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Aug 232013
 

Aston Villa vs Liverpool, Saturday 17:30

Christian Benteke continued where he left off last season with two goals in Villa’s stunning 3-1 win over Arsenal on the opening weekend. Benteke was one of three players to welcome in the new season with a brace, along with Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck

Benteke’s five shots at goal against Arsenal was the most by an away team player in the last round of games. Christian Benteke hit 19 Premier League goals last season, finishing fourth in the race for the golden boot. Most impressively, he had the best shots on target percentage of the Premier League’s top ten goal scorers with 69.5% of this efforts troubling the goalkeeper. His closest rival among the top ten goal scorers is Romelu Lukaku who hit 65.11% on target, while golden boot winner Robin van Persie got just 59.1% on target. Benteke is 33/20 to score at any time and 22/5 to score first with 888sport.com

Fabian Delph impressed with the ball at his feet, completing 6 dribbles against Arsenal, the highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index

Ron Vlaar was the Premier League’s cleanest tackler last season, averaging eleven tackles attempted for every foul conceded, the best in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index

Daniel Sturridge welcomed in the new Premier League season with its first goal, scoring the winner in Liverpool’s game against Stoke last weekend. That goal was one of six shots at goal by Sturridge in the game, a total bettered only by Edin Dzeko in the first round of fixtures

Steve Gerrard showed there’s no sign of him losing quality or drive as the 33 year completed more passes in the opposition half than any other player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index with 55

Jordan Henderson has had his critics since joining Liverpool, but the midfielder looked like he is finding his feet in the game against Stoke. Henderson had three shots on target, only Frank Lampard had more among the Premier League’s midfielders

Simon Mignolet capped his Liverpool debut with a clean sheet, making five saves along the way, the third highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. Liverpool are 5/2 with 888sport.com to win without conceding a goal.

Lucas Leiva won 8 tackles against Stoke, second only to his opponent last weekend Steven Nzoni, who won 9 in what was a fiercely contested match

May 242013
 

Aston Villa fans will be sat with their feet up drinking a fine bottle of red wine after their players fought away relegation in what was a turbulent season for the Midlands club. Their transformation under former Norwich manager Paul Lambert has survived its first test and is now likely to kick on to higher standards next year. Whilst one man stole all the headlines Villa-related, Christian Benteke may not be wearing claret and blue when the new campaign rolls round. So if the 22-year-old does make a switch to higher ground, who will lead the line for the Villians in 2013/14?

Naturally, Birmingham born winger Gabriel Agbonlahor’s name will be thrown into the ring. The 26-year-old fan favourite started the season like he had been a diet of fried food and weight gainer but has quickly upped his fitness and regained that speed he is renowned for. He has come into his own in the latter stages of the season with six goals in his final nine Premier League appearances he finished as Villa’s second top scorer, behind the aforementioned Benteke.

Agbonlahor has progressed through the youth ranks at Villa Park and although he has been preferred as a winger because of his whippet-like pace he has certainly shown why a lot of spectators would rather see him as an out-and-out striker.

What about Andreas Weimann? The Austria international netted seven goals in his 30 league games this season and has formed an almighty partnership with Benteke. However, with good form comes rumours, and the 21-year-old has been linked with a host of different topflight clubs when the transfer opens this summer.

If Lambert is serious about implementing his youth policy then Weimann will have to stay at the club next season. His bursting runs from the attacking midfield positions have caused even the best in the land problems, but like Agbonlahor has been used on the wing to benefit the team.

The last man we look at is Darren Bent, who has completely fallen down any sort of pecking order that exists at the club. It is likely that Lambert will try and get rid in the coming months to cut the wage bill, but if he doesn’t, in my opinion, he is more than good enough to spearhead the Villa attack with a string of games behind him.

The likelihood is that Lambert will be using the funds gained from Benteke’s move, if he does indeed depart, to find himself another gem.

May 192013
 

Wigan v Aston Villa 16:00

 

- Wigan’s fate was confirmed on Tuesday evening as, just days after their remarkable FA Cup Final triumph over Manchester City, they were beaten 4-1 at the Emirates by Arsenal and relegated to the Championship.

 

- Wigan look to have unearthed a real gem in Callum McManaman but may struggle to hold on to him after a string of impressive performances. The youngster has quickly become Wigan’s most accurate shooter, with a on-target rate of 76.9% from 13 attempts according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

- Shaun Maloney is another who may well find himself plying his trade in new pastures next season, with a number of Premier League clubs interested in taking him off the Wigan books. The Scottish international ranks third in the Wigan squad this season for attacking contributions (assist, cross, dribble, on target shot) with 104, at an average rate of one every 29.3 minutes.

 

- Whether he could have helped stave off relegation is unlikely but Wigan have certainly missed the defensive influence of Maynor Figueroa in the final few games of the season. The Honduran international still leads the Lactic squad for defensive contributions (blocks, clearances, interceptions, successful tackles) with 295 for the campaign.

 

- Despite Christian Benteke’s well-taken goal, Aston Villa were not able to spring a surprise result as Chelsea fought back to claim a 1-2 win through two Frank Lampard goals.

