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Arsenal clash could rejuvenate Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United

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Jose Mourinho’s latest misfortunes as Manchester United manager could place a dent to his managerial legacy. Once referred to as a mastermind tactician, Mourinho’s majestic mantra that’s attributed to his silverware dominance in several countries simply doesn’t have the same effect.

The witty pre-match quotes and everlasting swagger has been replaced with negative comments towards his players and officials. Whereas the siege-mentality that transformed his players to sacrifice their bodies for results is non-existent.

More so, although the Portuguese manager’s sides are more expansive than in recent years, the attacking flare displayed going forward consequently affected the solid base he once sought out. Since his move to Real Madrid, Mourinho’s worked with an abundance of slender technically gifted players, but has failed to combine his personnel with the ruthless defensive mentality that displayed in previous sides.

With social media and the modern soccer player now being protected throughout their youth career, Mourinho’s attempt to motivate his players through harsh criticism has back-fired, thus leading to several behind the scenes locker room squabbles. The ability to control the press, his players and the opposition with his words was one of the United manager’s best traits, but now he does more harm when he speaks.

The aforesaid criticism towards his own players and smug body language on the touchline is reminiscent of Mourinho’s mood towards the conclusion of his Chelsea tenure. However, Mourinho has failed to overcome the slight stylistic shift in modern football, which emphasizes on dynamic pressing across the pitch.

Where possession football was heavily praised and emulated over the last decade, Mourinho’s aim to disrupt and destroy was innovative, despite the negativity received for creating dull encounters. Now, Mourinho’s reactive approach is simply outfoxed by dynamic units that press cohesively and quickly break forward in numbers.

But like his predecessors, life at Manchester United has been difficult. Sir Alex Ferguson, a fond admirer of Mourinho, equally endured difficult moments at United, but his ability to construct new ideas and maximize the talent at his disposal over a lengthy period is what made him great. Mourinho, on the other hand, is stumped and doesn’t seem capable of identifying an alternative winning formula.

United currently sit eight points behind league leaders Liverpool, and though Mourinho has rarely tinkered with his starting XI, it’s evident Mourinho is unsure of his best XI or his optimum formation. Despite improving under Louis van Gaal, United were abject for extensive periods prior to the arrival of the Portuguese manager, and a few big name signings have yet to rid the robotic-esque football showcased in the red side of Manchester.

More worryingly, the fact that the cheapest and lesser-known Eric Bailly can be deemed the standout summer signing at Old Trafford summarizes the current state of the club.

It’s equally alarming that the remaining three signings haven’t really improved the starting XI. Zlatan Ibrahimovic started the season well, but his passing has been mediocre when he drops deep, and still contributes to United’s issue of predominantly playing ahead of the opposition. Pogba, on the other hand, struggles to influence games without being a defensive liability in a midfield two, which is a completely different role to the one he adopted at Juventus.

“He [Pogba] can play in so many positions,” Mourinho said in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports’ Andy Burton

“The problem is not the position. The problem is not the tactical system. The problem is, in my opinion, somebody that comes from a different style of football and needs this time to be at his best level in football that is really difficult to play, especially for midfield players.”

Then there’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan who has yet to feature for United since his 45-minute cameo in the Manchester derby. Therefore, apart from the decision to drop Wayne Rooney, very little has changed from the youthful side that finished fifth last season.

Elsewhere, Pep Guardiola has expanded Manchester City’s possession-based football and provided positional flexibility to the club. Meanwhile, Liverpool and Chelsea have been the standout performers due to their non-involvement in European competitions, thus offering the managers additional training ground preparation.

Mourinho, however, has persisted with a 4-2-3-1, but is further going against the template that brought him success in the past. Perhaps this is a case of the manager attempting to prove the cynics wrong. It can also signify the awareness that his technically gifted outfit are better suited to a sleeker style, opposed to the Chelsea and Inter Milan sides built around physically imposing centre-backs and powerful midfielders.

The permanent switch to this system took place at Real Madrid, but in midfield he possessed the balance of a passing holding midfielder, and an energetic runner in Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira. Since then, catering to Cesc Fabregas’ creativity backfired, whereas now, Pogba isn’t consistently performing at an elite level in a midfield two.

Similar to his most successful sides post-2004, the use of a natural ball-winner and two shuttlers was pivotal, yet it’s odd to see Mourinho – who has publicly claimed his preference to use the system as an alternative – reluctant to push Herrera and Pogba further up the field. The system alteration was logical at Madrid, as it enabled Mesut Ozil freedom to create – yet even in the bigger games, Ozil operated from a wide position, making sharp runs towards the flanks to create space for his teammates.

Though Juan Mata’s been one of United’s standout players this season, the Spaniard simply doesn’t perform at the level that warrants a formation change. However, Pogba performed well in this position closer to Ibrahimovic at Anfield, and could excel higher up the pitch if Mourinho wants to strengthen his midfield.

Nevertheless, despite the personnel void in specific areas, United’s issue doesn’t rest in the options at Mourinho’s disposal – he currently has a big enough squad with various skill sets to challenge for the league. Besides the first half hour against Manchester City, defensive errors have played a decisive factor in United’s erratic league form.

