Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Premier League Round Up 18th March

Welcome to the cheapest, most basic, GIF-free, table-free, round up you'll ever see.
All opinions are just that, so... yeah...

1. Shooting wildly gets you nowhere

Across the weekend certain teams posted average to good shot numbers:

Chelsea: 15
Tottenham: 17
Man Utd: 13
Sunderland 19

What all these 4 teams had in common was two things:

1. None of them scored &
2. They posted a grand total of 7 shots on target between them.

That's 10.9% SOT between them, which is dismal.
Of their combined 64 shots, 27 were blocked & 30 were off target. 
Whether this reveals effective defensive strategies versus ineffective offense or just ineffective offense is a moot point but clearly the SOT correlation to goals was pretty stark here.  Ask Big Sam (25% SOT in a meek performance at Stoke); SOT means goals for.

2. Tottenham were better & Arsenal are able to change strategy

It added up to the same thing in the end & the shape of the game was clearly dictated by the early goal but it was revealing that Wenger's strategy in a NLD should be so staid.  With a not dissimilar side that he used in the 2-0 FA Cup win earlier in the season, Arsenal's entire strategy was reactive to the perceived weaknesses of Tottenham: let them have the ball, they'll not do much with it.  This is a rarity for Wenger and a surprise that he should change his normally consistent gameplan against a team he might usually have expected to dominate, for all that it was a derby.

Barely any 'pretty' football from Arsenal but job done and mixed emotions for Tottenham who probably felt they had done enough to gain at least a point.

3. Utd are genuinely woeful

That Liverpool were able to beat Man Utd was no surprise.  That they were able to do it so comprehensively without the need to play particularly well was.

With a seemingly strong first 11 on the pitch, there must've been real hope amongst the Utd fans prior to kick off but once again, none of their stars showed up and they played like strangers. The freakish run of penalties made it easy for Liverpool and without casting too many aspersions, it's hard not to feel that under Ferguson that wouldn't have been the case.  Ferguson's culture of fear vs Moyes culture of apathy? Even the refereees fear nothing now...

It's getting worse in Red Manchester and there are no signs of encouragement for the formerly vocal and brazen fan base to grasp on to.  None of their players are in good form, and Ferguson's decisions last year to rely on Van Persie over Rooney rather than play them side by side now looks like a decision made by a smart manager who realised they do not function well together.  Moyes will do well to survive the season now.

4. City can thank Silva

Long cited as the man who can make 'the difference', David Silva's key contributions that dug his team out of a potential pit can't be too highly commended.  A marvellous finish followed by the killer ball to Barn Door Dzeko gave their wavering title aspirations a shot in the arm.  When a top side can outclass a mid-table team with 10 men, it only goes to show the disparity between those with and without.  Hull have been largely mundane yet admirable this year but need to keep their eye on the ball.  A couple more wins should see them well safe but any player with his eye on the summer holidays should realise that it's not over yet.

5. Southampton at home are consistent.

Come rain or shine, if Southampton are at home they will do the same things:

1. Dominate possession
2. Dominate the shots

That this hasn't created a better home record is a bit of a mystery but against a poor Norwich side there was little doubt how it would pan out.  It's to Saints credit to that their focus is remaining high considering they have little to play for.

In contrast:

6. Swansea keep doing the same things & it's not improving

Come rain or shine, if Swansea are at home the will do the same things:

1. Dominate possession
2. Disappoint

With only home wins against league runts Cardiff and Fulham since the New Year, Swansea aren't winning the games they need to.  Against a moderate West Brom, they had every chance of winning a match against a direct rival.  That they led, threw it away and continue to flatter to deceive has become unsurprising & worrying.   They're not safe by any means.

7.  Mourinho is funny... most of the time

Classic Mourinho nonsense at Villa Park.  95% of the time his antics are all part of an amusing attention grab, whilst the other 5% he deflects poor behaviour from his own players & creates utter chaos.

This was the latter & distracted from the paucity of his own team's offensive quality; something that had been masked by the Tottenham Hotspur benevolent fund the week before.  It's quite possible that Chelsea are tired.  He hasn't rotated much in recent times and seems pretty set on 8/9 of his starters.  Still playing CL football may have an impact here and big tests will follow.

Villa, as is their wont remain enigmatic, but Benteke is looking encouragingly effective and he finally looks to be on the road back to last year's 'beast-mode'.


So in the course of one weekend, suddenly (!) 4 teams could win the league; although almost certainly only one will. ;) My bet is Tottenham at 33/1 but that was placed in August out of loyalty and delusion; ironically the same delusion that leads legions of Liverpool fans to wade in at 25/1 and up at around the same time.  That they have a chance of collecting is an amazing testament to Brendan Rodgers skills and the lack of a dominant points collecting outfit in the league this year. Meanwhile the battle for the coveted Europa League spot rages on...

The run for least bad team will remain interesting too: Sunderland, Palace, Norwich, Swansea, West Brom & Hull are all dangling on the precipice. It's too late to rely on pure stats; the run in is about guts and belief alone and the team with the least will fail.  Sunderland can at least hope, with games in hand, whilst all can be glad that Fulham and Cardiff have retained such a lack of quality for so very long.

That is all, for now...

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