 

- Matthew Lowton will have been desperately disappointed to have missed out on the England squad for the upcoming friendlies due to injury but should he continue his form into next season then another national call-up can’t be far away. Lowton is one of only two players to have made more than 100 tackles to have a success rate of more than 70% (75.2%), the other being Nathaniel Clyne.

 

- His captain Ron Vlaar is the only member of the Villa squad able to surpass him in the tackle stakes so far this season, ‘Concrete Ron’ currently sitting on 81.9% according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. He also leads the Villa squad for clearances with 63.

 

- Any summary of Villa’s season would not be complete without discussing the mammoth contribution made to their cause by Christian Benteke. The Belgian striker is part of a select group of players to have had more than 100 shots (105)(Suarez, Bale, Ba, Tevez, Van Persie, Defoe, Michu, Cazorla) has managed to carve out one of those chances on average less than once every 30 minutes (28.7). Paul Lambert will be going all out to ensure Villa do not lose out on his services come next season.

May 102013
 

Aston Villa v Chelsea, Saturday 12:45

 

– Aston Villa put five points between themselves and the relegation zone last weekend with a 2-1 victory over Norwich. A brace from Gabriel Agbonlahor secured a vital win for Villa.

 

– Agbonlahor’s second came from a perfectly weighted through ball from Ashley Westwood.

 

– Aston Villa’s season has been defined by the emergence of a promising generation of young players, not least Joe Bennett who was one of three players to make five clearances in the last round of games, the highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

– Young defenders such as Bennett and Matt Lowton have benefited from the experience of Ron Vlaar this season. Vlaar has the cleanest tackling record in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, attempting 59 tackles and committing just 6 fouls, a rate of one every 9.83 tackles, and with a tackles won percentage of 81.4%.

 

– Behind Villa’s defensive line Bradley Guzan will be welcoming the close season, as he has been the busiest goalkeeper in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index making 217 saves to date. Last season’s busiest goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey made 223 saves, and Guzan looks on course to beat that total.

 

– Chelsea missed out on the chance to cement their Champions League spot by conceding a late equaliser against Spurs which saw two of the three teams fighting for the two remaining Champions League places share the points. Oscar and Ramires were on target for Chelsea in that game.

 

– Despite Chelsea’s point in that game being vital to their Champions League spot, their pass completion of 73.1% was actually the lowest they’ve managed at Stamford Bridge this season.

 

– Demba Ba has continued to struggle to hit the same goal scoring form for Chelsea. He had 13 Premier League goals for Newcastle upon joining Chelsea, but has scored just two since. That’s despite him being the fourth most prolific shooter in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index averaging a shot every 22 minutes and 42 seconds this season.

 

– Eden Hazard has been among Chelsea’s star performers in his first season at Stamford Bridge. He is ranked second in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for dribbles completed with 54 this season, just one behind Luis Suarez who tops the rankings with 55, and 8 ahead of the third placed player Adel Taarabt with 46.

 

– Juan Mata has been equally impressive, contributing an incredible 18 assists this season, 1 in 4 of Chelsea’s goals, while Hazard has contributed 14 assists.

May 042013
 

Norwich v Aston Villa, 15:00 

 

- Norwich remain adrift of mathematical safety after a 1-0 loss to Stoke in their last match. 

 

- Ryan Bennett did his best to prevent that result, making 18 interceptions against Stoke, the joint highest in the last round of games. 

 

- Bennett has now made 36 interceptions this season, part of 65 defensive contributions overall across tackles won, interceptions, blocks and clearances. Those stats are impressive considering Bennett has played just 862 minutes this season, averaging a defensive intervention every 13 minutes and 16 seconds. 

 

- Norwich has worked tirelessly in the tackle this season, and are one of three teams in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index to have two players who have attempted 100 or more tackles this season. Both Robert Snodgrass (123 attempted, 56% won) and Bradley Johnson (112 attempted 52.6% won) feature. 

 

- Aston Villa climbed out of the relegation zone in stunning fashion on Monday night with a 6-1 victory over Sunderland on Monday night.  

 

- Christian Benteke boosted his growing reputation with a quick fire hat trick, while Ron Vlaar, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann added to the tally. 

 

- Those goals took Benteke’s tally for the season to 18, fourth in the race for Premier League top scorer. Benteke’s goals have come at a rate of one every 5.67 shots, and one every 158 minutes 43 seconds. Of the Premier League’s top five goal scorers only Robin van Persie has a more efficient shots per goal ratio with 4.88 shots per goal.  

 

- Benteke also has the best shots on target percentage of the league’s top ten goalscorers, getting 69.8% of his 102 shots so far this season on target. 

 

- Agbonlahor’s goal was his seventh of the season, though the striker has been shying away from shooting in order to support Benteke and the team defensively. Agbonlahor has had just 32 shots at goal this season, though he has converted when it counts, averaging a goal every 4.57 shots, better than Robin van Persie’s rate of a goal every 4.88 shots.

Apr 292013
 

Aston Villa v Sunderland

 

- Despite a much improved second-half performance, Aston Villa were powerless to stop Manchester United in their pursuit of the title as they fell to a 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford.

