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Aug 312013
 

Norwich vs Southampton, 15:00

– Despite holding a man advantage over Hull for over an hour, Norwich were not able to capitalize and found themselves on the end of 1-0 defeat to the Premier League newcomers. Record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel had only one chance of any real purpose on goal and Chris Hughton will be hoping his summer squad additions will be able to generate more opportunities against a Southampton side which has conceded in it’s last two fixtures.

– Ricky van Wolfswinkel may have been brought in for his clinical finishing but Chris Hughton will be expecting much greater discretion from him in defense as the season progresses. He is joint first on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for fouls committed with 8.

– Midfielder Jonny Howson has been the lynchpin through which Norwich’s attacking play has functioned this season, establishing an impressive average rate of a pass in the opponent’s half once every 3.2 minutes.

– Nathan Redmond has been one of the surprise packages for the Canaries so far this campaign. The 19 year old leads the Norwich squad for attacking contributions (cross, assist, dribble, shot on target) with 14.

– A late header from centre-back Jose Fonte rescued a point for Southampton as they scraped to a 1-1 draw at home to Sunderland. Mauricio Pochettino’s side dominated the match for large periods but will be expecting much more clinical conversion of chances from his side this weekend.

– Despite clearly knowing how to put the ball in the back of the net on last week’s evidence, Jose Fonte certainly knows how to perform his primary role equally as effectively. He leads the league for defensive contributions (clearances, interceptions, blocks, tackles won) so far this season.

– Rickie Lambert looks to have taken tremendous confidence from his recent England call-up, so far ranking joint second on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for total attempts on goal with 9. A relatively solid 55.5% of these have been on target.

– It surely won’t be long before James Ward-Prowse starts to grab the attention of the England management team after his roaring start to the season for the Saints. The young midfielder currently tops the league for crosses delivered with 7. With his Southampton teammate, and aerial presence, Rickie Lambert already in the England setup, Roy Hodgson may well see the value in having another solid provider of the ball in the ranks.

– Saints fans will be excited to see how Calum Chambers develops in the coming seasons, as despite being the joint youngest player in the squad along with Luke Shaw, he has quickly established an excellent tackles success rate of 75% from 4 challenges.

Aug 242013
 

Southampton vs Sunderland, 15:00

Southampton have started the new Premier League season on a high, with Rickie Lambert scoring the winner for both club and country in the last week. Lambert’s late penalty was just his second attempt at goal in the game, and his first on target. Lambert contributed to 24 goals last season (15 goals, 9 assists), second only to Theo Walcott among the Premier League’s English players.

James Ward-Prowse put in an impressive performance which suggests he may be the latest star to come out of Southampton’s youth system. The 20 year old winger delivered five crosses, the joint highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index with Everton’s Leighton Baines

Jose Fonte ensured that the Saints started the season with a clean sheet by contributing 14 clearances in the game, the joint highest in the opening round of games. Those clearances contributed to 21 defensive interventions by Fonte in total, the most in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

Sunderland’s summer loan signing Ondřej Čelůstka announced his arrival in the Premier League by attempting the joint highest number of tackles in the first round of games. Čelůstka won just five of the tackles though, so while the intention was there he will want to improve on the frequency with which he comes away with the ball.

John O’Shea was also a key part of the Sunderland defence last season, and ended the season ranked third in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for defensive contributions with 367 across tackles, blocks, clearances and interceptions

Despite Sunderland leaving the game against Fulham without scoring, Adam Johnson looked lively on the wing and delivered four crosses, the second highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for the opening fixtures.

New signing Cabral also threatened with four efforts at goal, a total bettered only by Frank Lampard among the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index’s midfielders

May 192013
 

Southampton v Stoke 16:00

 

- Southampton will finish an impressive first season in the Premier League by hosting Stoke, after previously earning a 1-1 draw against Sunderland thanks to a Jason Puncheon goal.

 

- Southampton had an incredible 64% of possession against Sunderland, their best in an away game this season.

 

- Key to their possession this season has been the tough tackling performances of Morgan Schneiderlin. Schneiderlin has attempted 150 tackles this season, winning 88, both of which are the highest in their respective categories in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

- Nathaniel Clyne has also had an incredibly impressive first season in the Premier League. The 22 year old defender has attempted 103 tackles and won 75.7% of them, the second best tackles won percentage of the 25 players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index to have attempted 100 tackles or more this season.

 

- Also impressing in the Southampton back line have been Maya Moshida and Jose Fonte. They are ranked 7th and 8th respectively in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for interceptions having made 197 and 194 respectively.

 

- An early Steven Nzonzi goal from a Charlie Adam free kick wasn’t enough to prevent Stoke from falling to a 2-1 defeat to Spurs in their last game.

 

- Amazingly, Stoke have scored one or fewer goals in 29 of their 37 games this season. Stoke committing men defensively has meant they have one of the healthiest ‘goals against’ columns in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. However, Matt Etherington must wish that more of his colleagues had committed to hitting the box this season, as he has delivered 39 crosses and completed 284 passes in the opposition half without being credited an assist.

 

- However, they have excelled defensively. Ryan Shawcross has made 43 blocks, ranking second in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

May 122013
 

Sunderland v Southampton 15:00   

 

- A John O’Shea goal saw Sunderland fight back to earn a point at home to Stoke in their last outing.