In ways, United are reminiscent of the Borussia Dortmund side during Jurgen Klopp’s final season. Dortmund finished seventh in the Bundesliga, yet their league position didn’t justify the strength of Klopp’s men. Battling injuries to nearly their entire back-line throughout the season, Dortmund created numerous chances per game, but were simply let down by poor finishing and defensive errors.

Mourinho proved he can still gain results in the big games following United’s solid display at Liverpool, but the Red Devils still struggle to convert quality chances into goals. United aren’t playing poorly under Mourinho, but there’s a distinct disparity between this current side, and his teams of the past that were devastatingly efficient in the final third and diligently organized out of possession.

“We kept creating chances and then by magic they crossed the midfield line and scored a goal which is very unfair for us,” said Mourinho following United’s draw to Stoke.

“I have to say they were lucky but luck is part of football. My tribute to them is they are not guilty of our bad luck, so congratulations on a good point for them.”

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Nonetheless, Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have undergone contrasting careers, but the start to the 2016/2017 Premier League season suggests change may be imminent. A rivalry that started following Mourinho’s initial arrival to England witnessed Arsenal transition from title contenders to top four challengers, whereas Mourinho developed into one of the greatest managers in world football – subsequently winning domestic honours in three different countries.

Mourinho’s return to the Premier League three seasons ago restored the feisty enmity between the two managers, which even led to Wenger being deemed as a “specialist in failure.”

“If he is right and I am afraid of failure it is because I didn’t fail many times. Eight years without silverware, that’s failure,” said Mourinho.

“He’s a specialist in failure,” continued Mourinho. “If I do that in Chelsea, eight years, I leave and don’t come back.”

Yet since Chelsea’s 2015 title triumph, the tide appears to be turning in Wenger’s favour. Mourinho was sacked by the Blues ahead of their worst title defence in Premier League history, and his appointment at Manchester United has been filled with inconsistent results.

But where the aforementioned Premier League managers have altered their side’s previous philosophy – even Wenger has added a new dimension to Arsenal’s game by utilizing Alexis Sanchez as a centre-forward – perhaps its time for Mourinho to stray away from his initial approach. The pressure is mounting at the club – albeit it’s expected he’ll receive ample time to build a squad that meets his desire – but conceding his first Premier League defeat to Wenger would provide a seismic statement, and ultimately diminish United’s title hopes.

For United and Mourinho, underachievement remains risky considering what’s transpired over the last few years, but it would certainly put the latter at a cross-road. We’ve seen the brilliance of Mourinho’s managerial skills in an era-defining period upon his arrival to England, but it may be time to replicate his counter-parts’ decision to adjust what many consider to be an outdated approach, along with identifying the ideal system and roles for his players.

What may be heralded a new era that redefines the elite clubs in the country, could see Mourinho oblige to change, and potentially risk concluding one of the most successful managerial tenures at the club level.

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Posted by on November 18, 2016 in Premier League, Published Work

 

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Juan Mata and Javi Martinez’s fall from grace

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“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

The quote once stated by former United Kingdom prime minister Winston Churchill, is now served as a guideline to success across Europe. The significance of evolving a squad is often overlooked, and with the competition amid the top European sides constantly rising, it would be delusional to avoid it.

In the past few years, we’ve witnessed successful teams fail to improve their squad, and ultimately endure a severe decline. Look no further than the 2012/2013 Manchester City side, post-Mourinho 2010/2011 Inter Milan and Carlo Ancelotti’s second year at Chelsea – these sides came off remarkable achievements, but were naïve in terms of improving on their success, the following year.

However, as we embarked upon a new European season a few weeks ago, there was a distinct theme amongst the top sides in Europe. While a few made slight alterations to their squads, the significant feat was the vast majority of managerial turnover that occurred at some of Europe’s top clubs.

The champions in England, Germany, Portugal, France and Spain chose to take different approaches to their success, while Manchester City, Real Madrid and Napoli – runners up in their domestic leagues – also followed suit. Never has their been such a large amount of managerial turnover amongst Europe’s top clubs, leaving many to believe the Champions League in particular, has no clear-cut favorite.

High profile managers made their way across Europe, tinkering with their new club’s philosophy, as they aimed to provide a new identity. It’s evident that club football now emphasizes on the importance of building a strong squad opposed to a starting eleven, thus leading to limited playing time, player competition and various options off the bench – if executed properly.

In particular, Bayern Munich and Chelsea, Europe’s most successful teams over the past two years – based on success in European competitions – underwent interesting transformations this summer. The arrival of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho – two men that developed a rivalry in Spain – took over the helm at these prestigious clubs, and weren’t afraid to quickly implement their style into their new squads.

Over the summer both sides spent large sums of money to add the required depth – Bayern picked up Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara, whereas Chelsea also added young talent in Kevin De Bruyne, Willian and Andre Schurrle, just to name a few. Most importantly, despite the positive aspects that may come from a new hire – such as eagerness to impress and fight for a position – there can also be negative facets when a new manager decides to implement his philosophy, and surprisingly both side’s face identical issues.

Juan Mata and Javi Martinez, arguably legitimate world-class talent and the best players for their respected clubs last year, have been out of favour this season. Surprisingly, they also played minimal roles in Spain’s second place finish at the Confederations Cup, despite their great form. Del Bosque steered away from the double-pivot due to the injury of Xabi Alonso – which is odd considering Martinez was the ideal candidate to play in this system  – while Mata’s immediacy in the final third continues to be his kryptonite in a Spanish side accustomed to playing a tiki-taka brand.