 

- Aston Villa are fighting for their Premier League survival and, as have been the story of their season, it will be to Christian Benteke that they will turn to attempt to retain their status in the top flight. The young Belgian has been by far and away Villa’s most potent attacking force this season, attempting 97 shots on goal and managing to make sure one of those found its way on target on average once every 41.4 minutes.

 

- Despite the ups and downs of Villa’s season, Matthew Lowton has been consistently turning in some rock solid defensive performances. Indeed, he has the best tackle success rate of any of the 18 players to have broken the 100-tackle barrier this season according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, currently sitting on a highly impressive 74.8%.

 

- Remarkably, not only has Lowton been excelling in his expected defensive capacity, but also in his work higher up the pitch. No Villa player can match his 475 successful passes in the opponent’s half this season, the 23 year-old averaging one every 6.9 minutes he’s been on the field of play.

 

- Paulo Di Canio’s first match as manager at the Stadium of Light ended in a much-needed victory as his newly motivated Sunderland side overcame Everton in a 1-0 win.

 

- Paulo Di Canio recently hailed the influence of Stephane Sessegnon, the French winger shouldering much of the attacking responsibility for the Black cats this season. Sessegnon has had more efforts on goal than any other Sunderland player with 53, as well as chipping in with 5 assists.

 

- Carlos Cuellar has been a defensive giant for Sunderland this term and will undoubtedly be part of his new manager’s plans moving forward to next season. He has the best tackles success rate of any player to have made more than 50 tackles on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, his 88.5% from 61 challenges the gold standard for the season so far.

 

- Rumours have been circulating of a possible return back to Tottenham once Danny Roses’ loan spell with Sunderland ends and it’s not hard to see why went you consult the stats. Rose has, on average, made a defensive contribution once every 10.1 minutes, placing him fourth in the Sunderland squad.

 

Apr 262013
 

PFA Player of the Year

Jack Howes – Bale

As a Spurs fan, obviously I am biased when it comes to who I think deserves Player of the Year. I’m as biased as a parent on sports day, or a member of the FIFA committee deciding which country to give a World Cup to who’s just been handed a suitcase by a member of the Qatari delegation that suspiciously feels like it has hundreds of thousands of dollars in it.

But this season, after watching one man consistently pull off heroics, having a Doctor Who like penchant for digging his team out of bigger and bigger scrapes, there’s only one man for me. For consistency of performance, for his ability to grab games by the scruff of the neck, for having a portfolio of goals sufficiently high in quality to make Matt Le Tissier or Tony Yeboah blush, I’m voting for Gareth Bale.

In seasons past, while Bale was an excellent player, he still had a tendency to be bullied out of games and was perhaps too reliant on his pace. When Spurs beat Inter Milan in the Champions League and Bale had given Maicon the sort of roasting you usually see sausages get on barbecues, I was still at school and in the 6th form common room heard someone say about his display “He wasn’t very good. All he did was kick the ball past the defender then run past everybody.” While this was obviously ludicrously simplistic, there was perhaps an element of truth to it.

This season though, that’s not the case. He has shown genuine skill in the way he goes past people, being a real twinkle toes at times. He has been helped by Andre Villas-Boas playing him in different positions, keeping the opposition off guard, though many times this season, you knew what Bale was going to do – and the opposition still couldn’t stop him. That’s how good he’s been. His pace, dynamism and athleticism has been such that teams have just not been able to keep up with him.

The variety of goals he’s scored has also been mesmerising. There have been fantastic dribbles, tap ins, headers, free kicks, thirty yard screamers, dinks, the lot. All that, and he isn’t even a forward, playing for a side sorely lacking goals in other positions. He truly has carried Spurs at times this season, and while Luis Suarez has done the same for Liverpool, Bale comes with the advantages of not being found guilty of racist abuse and not being a possible cannibal.

For those reasons, Gareth Bale is my PFA Player of the Year

Rob Marrs – Luis Suarez

I’ve always had a soft spot for Michael Carrick and would like to see him win but can’t say he has been the best footballer in the league this season. That is a three-way battle between van Persie, Suarez and Bale.

For all his many sins, Suarez has dragged Liverpool along this season – unlike van Persie he isn’t surrounded by world-class players but he has scored a huge amount of goals. He’s a dynamo and, in my view, has played the best football in the league this season. I think Michu can feel a little hard done-by not being nominated

Ramon Isaac – Robin van Persie

Juan Mata in my opinion is the best footballer and my favourite footballer in the premiership at this very second and it was always going to take something special for me to consider anyone else for the Player of the Year award, unfortunately, to the detriment of my emotional health, I’m going to say this… Robin Van Persie managed that something special and he done in it with a Manchester United team, that has won the league in spectacular fashion. I was skeptical about his move to Manchester United, not that I didn’t think he would do well but I wasn’t sure what he would offer a team that already had so much threat going forward. Well, 24 goals later and I think he’s proved me wrong. Of course the game is not just about the stats but they are pretty conclusive when you look at them. Question marks over whether he could replicate last season’s form, whether he could last a season, was he even worth the £24million they forked out on a player in the last year of his contract? They’ve all been answered with a resounding yes. They obviously aren’t a one man team but they owe a lot of this league’s success, which just happens to be their #20th, down to Van Persie’s goals and the quality of some his strikes have been simply brilliant. There is an air of inevitability when he scores and even with that baron spell he endured, I don’t think anyone doubted it would last much longer and even by then the damage had been done to the rest of the challengers. Goals against Chelsea, Arsenal, City He’s been the standout player for the runaway leaders, so with that in mind Van Persie gets my vote, just, ahead of Mata. I love you Juan.

