Here are some thoughts from the weekend’s action based on the chalkboards; note that I haven’t seen all of these games and chalkboards can be misleading, so enjoy and feel free to comment to me on Twitter.
Arsenal v Fulham
Firstly, an apology of sorts. If you follow me on Twitter you will know that I was quite critical of Wenger’s decision to bring Ramsey off and leave Arteta on, based on my opinion that Ramsey looked dangerous whenever he had the ball while Arteta had been quiet and uncreative. Well, here are their chalkboards:
I still stand by my opinion; Arteta posted better stats than I was expecting, but Ramsey was more of a threat, as evidenced by him generally playing further up the pitch and becoming involved in the penalty area by getting on the end of things and taking shots. If anything it’s a cautionary tale of believing chalkboards unequivocally; they do not always tell the full story.
Bolton Wanderers v Everton
It feels wrong to pick out elements of a team’s play when they faced most of the match with 10 men, but this tends to be Bolton’s approach to most games so I feel it is worthy of note. Look how many times Bolton play long from Jaaskelainen, and how few times those kicks are successful. Also note that these are not just goal kicks; these are passes back to the keeper from open play which are launched upfield.
The colours indicate what a low probability approach this is: possession is lost more often than not. Even when a Bolton player “wins” the ball from the clearance, as Davies’ chalkboard shows it rarely results in Bolton actually seizing possession of the ball up the field – you can win the header but not find a teammate. This latter point is perhaps exaggerated by the red card, but is valid even when long ball teams are 11 v 11. Wasn’t Coyle brought in to get Bolton playing nice football?
Chelsea v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Henry has a reputation for being a destroyer, and I thought I’d include this chalkboard to show how much more there is to his game – he was the leading passer on the field from both sides. In actual fact he could have done with being more of a destroyer; Mata had the freedom to roam and produced two assists and a goal. Against stronger opposition Mata has struggled to make an impact, but given time on the ball against lesser opposition he shows what he can do.
Manchester United v Newcastle United
Manchester United felt aggrieved at only getting a draw out of this game, but blaming the referee only distracts from their profligacy in front of goal. They were frequently wayward, and indeed their goal was due to a fortunate ricochet from a clearance rather than good forward play. Meanwhile Newcastle were exceptional at throwing themselves in front of anything they could, protecting Krul impressively.
Norwich City v Queens Park Rangers
Faurlin was the stand out player; leading the field in passing, tackles and interceptions. Neil Warnock has QPR playing some good football and Faurlin is integral to that. Norwich on the other hand combated this attempt to play with regular and persistent fouling, particularly high up the field, which should surely have led to more than a single yellow card?
Sunderland v Wigan Athletic
Good signs for Wigan; an away win and some good performances, with Jones in particular standing out. He must get frustrated at Moses in front of him constantly trying to take players on (the hexagons on the chart) and more often than not losing out (purple). Perhaps retaining possession is more critical when you’re at the bottom of the table?
Tottenham Hotspur v West Bromwich Albion
Adebayor was the focal point on the day and racked up impressive shooting stats, but from the highlights it looked like most of these shots were relatively tame; even his two goals were nearly saved by Foster. Bale also racked up a fantastic number of chances created, with three from corners indicating a softness in West Brom at defending set pieces.
Stoke City v Blackburn Rovers
Stoke racked up an astonishing 60 clearances this weekend, way more than any other team. It is clear that Pulis instructs his team to simply clear the ball whenever it comes into their half, at the expense of maintaining possession. Shawcross was the clear leader here, amassing a huge 21 clearances all by himself; it’s almost as if he’s programmed to put his foot through the ball whenever it comes anywhere near him.
Liverpool v Manchester City
Liverpool pressed and harried Chelsea last week, Silva is the main creative force at City, and Rodwell had shown how to keep him quiet. So it was odd to see that Liverpool’s midfield didn’t attempt to shut Silva down in particular, and he was often able to get on the ball. Manchester City’s lack of threat going forward was more related to a combination of sloppiness and the inability of Nasri, Aguero and Milner to find space or make runs that Silva could pick out.
Swansea City v Aston Villa
Swansea play good football, they keep possession well and are very easy on the eye. The problem they have is converting this possession into attempts at goal (as you can see more directly in this site’s efficiency analysis). This chalkboard indicates the problem well; they are fantastic until they reach the final third, but they don’t have someone with the creativity to get in behind a solid defence and generate chances. It’s like a wall they are unable to pass.