FM

Dec 312012
 

Tottenham’s start to the season has been solid without ever truly being convincing. They’ve accumulated a decent total but no more than that, while performances have only rarely dazzled. So far Spurs have been like a late Oasis album – decent, with the odd good tune but overall lacking something, and overall not as good as before. Spurs’ seasons under Harry Redknapp were the equivalent of Definitely Maybe and What’s The Story (Morning Glory) to continue the analogy.

Spurs have had several problems this season under Andre Villas-Boas. The main problem has been how poor the team have been in possession. Especially when Mousa Dembele is absent, simple passes go astray and the players resort to static, sideways passing in front of the opposition. While keeping possession is to be applauded, too much sideways passing that just peters out into nothingness is like being in a fight and throwing vicious punches to no one in particular 100 yards away from your opponent. Sideways passing that goes straight to the opposition is a case of vomiting down your front minutes before a date with a girl you fancy.

The plan in at the start of the season was for Dembele and Joao Moutinho to both be signed. This would have meant Sandro and Moutinho being paired together in central midfield with Dembele playing behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1. Moutinho would have been the man to knit the team’s play together, Sandro would have been the man to win the ball back while Dembele’s pace, power and dribbling ability would have seen him play more offensively.

As it was Moutinho never arrived. Daniel Levy met in the Porto chairman a negotiator just as ferocious as him and the deal never came to fruition. This meant Dembele had to drop deeper to fill the spot alongside Sandro, and while he’s been excellent in that role it’s left a gap in the position behind the striker, which only recently Villas-Boas has filled by playing two strikers and jettisoning the attacking midfielder role.

One, if not two midfield players need to be signed in January. If Spurs lack anything in their current guise, it’s creativity. The team is filled with pace and power but sometimes in amongst a team of gym honed bodies you need a skinnymalinx who with a magical pass or sublime piece of skill can slice through a team.

So far, Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson have been playing behind the striker when Villas-Boas has played a 4-2-3-1 formation. Neither has done particularly well there, though Dempsey has improved in that role lately. Sigurdsson has struggled badly, at first playing as if he’d had his head shoved down the training ground toilets on his first day at the club and currently contributing decent cameos from the bench, but unable to get a starting role in the team.

Dempsey’s problem was that no one at first seemed to know what his role in the team was. He wasn’t a link up man, wasn’t making late runs into the box like he did at Fulham, wasn’t wandering around the pitch like Rafael Van der Vaart used to in seasons past.

But lately, while Emmanuel Adebayor was serving his suspension for getting sent off in the North London Derby, the American has improved. He was excellent in the home win against West Ham and the victory over old club Fulham at Craven Cottage and has also diligently replaced the injured Bale on the left of midfield in recent weeks. However, despite his improvement, Spurs still need another attacking midfielder, someone who can unlock defences, link midfield and attack better and provide good service to the strikers.

Until recently that someone had been reckoned to be Christian Eriksen. His obvious ability, combined with his age and the pulling factor of having ex Ajax captain Jan Vertonghen at Spurs and Spurs fans were perhaps rightly licking their lips at the prospect of signing one of the best young midfielders in Europe.

But then came news that couldn’t have been more surprising if it had been delivered by pigs flying in the sky. Wesley Sneijder, the man who carried Inter and Netherlands on his back to respectively Champions League glory and the World Cup final in 2010, has been purported to be very close to agreeing a deal to play for Tottenham.

Spurs until a couple of years ago didn’t sign players of this calibre. If a European Cup winner was signing for a North London club, they went to Arsenal. Players with almost 100 caps for Holland went to the big teams who regularly beat Spurs in the manner of a mildly irritated lollipop lady swatting away a fly.

But then Rafael Van der Vaart arrived. And now a player who’s achieved even more in the game than he achieved may be arriving to play at White Hart Lane. Villas-Boas and Sneijder’s agent have denied that a move will take place, though whether that’s a genuine denial or the pretend one you usually see in football remains to be seen.

Should he sign, a Spurs spine of Lloris-Vertonghen-Sandro-Dembele-Sneijder-Adebayor with Bale out wide is on paper at least a terrific team. The pace, power, dynamism of that line up mixed with the skill and football brain of Sneijder should be more than capable of leading Spurs to a top four finish.

In addition to an attacking midfielder, someone more at home playing just in front of the back four would also be welcome. While Sandro and Dembele have been excellent, when one or both of them aren’t available there’s a perhaps surprising lack of options. Tom Huddlestone simply lacks mobility, Jake Livermore has lacked form and fitness all season while Scott Parker is returning from a long-term injury and having spent the latter half of last season hobbling around like a car with a punctured tyre, there has to be doubts about his longevity.

