Aug 312013

Newcastle vs Fulham, 15:00

– As the uncertainty around star midfielder Yohan Cabaye’s future continued, his Newcastle teammates could only see their way to a 0-0 draw with West Ham, their first point of the season.

– Alan Pardew’s search for an extra striker to bolster his squad is clearly something of a priority and so it should be. His entire squad between them have so far only mustered 1 on target attempt on goal.

– Hatem Ben Arfa continues to be one of the few bright spots in what has been a turbulent and disappointing start to the season for Newcastle. He currently sits joint second on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for attacking contributions with 14.

– Hard-tackling midfielder Cheick Tiote looks to have curbed his tendency towards giving away fouls this season, with a much more measured approach to his defensive work. The Ivory Coast international has so far given away no fouls this season and has won 60% of his five attempted challenges.

– A consolation goal from new signing Darren Bent was not enough to stop Fulham from dropping to a 1-3 defeat on a wet afternoon at Craven Cottage last Saturday.

– The acquisition of Scott Parker from Tottenham appears to have been a solid piece of footballing business by Fulham. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, Parker has already completed a pass in the opponent’s half on average once every 2.1 minutes this season, a better rate than anyone else in either the Fulham or Tottenham squad.

– Adel Taarabt looks like he is in the mood to take much of the creative pressure off the shoulders of Dimitar Berbatov this season, having already racked up a squad-high 11 attacking contributions for his new side (cross, assist, dribble, shot on target).

– Aaron Hughes’ 12 clearances was the 5th highest total of anyone in the league last weekend, the Northern Irishman taking on much of the burden of repelling the waves of Arsenal attacks last Saturday.

May 192013

Newcastle v Arsenal 16:00


Newcastle fans will be breathing a sigh of relief as their Premier League status for next season was ensured following Wigan’s defeat by their opponent’s this weekend. They have also recently been back in the win column after a 1-2 win against QPR at Loftus Road.


– Alan Pardew will be desperate to retain the services of his captain Fabricio Coloccini for next season. The inspirational Newcastle leader has been his side’s defensive talisman this term and their defensive organisation and grit has notably faltered when he has been absent. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index Coloccini has amassed a quite superb 81.8% tackle success rate from 44 attempted challenges, as well as racking up a squad-high 183 defensive contributions.


– Another key member of the squad who must not be allowed to leave is Yohan Cabaye. The Frenchman has been the central man in almost all of Newcastle’s creative efforts this season, completing a pass in the opponent’s half on average once every 4.9 minutes, as well as delivering 67 crosses, more than any other Newcastle player.


– Newcastle’s future in the Premier League may be secure but you can guarantee that the potential to spoil Arsenal’s season by preventing them qualifying for the Champions League will provide plenty of motivation. One man who never needs much motivating is the ever-committed Jonas Gutierrez. The Argentine midfielder has compiled a quite superb tackle success rate for a midfielder of 72% from 75 challenges.


Arsenal showed both their grit and quality as they soundly beat Wigan 4-1 on Tuesday night to send the Lactics into the Championship. A brace from Lukas Podolski, as well as strikes from Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey, ensured a vital win for Arsene Wenger’s side. They go into this weekend knowing that only a win will definitively ensure Champions league football next season.


Theo Walcott’s development continues apace after he signed a new contract in January. Despite still not being played through the middle as frequently as he would like, the pacy winger has been in devastating form this season, racking up 13 assists and 14 goals in the league. Such a prolific strike rate has been borne of his much improved accuracy in front of goal, Walcott hit the target with 73.2% of his 82 attempts on goal.


– Another young Englishman to have enhanced his reputation this season is Kieran Gibbs. He’s been in sterling form in all areas this term, not least in his primary defensive duties, having compiled a tackle success rate of 72.5% from 69 attempts. This represents this best rate in the Arsenal squad according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.


– His defensive colleague Laurent Koscielny is another who has stepped up to the mark for the Gunners this term. If reports are to be believed he is drawing admiring glances from some of Europe’s other big clubs, not surprising given his record of making a defensive contribution on average once every 14.8 minutes this season.

May 122013

QPR v Newcastle, 15:00         


– Relegated QPR showed good fight against Arsenal in their last game, losing 1-0 to an early goal but matching the Gunners for much of the game.


Andros Townsend, in particular, impressed. He completed six dribbles in the game to take the match to Arsenal, the most by a player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for a single game in the last round of matches.


