Finding angles & points of interest since March 2014
Narrative, narrative, narrative.
Plenty of narrative around this last week and whilst it'd be easy to concentrate on Liverpool's sturdy march towards triumphant glory & Suarez and King Gerrard and Mourinho meltdowns and such & such i'll endeavour to pick the bones out of some of the more interesting nuggets around the games played.
Until Chelsea crumbled under the weight of Sunderland, I had intended on including a picture i'd made too but Mourinho is no longer the decisive figure in this championship battle, so it's been canned. Everyone has laid down and rolled out a Liverpool Red carpet. Very strange. The decisive title now belongs to former 'Most Smug Manager' award winner 2011/12 & 2012/13, Tony Pulis who actually seems alright now, in a perverse kinda way.
Anyway on with the (no) show!
1. Villa v Southampton.
Aston Villa Southampton: La correzione era?- HEADLINE Corriere dello Sport
Over in Italy a huge scandal erupted concerning a match between team of the heartlands Aston Villa and provincial, coastal outfit Southampton. In a match that meant little to either club, although Villa could not be said to be entirely secure, neither team tried at all & played out a meaningless 0-0 draw. Anschluss? Maybe.
Well, of course NONE OF THESE ACCUSATIONS ARE TRUE and it is written as parody but hell, this has to be a contender for worst game of the season. Villa 'won' the shot count 6-3. I can barely remember a Premiership game with so few shots! Southampton average about 14 a game & regularly play decent attacking football. Villa have been part of a good few poor matches this year & it can't be too surprising to see them in another, but I think the real issue we see here is a thread that runs through a few stories this week. Jay Rodriguez is Southampton's primary offensive contributor this year and since his injury they haven't scored. But he's only one player? Yup, and they've not got a player to replace him as good as him. The balance of their attack has gone out of kilter and so you get shit like this.
Shame on these two clubs (for being dull not any kind of corruption, I was joking)
2. When your best attackers are absent; you, whoever you are, may struggle.
Man City 2-2 Sunderland. Unfathomable!
Best player this season? Silva: ABSENT
Goal threat from midfield? Toure: ABSENT
Best striker full stop? Aguero: played but SUBBED OFF early & recovering from injury
(City also wobbled earlier in the year when missing Fernandinho who whilst not an attacker is a key cog in that midfield.)
Chelsea 1-2 Sunderland. Ridiculous!
Most valuable player? Hazard: ABSENT
Goal threat from midfield? Schurrle & Lampard: LATE SUB & BENCHWARMER
More on this game later, but hey, this is a Mou-streak that's gone down & to a relegation threatened team.
Not easy to predict!
Sunderland now have a chance to save themselves mere days after I waved them off, but they've enjoyed a marvellous rub regarding their opponents fitness.
3. When your best attackers are available; you, whoever you are, may win convincingly.
(AKA Liverpool's whole season)
Yeah, Liverpool. All season. 8 players in 6 attacking positions. Perfect storm. Never again.
BUT I DIGRESS:
I wrote an article last week about Arsenal's injury malaise & ranked their midfield in order of effectiveness.
What was clear was that they had seriously missed Ramsey, were missing Ozil's offensive production & that there had been too much Rosicky and Flamini going on in recent months.
Midweek, Podolski refuted my mild criticisms by coming to life as did Cazorla as they dispatched West Ham routinely. Sunday saw an impressive and classically dominant Arsenal-of-old* win at Hull. (*late 2013-style)
Not dominant statistically, they're still under par there, but the gulf in class in the final third was tangible and lo and behold, 'Sun Star Man' Ramsey finished a lovely move for the first & created Podolski's first of two more with an unwitting layoff.
The converse of what has happened to City & Chelsea this last week; Arsenal got some of their best players on the pitch & won well.
4. Mirror Game
So: I am looking at the stats in games regularly & occasionally things come up that intrigue or appeal.
This is one:
edit: both matches also involved London clubs at home to North-East clubs
IT IS BASICALLY THE SAME MATCH. *Glitch in the Matrix*
So earlier I suggested Chelsea missed Hazard & others and that's why they lost.
Maybe? More likely is that they had a freaky statistical match, so freaky that it had formerly happened almost exactly the same way to Andre Villas Boas during his 'Berlin'-phase at Tottenham.
The hooks for me here are the Key Passes and Saves stats. They just don't happen on that scale very often at all, less so in tandem. In fact, Willian had an enormous game here given some license to create in the absence of Hazard. That is encouraging for his future as it seems to me his creative influence has been stifled somewhat by Mourinho's system. And also, pleasingly, given his desparing flails after Nasri's shot in midweek, Mannone, who I complimented last week, had a game of 'immense dimension'. I like Mannone & I felt his pain as he lay face down on the Etihad turf. Poignant.
So yeah, the inputs all went in but the outputs came out backwards.
Sunderland were fortunate, Chelsea were not.
That's all for this week, at least probably in the realm of Premiership Round Up. I'll have some more articles coming up soon in the 'Arsenal's Midfield' vein. I'm crunching a lot of numbers at the moment, mainly for midfielders & some insight pieces will be forthcoming as and when time/inspiration allows.