If no attacking midfielder is signed, then a defensive midfield, to provide squad depth or perhaps partner Sandro and allow Dembele to play in the more forward position he was signed to play in is more of a necessity.

Away from the midfield, there are still some holes in the Spurs squad. With Danny Rose on a season long loan to Sunderland, Kyle Naughton is the only specialist full back available to cover both full back positions. Last season Spurs made a huge error in letting Vedran Corluka go out on loan in January, leaving no one to replace an exhausted Walker at right back in the latter part of the season.

The same mistake is being made this season. Highly rated youngster Adam Smith needs to be promoted to first team duties, Rose needs to be recalled from Sunderland (not desirable given the success so far of his stay in the North East) or someone needs to be signed as cover. Otherwise full back will become an area of weakness and lead to the central defence suffering through the superb Vertonghen having to play at left back rather than the centre of defence.

As well as full back, a top class striker would be very handy indeed. Spurs have had a battery of decent strikers since Dimitar Berbatov left in the likes of Robbie Keane, Crouch, Pavlyuchenko and Defoe but no great ones. Adebayor has at times threatened to be that great striker, but this season especially injury, suspension and the nagging feeling he doesn’t try as hard as he could means he’s too often mediocre rather than star quality. A forward who can finish like Defoe and hold the ball up like Adebayor would be a dream signing.

Tottenham need to invest in January. Not qualifying for the Champions League after the collapse of last season would be a big blow and possibly start a slow decline in the club’s fortunes until the much longed for new stadium arrives in a few seasons time. Making the top four is a necessity, and unless there is investment in January, Spurs may very well be beaten by Arsenal or even Everton to 4th spot.

 

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Dec 292012
 

Reading v West Ham             15:00

 

Reading remain bottom of the Premier League after the Christmas period has so far given them a 0-0 draw with Swansea and 1-0 loss to Man City.

 

Mikele Leigertwood has covered more ground than any other player for Reading this season, and has also attempted the third highest number of tackles in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index with 80 tackles attempted and 61.25% won

 

Adam le Fondre was unlucky to be denied by a sensational goal line clearance by Chico in the game against Swansea. The striker has five goals this season, from 30 efforts at goal with exactly half on target.

 

His rate of a goal every 195 minutes is comparable with Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez, who averages one every 192 minutes, suggesting that if le Fondre gets the chances then he could help fire Reading off the bottom of the Premier League table

 

West Ham’s inconsistent start to the season continues after a 2-1 loss to Everton in their last game, with a Carlton Cole goal early on wasn’t enough to prevent Everton bouncing back to win 2-1

 

Cole has been impressive in his role deputizing for injured West Ham strike duo of Andy Carroll and Mohammed Diame. Cole has scored twice for West Ham this season, though he has needed 20 efforts at goal to score them. However, a healthy on target ratio of 60% suggests that more goals will come for the striker if he keeps testing goalkeepers

 

Mark Noble has been one of West Ham’s most impressive performers this season. Of the top twenty players to have attempted the most tackles, Noble has the best percentage of tackles won. He has attempted 71 and won 64.8% of them.

 

Young defender Winston Reid has also been a stand out performer, and has contributed 80 interceptions, 20 clearances and 14 blocks this season

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Dec 292012
 

Fulham v Swansea   15:00

 

Fulham suffered a disappointing 4-0 defeat to Liverpool before Christmas before bouncing back with a 1-1 draw against Southampton. Dimitar Berbatov scored the opener in that game before displaying a t-shirt urging his team mates to “keep calm and pass me the ball”

 

Berbatov may be forgiven his self assurance, with his goal against Southampton his sixth of the season, having come from 39 shots at goal with 58.9% on target.

 

Berbatov has averaged 6.5 shots per goal this season, as conversion rate on a par with Newcastle’s Demba Ba who has 11 goals this season, suggesting that if the chances come Berbatov’s way he could become one of the league’s top goal scorer’s by the end of the season.

 

One thing that Fulham aren’t missing is the potential to score goals. As well as Berbatov they have in Mladen Petric one of the best minutes per goal strikers in the league. His rate of 121 minutes per goal is bettered only by Javier Hernandez who has averaged a goal every 94 minutes 20 seconds.