– Just as impressive for a midfielder of Townsend’s age and unquestionable attacking ability is his defensive stats this season. Townsend has 31 tackles this season and won 80.6% of them, while committing a foul on average every 6.2 tackles.


Clint Hill worked hard to stop Arsenal from opening the flood gates after the early goal, one of two players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index to make four blocks in the last round of games, and the joint third highest in a single game for the whole season.


Hill is now one of five players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index to have made 200 or more interceptions this season. Hill has 203 to his name in total this season.


– That takes Hill’s defensive contributions this season to 316 across tackles won, interceptions, blocks and clearances, one of five players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index to have passed 300, and the one to have done so in the least pitch time (2,626 minutes).


Newcastle risk joining QPR in the relegation zone at the end of the season after a 0-0 draw with West Ham leaves them just three points clear of the drop.


Chieck Tiote is gave his all against West Ham, winning 8 tackles, the 9th highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index by a player in a single game this season. He attempted 13 tackles in total, the joint highest by a player in a single game this season. Of the five players who have attempted 13 tackles this season, Tiote’s percentage of them won is third highest.


Tiote has now attempted 100 tackles this season, one of 22 players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index to have hit this milestone, although he has the fifth lowest tackles won percentage of these 22 with just 45% of tackles won.


Sylvain Marveaux has an equally impressive, but different defensive stats to his name this season. The Magpies midfielder has the cleanest minutes per foul conceded rate in the league, having played 1091 minutes and committed just two fouls, averaging 545 minutes 30 seconds per goal.


Davide Santon has been Newcastle’s top ranked player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index this season ranked in 97th. He’s won 67.6% of 68 tackles attempted, made 31 clearances and 81 interceptions.

May 042013

West Ham v Newcastle, 15:00 


– A consolation goal in the final minutes from Andy Carroll was not enough to prevent West Ham from suffering a 2-1 defeat against Manchester City at the Etihad. 


– It will interesting to see how Carroll deals with facing his beloved former club but all signs are that he is returning to his imposing best and will be in merciless form against the Magpies. Carroll has found a measure of stability at West Ham, compiling the greatest number of attempts on goal in the Hammers squad (63) as well as averaging the least amount of time of any of his teammates to get a shot on goal, with one attempt coming on average once every 28.7 minutes according to the EA SPORTS Player performance Index. 


James Tomkins remains West Ham’s best tackler this season, having been successful with 78.7% of his 47 attempted challenges this season. His defensive reading of the game will be crucial against a Newcastle side that will be pressing for a much-needed win following a string of disappointing performances. 


– No West Ham player has ventured forward with more success than Mark Noble this season, completing a squad-high 511 passes in the opponent’s half this season at an average rate of one every 4.6 minutes, another squad-best. The Newcastle defence has shown serious fragility in recent weeks and Hammers fans will be looking to Noble to provide the platform for their side’s attacks this weekend. 


Newcastle were humbled 0-6 at home by Liverpool last weekend in a result that leaves them just two places from the bottom three and in a real relegation dogfight. Alan Pardew will be demanding a response from his players this weekend. 


– A quick start could be crucial to Newcastle’s chances of success this weekend, having seen two big games in recent weeks run away from them. Papiss Cisse will be the man the Toon Army expect to rise to the occasion, not surprising given that the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows him as having a shot on goal on average once every 38.8 minutes this season. Cisse’s shot accuracy rate remains a concern though, having only seen 49.3% of his efforts find their way on target. 


– Newcastle appear to be a club in freefall and it’s at times like this that you need your big players to step up to the plate. Yohan Cayabe is one such player having average a pass in the opponent’s half on average once every 4.8 minutes this season. He will need to step up and dictate play here away from home. 


– Alan Pardew will be desperate for some defensive solidarity this weekend though, having seen his side have 6 put past them last weekend. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa will be central to this, the young centre-half already adapting to life in the Premier League, averaging a defensive contribution once every 16.7 minutes following his arrival in January.

Apr 272013

Newcastle v Liverpool, 17:30


– Fears remain over Newcastle’s continued Premier League status, after a 1-1 draw with West Brom last weekend left them once again looking over their shoulders as the season reaches it’s climax.