Rob Pollard – Robin van Persie

I know his form has tailed off slightly in recent weeks, but I genuinely feel he has been the difference for United this season, and has therefore been the key component in United winning the title. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that if City had signed him, we’d have won the league. He’s that good.

Ashley Perry – Robin van Persie

Robin van Persie should be awarded PFA Player of the Year. Despite Manchester City’s dwindling efforts this season that have left United with a remarkable lead, RvP won the title for the Reds. The former Arsenal man grew weary of fruitless campaigns at the Emirates and was hungry to win. Simply put, van Persie brought the 20th League title to Old Trafford just like he said he would.

PFA Young Player of the Year

Jack Howes – Christian Benteke

Yes, I have voted for Gareth Bale as PFA Player of the Year and he is also nominated for PFA Young Player of the Year, so using simple logic he should win that award too.

But frankly it’s silly that Bale’s nominated for Young Player of the Year – he’s an experienced player now with close to 200 first team appearances in his career, who is a known commodity. This award should surely be those for who are a surprise package, who in football years if not actual human years are still youthful. As such, I disqualify Bale and vote for the guy who I think genuinely deserves it, Christian Benteke.

This may be a surprise choice, as he’s not the household name his fellow nominees are. But this season he has been an absolute powerhouse, carrying a shit heap of a team virtually on his back at times with remarkable renown. He has had little service, arrived in a country he’s never played in before to play for one of the worst teams in the league, and instead of faltering like almost anyone else would, he’s shown star quality to score goal after goal, many of them beauties. The man is dynamite at times with the ball at his feet.

And though he’s been criticised for being inconsistent – he’s playing for Aston Villa for god’s sake. He’s spent the season feeding off scraps, with next to no help. Try scoring goals when you’re being battered 8-0 by Chelsea, 4-0 by Spurs, 5-0 by Man City, with all of your teammates in your own half, trying and failing to stop the opposition scoring even more. It’s impossible, whether your Lionel Messi or the best kid in the playground at school.

Benteke has been magic, not only scoring goals but coming up with some sublime assists too, creating 10 more chances than any other Villa player this season. He has been their talisman, the fulcrum of their side. For the manner in which he’s done this, considering his lack of experience and the dismally low quality of the team he’s playing for, he gets my vote for PFA Young Player of the Year.

Rob Marrs – Romelu Lukaku

I think Bale will win but I don’t think he should win. He’s nearly 24! Lukaku has shone for an unfashionable team and has, at his best, been unplayable. I think Nastasic at City should have been nominated as should Rafael.

Ramon Isaac – Christian Benteke

The Young Player of the Year happens to be eerily similar to the main award. I wanted to pick Hazard, I really did he’s been phenomenal in his first season here in England, sadly he also finishes a close second. I’ve omitted Gareth Bale because there is no way he should be considered as a young player anymore despite whatever the FA guidelines might be. If you’re turning 24 before the next season, you aren’t “Young” unless your name is Ashley or Luke of course. Back to the award, I’ve picked one Belgian who had his first season in the league, over another. Christian Benteke signed for Villa with no real fanfare, if I remember correctly he hoped to score “7” goals for Villa this season. He’s amassed 15 so far, for a club that quite frankly at times has looked incapable of scoring 15 goals all season and he’s done it with a relative lack of fuss. He’s strong, athletic and has generally been a nuisance to defenders trying to mark him. He’s even keeping fellow Belgian starlet, Lukaku out the national side. He has been a revelation and a bargain buy for the club that desperately needed someone to step up with Darren Bent becoming anonymous. If Aston Villa do survive they can thank Benteke, if they go down I can guarantee they will be saying “bye bye” to him.

Rob Pollard – Gareth Bale

He’s carried Spurs during much of the second half of the season. His goals have been brilliant to watch, and he’s a constant threat. Sandro’s injury was a huge blow to Spurs, but Bale’s form has meant they have managed to keep pace in the race for top four.

Ashley Perry – Christian Benteke

Christian Benteke should win Young Player of the Year after a hugely valuable impact in his first season at Aston Villa. The powerful Belgian has scored the highest % of a club’s goals in the Premier League this season. Villa were threatened with relegation, but Benteke has saved Paul Lambert’s side and the striker is now highly-sought among Europe’s top sides. Big things to come.

Apr 222013
 

Manchester United v Aston Villa 20:00

 

Manchester United came from behind twice to draw 2-2 with West Ham in their midweek game, thanks to goals from Antonio Valencia and Robin van Persie.

 

– After a long drought by his own high standards Robin van Persie has now scored in his last two Premier League games for Manchester United, breathing life into the golden boot race as he now has 21 goals compared to Suarez’s 22.