 

Brede Hangeland was one of the stand out defensive performers of last season. Hangeland’s season has been disrupted by injury, but he has looked impressive on his return winning 64.9% of the 37 tackles he has attempted

 

Premier League top scorer Michu scored an equaliser for Swansea against Manchester United to earn Swansea a point they will be pleased with, while a 0-0 draw with Reading will be less pleasing for Laudrup’s side

 

Michu now has 13 goals to his name this season, joint with Manchester United’s Robin van Persie. Michu has scored his goals more efficiently, however, needing 54 shots for his goals compared to van Persie’s 63

 

Wayne Routledge has been on impressive form this season, and has been terrorizing defences. Routledge has had 16 efforts at goal with 14 on target, an accuracy percentage of 87.5% on target, the best in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, exclusing players who have had fewer than ten shots

 

Swansea captain Ashley Williams hit the headlines for the wrong reasons over Christmas, but the defender is top of the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for most block made this season with 30. 8 of those were against Manchester United, the most by a single player in a match this season.

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Dec 292012
 

Aston Villa v Wigan 15:00

 

Aston Villa have a mountain to climb after losing their last two games 8-0 (against Chelsea) and 4-0 (against Spurs)

 

One shining light for Villa has been Christian Benteke, who has had 50 shots at goal, the tenth highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. Of the player’s in the top ten for shots, Benteke has the best accuracy rating with 74% of his shots on target.

 

However, conversely, he has the worst conversion rate needing ten shots for every goal. That suggests the goals may start flowing for Benteke soon, as with so many shots on target there are only so many times he can be prevented from scoring by fortunate goalkeepers

 

Matt Lowton has also looked like a promising prospect this season. No defender has won more tackles in the league this season. Lowton has won 44 tackles, an incredible 83% of those attempted

 

Wigan will be hoping for the first points of their Christmas fixtures against Villa. The Latics lost 1-0 to Arsenal and 2-1 to Everton, with Arouna Kone scoring a late consolation against the Toffees

 

Kone’s goal was his fifth of the season, coming from 45 efforts at goal with 57.78% on target. That gives Kone a conversion rate on a par with Manchester City hot shot Sergio Aguero, who has just one more goal from the same number of chances.

 

Ronnie Stam has delivered 37 crosses this season, the third highest among the defenders in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index and the most by any player without being credited an assist

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Dec 282012
 

Stoke v Southampton, Saturday 15:00

 

Stoke’s incredible unbeaten run at home continued with a 3-1 win over Liverpool on Boxing Day. Two goals from Jonathan Walters and a second in three games for Kenwyne Jones saw the Potters bounce back from conceding an early Steven Gerrard penalty

 

Jones looks like a striker with new confidence, but will need to sharpen up his accuracy in front of goal in order to add to his tally. He has hit just 50% f his 12 efforts this season on target

 

Jonathan Walters’ goals lifted him up to 32nd in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index overall to make him Stoke’s highest ranked player. He now has 5 goals to his name for the season, but like Jones will need to work on his accuracy as he has hit just 40.7% of his shots on target this season

 

Stoke are known for their players’ willingness to put their bodies on the line for the club. Ryan Shawcross has made the second highest number of blocks in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index with 22, while Glenn Whelan has made more than any other midfielder with 11

 

Steven Nzonzi joined Stoke from Blackburn at the end of last season, and he has impressed in midfield, completing more passes in the opposition half than any other Stoke player with 247. However, only he and Jonathan Walters from the Stoke side are in the top 100 overall in the league

 

A late Rickie Lambert penalty earned Southampton a valuable point against Fulham in their fight against relegation

 

Lambert’s goal was his 7th of the season, coming from 41 efforts at target. Like his opposition strikers today, though, he will need to work on his shooting accuracy if he is to improve that tally as his current on target percentage is just 46.3%

 

Nathaniel Clyne made the step up to the Premier League this season, joining Southampton from Crystal Palace. Of all the defenders in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index only Aston Villa’s Matthew Lowton has won more tackles than Clyne. Clyne has won 44 tackles, 77.2% of all those attempted

 

Jose Fonte has also impressed in defence for Southampton, and is ranked third in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for interceptions with 134

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Dec 282012
 

QPR v Liverpool, Sunday 16:00

 

QPR are struggling with life in the Premier League, after losing both their games over the Christmas period to date. Their most recent loss to West Brom saw Djibril Cisse score a consolation goal which was not enough to make up for an earlier Robert Green own goal.