Yoan Gouffran got himself no the scoresheet early against the Baggies, offering yet more evidence that he will prove to be yet another sharp forward signing for the Magpies. The 26 year-old has quickly established himself as one of the most consistent attackers in the Newcastle squad, racking up a 73.7% accuracy rate from 19 attempts on goal.


– One wonders where Newcastle would be without the ever-present industry of Jonas Gutierrez, the midfielder constantly tracking back to pick up defensive slack when needed. His 129 defensive contributions is the 3rd highest in the Newcastle squad this term according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.


– Newcastle fans will be hoping to see more of Gael Bigirimana next season, the youngster having proven he has the technical ability to cope in the Premier League. For the 461 minutes he’s played this season, on average he’s completed a pass in the opponent’s half once every 3.8 minutes.


Liverpool came from behind to earn a 2-2 with Chelsea last time out, in a match that will unfortunately be remembered for Luis Suarez’s now infamous bite on Branislav Ivanovic.


– Whilst Suarez has unfortunately attracted controversy this season, in footballing terms his value to Liverpool is difficult to overestimate. His 23 goals for the Reds this season have come as part of a gigantic 169 efforts on goal with an accuracy rate of 60.9%.


– Right-back Glen Johnson remains Liverpool’s most effective tackler as the season marches towards its final few matches. He’s come out on top in 73.8% of his 84 challenges this season.


Steven Gerrard continues to defy the march of time according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, compiling a quite superb set of statistics this season. He’s now made 1015 passes in the opponent’s half this season, making him part of a group of only 5 players to have broken the 1000-pass barrier (Cazorla, Arteta, Toure, Carrick) and the oldest player in the top 10 in the league for passes completed.

Apr 202013

West Brom v Newcastle, 15:00


West Brom left themselves a mountain to climb after falling 2-0 behind in their last Premier League outing with Arsenal. Despite James Morrison tucking a penalty away in the second half, it was not enough for Steve Clarke’s side to take anything away from the game.


– With all the signs pointing towards Romelu Lukaku’s departure come the end of the season, the Baggies will be hard pressed to find someone else with his devastating impact. The young Belgian has take just on average just 37.2 minutes to conjure up an on target attempt on goal this season.


Gareth McAuley remains one of the leagues most effective defenders this season according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. He currently sits 6th for total defensive contributions with 296, meaning he will very likely break through the 300 barrier this weekend against a Newcastle outfit likely to provide him with plenty of work.


– Expect Steve Clarke’s side to potentially turn to James Morrison for inspiration this weekend, given the Scottish midfielder’s current position as the Baggies’ most consistent attacker. Morrison has now racked up 7 assists this season, to complement  his rate of completing a pass in the opponent’s half once every 4.4 minutes, the lowest in the West Brom squad. Look for him to be at the centre of everything positive about their play on Saturday.


– A crippling 0-3 defeat to fiercest rivals Sunderland last Sunday will have been a bitter pill for Newcastle and they will be looking to bounce back in a positive fashion this weekend.


– Newcastle’s defence will have been asking some hard questions of themselves this week following their collapse against Sunderland. Tim Krul in particular will be keen not to see his goal breached again and will be doing his utmost to add to his tally of 134 saves this season.


– It was a rude introduction to the Tyne-Wear derby for Moussa Sissoko, in a match where the Newcastle midfield were dominated by their counterparts for large parts of the game. Sissoko will certainly be looking to improve upon his own personal defensive record this weekend, having only completed 25% of his 20 attempted challenges this season.


Yoan Gouffran has certainly made something of an impression following his arrival at St James’ Park. The Frenchman clearly has an eye for a gap and currently has the best shot accuracy rate in the Newcastle squad, with 70.6% of his 17 attempts finding their way on target. The Magpies may well need his sharp shooting this weekend against an often stubborn West Brom defence.

Apr 142013

Newcastle v Sunderland, 12:00


– A dramatic stoppage-time strike from Papiss Cisse clinch an important 1-0 win for Newcastle at home to Fulham last weekend and ease the relegation fears previously surrounding the club.


Jonas Gutierrez has established himself as a cult hero amongst the Toon Army thanks to his lung-busting efforts and unreserved commitment to the Newcastle cause. The Argentinian has proved himself a accomplished defender as well as attacker during his time on Tyneside and he has one of the best tackles success rate of anyone in the Newcastle squad to prove it, currently sitting at 72.3%.