Despite a disappointing summer, it seemed certain that both men would feature regularly for their respected club. Martinez’s bellicose style, physical presence, and ability to break forward in possession provided Bayern’s double-pivot a different element in attack and astute defensive cover. Whereas Mata’s direct approach in the final third, movement in key areas, and impressive goal and assist stat, saw him gradually develop into the best midfielder in the Premier League last season.

Yet, neither man has solidified a regular spot in their side’s starting lineup. Recurring injuries have prevented Martinez from featuring in the Bayern starting eleven, but with Guardiola’s formation change, it’s uncertain as to where Martinez would play. Bayern has adopted a 4-1-4-1 system, which leaves them vulnerable at the back – and the chances of Martinez replacing reliable passers in Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thiago, when fit, is slim.

But it’s been heavily rumoured that Martinez will take up a centre back role – a position he’s played in the past, but doesn’t allow him to express his abilities fully. Guardiola has always been an admirer of a ball playing centre-back – based on Martinez’s proficient passing and ability to join the attack, when required, the Spaniard would be an ideal candidate

It’s unfair to ridicule Guardiola’s approach, based on the duration of his tenure, but the newly adopted Bayern system has left them vulnerable defensively – and Martinez’s presence has been missed. Bayern’s ability to cope with teams that press them higher up the pitch was down to poor finishing, and Schweinsteiger’s knack of finding pockets of space in deep areas on either flank of Bayern’s third – as Martinez was positioned in an advanced positions.

As of late, teams have decided to target Schweinsteiger – who tucks in between the centrebacks – forcing him to be dispossessed or concede possession, which present’s the opposition an opportunity to expose Bayern on quick breaks. With both full backs pushing higher to provide width, Bayern are left with three players at the back – who aren’t very mobile – which has seen them blitzed on the counter several times this season.

On the other hand, Mata has also seen his playing time diminish. The two-time Chelsea player of the year, has apparently fallen down the pecking order, as Mourinho has added three attacking midfielders to the squad. More so, the creative dynamo doesn’t fit the mold of the no.10 that the Portuguese manager requires, as Oscar has slowly cemented that role.

Mourinho has reiterated in several interviews that he has plans for Mata, and wants him to stay with the club.

I have my idea about him, about where he produces better and where he has more difficulty,” Mourinho said. 

“We will try to help him perform better in those situations. I’ve always liked a right-sided player to be left-footed. I like wingers coming in on the inside for the penetrative movement, for the pass, for the shot,” he added. 

Although, Mourinho failed to evolve Real Madrid’s side during his tenure, he did learn a few tactical lessons, one being the role of a complete no.10. Toni Kroos dominated Real Madrid’s midfield 16 months ago, where as Mourinho’s central playmaker Mesut Ozil was a peripheral figure. Kroos’ ability to find pockets of space, drop deep to form a midfield three and play incisive passes in the final third was pivotal – whereas Ozil was an isolated figure for large portions of the match.

That Champions League exit was disappointing for Mourinho but it was also an indicator that the no.10 role requires more defensive work, off the ball movement, and tactical/positional IQ. For all of Mata’s attacking threat, defensively he’s a liability, which has been overlooked over the last two seasons.

The Spaniard often stays higher up the pitch allowing the deep-lying midfielder freedom to dictate the match, and he rarely tracks back for defensive cover. When assembling a side, one of the many factors Mourinho focuses on is defensive solidity and tactically disciplined players – although the Portuguese manager has stated lack of match fitness has led to Mata’s absence, the real issue could be down to trust.

Mata’s exclusion from the squad is understandable, but Mourinho’s ignorance towards evolution should also be questioned. Frankly, it’s led to his downfall in the past, but the Portuguese manager could stray away from his beliefs, and develop a system around Mata. If not, it’s difficult to see where the Spaniard will fit in, as he’s become a liability defensively and struggles to execute quick transitions, a component Mourinho demands in his counter-attacking system.

Guardiola is somewhat of a perfectionist, and his drive to evolve yearly led to his downfall at Barcelona, whereas Mourinho inability to enhance Madrid tactically resulted in his sacking. With both sides containing fairly large squads, we’re beginning to see a core being built, which currently sees neither player possess a main role at their club.

It’s rare to see two top midfielders in their respected domestic leagues go down this road – considering their world-class status and the fact that neither suffered a loss of form or major injury. With the World Cup swiftly approaching, playing a bit-part role for the national team in another major competition would be a setback in either player’s international career, as positions in the Spanish squad are scarce.

Frankly, it’d be disappointing to see both men limited to such a role – Martinez’s physical presence is essential in midfield, while Mata adds a direct element of attack in the final third that could be beneficial to Chelsea and his national squad. Spain, Bayern Munich and Chelsea possess an abundance of top talent in their squads, and although the importance of change is significant, failure to utilize these legitimate world-class players would have a greater impact.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2013 in EPL, 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 United 0-0 Chelsea

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David Moyes’ Old Trafford debut ended in a lacklustre scoreless draw against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.