 

Cisse’s goal was his third of the season, but more are surely on the way as Cisse has had 39 shots at goal with an impressive two thirds on target, suggesting that he will hit a run of better luck soon

 

Rob Green has shared goalkeeping duties with Julio Cesar this season, and has made 38 saves averaging a save every 21 minutes 48 seconds compared to Cesar’s 58 saves averaging one every 17 minutes 36 seconds

 

QPR’s struggles this season are indicated in that they have no players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index’s top 100. Ryan Nelson is their top ranked played in 119th. He’s made an incredible 93 interceptions, 22 clearances and 20 blocks to try and keep his team from conceding, and has also won 56.7% of the 30 tackles he has attempted.

 

Liverpool will be looking to bounce back from a 3-1 defeat against Stoke in their last game, where an early Steven Gerrard goal wasn’t enough to break the Potters’ unbeaten run. That result was in stark contrast to their previous 4-0 win over Fulham, where Gerrard, Skrtel, Suarez and Downing all scored.

 

Suarez has now had an incredible 97 efforts at goal this season, more than any other player, with 53.6% on target, and averaging 8.72 shots per goal.

 

Brenadan Rodgers has started new contract talks with Steven Gerrard and two goals in back to back games shows why. Gerrard has four goals this season from 46 efforts with 63% on target,

 

Gerrard has also won 67.6% of the 37 tackles he has attempted, and is ranked sixth for passes completed in the opposition half with 586 and fourth for crosses with 66. Given that level of involvement in playing in his team mates, it’s no surprise he is third for assists with 8 this season.

 

Downing’s search for a goal or assist was well documented last season, and he’ll be relieved that he now has one of each already this season. Downing has had ten efforts at goal this season with half on target, and a healthy 184 passes completed in the opposition half averaging one every 3 minutes 40 seconds.

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Dec 282012
 

Many of the club’s fans do not rate him, opposition fans mock him, most pundits fail to spot his brilliance, and Roy Hodgson rates Jordan Henderson higher than him. Yes, Michael Carrick is one of the most underrated footballers in the Barclays Premier League.

Expectations were sky high for a player signed following the departure of Roy Keane and being given the latter’s old shirt number. Few people had heard of Carrick at the time. He hardly featured in fantasy teams, and rarely grabbed the headlines prior to his move to Manchester.
Despite winning titles with Manchester United and having played the full 120 minutes at Moscow against Chelsea, fans and critics never recognised his ability and often termed him as an expensive squad player. His performance against Barcelona in Rome didn’t help his cause either though critics conveniently forget the pressing and ball retention qualities of the opposition on that night.
Many are also misguided by a pre-conceived notion that Carrick’s role was to provide defence splitting passes and numerous assists. He is often criticised for passing the ball sideways or backwards. Fact of the matter is that even statistics contradict this opinion. In the current season, prior to the home game against Newcastle, Carrick had played the most number of forward passes (525) in the Premier League (Source: whoscored.com).
Carrick’s playing style can be compared to that of Sergio Busquets and  Xabi Alonso. Their contribution might not be visibly tangible at times, but their absence can be felt. A great example of this was the recent game against Sunderland where United’s purposeful play disappeared following Carrick’s substitution after the first half. Most fans struggle to recognise the importance of ball retention and having to occasionally slow down the tempo by playing an extra pass or two rather than playing the ‘Hollywood pass’. Moreover, with United’s preference for wing play, it makes sense to move the ball sidewards.
He’s been at the heart of all good things stemming from Manchester United’s midfield this season. His passing percentage across all games this season stands at 92% (Source: whoscored.com), and he combines well with a mobile partner like Cleverly or Anderson. On boxing day’s humdinger against Newcastle United, Carrick was able to play with more adventure once Cleverly came on, and resulted in assisting two goals.
It’s not just the passing statistics though that warrants accolades but his positioning awareness and ability to gracefully shield the defence which often goes unnoticed.
This is why Sir Alex Ferguson recognises his importance and has made him a regular starter over the last two seasons. Rather than the player he was brought in to replace, Carrick is more like Paul Scholes, quietly getting on with his business and not bothered by the attention others get, or the lack of praise directed towards him.
With Michael Carrick, you get what’s on the tin. There are no tiny disclaimers to worry about. Sir Alex is assured that Carrick will continue to be reliable and dependable, and man the engine room effectively. It is high time that the doubters and sceptics be assured too.

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Dec 282012
 

Everton v Chelsea, Sunday 13:30

 

Everton have clocked up back to back 2-1 victories so far this Christmas with wins over Wigan and West Ham. Four different goalscorers across the games (Pienaar, Osman, Jagielka, and Anichebe) is testimony to the depth of Moyes’ squad

 

Jagielka’s goal added to an incredible season for the England centre back. Jagielka has now made more interceptions than any other player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index with 147 in total

 

Leon Osman’s form this season saw him pick up his first England cap at the age of 31. Osman has three goals this season, but has required 44 efforts at goal in order to get them. In comparison team mate Steven Pienaar has needed just 32 efforts to score his three goals.