 

Van Persie has been the more efficient of the two strikers in getting to this tally, taking just 5.52 shots per goal compared to Suarez’s 7.4 shots per goal.

 

– If Manchester United do go on to win their 20th Premier League title it will be down to their lethal and efficient attacking play which has allowed United to continue to dominate even during van Persie’s goal drought. United have three of the top five players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for minutes per goal or assist this season.

 

Hernandez leads the ranking, averaging a goal or assist every 71 minutes this season, while van Persie is ranked third with one every 84 minutes, and Rooney fifth with one every 93 minutes.

 

– At the other end of the pitch, Patrice Evra won 8 tackles against West Ham, more than any other player in the matches taking place last weekend or in midweek. That made Evra’s tackling performance the best in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index by a United player so far this season, judged on the number of tackles won.

 

Aston Villa earned a vital point in their fight for survival in their last league game against Fulham, and have the benefit of not having played in mid-week when facing United today.

 

Ron Vlaar’s defensive performances will be key to Villa’s survival chances this season, and the Dutch defender has managed to put in a dominant defensive performance without giving away the fouls that can place a team in danger. Vlaar has attempted 51 tackles, giving away just 6 fouls, a rate of 8.5 tackles per foul conceded, the best in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index (excluding those players who have attempted less than 30 tackles)

 

Charles N’Zogbia scored for Villa against Fulham, just his second of the season, although he’s been more prolific at creating chances, clocking up six assists this season. That’s an average of one every 170 minutes while on the pitch, the sixth highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for player’s with more than one assist this season.

 

Fabian Delph has made a name for himself for being tough in the tackle this season. He attempted twelve against Fulham, more than any other player in the last round of games and just one short of the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index’s record for tackles attempted in a game this season.

 

Nathan Baker also boasted impressive defensive stats against Fulham, contributing more defensively than all but one other Villa player has in a game this season. Baker contributed defensively 27 times across won tackles, clearances, interceptions and blocks, one every 3 minutes 20 seconds. The only Villa player to have done more in a game this season is Ciaran Clark against Sunderland in November.

 

Apr 132013
 

Aston Vila v Fulham, 15:00

 

– A contender for goal of the season from Matthew Lowton helped Aston Villa to a 1-3 win over Stoke as Paul Lambert’s side strode towards a desperately needed three points last weekend.

 

Matthew Lowton’s wondergoal last weekend certainly showcased his ability in the attacking third but it is in his own half that he has been leaving his stamp on Aston Villa’s season. He sits second on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for total tackles attempted with 103, coming out on top in an impressive 73.8% of them.

 

– Keeper Brad Guzan may have been left exposed at times this season but he has been repeatedly rising to the threats posed on his goal. He has made more saves than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League this season with 204, remaining the only keeper so far to have broken the 200-save barrier.

 

– Retaining the services of Christian Benteke will be crucial to Aston Villa’s hopes for success next season, no matter which league they find themselves competing in. The Belgian hitman has been by far and away Villa’s most potent threat in front of goal. He’s racked up an impressive 70.9% shot accuracy rate from 93 attempts, meaning he’s had a shot on target on average once every 27.8 minutes he’s been on the field this season.

 

– A goal at the death denied Fulham a point as they fell to a 0-1 defeat away to Newcastle last weekend.

 

– Martin Jol this week hailed the impact of Giorgos Karagounis and the Greek midfielder has the stats to back up this praise from his manager. He’s been important in breaking up the play in the Fulham midfield this season, completing 68.8% of his 45 attempted challenges according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

– The mercurial talents of Dimitar Berbatov have been central to Fulham’s attack this season, the Bulgarian international being given a free rein at Craven Cottage to express his full range of talents. He has the best minutes per shot tally in the Fulham squad, firing at effort goalwards on average every 39.2 minutes.

 

Phillippe Senderos recently signed a contract extension at Craven Cottage and has been putting in some solid performances to help earn himself a new deal. He’s so far compiled a record of 75 interceptions and 20 clearances for the Cottagers this season.

Mar 162013
 

Aston Villa v QPR, 15:00

 

Villa face another crucial relegation battle on Saturday after last weekend beating Reading 2-1. Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor were on target then in what could be a vital result come the end of the season

 

Benteke’s goal was his 12th of the season. With 83 shots on target Benteke has been the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index’s 7th most prolific shooter this season, and with 71.1% of shots on target he is the most accurate of the Premier League’s top 30 shooters.

 

Agbonlahor’s goal was his fourth of the season, but coming from just 20 shots at goal. That surprisingly low figure, averaging a shot every 80 minutes compared to Benteke’s one every 27 minutes. That demonstrates Agbonlahor’s recent assertion that this season he has sacrificed his own goal scoring return to work harder for the team overall.

 

Bradley Guzan also continued to do his utmost to save Villa from the drop with 11 saves against Reading, the joint highest in the Premier League last weekend.

 

– However, QPR are also coming to this match with confidence after beating Sunderland 3-1 in their last outing. Goals from Loic Remy, Andros Townsend and Jermain Jenas gave them a much needed three points, and brought them level on points with Reading.

 

Loic Remy now has three goals in the Premier League for QPR, averaging one every 134 minutes, and having got 9 of his 11 shots at goal on target..

