A weekly article on EPLIndex.com examining some of the statistical talking points from the Premier League fixture week. This week Karsten looks at Arsenal’s high line, Carrick’s passing, the promise of Schneiderlin and Vaz Te’s craft.
Arsenal Pay High Price for a High Line
Examining the location of Tottenham and Arsenal’s interceptions from Sunday’s game at White Hart Lane excellently illustrates the drastically different defensive approaches taken by the two sides. While Tottenham were content to sit back and absorb Arsenal’s attack, making 14 of their 17 interceptions in their own half, Arsenal pressed high making 10 of their 19 interceptions in the opposing half.
While the pressing allowed Arsenal to control the match in terms of possession (that held 60.5%), it left them vulnerable to Tottenham’s speedy attackers. Both Lennon and Bale’s goals were from effectively identical passes splitting a high Arsenal backline. Spurs’ pattern of passing shows a clear tactical decision to concede possession, absorb pressure, and make space to rapidly release players in behind on the counter. This pragmatic approach shows tactical maturity from Andre Villas-Boas, whose own Chelsea side were frequently exploited for maintaining a disorderly high defensive line last season before his departure.
Carrick and Kagawa Clinical
It took only three shots for Shinji Kagawa to become the first Asian player to bag a hat trick in the Premier league. While his first could be described as fortunate, the second was an icy, clever finish. His third was the result of a run from deep on the end of an attack he initiated himself.
Michael Carrick showed a similar ability to play coolly and with precision as a deliberate, metronomic presence in the centre of midfield. United completed 588 passes in the match, nearly 40% were either received or distributed by Carrick.
Kagawa’s passing was by no means lacking either as examined in the EPL Index match report.
Schneiderlin Makes Case to Stay Up, With or Without Southampton
While Southampton failed to take their chances against QPR at St. Mary’s, they statistically dominated the match. Morgan Schneiderlin was imperious in the midfield and a large contributor to their dominance. Over the 90 minutes, Schneiderlin managed to win possession through 10 successful ground duels and 12 interceptions. Most impressively, the Saints man made eight eight successful tackles – more than any other player even attempted this fixture week. Offensively, Schneiderlin managed to craft two chances for the Saints.
While Southampton could find themselves in trouble if they continue to lose to other potential relegation sides, based on this form Schneiderlin may stay up regardless.
West Ham and Stoke Live Down to Expectations
West Ham and Stoke are both known as ‘Route One’ specialists with little interest in anything other than grinding out results through physical force. Indeed, neither team averages even 70 minutes of live play in their fixtures. This weekend was no exception. With 92 clearances, the teams managed to clear nearly as often as they attempted to pass in their own half, and together only attempted a total of 336 passes. Passes in the final third consisted almost exclusively of direct balls down the line and crosses into the box.
Ricardo Vaz Te, who replaced Joe Cole after an early first half injury, was a lone exception. Vaz Te showed flashes of craft and creativity between lines in the final third to create the opportunity for West Ham’s goal as well as to find chances for both Jarvis and himself in the second half.