Moyes made one change to the side that defeated Swansea at the Liberty Stadium last week. Wayne Rooney started in the no.10 role behind Robin Van Persie, pushing Danny Welbeck to the left flank, while Antonio Valencia kept his place on the right. Moyes stuck with Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick in the double pivot, as his side lined up in a 4-4-1-1.

Jose Mourinho’s starting 11 was surprising, making two changes to the side that defeated Aston Villa, Wednesday night. Andre Schurrle led the line in a 4-2-3-1 with Eden Hazard, Oscar and Kevin De Bruyne behind the German international, while Frank Lampard and Ramires played in the double pivot – pushing Juan Mata to the bench, while Demba Ba wasn’t included in Mourinho’s squad.

This was never going to be spectacle considering both managers tend to approach big matches with caution, and to no surprise we experienced a tight affair, with minimal clear-cut chances.

Shape

Chelsea entered the match knowing a point would be a great result, and focused on keeping a compact shape and breaking on the counter. Often sitting in two banks of four near their edge of the box, it was Hazard and De Bruyne who were given the tasks to prevent United from overloading the flanks. The Chelsea wide men were disciplined, and completed an adequate job, forcing United to attack down the middle. Similar to Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, the Chelsea centre back pairing of John Terry and Gary Cahill were magnificent – they dealt with every cross that came into the box and made key tackles and blocks to preserve their clean sheet. Oscar was handed the duty to keep close to Carrick and prevent him from playing forward passes, but the surprise in Chelsea’s approach was neglecting Cleverley – the Englishman finished the match with a 91% pass rate, completing the most passes in total and in the final third.

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Moyes also took the same approach – he instructed his men to drop into two banks of four, and his wide men were just as good as the likes of Hazard and De Bruyne in protecting their fullbacks. United was focused on limiting space in central areas and also sat deep in their third, to limit the space behind Ferdinand and Vidic.

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Moyes’ men often allowed Lampard and Ramires to have the ball in deep positions, but they occasionally pressed Ramires when he attempted to push forward, meanwhile Lampard played safe, sideways passes and United was content with that.

Chelsea attack

Schurrle’s inclusion in the squad led many to think Chelsea was going to replicate last season’s approach in their Champions League away match against Juventus, where they played a 4-6-0, yet the German played as a traditional no.9. There are many reasons why Mourinho left Romelu Lukaku and Torres on the bench, but it was evident that he wanted mobility when his team broke on the counter. Schurrle made several runs in the channels, aiming to stretch Vidic and Ferdinand, but the German failed to have a significant impact on the match – mainly because Chelsea’s urge to catch the United centre backs out of position, led to numerous misplaced passes.

Oscar was Chelsea’s most influential player going forward, as he continues to develop in his no.10 role. Along with preventing Carrick from playing penetrating passes from deep, the Brazilian midfielder was dropping deep to help Chelsea retain possession, which opened up space for Hazard and De Bruyne to attack. It’s been a constant feat in Chelsea’s attack this season, but United’s compact midfield handled the situation well, often forcing Chelsea’s attacking players to concede possession.

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United in wide areas

Width has been a key component to United’s success over the years, and with central areas congested, United was keen on trying to overload the Chelsea fullbacks. When United defeated Chelsea last season at Stamford Bridge, Roberto Di Matteo was tactically naïve, and his wide men were given no defensive duties. United’s right side exploited his error, resulting in two goals in the opening 15 minutes, due to overloads.

In the first half, Rooney often linked play with Valencia and Phil Jones on the right flank, and they received some success, getting past Ashley Cole, but the final ball was missing. Despite getting into advanced positions, Valencia was often reluctant to play a cross in or take a shot and goal, thus leading to his early departure. In fairness, Hazard sat deeper, and worked hard to prevent overloads, and albeit being beaten a few times, Valencia and Jones rarely threatened on the right flank.

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Moyes’ decision to introduce Ashley Young into the match was logical, and the Englishman provided the direct threat that United lacked. Suddenly, United were delivering dangerous balls into the six-yard box, forcing the Chelsea defence to make several key headers and interventions.

Since Moyes’ arrival, Patrice Evra has made a stake as to why the United manager doesn’t need Leighton Baines. He was keen to push forward on the left flank, and he had space to exploit. With De Bruyne often tucked in, or looking to attack centrally, the French fullback was able to get forward occasionally. Evra’s freedom to bomb forward was due to Welbeck’s will to drift centrally and get involved in the attack, thus giving United another passing option. However, Evra’s freedom did leave huge gaps behind him to exploit, and Schurrle nearly punished United, but the German was ruled offside, before smashing the cross bar with a venomous shot.

Rooney

Wayne Rooney was the man under the microscope for the entire match, seeing that Mourinho hasn’t hid his determination to sign the United striker. Moyes has stated several times that Rooney will stay at Old Trafford, while Mourinho has made claims that it would be wrong to keep an unsettled player.

But Rooney put all the speculation about his future on hold, and was one of the better players on the night. He dropped into midfield spraying passes out wide, drove United forward attempting to dribble players, and he even displayed his often praised work ethic, tracking back to make a fantastic tackle on Ramires. Despite not looking a bit interested, Rooney was able to find space between the lines, in which he forced Petr Cech to make a few saves – and specifically in the first half, he succeeded playing neat passes with Jones and Valencia on the right flank.

