With Hull v West Ham to come, the shot totals are again on the healthy side this week; the season average is still below that of last year but we're edging upwards with Chelsea routinely doing the shot work of two teams and Leicester allowing their opposition the same courtesy, as we shall see. They won a match despite having only one shot on target. So did Villa, who are currently riding high whilst representing the inverse of all common sense. Sunderland scored 2 goals despite only having one shot on target! A Spursian scenario if ever we saw one, as was well noted.
The early sparring is now behind us, the squads are set, Europe is a-coming & the first meat course of the season shall be served next.
4 games is nothing
Mid-September is early to be definitive but it does appear that Chelsea have won the title.
Yeah, i'm not going for that either, but a few people are. Chelsea have faced moderate opposition and the combined forces of 'Assists' Fabregas & Diegoals are shredding all and sundry with an able supporting cast taking turns to do their bit. Hazard was good this week, which is no surprise, but the Champions League is upon us and the luxury of once a week matches against small teams will soon be a thing of the past. Still, the solid defensive biscuit base Mourinho cooked up last year now has a delicious swirly attacking topping & it's hard not to nod approvingly at the way they're going about their football.
A heroic effort from Leicester to go away to Stoke and grab all 3 points.
You know that thing where you think everything is fine but it really isn't fine? That's Leicester right now. The results and the points look fine, and against decent teams too and when you've got a shot ratio of 1:3 against Chelsea and Arsenal that's okay. But when you carry that ratio over when playing Stoke? That's a big red flag. They can't even claim they're 'doing a Villa' by scoring early then defending. They had one shot on target and won the game. It all feels a bit 'Cardiff' to me. Seemingly doing reasonably well; terrible, horrible underlying numbers.
Maybe I should credit Stoke a bit? I could too: they've started as an above average shots team and seem to be one of the better 'middle rangers'. The Man City match aside, they're having the better of their games and giving up very few chances. This is where they and Villa resemble each other; organised defence, in the wake of last season's Pulisball miracles may well be the plan de l'année for the non-giants.
'We're not like Tottenham.' said Brendan Rodgers in not-so-many words as Liverpool bought a tower block to house all their new signings. 'We're buying a squad.' he said, quite correctly, 'to compete in multiple competitions.' And people rightly agreed. So, prior to what should be a routine Champions League tie at home to Ludogorets and missing his star striker, he decided to change things about a bit.
He dropped Sterling.
Yeah, he dropped Sterling, which was kind of odd. I'm presuming he's decided that Coutinho & Sterling ideally occupy similar centrally attacking roles, so it's either/or, but still, Sterling's form surely deserved the start. It's 4 games in, rests are not yet required. Lallana started after a good while out & returning to fitness was predictably achieved ahead of returning to form; that will come later. Markovic got the start & Balotelli slotted in for Sturridge. Specifically he put out a team that included only 4 outfielders that were at the club last year. And this merry blend of virtual strangers lacked cutting edge & created little against a league-savvy, weirdly efficient & functional Villa side.
Too much in one fell swoop, Brendan, is the obvious and clear message to learn from this. Any team shorn of Suarez, Sturridge & Sterling is a vastly lesser outfit and trying to blend multiple new players into a first team is exactly the thing he accused Tottenham of trying and failing to do. I guess his frustration at Sturridge's injury is now understandable, he ended up picking a side he didn't want to & got the result he didn't want.
Obligatory Tottenham bit
Tottenham went to Sunderland and thoroughly dominated the game from start to finish.
Encouraging signs for Tottenham: loads of possession and control, the system becoming ever more apparent, fluidity in their play, a good performance from the returning Dembele & a neat little 'loads of tackles in 20 minutes' cameo from Stambouli. On the flipside, 2 goals conceded despite there being only 1 shot on target and the loss of 2 precious road points. Chiriches returned from oblivion too, to show his usual blend of passing efficiency & harum scarum dribbling leaving more mysteries as to the identities of our first choice back 4. Dier looked more a centre back than a right back this week, Fazio looked on and Vertonghen was an injury withdrawl. Kaboul, so easily relegated to last in the queue by most fans at the start of the season, continues to start.
Eriksen was good though and that he Lamela, Adebayor and Chadli appear to have cemented the front 4 spots is encouraging too. We never saw Eriksen and Lamela together last year & with both possessing such immense promise it's an enticing prospect that they seem now to be first choice picks. Not something that can be said for the AWOL Paulinho, who may be out of favour and with no injury reported did not even reach the bench here. It's a long season, but I already fear for his prospects.
- 'Mile the Wall' gave away a penalty & only hit 7 T&Is. Get it together, mate!
- Koscielny with the big 14T&Is
- Wilshire 10 dribbles, a goal and an assist. Better from him.
- David Silva 6KPs, of course
- Eriksen had 104 touches in attacking midfield which is very high
- Rodwell 8 Tackles
- Victor Moses attempted 22 crosses, hit 7 of them and had 100% pass completion
- Costa, Fabregas, Hazard: just loads of everything
- Democracy at Utd with goals & assists & KPs shared around liberally.
- 5 Liverpool Players and 5 Man Utd players had over 100 touches, resulting in very different results and proving the old Bananarama adage right: 'It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it.'
- Aaron Lennon came on in the 86th minute & there were 6 minutes of injury time. He didn't register anything at all statistically in 10 minutes, not even a touch.
Thanks for reading!
Did you catch my Raheem Sterling career breakdown and comparison to other young stars?
It's worth a read!
Otherwise, feel free to check back next week for another column and indeed every week throughout the season. More stats articles will follow too, as and when I get an idea about something.