– Fullback Davide Santon continues to impress with the consistent level of his performances this season, and his offensive abilities may well cause an at times hesitant Sunderland defence problems this weekend. For players with 20 or more attempts on goal, he currently sits second on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for Shot accuracy, with 80% of his attempts on goal testing the keeper this season.


– Should Newcastle local Shola Ameobi make an appearance this weekend, it will likely be from the bench. However the experienced front man knows what it means to play in derbies of this magnitude and will bring endeavor and passion to the Newcastle cause. Expect him to add to his already solid shot accuracy rate of 63.6% from 22 attempts should Alan Pardew decide to throw him into the mix.


– Paulo Di Canio’s first match as Sunderland manager nearly saw them pull of an unlikely win at Stamford Bridge last weekend. However Chelsea showed steely resolve to battle back and claim a 2-1 win to see Sunderland go into this weekend’s Tyne-Wear derby outside of the bottom three on goal difference alone.


James McClean has certainly showcased his love of hard graft this season, the Irishman proving to be than happy to get involved in defensive duties in the middle of the park. He’s won more tackles than any other Sunderland player this season with 70.


John O’Shea continues to quietly amass some very impressive figures with his performances this season. He’s joint second on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for interceptions with 185 and his reading of the game may well be crucial this weekend as the Black Cats look to negate the technique and vision Yohan Cabaye.


– Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has been attracting interest from a host of top clubs following some outstanding performances between Sunderland’s sticks. His excellent total of 180 saves may well be added to this weekend when he is called on to deal with Newcastle’s attacking threats.

Mar 302013

Man City v Newcastle 15:00


Manchester City all but lost their chance to retain the Premier League title when they lost 2-0 to 10 man Everton in their last Premier League outing.


– Newcastle will be wary of Manchester City’s strikers, but should be alert to goal threats from all over the pitch. Aleksandar Kolarov, for example, has attempted a shot at goal every 62 minutes 30 seconds this season, a more prolific shooting rate than any of the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index’s defenders.


– Newcastle will also need to take steps to shackle Yaya Toure midfield. Toure has completed 998 passes in opposition territory this season, the second highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, and should easily pass 1,000 against Newcastle.


– Manchester City fan will be hoping for the return of Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany in the game against Newcastle. Aguero has 9 goals this season from 67 efforts at goal with 58.2% on target and an average of 7.4 shots per goal.


– That’s the same number of goals as Carlos Tevez, though Tevez conversely has a better on target percentage (65.8%) and has also needed more shots to hit his nine goals (79).


Newcastle’s last Premier League game, a 2-1 defeat to Wigan, got all the headlines after Calum McManaman’s tackle on Massadio Haidara.


– As the debate around tackling continues, Newcastle’s Fabricio Coloccini remains an outstanding example of clean tackling in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. Coloccini has attempted 38 tackles winning an impressive 30 of them and committing just ten fouls


Davide Santon scored for the Magpies in that game. Only two outfielders have played more minutes than Santon this season. Santon has played 2819 compared to Matt Lowton of Villa’s 2898 and Steven Gerrard’s 2880.


Santon also made three blocks for Newcastle against Wigan, one of only two players to do so in the last round of games.


Steven Taylor expressed his shock at getting an England call up last week saying he believed it was a team mate’s girlfriend winding him up. Taylor has made 133 defensive contributions this season, including an impressive 81 interceptions, 14 blocks and 25 clearances

Mar 202013

The FA yesterday announced that Callum McManaman would not face an FA charge over his challenge on Massadio Haïdara at the weekend, following the daily replays and image stills in the media. Whilst some fans have expressed their outrage, the decision should have come as no surprise, as the FA aren’t about to break their own rules when it comes to retrospective punishments. One of the officials saw the “coming together” and therefore no action can be taken. Some may argue this is a silly rule to have in place but it would be unmanageable for the FA to review every possible red card decision. How many times a weekend do you see a challenge that is dealt with by the awarding of a freekick or by dishing out a caution, when hindsight suggests that the player was actually guilty of a sending off offence?

The Wigan chairman, Dave Whelan, was asked for his thoughts on the latest HORROR CHALLENGE but claimed that there was nothing wrong with it. “The referee was only 10 yards away and didn’t even give the foul – it was a fair challenge, you have to see it all – our lad went for the ball, and they collided, it is football. It is tough game but it was an accident.”