 

Victor Anichebe has carved a role for himself as the eternal supersub at Everton, but it was on a rare start against West Ham that he scored his third goal of the season. Anichebe’s minutes per goal rating of 141 minutes and 40 seconds makes him one of just 15 players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index to average a goal more frequently than once every 180 minutes.

 

Chelsea have been the Premier League’s form team recently, following up a sensational 8-0 win over Aston Villa with a 1-0 win over Norwich in their last game. Juan Mata scored a stunning winner in that game.

 

Mata’s goal was set up by great work from Oscar and David Luiz, who has been a revelation since moving into midfield under Rafa Benitez. Luiz has now made 48 interceptions and completed 179 passes in his opponent’s half this season

 

Mata has now moved up to fourth in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index having scored 7 goals and contributed 7 assists this season

 

Mata’s healthy goals scored tally is in no doubt due to his accuracy in front of goal. He has hit 71% of his shots at goal on target this season. Meanwhile he is ranked 7th for passes completed in the opposition half with 558 and 8th for crosses with 48

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Dec 282012
 

Arsenal v Newcastle, Saturday 17:30

 

Arsenal’s last Premier League outing was against Wigan on December 22nd, when a Mikel Arteta penalty was enough to give Arsenal all three points

 

Arteta’s goal was his fourth of the season, and having got his four goals from just twelve efforts at goal he has one of the best chance conversion rates in the Premier League this season

 

Cazorla and Arteta have been dominating possession for Arsenal in midfield this sseason, and are ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for passes completed in the opposition half with 737 and 699

 

Cazorla has been more effective at turning that possession into goals, however, having got 7 goals and 6 assists this season compared to Arteta’s 4 goals and 2 assists

 

Add to that midfield the return of Jack Wilshere, who has averaged a pass completed in the opposition half ever 2 minutes 24 seconds since returning from injury (on a par with Cazorla’s 2 minutes 18 seconds and Arteta’s 2 minutes 28 seconds) and Newcastle will find it hard to win the ball from this Arsenal midfield

 

Newcastle came close to causing a huge upset when they lead Manchester United for most of the game before conceding a last minute goal to Chicarito Hernandez and losing 4-3.

 

Goals from James Perch, Papiss Cisse, and an own goal forced from a Danny Simpson cross seemed to be enough to secure back to back victories after Shola Ameobi had scored a spectacular winner in their previous outing against QPR

 

Cisse’s finish for his third goal of the season belied the form of a striker who has struggled to recapture the goal scoring touch that saw him make such an impact last season. Cisse has three goals from 31 efforts at goal this season, with an accuracy rate of 41.9% on target and a conversion rate of 10.3 shots per goal demonstrating his struggles in front of goal this season

 

James Perch wasn’t the most likely goalscorer for Newcastle in their last game, having impressed more in his defensive duties. Perch has made 45 interceptions and won 54.8% of the tackles he has attempted.

 

Simpson’s cross was one of 33 he has made this season, making him the 7th most prolific crosser of the ball from a full back position this season

 

Ameobi’s goal was his first of the season, despite getting a healthy two thirds of his 12 shots this season on target, and also contributing two assists

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Dec 282012
 

Norwich v Man City, Saturday 15:00

 

Norwich’s tough run of Christmas fixtures continues with a visit from Man City on Saturday, after facing a rampant Chelsea side on Boxing Day. Norwich will feel pleased though that they managed to keep the scoreline to 1-0.

 

Sebastian Bassong came close with a late header, while Grant Holt dragged a chance wide

 

Bassong is Norwich’s second highest ranked player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index ranked 59th overall. He is one of only four defenders to have scored three or more goals this season.

 

Bassong has needed just 9 efforts at goal for his 3 goals. Those defenders who have out scored him with 4 goals, Evra and Ivanovic, each have needed 13 and 14 efforts respectively.

 

Bassong has now also made the second highest amount of clearances in the league with 45, though it will take a huge effort to overtake top performer Jonas Olsson of West Brom who has made 65 so far this season

 

Grant Holt’s season has been disrupted by injury and the goals haven’t flowed for the striker as they did last season. Holt has four goals now from 27 efforts at goal with 15 on target.