 

Andros Townsend has reveled in playing regular football with QPR, and now averages a pass completed in the opponent’s half every four minutes 55 seconds, and a defensive contribution every 13 minutes 41 seconds.

 

Stephane Mbia did as much as any of the goalscorers to earn that result for QPR. He made 9 tackles in the game, winning 8, a figure bettered only by Bradley Johnson in the last round of games. While across all defensive contributions Clint Hill did more than any other player, contributing 36 times across tackles, interceptions, blocks and clearances

Mar 042013
 

Aston Villa v Man City, 20:00

 

Aston Villa fell to a 2-1 defeat against Arsenal in their last game despite an Andreas Weimann goal. That saw Aston Villa drop into the relegation zone.

 

Matt Lowton has worked as hard as anyone to help save Villa from the drop. He has played more minutes than any other outfielder in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, being on the pitch for an incredible 2605 minutes this season.

 

Lowton is also ranked 11th in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for tackles attempted, having attempted 92. Even more impressive, Lowton has won 75% of tackles attempted, the best tackles won percentage in the league’s top 30 most prolific tacklers.

 

Ciaran Clark, meanwhile has made the third highest number of blocks in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index with 29.

 

Man City strengthened their hold on second place in the Premier League with a 2-0 win over third placed Chelsea in their last game, thanks to goals from Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez.

 

– That was Tevez’s 8th goal of the season, and while his goals have come at a slightly inefficient rate of 8.6 shots per goal (compared to Dzeko’s 4.1 shots per goal) Tevez is proving his worth as a provider this season having the league’s joint highest number of assists with 13 (tied with Gerrard).

 

Yaya Toure has been controlling play for Man City this season and is ranked second to Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla for passes completed in the opposition half with 965 (although Yaya Toure has made four fewer appearances due to the Africa Cup of Nations). Team mate David Silva is ranked in 4th with 874 passes completed.

 

– While his goal scoring colleagues may win most of the headlines, Pablo Zabaleta has also been a stand out performer at the back. Zabaleta has attempted more tackles than any other defender this season with 96, winning 58.3% of them.

 

Feb 232013
 

- Ten-man Arsenal secured what could be a valuable win away to Sunderland as they held on for a 0-1 win at the Stadium of Light. A rasping Santi Cazorla shot was enough for Arsene Wenger’s men, as they battled to the end after losing Carl Jenkinson for a second bookable offence.

 

– Despite only playing 1408 minutes of football this season, Jack Wilshere has already completed 560 passes in the opponent’s half. This pass rate places him 5th on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for minutes per pass.

 

– In his absence, Santi Cazorla has been more than willing to shoulder the burden of creative midfield general. The diminutive Spanish wizard is currently sitting on 998 passes completed in the opponent’s half this season and will be expecting to become potentially the first player to break the 1000-mark this weekend. Hi nearest rival is Yaya Toure on 942.

 

– Although he has been criticized at times for his performances this season, Per Mertesacker boasts some of the best defensive statistics in the entire Arsenal squad. Not only do he have a 71% tackle success rate from 31 challenges, he also leads the Gunners’ squad for clearances (30) and interceptions (45).

 

– Expect to see Theo Walcott use his pace to get in behind Aston Villa’s much-troubled defence and test Brad Guzan this weekend. The England forward has been revelling in his time spent in more central positions and is third in the Arsenal squad for attempts on goal (57) and has the strongest shot accuracy rate in the squad for players with over 10 attempts (68.4%).

 

Aston Villa claimed all three points in a crucial 2-1 over West Ham last time out. Despite an Ashley Westwood own goal, strikes from Christian Benteke and Charles N’Zogbia were enough to give Paul Lambert’s men continued hope of maintaining their Premier League status.

 

– Arsenal are having trouble with their wide defensive setup at present so expect to see Matthew Lowton making some charges down the flanks this weekend. He’s so far delivered 31 crosses and has completed more passes in the opponent’s half than any other Villa player this season (317).

 

– Although Villa’s defenders have been criticized repeatedly this season, the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that there is certainly no lack of quality amongst their defensive leaders. Ciaran Clark has made an exceptional 225 positive defensive contributions this term, including 28 blocks, the third highest in the league.

 

– Much of Villa’s hopes will inevitably fall on the broad shoulders of Christian Benteke as they push for Premier League survival. The striker has had 76 shots on goal and has the best accuracy rate (71.1%) of any player in the top 20 for number of attempts on goal.

 

– Villa keeper Brad Guzan has been called into action repeatedly this season but has kept on rising to the challenge. He leads the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for saves with 152.

Feb 102013
 

Aston Villa v West Ham 13:30

 

Aston Villa featured in a thrilling 3-3 draw against Everton in their last league outing. Two goals from Christian Benteke and one from Gabriel Agbonlahor earnt them a point that will please Villa fans, although the nature of the result coming from being 3-1 up will perhaps cause concern.

 

Benteke’s goals took him to 10 goals in the Premier League this season, one of 16 players to have hit the milestone. Of those 16 strikers, Benteke has taken the 6th highest number of shots to register his ten goals with 74. However, he also has the third best shots on target percentage of those 16 players with 71.6% of his shots on target. Only Juan Mata and Steven Fletcher have been more accurate in their pursuit of hitting double figures this season.