The Newcastle manager, Alan Pardew, understandably saw the challenge differently. “It is an awful challenge,” he said. “The pictures speak for themselves. I thought it was a bad challenge and I was 60 yards from the incident. The players knew because they were on top of it and there was a lot of bad feeling about that incident when it goes unpunished. He (Halsey) said ‘If I’ve missed it I apologise’ – that was at half-time.”

Still, for all the apparent shock from Newcastle and neutral fans alike, we should remember we’ve been here before, when Wayne Rooney elbowed Wigan’s James McCarthy in the head out of sight of Mark Clattenburg. The referee reportedly asked Rooney what happened, to which he lied, and claimed he caught him by accident. Clattenburg then asked McCarthy who responded by saying he didn’t know. Clattenburg then awarded a freekick, meaning the challenge had been dealt with and no retrospective punishment could be made (although the FA did get their own back a few weeks later when making Rooney the only player to face a two game ban for swearing).

Despite McCarthy choosing not to tell the referee he had been elbowed, Whelan went on the attack, claiming the reason why the FA hadn’t broken their own rule to punish Rooney was because he played for Manchester United.

“Something is wrong when a top international like Rooney is seen doing something like this, as clear as day, and is allowed to get away without being punished,” he said. “If it was any other club or player, you can bet your life he would have been sent off. But officials seem intimidated by the words ‘Rooney’ and ‘United’. Manchester United are allowed to get away with things the rest of us get pulled up for. And you can’t have one set of rules for one club and another for the rest. I don’t care what the FA say about the matter being dealt with at the time by us getting a free-kick. They, and everyone else in football, know justice isn’t being served here. The FA will be delighted they can hide behind their rules.”

I believe Whelan is now the one who is delighted that the FA have this rule to hide behind, as McManaman has been allowed to get away without being punished. Turns out you don’t have to be a Manchester United player after all.

Two weeks after the Wigan game United went to Anfield to suffer the humiliation of a Dirk Kuyt hattrick and one of our players getting cut open by Jamie Carragher. The Liverpool man went in on Nani similarly to how McManaman did on Haïdara, leaving Nani with a deep gash in his leg, but Phil Dowd opted just to caution him. It was clearly a red card offence but there was no retrospective punishment on offer.

James Lawton, The Independent, wrote at the time: At the end of a week of refereeing controversy it was that Jamie Carragher was merely given a yellow card for a tackle on Nani so sickening, so dangerous, that it rendered more farcical than ever the insistence of the football authorities that they cannot revisit extreme cases of negligence, irresponsibility or – let’s not fail to explore the full range of possibilities in this case – outright failure of nerve by a match official.

Phil Dowd was close at hand, was surrounded by protesting United players and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard – who appeared to be suggesting that his team-mate was not guilty of one of the worst fouls to disfigure any ground in recent memory – and then administered two yellow cards, one to Carragher, still protesting his innocence, and the other to Edwin van der Sar, incredulous that a tackle of such crude violence could elicit such a mild punishment.

We all know what a sterling professional Carragher has been down the years but you had to be living on another planet not to be revolted by this piece of action. Nani wasn’t tackled – he was, in effect, assaulted – and we can re-run the film a thousands times without a softening of that verdict.

The issue is that every week referees make the wrong decision and if the FA can overrule them, not only will the officials be totally undermined, but the FA will be inundated with red card appeals. The only occasion when the FA have diverted from this rule was when Ben Thatcher took out Pedro Mendes and it was deemed that a yellow card wasn’t punishment enough. Referee Dermot Gallagher failed to spot that Thatcher smashed his forearm in to Mendes’ head, leading the FA to retrospectively ban the Manchester City player for eight games.

So, did the FA open a can of worms with this decision? You could argue that the fact Mendes was knocked unconscious and suffered with seizures on the way to hospital meant that this was an extraordinary case. Whilst there’s no denying that challenges like McManaman’s should not be a part of the game, it certainly wasn’t life-threatening in the way that Thatcher’s could have been. The FA and referees tend to act as a result of the damage done, which is why in challenges like the Jonny Evans-Student Holden of a couple of seasons ago, it was Evans that got sent off, despite Holden going in over the ball. Holden got his leg broken though so Evans got a red card. Had Haïdara’s leg broken in a few places and he went in to shock, there might have been more chance of McManaman becoming an exception to the rule and facing a ban, but it was never likely.