 

Man City will be looking to bounce back after falling further behind league leaders Manchester United with a surprise 1-0 defeat to Sunderland on Boxing Day

 

Mancini has called for better finishing from his strikers in order to mount their title challenge, after it took midfielder Gareth Barry’s late goal to get a win against bottom side Reading in their previous game

 

Man City’s top goal scorers, Carlos Tevez (7) and Sergio Aguero (6) have scored just one goal each in the last seven games.

 

Tevez is now averaging 8.43 shots per goal and Aguero 7.17 shots per goal, a rate bettered by Norwich striker Grant Holt who averages a goal every 6.75 shots. In comparison, the league’s top scorer Michu averages a goal every 4.15 shots this season, showing just how far off the pace the striker’s on show today have been in converting their chances.

 

Yaya Toure remains the centre of City’s best play, and preventing him from dictating the midfield will be key to Norwich getting a result out of the game. In the game against Reading he completed 73 passes in his opponent’s half, the third highest total by a player in a single game this season and taking his total to 818 passes completed this season.

 

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Dec 282012
 

Man Utd v West Brom           15:00

 

Manchester United played out one of the most entertaining games of the Boxing Day season after winning against Newcastle in a sensational 4-3 encounter.

 

Goals from league joint top goal scorer Robin van Persie, Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans and a characteristic late winner from Chicarito Hernandez saw United extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table

 

Van Persie’s goal was his 13th of the season, having come from 63 efforts at goal with 53.7% on target, averaging 4.84 shots per goal.

 

While van Persie’s prowess in front of goal is often commented on, the work he does at the other end of the pitch is often less noticed. He has made 20 clearances so far this season, more than any other striker in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index

 

If you asked which of United’s goal scorers against Newcastle has the best shots per goal ratio in the league Jonny Evans’ name may not spring to mind, but with three goals from just five shots at goal Evans leads the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index in that respect

 

While Wayne Rooney may not have scored in United’s previous game against Swansea, his 7 shots on target is the joint highest by a player in a single game this season.

 

West Brom have enjoyed back to back 2-1 victories over the Christmas fixtures so far, with Chris Brunt scoring and then forcing an error from Rob Green for an own goal against QPR, and Gera and Lukaku on target against Norwich

 

Having been marginalized at Chelsea Romelu Lukaku has reveled in his role at West Brom, with his goal at Norwich his sixth of the season. Lukaku remains the most accurate shooter in the league, getting 81.25% of his 32 efforts at goal on target and averaging 5.33 shots per goal and a goal every 133 minutes

 

Zoltan Gera has made a habit of scoring important goals for West Brom, and his strike against Norwich was his fourth of the season, coming from just 16 chances meaning he needs just 4 shots per goal. Gera has also completed 233 passes in the opposition half this season, more than any other West Brom player.

 

Chris Brunt has been more of a supplier than a scorer this season, though the way he struck his goal against QPR wouldn’t have you believe it ws his first of the season. Brunt has 5 assists to his name this season compared to just 1 goal. IOt’s no wonder Brunt’s ‘assists’ column looks so healthy, when you consider he has delivered more crosses than any other West Brom player with 28 and is in the league’s top 30 crossers overall

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Dec 282012
 

Sunderland v Tottenham, Saturday 12:45

 

Former Manchester City man Adam Johnson scored a sensational winner against his old club to give Sunderland a 1-0 win over the reigning champions on Boxing Day.  That followed the same scoreline against Southampton before Christmas, courtesy of a Steven Fletcher goal.

 

Fletcher is returning to the form which made him such an instant hit at the Stadium of Light at the beginning of the season. Fletcher has eight goals so far this season from 31 efforts at goal, averaging 3.88 shots per goal. Of the strikers to have scored five or more goals this season only Manchester United’s Chicarito Hendandez has done so more efficiently than Fletcher.

 

John O’Shea has been a key player for Sunderland this season, and is ranked second in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for most interceptions made with 138

 

A more surprising statistic may be that O’Shea’s team mate Danny Rose has made more interceptions than any other midfielder in the league with 89

 

Gareth Bale was another winger in the headlines after the Boxing Day fixtures after a sensational hat trick helped dispatch Aston Villa 4-0, with Jermain Defoe also on the score sheet

 

Bale has now had 66 efforts at goal this season with 63.6% on target and averaging 7.33 shots per goal. Bale has also leapt up to second in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for most crosses delivered with 67 so far this season. 13 of those came in the game against Villa, the most by a single player in a game this season.

 

Defoe, meanwhile, has enjoyed a similarly lethal season with 10 goals from 70 efforts at goal with 61.4% on target

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Dec 222012
 

West Ham v Everton              15:00

 

West Ham have had some fine moments so far this season, but their 0-0 draw with West Brom last week may not make the highlights reel

 

Kevin Nolan has moved up to third in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for distance run so far this season 105.82 miles in total after 6.48 miles against West Brom. Nolan’s had a sensational start to the season.