 

Ron Vlaar made 7 clearances in the game against Everton, and will be key to cutting off West Ham’s supply to Andy Carroll in this game. There have only been 6 players this season who have made more than 7 clearances in a game, and it’s Vlaar who still leads the ranking for most in one match with 11 against United in November.

 

Vlaar’s stats get even more impressive when you consider only 16 players this season have attempted more than 25 tackles and still maintained a 75% + success rate. Vlaar is one of those with 37 tackles attempted and 75.7% of them successful. He’s joined in that 16 by team mate Barry Bannan, who has attempted 28 tackles winning 78.6%.

 

Bradley Guzan made ten saves in the game against Everton, the second highest in the last round of Premier League games, and the fourth time this season he has had to make ten or more saves in a match. Guzan also hold the record for most saves in a match this season, with 16 against Liverpool in December, and most in the league overall this season with 146.

 

Andy Carroll celebrated a first start for West Ham since November by scoring the winner in a 1-0 win over Swansea in their last game.

 

– That was just Carroll’s second goal for West Ham this season, having had 29 shots at goal with 55.2% on target, a rate 14.5 shots per goal.

 

– West Ham’s James Tomkins is one of 16 players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index to have attempted 25 or more tackles while maintaining a 75% success rate. He has attempted 34 tackles this season, winning 76.5% of them.

 

– Sam Allardyce called retaining Mohammed Diame ‘vital’ as the transfer window closed last week. The midfielder has attempted more tackles (70) than any other West Ham player this season, barring his midfield team mate Mark Noble who has attempted 90 tackles.

 

Noble was credited his third assist of the season after delivering his 46th cross this term for Andy Carroll to head in against against Swansea. Noble has also completed 482 passes in the opposition half this season, more than any of his West Ham team mates.

Jan 292013
 

Aston Villa v Newcastle, 19:45

 

Aston Villa will be looking to bounce back from a week that saw them knocked out of both the FA Cup and League Cup.  Their last league game was a 2-2 draw with West Brom that saw goals from Christian Benteke, who has been a stand out performer for Villa this season, and Gabriel Agbonlahor.

 

Benteke has seven goals from 68 shots this season, with an impressive 72% on target. He’s also contributed four assists meaning he has had a hand in 58% of Aston Villa’s goals this season.

 

Agbonlahor’s goal was just his second of the season, having had 14 shots at goal with 71% on target. The usually prolific Agbonlahor has been shot shy this season, averaging a shot every 84 minutes 24 seconds.

 

Matt Lowton has been another stand out performer for Villa this season, winning 58 tackles so far, more than any other defender in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

Newcastle will also be looking for an upturn in form, after losing 2-1 to Reading in their last Premier League game. Yohan Cabaye had put Newcastle ahead in that game with a superb free kick.

 

Cabaye has been a key player for Newcastle over the last two seasons, and his absence through injury has had an undeniable impact on Newcastle’s fortunes.  Cabaye has played just 1017 minutes this season, but has completed a pass in his opponent’s half every 5 minutes 9 seconds this season and won 61.5% of his attempted tackles.

 

Newcastle’s reliance on Cabaye is made clear when you consider that 84 players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index have completed 300 or more passes in the opposition half this season, but only one of those is a Newcastle player (Vurnon Anita with 307 passes completed)

 

Following the loss of Demba Ba to Chelsea, Papiss Cisse and Hatem Ben Arfa seem to be Newcastle’s most likely sources of goals. Cisse has four goals from 39 shots at goal with 51% on target, while Ben Arfa has 3 goals from 30 shots with 53% on target. A conversion rate of approximately ten shots for each goal for both players will need to be improved on if they are to fire in the goals to keep Newcastle clear of the relegation zone.

 

Jonas Guttierez is doing as much as anyone to try and provide the goal scoring opportunities. He has delivered 31 crosses without being credited an assist, the second highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

Jan 182013
 

West Brom v Aston Villa, Saturday 15:00

 

–  West Brom threw away 3 points last weekend, as Reading came back from a 0-2 deficit to score 3 goals in the final eight minutes. The Baggies had been in total control for large parts of the match, so Steve Clarke will be looking to seeing his attacking-minded team respond this week and close out the match with more efficiency.

 

– The Baggies back four have certainly been busy this season but have proven themselves to be more than up to the task. Defenders Gareth McAuley, Jonas Olsson and Liam Ridgewell have collectively combined for a massive 570 defensive contributions this season, providing the stability for their attacking players to venture forward.

 

– Belgian youngster Romelu Lukaku made a point of saying how much he is enjoying his time at West Brom, an easy inference to make as the striker is flourishing under Steve Clarke. His 9 goals are the product of an excellent 75% shot accuracy rate from 44 attempts, the highest of any of the top ten scorers in the Premier League this season.

 

– Fellow striker Shane Long’s all-action style is unfortunately lead him down the wrong path defensively-speaking this season. The 31 fouls he’s racked up so far is the highest total of any Baggies player according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

James Morrison remains the pivotal figure in the West Brom midfield, leading the squad for both passes completed in the opponent’s half with 390, and assists with 6.