Rooney is caught in the middle of two legitimate title contenders that require his services to succeed domestically. United fans witnessed Rooney’s ability to create in attacking positions, but his drive to win was also showcased, despite the awkward situation he’s involved in. As for Mourinho, his decision to start a game at Old Trafford without the three strikers at his disposal is a message to the English striker. Blues supporters want Rooney, and he’ll receive the opportunity to lead the line, with an abundance of quality creators behind him. It was also a cry to the Chelsea board to get into the market and pick up a top-class striker.

Nevertheless, Rooney inspired United’s attack and was one of the few bright spots in a game that lacked creativity.

Substitutions

Mourinho’s alterations were conservative, and in his post-match press conference, the Portuguese manager stated that he wasn’t aiming to lose the match. It was peculiar to see Torres replace De Bruyne, mainly because it occurred seconds after Schurrle found space behind Evra to exploit. Schurrle moved to the right flank, and his attempt to break on the counter ended, as he was responsible for protecting Branislav Ivanovic and preventing Evra from surging forward.

The Portuguese manager introduced John Obi Mikel for Schurrle and Azpilicueta for Hazard in the final stages of the match. Mourinho didn’t want to take any risks and his substitutions proved to be cautious, as he was content with the point.

“Minute 70, 75, I was feeling [it was] difficult to win, I don’t want to lose, so I made the changes to control the last few minutes of the game, but no chance Juan goes anywhere,” Mourinho said.

As for Moyes, Young’s introduction was to provide more attacking intent down the flanks, but his decision to introduce Ryan Giggs for Welbeck was also a ploy to push Evra forward, yet control the midfield. Unfortunately nothing came from the substitution, but it displayed Moyes’ will to earn three points, something out of the Scotsman element, considering his defensive approach in big matches.

Conclusion

It was far from a Premier League classic, and it’s just a preview of what to expect from the top three clubs in the country – based on the fact that each manager approaches big matches with caution.

Neither side provided the quality to win the match, whereas they both defended extremely well, meriting a draw. But they did learn that Rooney could play a pivotal role in determining who lifts the Premier League in May, and it’ll be interesting to see how the saga between the two clubs unfold.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City

Match in a sentence

After poor performances midweek in Europe, Chelsea and Manchester City failed to live up to expectations, as they provided us with a DULL game.

Analysis

  • Roberto Mancini started the game with four at the back in his traditional 4-2-3-1, with Sergio Aguero playing in behind Edin Dzeko. Captain Vincent Kompany was fit enough to start after picking up a knock midweek, and James Milner made his return to Mancini’s XI.
  • In Rafa Benitez’s first match as interim manager, he opted to stick with the 4-2-3-1, but unlike Di Matteo in midweek, he introduced Fernando Torres in the XI. Also David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic started at centre back with Cesar Azpilicueta at right back.
  • With Roman Abramovich in attendance, fans around the stadium chanted, “There’s one Di Matteo” several times. There were multiple boo’s/malicious chants directed at Rafa, as well as chants for Ashley Cole to stay. At the 16th minute mark, fans stood to their feet and began clapping and chanting “There’s only one Di Matteo’ again in honour of the former Chelsea manager who wore the #16 jersey during his playing days at Chelsea.
  • Although Benitez selected practically the same players as Di Matteo would, there were a few changes that should be pointed out. Chelsea was much more compact, with Ramires sitting deeper helping Mikel protect the back four. Ramires tends to take the ball and drive forward, but he was disciplined against City. It was also clear that David Luiz was less adventurous, and whenever he did go forward with the ball both Mikel and Ramires covered for him.
  • The trident of Oscar, Hazard and Mata was much better defensively. Mata and Hazard dropped deeper to help out the full backs, whereas Oscar, and at times Torres, dropped deep to nullify Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure.
  • Chelsea often looked like a 4-5-1 and at times a 4-4-2 when defending, and it stifled City as they struggled to create chances. The downside to Rafa’s compact set-up was that Chelsea didn’t really offer anything going forward as they recorded one shot on target.
  • City struggled to create any real goal scoring opportunities and like Chelsea lacked quality going forward. Both sides gave away possession at ease, but unlike Chelsea, City was looking to dictate the game.
  • James Milner swapped flanks numerous times in the game looking to overload Chelsea’s fullbacks, but was unable to create danger. Milner did do a good job in helping his fullbacks Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov against Chelsea’s creative players.
  • City had a few chances in the first half to take the lead as Zabaleta was able to break forward with Silva playing so narrow, but unfortunately nothing came from those chances.
  • Chelsea were a bit better in the second half stringing together passes and forcing City to make mistakes, but apart from Torres’ half chance and Cole’s long distance drive Chelsea didn’t offer much going forward.

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  • Apart from the Chelsea fans chants earlier on in the match, the clash between the English and European champions was pretty poor. With the amount of top players on the pitch, the game lacked quality. Despite controlling possession and creating more scoring opportunities, City weren’t good enough. They should have won the game, but they might be content with a draw at Stamford Bridge.
  • Chelsea picked up their first clean sheet since October 2nd, and it seems evident that Benitez has already had an effect on the team. Yes, they weren’t great forward, but Chelsea looked organized and disciplined defensively which is a plus. The Blues sacrificed their offensive threat, but in return were solid at the back. Seeing as Rafa hasn’t been with the club for more than a week, he’ll be more than happy with the result.

