Monday, 7 April 2014

Premier League Round Up: 7th April PT1

Welcome to a Premier League Round-up blog!

All opinions are just that, so... yeah...

New for April: *Now includes one chart*

1. Everton schooled Arsenal

In years gone by, we've become well accustomed to Arsenal receiving a lesser team at Highbury or the Emirates and as the old cliche goes, 'teaching them a footballing lesson.' They're still well capable on their day but have met with a series of defining defeats this year of which this one against Everton could be most significant.

The qualities Liverpool or City or Chelsea can bring are obvious; after all they each have very expensively assembled squads & match winners aplenty, less so Everton, a veritable rag bag of veteran players, enthusiastic loanees, prodigal youngsters & Moyesian journeymen.

Fuelled by the enthusiastic dust Roberto Positive sprinkles on their pre-match Corn Flakes, they put in an outstanding performance full of spacial awareness, speed and intelligence. So much so that they now hold the charge for 4th place in their own hands. Their opponents looked largely the opposite; devoid of speed & ideas & unable to break down a well drilled team.

So, the paper schedules clearly favour Arsenal, indeed their next three games are against holidaying teams (West Ham, Hull & Newcastle) followed by West Brom & Norwich, whilst Everton's tests involved welcoming Palace, Utd & City & travelling to tricky Southampton, but one can't help but remember Martinez's Wigan team of 2011/12 who won 7 of 9 to finish safe, including wins against Utd, Arsenal & Liverpool.

Last week I warned Everton were riding the shot count & had a tough run but this performance was very good & sometimes a manager has skills that are hard to define clearly, Ferguson being the benchmark. Martinez has history here & they are peaking when they need to; Arsenal worryingly are not.

2. Pulisball


Palace are long safe now, Pulis has led them along his effective road to safety despite not scoring any goals (23 at last count) and can be rightly lauded for picking up a 1-1-9 team and running 9-3-9 since.
Nowheresville to Midocrity; nice one, Tony.
Since the goals were absent almost thoughout, the truth had to be there in the defensive numbers, yep, those incomplete numbers that aren't nearly as easy to interpret as their offensive counterparts.

Squawka states Palace have the most defensive actions in the league. Ok, that's fine but what if we split the league into readily digestible segments of say, 7 games, arbitrarily chosen as the length of Holloway's reign and work with some stats & dig about? Baby steps in the stats world here! Can we find anything else?

Here's a chart with Tackles & Interceptions in it:
(Using tap conventions, RED is HOT & BLUE is COLD ;) 

Some fun lies in the interception rate!
Under Holloway they were poor and in deficit .
Under Pulis they have tackled as much, allowed the same amount of tackles & interceptions BUT increased their interception dominance over the opposition from an average +3.5 per match to +8.5...
(If you actually reduce it the the last 4 games, they're running at an absurd +14! )

Palace isn't an easy game, they work very hard & they're becoming tougher. 
Unsung hero of the midfield Mile Jedinak, would be a cracking signing for a team aspiring to the top half.  Indeed, I'd not be averse to thinking that's where they could end up themselves next season, Pulis' win rate suggests as much. Whatever his message is, it's got through.

3. What the Stoke is going on?

Stoke are weird.  Just as you feel that Hughes might be getting the hang of things there, after a fine run of one defeat in nine, they arrive at Chelsea, indeed a potentially vulnerable Chelsea, and rather than play football choose to take the afternoon off.  It's happened a few times this season too.

When they went to Tottenham in late December, they were by far the poorest team to visit White Hart Lane this season; indeed they created 2 shots all game & the oft-maligned Paulinho was so effective that day that the Spurs fans figured he'd finally arrived. Charlie Adam soon halted that theory.

Similarly a visit to Everton in November yielded 4 shots and a beating, and now this visit to Chelsea yielded the same. Ten shots is a poor average for one game, for three non-randomly chosen events? Terrible.

Sure the expectation in these games will have been low, but to perform so utterly badly, is beyond even that.  It does lead to questioning how gifted Hughes' motivational skills are.  He can fire the team up to perform more than adequately at home, wins over Utd, Arsenal & Chelsea testify as so, but these terrible away performances will harm the soul of even the most loyal travelling fan.

4. Man Utd flattered, again.

A marvellous 4-0 demolition for Man Utd against Newcastle followed their heroic 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich and the steamrollering of Aston Villa.

As I said last week, MAN UTD ARE BACK! (RED= HOT, remember)

They're really not though.

They've created 10 shots on target in those last 2 league games & scored 8 goals.  This is not sustainable in any way.  It took until Juan Mata's free-kick for them to register a shot against holiday-team-de-jour Newcastle & they finished with 8 shots total after 2 in the first half. Two shots in a half. Against Newcastle. This is not good.

Any way you twist the stats over these recent games, Utd come out with a good score in one metric, goals, and very sub par in every other attacking stat available.  

Even worse, these flattering wins could even create the worst case scenario: THE EUROPA LEAGUE 2014/15, only Tottenham & their own failings stand between Utd and the Fate They Never Wanted.

Heck, let's be positive for a change!

Mata is now chipping in. 

That's it.


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