An astonishing weekend of EPL football, full of chaos, controversy and a couple of freak score lines. Some interesting stats and quite interesting to see how some of the teams developing.
So onto my EPL review; the last game of the weekend was quite clearly the strangest game. In the last 30 minutes it bordered on ridiculous, reflected in the scoreline. Manchester United didn’t have to be at their best and weren’t but they were far better than Arsene Wenger’s side.
One of the more interesting aspects of United’s play was their use of Cleverley in midfield. His pass completion rate was a high 91%, completing 61 out of 67 passes. Arsenal’s pressing was sloppy but even so it’s quite impressive. The more interesting aspect though comes when you compare the amount of passes to Anderson’s total. His midfield partner had an also impressive 87% pass completion rate but only attempted 45 passes, 22 less than Cleverley. It will be interesting to see if this pattern progresses throughout the season but on Sunday, Cleverley passing role was key to United’s play even if Arsenal were poor.
One of the many alarming facts for Arsenal from Sunday’s game was a reminder about just how far Andrei Arshavin’s form has fallen. The Russian was lucky not to get sent off after a couple of dodgy fouls and playing on the left hand side, completed just 71% of his passes with 13 out of his attempted 45 passes not reaching an Arsenal player. Compare this to Ashley Young who was playing a similar position for United who completed 48 of an attempted 55 passes at a impressive 87%. The winger also made 3 assists and made another 2 chances for his team, added to his two fantastic finishes and he is already looking like a very good signing.
The other high scoring game on Sunday was Manchester City’s thrashing of Tottenham at White Hart Lane. Tottenham’s line up in midfield was a particularly strange one, fitting playmakers Modric and Kranjcar into central midfield with no defensive minded midfielder, odd considering City’s impressive play between the lines in their opening two games. With the addition of Samir Nasri on his debut, Spurs were always going to struggle in this area.
The Frenchman impressed on his debut, getting 3 assists however the real star of the show was Edin Dzeko with 4 goals to add to his tally this season. What was most impressive about his performances was his movement. His runs were sharp and intelligent and even his pass rate, usually in the 60s and 70s percentage wise for strikers, was at 80%, completing 39 out of his 49 attempted passes. Because of his build, people can get the wrong impression that he’s quite a direct player yet he lost all 10 of his aerial duels. His movement and skill though makes up for that and with Aguero, Silva and Nasri playing just behind him with Toure and Barry holding, Mancini has got a very good and balanced side with a very attractive movement-based passing game.
Saturday’s action was for the most part nowhere near the excitement of what was to occur on Sunday but there was one game which went right down to the wire. Blackburn, having created plenty of chances to get their first win of the season against Everton and having missed two penalties, could only watch as Everton controversially won a penalty in the 90th minute and Mikel Arteta converted it from the spot.
The merseysiders have had a difficult summer, with no signings, and the mood around Everton has been one of feeling very down. One bright spark early on has been the performances of the 17 year old, Ross Barkley. With no new players the best chance they’ve got of seeing new talent is through their young players. Barkley’s performance was very impressive at Ewood Park. He created 3 chances for his team, had 3 successful dribbles and made 2 out of 2 crosses. Some good potential there and it will be interesting to see how he works out.
Meanwhile their rivals on Merseyside, Liverpool have had no shortage of new players, with two of them getting their first goals for the club in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Bolton. Henderson has played very well so far but it’s the other midfielder who scored on Saturday who gets the focus this week. Charlie Adam is one of the more fascinating signings of the summer for Liverpool and after starting all three League games so far, it’s clear that he has a very important part to play. His passing game is his main strength, and with two assists so far in the league, he’s got off to a good start. His passing range is very large and on Saturday this was no different:
Even with Andy Carroll not starting on Saturday, Adam was still spraying the ball about with great freedom and the key for Liverpool is enabling him to do this without it becoming a liability in possession. With 31 of his 39 passes completed at a 79% success rate, the focus on play for them is about creating rather than keeping in possession. Lucas’s pass completion rate was a touch higher at 80% and Henderson’s was only 71% so Liverpool have to be incisive with the ball otherwise they may find it tough in parts. So far though it’s worked and 7 points from 3 games is a good start.