Something must be done about this though, fans keep saying, it can’t be right that players get away with such shocking challenges. We can all agree on that but it’s hard to see what the solution might be.

Mar 172013

Wigan v Newcastle, 16:00


Wigan’s last effort in the league was a 0-4  defeat at home to Liverpool, a result they will be keen to banish from memory with the arrival of another dangerous outfit in Newcastle this weekend.


Maynor Figueroa continues to be a bastion of strength in defence for Roberto Martinez’s side this season. He now leads the Wigan squad for defensive contributions with 261.


– Scottish midfielder James McCarthy’s influence on Wigan’s performances this season has been enormous, as evidenced by the fact that he has completed more passes in the opponent’s half than any other Wigan player (702) at an average rate of one every 3.8 minutes.


Franco di Santo may not have been at his most accurate in front of goal at times this season, but it has not diminished his willingness to let fly when he finds himself in promising positions.  He has had 54 attempts on goal this season (55% of which have been on target), second only to Arouna Kone with 56.


Newcastle showed good grit to overcome a Stoke 2-1 at St James Park last weekend, with goals from Yohan Cabaye and Papiss Cisse helping them to come from behind and deservedly claim all three points.


Yoan Gouffran has showed some promising touches in the early stages of his Newcastle career, another in a line of talented Frenchmen to join the Magpies’ squad. He’s already registered 2 assists and 12 efforts on goal since arriving on Tyneside.


– Senegalese striker Papiss Cisse continues to fill the sizeable void left by Demba Ba’s departure. His well taken goal last time out in the league is something we all know him to be capable of and he is steadily improving his general shot accuracy, now sitting at 51.9% from 52 attempts.


– Despite struggling to nail down a regular place in the starting XI at times this season, it has proven difficult for any other Newcastle player to replicate Hatem Ben Arfa’s ability to take the game to opposition defences. The gifted midfielder still leads the Newcastle squad for dribbles with 27.


Mar 122013

During’s Newcastle’s win over Stoke City, Steven Taylor was doing all he could to put off Asmir Begovic ahead of a freekick. Yohan Cabaye scored to make it 1-1 before Papiss Cisse scored an injury time winner.

Mar 102013

Newcastle v Stoke 15:00


– Despite a valiant effort over 90 minutes, Newcastle fell to a 1-0 defeat away to Swansea last weekend.


Jonas Gutierrez has been in typically all-action form this season, racking up 102 defensive contributions as well as a 68.6% tackle success rate according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.


– Midfielder Moussa Sissoko continues to waste no time in introducing himself to Newcastle fans renowned for their love of goalscorers. Despite only arriving in January he’s been averaging a shot on target once every 58.4 minutes he’s been on the pitch.


– Senegalese striker Papiss Cisse has certainly been doing the business in front of goal in recent weeks for Alan Pardew’s side, however it will be his defensive misdemeanours which might have his manager slightly concerned. He’s committed 37 fouls this season, second highest in the Newcastle squad and sixth amongst Premier League strikers.


– Given the level of talent in the Newcastle midfield it might come as something of a surprise that fullback Davide Santon leads the squad for successful completed passes in the opponent’s half. The Italian has clearly been consistently finding himself in advanced positions higher up the pitch on his way to compiling 333 passes there.


Stoke’s disappointing run of form continued last weekend as they were beaten 1-0 by West Ham. It was a performance which suggested that more goals willing be on the way for Stoke, having gone close on plenty of occasions here.


– American defender Geoff Cameron has been continuing the fine tradition of players from across the pond and adapting to the rigours of the Premier League. He currently boasts the highest tackle success rate of any Stoke player, successfully completing 68.8% of his 77 attempted challenges.


– Pace over the ground might not be defensive pairing’s Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth’s greatest strength but they more than make up for it with their instinctive reading of the game. Between them they’ve compiled a highly impressive 281 interceptions this season according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.


– Getting Charlie Adam involved as often as possible will be key for Tony Pulis’ side should they wish to turn around their current slump in form. He’s currently average a successful pass in the opponent’s half once every 5.9 minutes, the lowest in the Potters’ squad.


– Despite a couple of slip ups this season, Jonathan Walters’ confidence has certainly not been dented, he leads the Stoke squad for attempts on goal this season with 37.


Mar 012013

Swansea v Newcastle, Saturday 15:00


– Whilst succumbing 5-0 to Liverpool last time out in the league, Swansea were again involved in a 5-0 rout but this time their fortunes were reversed as they humbled Bradford to win the Capital one Cup last Sunday.


