I'm leaning towards believing that Brendan is making up tactics as he goes along but if they create as much going forward as they did in this match then against the lesser lights they'll soon be well on track. Like a repressed torrent, their shots floweth freely & inflicting such emphatic numerical dominance against Arsenal has been impossible all year, so kudos for that. Invoking the spirit of last year with his weird 3-4-3 system, we had plenty of good, just no result. And that's where it's confusing for the Arsenal faithful: this is probably the first time this year that they have a legitimate reason to complain about their performance rather than the result; a solitary point looks underwhelming but when you deserve less, it's all right. But where the basic numbers of this result are interesting is that in securing a 2-2 draw despite getting creamed on the shot count (7-27), Arsenal now have clear rivals for the 'Highest Opposition Conversion Rate' award as they've sunk quickly to 13% whilst Liverpool are only a clip under the same total.
Areas of concern on both sides & whilst Liverpool's woes don't need to be restated here, most obviously for Arsenal we have another big game in which Wenger was out-thought on the gameplan. It happened all last season for them & whilst performances have been fundamentally stronger this year, they're still 0-4-2 against last year's top 7 rivals.
The neglected 4
No, not a new subset of teams, but on reviewing these articles with the intention of preventing a degree of repetition (yes, I know I just wrote about Liverpool, again) I have established that i've not written anything this season beyond the odd brief note about Everton, Stoke, Sunderland or Swansea. So, in a short series of well, probably 4, i'll endeavour to remedy this. Since they managed a good result this week, we'll start with Sunderland.
The first thing to note about Sunderland's season is that all of their cumulative numbers are wildly distorted by the 0-8 game against Southampton. Thanks to this result, it appears that they are getting what they deserve; they have a near level PDO, they are struggling for goals but are hard to beat & whilst wins have been rare, they're meandering along just about keeping afloat.
Pull out the 0-8 and the story changes a little, because suddenly they have a high PDO & seem fortunate; something borne out by some of their rankings:
They are teetering rather than meandering. One figure that concerns me most here is the opposition pass %. Only Villa & Palace rank lower here & their lack of restrictive play is clearly tactical & is slightly more effective in restricting shots, moreso with Palace admittedly. Sunderland rank 18th for opposition shots on target and recently their shot ratios have been moving in one direction:
They are not restricting the way the opposition moves the ball & they are not restricting how often they shoot accurately at them. This is a poor blend! Under 43% shot TSR is a 50/50 shot for relegation & their shot on target ratio is in a similar realm. The presence of Villa, Burnley & Hull with similar historically terrible totals offers hope but essentially they need to improve to find safety. Hull & Villa are big fixtures in the next week before a trip to Man City on New Year's Day. Rumours of discontent surfaced this week (source: parts unknown) & Gus might need more of his 2013-14 survival miracles yet.
But they beat Newcastle, so today, in the parlance of miserable journalism, it's 'all smiles'.
In any given season, it appears we have a minimum of two but potentially 5 'busy periods' of league matches. Once at the end of November/start of December, the whole Christmas extravaganza & then maybe more, depending on fixture pile-ups as the season draws to a close.
For the purpose of this partial study, I have deemed a busy period to be either:
- 3 games in under 10 days or
- 4 games in under 13 days
With a busy period upon us, I have the figures for only five clubs but will publish & be damned:
What we can see here in the top right hand corner of the chart is that Man City, Man Utd and Liverpool haven't gained points at a lesser rate during such periods in comparison to the rest of their fixtures. In contrast, Chelsea & Arsenal have noticed a slight drop off. Are they less well prepared generally? Or are they less focused on the league? We know that Chelsea have a clear bi-focus with the Champions League each year, could this be reflected here?
It's tough to be dogmatic, as the differences are slight and these figures take place over different managerial reigns for all of the clubs bar Arsenal. However, some truths are visible:
- Alex Ferguson, long a proponent of league focus, had an incredible record in the 4 seasons here: 26-5-5 at 2.31 PPG.
- Man City have not lost the final game (3rd or 4th) of a busy period since losing to Arsenal in April '07, 16 months prior to being taken over by Sheikh Mansour.
- Chelsea have a very poor final game record of 7-3-7, their sole defeat this season being the 3rd game in a fast turnaround series.
- In 2013-14, Man City won the title despite playing 16 of their games (42%!) in such circumstances, in the period studied Chelsea are the team closest with 13 in 3 different seasons, including their title win of '09/10.
- Game 1: 1.96 PPG
- Game 2: 2.03 PPG
- Game 3: 1.84 PPG
- Last game (3rd or 4th): 1.74 PPG
Obligatory Tottenham bit
Three wins in a week, and once more all is rosy in the garden. As a general point, we've seen repeated excellence from Kane (21), Eriksen (22) is becoming more influential by the week, Lamela (22) showed again why everyone should like him & not pine for Aaron Lennon(!?), Bentaleb (20) and Davies (21) have recently cemented starting spots & with Adebayor AWOL the only player over the age of 27 is Soldado (29).
There is potential here!
Thanks for reading
Christmas is quite obviously a complete mess for many reasons, so I will try and get out articles and columns on an as and when basis until it settles down after the New Year. I am still , and seemingly always will be, working on a manager appraisal & have 101 other ideas to go with too. If you like what you read, please share freely on Twitter or in your forums or wherever. Thanks again & roll on Boxing Day! ;)