assist to Nikita Jelavic as the Toffees stay in the top four for another week. The Toffees have lost once in 2012 in the Premier League, where as Sunderland have not won on the road since February. On the bright side, someone other than Steven Fletcher scored for the Black Cats. Oh, and Martin O’Neil’s days are numbered.
  • Remember Charlie Adam? His goal gave Stoke City a narrow 1-0 victory against QPR. Stoke City snapped a 4 game winless streak, thanks to some diabolical QPR defending from a setpiece Apart from the result, the real question is, will QPR win a game this season?
  • Former Newcastle captain Kevin Nolan haunted his old side as his first half goal gave West Ham a 1-0 victory over the Toon. West Ham now move into sixth in the table, whereas Newcastle continue to struggle to create goals.
  • Reading & Norwich drew 0-0 this weekend, and I respect those who took the time to watch these two sides play. 

Weekend Stats

  • David Moyes’ took charge of his 400th ‪EPL match – the 4th manager to reach this milestone after Ferguson, Wenger & Redknapp
  • Charlie Adam scored his first goal for Stoke, and first ‪EPL goal in 13 months since netting for Liverpool at West Brom in October 2011.
  • Arsenal has missed 5 of their last 10 ‪EPL penalties for a 50% conversion rate. The average league-wide conversion rate is 75% ‪EPL
  • Paul Scholes was a fresh-faced 20-year-old when ‪Manchester United last lost at Villa Park in the league. He also starts this game.
  • Robin van Persie has scored 122 goals in 153 games for club & country since Jan 1 2010 and 56 in his last 65 league games
  • Manchester United has scored 8 goals from headers this season in the PL, most of all teams. Seven different players scored these 8 goals.
  • John Terry scored his 50th goal for Chelsea in all competitions.
  • Six of Edin Dzeko’s seven official goals for Manchester City this season have come after coming on as a substitute. It was also his 11th EPL goal as substitute.

Top 5 Players of the weekend

1. Javier Hernandez

2. Marouane Fellaini

3. Dimitar Berbatov

4. Bryan Ruiz

5. Olivier Giroud

Goal of the week

http://www.101greatgoals.com/gvideos/nikica-jelavic-everton-2-1-v-sunderland/

That was the action in the Premier League this weekend. Hopefully you all enjoyed it more than I did.

Cheers!

Follow Me @TEEWHYox

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2012 in EPL Notebook

 

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