– Goals from Michu and braces from both Nathan Dyer and Jonathan de Guzman secured the first major trophy in the club’s 101-year history and they will be looking to continue this momentum in their homecoming this weekend.


– The undoubted star of Swansea’s season so far, Michu has come from relative obscurity to be one of the most important players in the Swansea squad. His physical presence has surprised many but it is his technique in front of goal that has garnered him the majority of his 15 goals, with the Spaniard crafting a shot on target every 56.1 minutes he’s been on the pitch.


– His fellow Spaniard Pablo Hernandez is another who’s been impressing with his passing ability and vision. He’s now made a successful pass in the opponent’s half once every 3.8 minutes and has taken sides on with dribbles 17 times, the third highest in the Swansea squad.


Nathan Dyer has appeared reenergized in recent weeks, capping a fine performance in the Capital One Cup Final with two goals. He’s also back to carving out chances for his teammates, tying for second-highest total assists in the Swans squad with 5.


– When the season began, 19 year old Ben Davies would likely have been happy with a couple of appearance of the bench for Swansea, yet due to various twists of fate he has emerged as one of their key performers. He now boasts an excellent 73.2% tackle success rate from  56 attempted challenges, as well as 157 defensive contributions.


Newcastle battled back last weekend to win a fine encounter with Southampton 4-2 at St James’s Park. An absorbing contest marked a continued return to form for Alan Pardew’s side but they will face a stern test against a buoyant and talented Swansea side this weekend.


Moussa Sissoko is making an impressive start to his Premier League career, already racking up a successful pass in the opponent’s half every 5.3 minutes as well as a shot on target every 62.2 minutes.


– Widely regarded as Newcastle’s creator-in-chief, the talented Yohan Cabaye will be disappointed in the number of assists he managed to record this season.  Despite making 54 crosses, he’s only registered one assist, the lowest of any player in top 20 for crosses provided on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.


Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini are clearly developing something of an intuitive understanding of when teams are choosing to slip through the Newcastle defence. Between them they’ve registered 203 interceptions this season.


– Although bought for his reputation as one of the best young defenders in Europe, Davide Santon is flourishing into a distinguished attacker as well. He’s recorded a solid 76.5% shot accuracy rate from 17 attempts this season.

Feb 242013

– Despite a first-half Yoan Gouffran goal, Newcastle fell to a 21 defeat at the hands of Tottenham and the inspired Gareth Bale. Alan Pardew can take heart from what was a strong Newcastle performance and he will be looking for his side to produce a similar performance against the Saints this week.


– Despite only playing 767 minutes this season Sylvain Marveaux still has the highest number of assists of any player in the Newcastle squad with 5.


– Midfield dynamo Moussa Sissoko looks to be settling into life at Newcastle well, quickly picking up the pace at which the play is conducted in the Premier League. He’s already completed 60 passes in the opponent’s half this season, at a rate of one every 4.6 minutes.


Fabricio Coloccini continues to be Newcastle’s defensive rock this season, the Magpies captain leading by example to the rest of his defensive colleagues. He’s established an excellent 78.9% tackle success rate from 38 attempted challenges according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.


– Alan Pardew will be looking for far greater accuracy from Papiss Cisse as Newcastle continue to adapt to life after Demba Ba.  As yet this season the Senegalese frontman has only managed to work the keeper with 52.1% of his 46 attempts on goal.


Southampton produced one of the great performances in their history last time out as they condemned reigning Premier League champions Manchester City to a 3-1 defeat at St Mary’s. Goals from Jason Puncheon and Steven Davis secured a famous win and they will want to carry their new-found momentum into this weekend.


– Expect to see Jason Puncheon build on his performance against Manchester City this week and look to terroise Newcastle’s defence on Saturday. He leads the Southampton squad for dribbles with 15.


Morgan Schneiderlin is renowned for his all-action defensive efforts in the heart of the Southampton midfield and has now joined Steve Sidwell as part of the exclusive club of players to have attempted 100 or more tackles this season.


– Defender Jose Fonte shows no signs of ending his excellent run of form any time soon, as he leads the Southampton squad for defensive contributions this season with 211 according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.