Three Stars

1. Vincent Kompany

2. James Milner

3. Branislav Ivanovic

Tyrrell Meertins

Follow @TEEWHYox

 

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2012 in Match Recaps

 

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Zlatan’s goal is one of many reasons why I hate social media!

In 48 hours, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s wonder goal against England has received close to 5 million views on YouTube. The goal capped off a fantastic performance from the Swedish international, in which he scored four goals. On his day Ibrahimovic is arguably one of the best strikers in the world and is a true world-class striker, but is his goal the ‘best goal ever’?

 

The answer is NO!

I refused to weigh in on which goal is the best of all time, because I feel it is a pointless argument that we can all agree on. Also, it would take years to go through every goal scored to make an intelligent decision. Nonetheless, it was a great goal that should rightfully be put into the discussion.

Now I’m not going say it wasn’t a great goal ‘because it was a friendly’ or say he scored because ‘Hart was way off his line’ as many have done. I will say that people are blowing it out of proportion because it was England, who isn’t a great side. I also say despite the goal, I expected Ibra to play at such a high level with the likes of 17-year-old Raheem Sterling, 20-year-old Wilfried Zaha, the inexperienced Ryan Shawcross and Tom Huddlestone are on the field. I’m not trying to make excuses for England, but these are not good players and it’s no coincidence that three of Ibra’s goals were scored once Roy Hodgson made some changes to give some of these young/inexperienced players time on the pitch.

Nonetheless, Ibrahimovic’s goal was great. The technique was fantastic, but the fact that he had the confidence and audacity to attempt the overhead kick was remarkable.

The goal took over social media in the matter of minutes and these comments were thrown around.

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People have the right to voice their opinion and social media is the outlet often used in today’s society, but I’ve noticed that it can tarnish some great moments.

Suddenly, Ibrahimovic’s goal has made him the best striker in the world. A four-goal performance against England’s B or C team miraculously elevates him to a ‘best striker ever’ conversation.

One goal not only blows up twitter, but we seem to forget the likes of Radamel Falcao, Edinson Cavani and Robin Van Persie. More importantly, he’s now put in a conversation with Ronaldo, Gerd Muller, Eusebio, Ferenc Puskas etc.

It’s a problem within our society, and people feel the need to throw around farcical titles on players based on performances like this. I won’t deny that it was a great performance and neither will Ibrahimovic, but do we really believe that he is the best now or ever based on that?

It’s like the trendy ‘world-class’ label, that tends to go around now. Players such as Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla and Javier Hernandez just to name a few, have been given the title this season. These are great players, but they are not yet world-class. Maybe my expectations of players are too high, but they rightfully should be.

Throwing around these titles towards players because they hit a good run of form ruins its prestige, and we tend to do this a lot. I can name you approximately 30 legitimate world-class players and there’s nothing wrong with that.

In today’s time, social media is somewhat the root of all evil. I have a love/hate relationship with it. The hate often outweighs the love because of the nonsense that is allowed on it.

Why can’t we embrace moments of brilliance from Zlatan and cherish them for what they are? It’s time we move away from putting these outrageous labels on moments/performances like this and sit back and enjoy them.

Zlatan, we thank you for providing us with a goal of the highest quality.

Social media trolls….DIE!

 

Tyrrell Meertins

Follow me @TEEWHYox

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in FIFA

 

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Tyrrell’s EPL Weekend Recap – Contenders make a statement

Weekend in 100 words or less

Many sports fans were THANKFUL for the large supply of quality matches available this weekend. We had El Clasico, Brady vs. Manning, the Milan derby, Le Classique, Porto vs. Sporting and the MLB playoffs to keep us busy, as we digested our turkey dinners here in Canada. On top of these monumental sporting events, both Manchester clubs gave us a taste of why many have them as clear favourites to win the Premier League title. Fergie’s tactical alignment brought the best out of Wayne Rooney, Mikel Arteta passed Arsenal to another win and Chelsea’s front three were great again.

Analysis

  • United dismantle Newcastle, Rooney superb– Manchester United lined up in a 4-4-2 diamond without any natural wingers and produced their best performance of the season. A year ago the midfield of Carrick/Giggs were run ragged by Tiote and Cabaye which led Ferguson to call back Paul Scholes. It’s evident Fergie learned from his mistakes as United’s emphasis was on taking control of the middle and keeping possession. The choice to play a midfield diamond paid off, as Carrick, Cleverley and Rooney were outstanding. They dominated the likes of Jonas, Tiote and Cabaye with the extra man in midfield as they always had an open Rooney to pass the ball to. Rooney played behind Van Persie and Welbeck, Cleverley advanced to the left, Kagawa to the right and Carrick was the holder. The width came from Evra & Rafael and this adjustment led Manchester United to an impressive performance at St. James Park. United started this game hungry, and they were ruthless in front of goal. United won the game in the first twenty minutes in which they had 78% possession and two goals courtesy of some abysmal defending from the Newcastle back line. Evans lost Williamson and nodded home the first goal and seven minutes later Evra added to the lead, as Demba Ba was unable to mark the United skipper. Albeit some goal line controversy, United were the better side for large portions of this match. The back four looked solid for the first time this season as they sat deeper and Wayne Rooney was immense. Rooney was all over the pitch, dropping deep to defend when Alan Pardew switched to a 4-5-1, getting into great areas to provide a passing outlet, picking balls across the field, starting attacks and he was rewarded with two assists. The win puts United in second place, and if they continue to produce performances like this or better, then it’ll only be a matter of time before they sit on top of the Premier League.