 

James Collins has urged his team mates not to use injuries as an excuse, and the defender is certainly leading from the front (or back) as he has done more defensively that any West Ham player this season with 134 defensive contributions in total. That includes the joint second highest number of blocks in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index with 20 and an impressive tackles won percentage of 76.9%.

 

Matt Jarvis joined West Ham in the summer for a club record transfer fee. Brought in for his crossing ability surely with a view to linking up with Andy Carroll, Jarvis has delivered 32 crosses at a rate of one every 34 minutes 30 seconds. His opponent today, Leighton Baines, has delivered more crosses than any other player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index with 68 at a rate of one every 24 minutes 8 seconds.

 

Everton also settled for a draw last weekend, ending 1-1 with Stoke in a game that will be unfortunately remembered for Fellaini’s head butt on Ryan Shawcross which earned him a retrospective ban.

 

Sylvain Distin has spoken out since warning Fellaini about reacting to opponent’s and giving away fouls, and they would seem to be wise words as the Belgian midfielder has committed more fouls than any other player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index with 40. Distin has conceded just 7 fouls this season, averaging 161 minutes between fouls, compared to Fellaini who averages 35 minutes 47 seconds between fouls, so the Belgian would do well to listen!

 

– Shawcross had previously headed a Steven Pienaar cross into his own net to give Everton the lead. Pienaar’s cross was one of 20 he has delivered this season and his fifth credited assist of the season

 

Seamus Coleman won 8 tackles against Stoke, the joint highest of last weekend and the joint 4th highest of the season so far.

 

Kevin Mirallas will surely hope the goals start flowing soon. He has the best on target shooting ratio of the players to have had at least 30 shots this season (74.2%), but has just one Premier League goal to his name. With 23 shots on target and just 1 goal that means Mirallas alone has stung the palms of opposition keepers 22 times.

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Dec 222012
 

Newcastle v QPR       15:00

 

– Despite Demba Ba’s goal scoring efforts, Newcastle continue to slide perilously down the Premier League table after losing 3-1 reigning Premier League champions Manchester City in their last game.

 

– Only Luis Suarez has had more effort at goal than Ba this season, with Suarez having had 85 shots and Ba 64. Ba’s on target percentage is exactly 50% compared to Suarez’s 52.9%, and Ba is the more dangerous finisher averaging 5.8 shots per goal compared to Suarez’s 8.5 shots per goal.

 

– You can’t fault the Magpies effort, as last week saw them move up to fourth in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for distance covered as a squad, with 1050.3 miles so far this season.

 

Jonas Gutierrez will be hoping for a change in fortunes as much as any Newcastle player, having played 1445 minutes without a goal or an assist. Only Joe Allen among the Premier League’s midfielders has played longer without either scoring or creating a goal this season.

 

QPR fans had cause for double celebration last weekend after a 2-1 win over Fulham gave them both their first win of the season and lifted them off the foot of the table.

 

– Talented midfielder Adel Taarabt was the catalyst, scoring twice to give QPR the win they so desperately needed.

 

– His goals clearly gave Taarabt a source of motivation as he went on to cover more ground for QPR than he has in any other game this season with 6.22 miles.

 

Taraabt now has four goals to his name this season, but has been peppering the opposition goal having had 50 shots at goal in total, including 30 on target, the tenth highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index

 

Dijbril Cisse also gave Fulham cause for discomfort, having 8 efforts at goal with 5 on target, the most by a player in the last round of games and the 8th highest of the season so far.

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Dec 222012
 

West Brom v Norwich           15:00

 

West Brom played out a goalless draw with West Ham last time out, neither side creating enough to make a dent on the scoreline. James Morrison looked to be the Baggies’ brightest hope of grabbing all three points, as he was twice denied by the woodwork.

 

Romelu Lukaku continues to mature at West Brom and his time at The Hawthorns may prove instrumental in his development when he looks back at his career. The young powerhouse has a shot accuracy rate of  80% and has one of the highest goals to minutes played ratios in the league according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, netting once every 127.8 minutes this season.

 

– Many Baggies fans will no doubt agree that Claudio Yacob has been one of the unsung heroes of West Brom’s fantastic early season form. The combative midfielder has made 115 defensive contributions this season at a rate of one every 11.5 minutes, and has successfully completed 220 passes in the opponent’s half.