Rickie Lambert has spent much of this season proving his value is not limited to how many times he hits the back of net. His movement and physical presence has been an invaluable asset for Southampton and he has so far provided a squad-leading 7 assists according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

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

Newcastle v Reading, Saturday 15:00


Newcastle need to get used to life after Demba Ba, having scored just once in their two Premier League games since he left for Chelsea. Papiss Cisse scored that goal against Everton on January 2nd, before they played out a 0-0 draw with Norwich last weekend.


Cisse’s goal was his 5th of the season, coming from 35 shots at goal with 48.5% of those on target.


– Newcastle’s back four have been beset by injury this season, but those players who have been brought in have excelled and have been among the league’s best defensive performers. Mike Williamson is ranked joint 7th in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for clearances with 36 this season.


Williamson overall has won 26 tackles, made 91 interceptions and 12 blocks to add to those clearances, averaging a defensive contribution every 9 minutes 59 seconds while on the pitch this season.


Tim Krul, meanwhile, has made 111 saves, the 7th highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.


Reading are making a habit of dramatic comebacks this season, and West Brom were the latest team to fall foul to the Royals ‘never say die’ attitude last weekend.


– Reading were trailing 2-0 against the Baggies before goals from Jimmy Kebe, Adam le Fondre and Pavel Pogrebnyak saw them leave 3-2 winners.


– Reading’s strikers have been in efficient form this season. Le Fondre’s goal was his sixth league goal of the season, having come from 30 shots at goal with exactly 50% on target. Pogrebnyak has hit five goals from 17 shots with 57.8% on target, while Kebe has hit three goals from 13 shots at goal with 69.23% on target.


– Overall, that gives the Reading strike force an impressive conversion rate of 14 goals from 60 shots, or a goal every 4.28 shots, a better conversion rate than league top scorer Robin van Persie who converts a goal every 4.53 shots.


– At the other end of the pitch, Shaun Cummings is excelling for the Royals at right back and has the best tackles won percentage in the league, discounting players who have attempted fewer than 20 tackles. Cummings has lost out on just two tackles this season to make a 91.67% success rate.

Jan 112013

Norwich v Newcastle, Saturday 15:00


Norwich fell to a controversial 2-1 defeat away to West Ham last week, a late Russell Martin goal providing scant consolation. The result continues a worrying run of form for Chris Hughton’s side, and although the Hammers’ disputed penalty was pointed to as the turning point, the hosts struggled to pose a consistent threat on West Ham’s goal.


– Norwich’s strikeforce would do well to take their lead from Robert Snodgrass, one of the Canaries’ leading offensive lights this season. He’s had the most on target attempts of any Norwich player this season with 25.

Snodgrass has also been contributing positively in defence for Chris Hughton this season. He’s won 42 attempted tackles, the most of any Norwich player, giving him a 65% success rate overall.


Bradley Johnson continues to be Norwich’s enforcer-in-chief, leading him to unsurprisingly continue to rack up the fouls. He currently sits joint third on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index with 39.


Alexander Tettey is clearly keen to build on his recent performances for Norwich following a hard working performance against West Ham. He’s ran for an impressive 6.29 miles.


– Frenchman Sebastian Bassong’s all-round defensive contribution continues to be excellent for Norwich. He’s successfully contributed defensively to the Norwich cause once every 12 minutes this season.


– A very early goal from Papiss Cisse was not enough to prevent the Magpies suffering a 1-2 defeat to Everton at St James Park. It was an effort to build on for Alan Pardew’s side however, his team creating a number of chances only to be thwarted by a solid Everton defensive effort.


– Whilst the Newcastle defence have been relatively solid in terms of their discipline this season, Papiss Cisse has been transgressing at the other end of the pitch more than any other Newcastle player. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows him notching up 26 so far.

Davide Santon has been flourishing on Tyneside this season and is also adding some offensive strings to his bow. He’s dribbled with the ball 12 times and delivered 21 crosses.


– No Newcastle player has been throwing their body on the line more than Mike Williamson this campaign.  His 12 blocks is the highest in the Magpies’ squad.


– Newcastle’s main ball wizard continues to be Hatem Ben Arfa though, who pushes Santon into second place for most dribbles with 27, a figure that also places him joint 3rd on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.


Vurnon Anita is slowly proving to be a shrewd buy by Newcastle given some of the numbers he’s generating on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. No Newcastle player has successfully completed more passes in the opponent’s half than him, having recorded 246 so far this season.