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  • City cruise past woeful Sunderland – City bounced back from a lethargic performance midweek, and made seven changes to their lineup that gave Martin O’Neil’s side their first loss of the season. This Sunderland side was the opposite of the one that nearly beat City at the Ethiad last season. They couldn’t keep possession and if it weren’t for goalkeeper Simon Mignolet’s great performance the score line could’ve been worse. A superb free kick from Kolarov seven minutes in put City ahead, but they failed to really dictate the game until the second half. It was when Mario Balotelli (who I thought was decent) was substituted in the 55th minute for Sergio Aguero. Balotelli wasn’t happy with the change and stormed straight to the tunnel, but Mancini’s change was the right one as Aguero scored five minutes after his arrival. Aguero’s presence changed the game as he linked up with those around him better and his movement off the ball caused more problems for the Sunderland defence. Milner added a late free kick to cement three points and City’s first clean sheet of the season. It was the result/performance we’ve been waiting to see from City, as Mancini finally let the shackles off his men.
  • Goals galore see Chelsea stay top of the table – Chelsea, like Manchester City stayed unbeaten this weekend, as they blitzed Norwich City 4-1. Chelsea started off shaky in the opening 20 minutes as Grant Holt was having his way with the Chelsea back line. Chris Hughton’s side deployed two narrow banks of four when defending and looked to hoof the ball up to Holt so he can hold it up when they won possession. Holt did a great job, but as his teammates tired, Hughton’s plan slowly became ineffective. Unfortunately for Norwich, their abysmal defence had no answers for Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar. Chelsea comfortably settled after Torres equalized scoring his 6th goal in all competitions. Goals from Lampard, Ivanovic and a sensational counterattack from Mata that played in Hazard settled the game. Chelsea sit four points ahead of both Manchester clubs going into the second international break of the season. They do have a few problems at the back that they need to sort out fast, but we will really get to see what this Chelsea side is made of after the international break. They travel to Spurs, Shakhtar, and then face Manchester United twice in the span of four days at Stamford Bridge.
  • Life without Van Persie isn’t too shabby  – Arsenal went back to winning ways this weekend as they comfortably defeated West Ham 3-1. There were many positives to take from this game as the Gunners bounced back from last weekends defeat to Chelsea. Olivier Giroud started and scored, Cazorla and Arteta were brilliant yet again, Podolski was superb down the left hand side where most of Arsenal’s play was crafted from, and Theo Walcott came off the bench and netted the winner. Although many will give the plaudits to Cazorla or Giroud, (for his goal and assist for the winner) it was Mikel Arteta who was solid once again. The Spaniard has really relished in his deep lying role and like Juan Mata, if he weren’t Spanish he would walk into many XI’s. Arteta completed 106/111 passes, successfully won all of his 5 tackles and rarely lost possession. Overall it was a great Arsenal performance all around, and it sees them pick up eight points on the road out of a possible twelve. Although Van Persie was a massive loss to the club, Arsenal is slowly silencing the doubters who dismissed them from cementing a top four spot.

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  • Fonte saves Southampton from disaster against Fulham  – It was a poor match overall, but the late drama made up for it. Portuguese defender Jose Fonte put the Saints in front early courtesy of a header in which he was left unmarked. Fulham was unable to cope with Southampton’s high pressure and were constantly giving the ball away. Fortunately for the Cottagers, Southampton was poor in front of goal and talismanic striker Rickie Lambert who pressed well, didn’t have his shooting boots on. The second half saw Fulham with more of the ball as the Saints players tired, but Fulham never really looked like scoring. Ultimately the game changer was Saints defender Jos Hooiveld as he scored his second own goal of the year as he directed John Arne Risse’s shot that was going wide into his goal. In the 88th minute substitute Kieran Richardson put Fulham into the lead as his shot deflected off of Hooiveld and into the net. Unfortunately for the Cottagers their lead lasted less than two minutes as Fonte added to his goal tally with a header in injury time and rescued a point for the Saints. A tie reflects the dull encounter that Southampton should’ve wrapped up in the first half. Fulham pick up a road point they ultimately should be proud of whereas the problems at St. Mary’s continues and pressure continues to rise over Nigel Adkins head.
  • Second season syndrome might exist! – Many might not believe in second season syndrome, but as of October 8th two teams who were promoted last season are winless, sitting in the relegation zone. Many believe it’s only a matter of time before QPR eventually turn it around, but Norwich is in deep trouble. They currently sit second in the league for goals conceded and they’ve scored the least this season. Last season they weren’t any better at the back but they’re ability to score goals along with Paul Lambert’s tactical set up saw them finish 12th in the league. This season they continue to leak goals, but they struggle to create/score goals. I had Norwich going down this season and so far they’ve displayed every reason why they will. Will players like Grant Holt, Anthony Morison and Steve Pilkington be able to replicate their goal scoring form of last season? Can Simeon Jackson and Wesley Hoolahan fill the void if these men fail to get the goals? Can Chris Hughton tighten up the back line? These are key components to whether Norwich will survive this season and right now survival doesn’t look attainable.