 

Shane Long is the type of player than many managers crave, one who works hard and gives his all for the team every time he takes to the field. Steve Clarke will likely be looking for a little more subtlety in defence from the ever-committed striker, as he has given away 26 fouls this season according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, and only has a 28% tackle success rate.

 

– On the other end of the spectrum defensively speaking, Jonas Olsson has been crucial to the Baggies hard-nosed approach to defending their goal this year. He’s made a squad-high 188 defensive contribution this season at a rate of one every 8.7 minutes.

 

Peter Odemwingie has been building on his growing reputation from the last few seasons again this year, quietly establishing himself as one of West Brom’s most important players. No one in the squad has provided more combined goals and assists this season, the Uzbekistani striker already racking up a total of 7 this campaign.

 

– A superb individual display from Wesley Hoolahan helped Norwich to a 2-1 victory over Wigan last time out. A goal and an assist for Karl Pilkington from the Irish midfielder helped Chris Hughton’s side climb to seventh in the league in a performance which suggests they are ready to make the next step up in their level of performance.

 

Hoolahan’s goal last weekend was a timely reminder of just how important the Irish midfielder has been for Norwich this year. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index he’s successfully completed 312 passes in the opponent’s half.

 

Bradley Johnson is well known for his combative nature and it is undoubtedly an integral part of his game and the value he brings to Norwich. However, one can imagine Chris Hughton asking him to tighten up some of his challenges given that he has so far conceded fouls on 37 occasions this season, at a rate of one every 42.6 minutes, and has only won 48% of his 60 challenges.

 

– Defender Jonathan Howson’s form has been a key part of Norwich’s strong form this season. He’s committed to 27 tackles this season but has only conceded 6 fouls.

 

Robert Snodgrass has certainly been willing to try his luck in front of goal this season and has established a solid accuracy rate to complement it. His 59% accuracy rate is the third highest in the Norwich squad.

 

– Striker Grant Holt revels in his role as the big front man who is able to draw the attention of defenders and free up space for his team mates. But he also knows exactly where the goal is and has quickly compiled an excellent shot-to-goal rate of 6.75 according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

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Dec 222012
 

Southampton v Sunderland             15:00

 

Southampton’s last fixture on the 8th December saw them grab a 1-0 over fellow strugglers Reading thanks to a second half Jason Puncheon goal. The Saints created more than enough chances to extend the scoreline even further and Nigel Adkins will be looking for more ruthlessness in front of goal this weekend.

 

– Portuguese defender Jose Fonte will be key to Nigel Adkins’ plans to establish Southampton in the Premier League in the latter half of the season. He’s amassed an incredible 112 interceptions and 27 clearances this season.

 

– French midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin has been earning rave reviews for his work ethic this season but he will be looking to remove some of defensive misdemeanors in the second half of the season. He’s currently ranked 4th on the EA SPORTS Player

 

– Teenage sensation Luke Shaw continues to show why some of the Premier League’s biggest clubs are hot on his trail. He’s established a tackle success rate of 85% from 20 challenges and has a foul-to-tackle ratio of only one every 10 attempts.

 

– Young defender Jack Cork continues to build on his growing reputation on the south coast, turning in another solid performance against Reading last time out. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index recorded him as running for 6.70 miles.

 

– Last fixture’s goalscorer Jason Puncheon has proven himself equally adept at defending as he is going forward. He has a defensive success rate of 58% as well as providing 17 crosses and 4 assists this season.

 

– Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland side continued to slip further down the Premier League table last weekend as they were dominated in clinical fashion by league leaders Man Utd. Former Utd striker Frazier Campbell notched a second half consolation goal but it was never going to be enough against a Utd side poised to challenge for league honours once again.

 

Stephane Sessgnon has been in good form with the ball at his feet this, but his defensive efforts have left something to be desired. He’s only won 50% of his challenges this season, giving away 23 fouls in the process.

 

James McLean once again topped the distance charts for Sunderland last weekend, racking up a 6.54 mile total according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. This is 4th times he’s worked the hardest in the Sunderland match day squad, giving him a cumulative total of 83.17 miles this season.

 

– The Northern Irishman has also amassed a quite remarkable set of defensive statistics for a player primarily known for his eagerness to push forward. He has a 64% tackle success rate this season.

 

– Martin O’Neill may well wonder where his Sunderland side would be had they not brought in Steven Fletcher in the summer. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows he has scored 41% of their 17 goals this season, as well as registering two assists.

 

– No player in the Sunderland squad has a better tackle success rate than Carlos Cuellar, with 89% from 38 challenges complemented by only 6 fouls at a rate of one of 352 minutes.

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