 

George Thorne was the man to who stood out in terms of workrate last weekend, the young defender clearly desperate to grab the chance to add to his limited appearances this season. He ran for 6.61 miles according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

– A controversial penalty saw Aston Villa fall to a 0-1 defeat at home to Southampton on Saturday, pushing them in the Premier League’s relegation zone.

 

Gabriel Agbonglahor may have been struggling to consistently find the net this season, but the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index suggests that the West Brom defence may have to be alert to stop his bad run of luck from changing. He has a 73% shot accuracy rate from 11 attempts, yet only one goal.

 

– Fellow striker Christian Benteke has also been finding goals a little hard to come by in the past few weeks, despite a stellar start to his Premier League career. However, he remains by far the biggest threat Aston Villa possess up front, having a combined total of 10 goals and assists.

 

– Defender Matthew Lowton is part of the lastest crop of talented youngsters to come through at Villa and his performances have demonstrated a maturity beyond his 23 years. He has a remarkable 79.1% success rate rom 72 attempted tackle and has only conceded 15 fouls.

 

– He will be looking to add to his offensive weapons as his development continues though. He currently has the second highest total for crosses delivered without an assist, with 29, according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

Jan 122013
 

Aston Villa v Southampton, Saturday 15:00

 

Aston Villa stemmed a tide of poor results against Swansea last week in a 2-2 draw, but will have left south Wales disappointed not to have claimed all three points after conceding a late equalizer. Villa’s strikers look to be finding their feet again, with Benteke and Weimann netting once each for Paul Lambert’s side, looking lively throughout.

 

– Midfield talent Barry Bannan looks to be maturing at Villa Park this season. He leads the Villa squad for passes completed inside the opponent’s half with 276, evidence that he is willing and able to shoulder much of the creative and tactical responsibility in the middle of the park.

 

Ashley Westwood is catching the eye of many a pundit and opinion maker thanks to some of his performances in the earlier part of the season, not least for his defensive contributions. He’s racked up an 80% tackles success rate from 25 challenges and has only given away 5 fouls along the way.

 

– Such has been Brad Guzan’s form of late, he’s even been able to keep the great Shay Given from making the Aston Villa starting line-up and according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index he’s had plenty of opportunities to show off his skills. He’s ranked as the second busiest keeper in the league, having made 115 saves, one every 15.9 minutes.

 

– Paul Lambert will be looking for a some improved defensive displays from all-action midfielder Karim El Ahmadi in this next stage of the season.  According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index he’s conceded more fouls that any other Villa player, with 29, and only has a  40% tackles success rate from 48 attempts.

 

– Belgian striker Christian Benteke may have struggled to find the net in his last few outings but he remains Aston Villa’s biggest threat on goal this season. He’s had a squad-high total of 58 attempts on goal, 58& of which have been on target.   

Southampton will have been similarly disappointed not to have claimed a much-needed three points after their 1-1 draw with Arsenal. Nigel Adkin’s side were in great form and outplayed their more lauded opponent’s for much of the game. It was a result, and a performance, to give them confidence against an Aston Villa side who have admittedly struggled against some of the free-flowing sides in the Premier League in recent weeks.

 

– Southampton will do well to fend off the inevitable wave of interest in their teenage prodigy Luke Shaw come the summer transfer window. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, the young left-back has notched up 108 defensive contributions and has an 85% tackle success rate from 27 challenges.

 

Steven Davis managed to pip perennial hardest-worker Morgan Schneiderlin to the title of Southampton’s hardest worker against Arsenal last week. He pushed for 7.09 miles, just 0.04 than his French teammate.

 

Jason Puncheon is quietly stabling a reputation as one of the most consistent performers at Southampton with his recent form. He’s made a combined 38 crosses and assists this season, along with 5 assists.

 

– His midfield partner Adam Lallana continues to shoulder much of the responsibility for making Southampton tick though, having successfully completed 339 passes in the opponent’s half according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

Jan 082013
 
Wells

Nahki Wells put Bradford City 1-0 up against Aston Villa in the Capital One Cup with less than 20 minutes played. When celebrating, he lifted his shirt to reveal a message that said “RIP Tumaini Steede”. Steede was a fellow Bermudian footballer, who died in July 2012, after being involved in a serious motorcycle collision.

“I met Tumaini playing football and we have been tight ever since,” said Wells. “Tumaini and I have played together with the national team since we were 12 but we were always on opposing teams domestically.”

Steede was best known as a major part of the Devonshire Cougars team where he was a prolific goal scorer. He represented Bermuda internationally on multiple occasions, and was part of the bronze medal winning team at the 2007 Island Games. He also was part of the 2009 CONCACAF U/20 Championship team, playing in international matches against the Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico and Jamaica.

At the start of this season, Wells revealed he would be dedicating his season to his friend.

“I got some boots made which have his name and squad number 10 which he wore down the Rec (Devonshire Recreation Club),” Wells said. “We both actually wear the same boots and I thought he would be proud watching over to see the boots I created. I’m dedicating my season and future success to my boy.”