Observations

  • Tottenham picked up their fourth successive victory this weekend dispatching of Aston Villa 2-0. 20-year-old Steven Caulker scored his first top-flight goal and Aaron Lennon secured three points that sees Spurs climb to fifth in the table. Moussa Dembele was great yet again with a 91% passing rate, misplacing only one pass in the final third. Hugo Lloris also made his Premier League debut earning his first clean sheet. It was a Spurs result that many expected, but it didn’t come easy. Andre Villas-Boas will now have his side set for their marquee match against Chelsea at White Hart Lane in two weeks. May I remind you that Chelsea fired AVB and went on to win the FA cup and Champions league. Chelsea’s Champions League victory also dumped Spurs into the Europa League this season.
  • Liverpool are still searching for their first home win this season as they drew Stoke City 0-0. Anfield used to be a fortress but Liverpool has only won twice at Anfield since the turn of the calendar year. It was a bit of deja vu for anyone who’s watched Liverpool over the last year. They dictated possession, hit the woodwork several times, and a Luis Suarez dive was another hot topic in another Liverpool fixture. Stoke sat deep and stayed compact as many teams do at Anfield, and Liverpool couldn’t break through despite a few moments of individual brilliance. Luis Suarez stormed off the pitch when the whistle blew for full time and the Uruguayan seems to be a very frustrated man. Other than Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez, Liverpool lacks a proven goal scorer and that is currently one of their biggest issues.
  • West Bromwich Albion enjoys their best start to a season since 1919 with a 3-2 win over QPR this weekend. Former Chelsea/Liverpool assistant manager Steve Clarke is enjoying a great start to his managerial career and the win pushes the Baggies to sixth place in the league level behind Everton and Tottenham on goal differential. They’re 100% at home, and under Clarke have been a tough team to break down. Now this form might come to an end soon, but this team is capable of finishing in the top half of the table.
  • Despite spending approximately 17m pounds this summer on transfers, QPR sit bottom of the table and winless this season. Mark Hughes’ side suffered another loss this weekend which adds more pressure on Hughes to pick up points. Many predicted this team would take the next step and finish mid table this season based on their summer signings, but they’ve looked far from that. Hughes doesn’t have much time so he needs to get a result FAST! Let the Harry Redknapp rumours begin!
  • Everton leave it for late and pick up a vital point at the DW stadium courtesy of a Leighton Baines spot kick. The Toffee’s started the game flat and went into the half down a goal as they were overrun in the midfield. Moyes rallied his troops and they came out with a better performance in the second half. Baines and Pienaar continue to cause havoc down that left hand side and are easily the most dangerous flank in the league thus far. “Leighton Baines was at the heart of everything, I thought he was extraordinary,” said Moyes after the match. Moyes’ men came from behind twice away from home and showed their fighting spirit. They’ve lost once this season and if they can stay healthy, they have a squad capable of finishing in the top six.

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  • Remember when Swansea was scoring goals for fun? Yeah, me neither. Swansea failed to score in their last three games and nearly lost at home to Reading this weekend despite finishing the match with 71% possession. Laudrup’s men completed triple the amount of shots and passes on the weekend but had to settle for a point courtesy of late goals from Michu and Wayne Routledge. Swansea will always concede goals because of their style of play and quality of players, but if the continue to struggle creating goals they may be headed down the same route as Norwich.

Weekend Stats

  • Chelsea are the only team not to concede a second half goal in the 2012/2013 Premier League season
  • Frank Lampard scored his 189th goal for Chelsea and 129th Premier league goal at the age of 34
  • It was the first time Arsenal came from behind to beat West Ham at Upton Park
  • Arsene Wenger picked up his 350th Premier League win. Only Sir Alex Ferguson has more with 505
  • Fulham have not won a league match at Southampton in 77 years
  • Mark Schwarzer becomes the 12th player over the age of 40 to play in the Premier League
  • Southampton has now dropped 11 points from winning positions in the Premier League this season
  • The last time Brad Friedel did not start a Premier League match was in May 2004. A streak that saw him play 310 consecutive matches in a row ended this weekend
  • Southampton’s Adam Lallana leads the league in assists with four. He’s currently tied with Chelsea’s Juan Mata & Eden Hazard

Top 5 Players of the weekend

1.   Wayne Rooney

2.   Mikel Arteta

3.   Juan Mata

4.   Santi Cazorla

5.   James Milner

Goal of the week

I just wanted to clarify that this was not intentional, due to the fact that many United fans are claiming it was. Cleverley was attempting to cross the ball to the unmarked Van Persie. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic goal that just beat out Diame and Cazorla’s goal.

 

That was this weekends EPL recap. I hope you all enjoyed reading it as much I enjoyed writing it. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Stay posted to the blog for multiple stories throughout the weeks and my tactical analysis of Humber x Fanshawe tomorrow.

Cheers!

Follow me @TEEWHYox

Tyrrell Meertins.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2012 in EPL Notebook

 

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