 

- Adam Johnson remains the main creative driving force behind the Black Cats and manager Paulo Di Canio will be expecting to see him to continue to develop next season regardless of what division Sunderland are playing in. The winger has made a squad high 97 crosses this season.

 

- Carlos Cuellar has a record to be proud of this season, excelling in the defensive duties. The Spaniard has a quite superb tackle success rate of 85.9% from 64 attempted challenges and will be integral to Sunderland’s efforts to shackle a dangerous attacking force in Southampton this weekend.

 

- Although a rare goal against Stoke will have pleased John O’Shea, he, like Cuellar, has been performing magnificently in his main role at the back. He has now joined the small group of players to have surpassed the 200-interception barrier this season (202).

 

- Southampton were the latest team to suffer at the hands of Gareth Bale, the Welshman’s late strike sending the Saints away from White Hart Lane with nothing after a 1-0 loss.

 

- Although noted as creative midfielder who will often be able to fashion chances for those around him, Gaston Ramirez has shown a distinct ability to get a shot off when he’s found himself near goal this season. He’s has a shot on goal on average once every 36.8 minutes he’s been on the pitch this season.

 

- For a player who should supposed still be coming to terms with his first season of top flight football, Nathaniel Clyne has been regularly defying expectations. Despite possessing an excellent tackle success rate of 74.5% from 98 challenges, the youngster has only conceded 16 fouls according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. This maturity beyond his years could see several clubs linked with his signature come the summer.

 

- Morgan Schneiderlin could learn a thing or two from Clyne, as although he has made more attempted tackles than anyone in the league this season with 147, he’s also committed more fouls than any other Southampton player with 65. That’s a full 30 indiscretions ahead of his nearest team mate in Rickie Lambert.

May 032013
 

Tottenham v Southampton, Saturday 15:00 

 

- After being held to a draw by Wigan in their last game, Spurs are three points behind North London rivals Arsenal in the race for fourth place and Champions League football next season. 

 

- Bale scored in that game to cap a remarkable weekend where he also won both PFA Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year.  

 

- Bale now has 19 goals this season, having had an incredible 136 efforts at goal, an average of one every 18 minutes 11 seconds when on the pitch. More impressively, he has maintained a 63.2% on target percentage (better than Robin van Persie) and needs 7.15 shots per goal (better than Suarez). 

 

- He’s also ranked joint 4th in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for dribbles completed (44), and is one of just four players to have delivered over 100 crosses (108), culminating in 8 assists.  

 

- Michael Dawson has impressed this season for Spurs after returning from injury to feature regularly for the first team. He made 18 interceptions against Wigan, the joint highest of the last round of games. 

 

- The equaliser for Spurs against Wigan came courtesy of a low cross from Tom Huddlestone, forcing an own goal from Emmerson Boyce. Huddlestone put in an impressive performance for Spurs in that game, completing 41 passes in the opposition half, the fifth highest of any player in last weekend’s games. 

 

- Southampton suffered a 3-0 defeat at the hands of West Brom in their last game, but should be safe as they remain seven points above the relegation zone. 

 

- Adam Lallana delivered 6 crosses in that game, the most by a player in the last round of games and the most he has delivered in a game this season. 

 

- That takes Lallana’s tally for crosses this season to 55, just shy of the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index’s top 20 most prolific crossers. His minutes per pass completed in the opposition half rating is also the best at Southampton, averaging one every 4 minutes 26 seconds (James Ward Prowse is marginally better, but has played a quarter of the minutes of Lallana this season). 

 

- Saints fans will remember this season as a breakthrough for Rickie Lambert, the season in which he contributed 14 goals and 9 assists, having a hand in 23 goals in total. Only one English player (Theo Walcott) has had a part in more goals in the Premier League this season and only seven players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index overall have contributed more than Lambert. 

 

- Lambert has maintained a 51% shooting accuracy rate this season, needing just 5.85 shots for each goal. Interestingly, of the players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index who have score ten or more goals this season, Lambert is actually the most shot-shy, having a shot at goal every 72 minutes, suggesting that the striker prefers to wait for clear chances than employ a more scattergun approach.

Apr 272013
 

Southampton v West Brom, 15:00

 

- A disciplined defensive performance was enough to see Southampton to an important point in a 0-0 draw with Swansea last time out.

 

- Defender Maya Yoshida has maintained his excellent standards for reading the game in recent weeks as the season draws to a close. The Japanese international currently sits 4th on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for interceptions with 195.

 

- Morgan Schneiderlin is another who has continyed in the same vein he has been playing in all season, still sitting atop the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for total tackles with 143. His accuracy has been slightly wayward at times though, given that his tackle success rate (59.4%) places him 4th amongst the top 10 players for total tackles attempted.

 

- The performances of Rickie Lambert have lead to many Southampton supporters to call for England call-up for the old school striker. His primary asset for this Southampton team hasn’t just been his own goals (14), but also his ability to use his strength to bring others into play a fact demonstrated by the 9 assists he has to his name this season. Only the much more celebrated Van Persie, Tevez and Rooney can boast better assist-figures than Lambert.

 

-  A relatively evenly-fought contest saw West Brom share the spoils with Newcastle last weekend, Billy Jones’ goal earning the Baggies a 1-1 draw.

 

- Gareth McAuley will be keen to cap a fine season by breaking through a personal landmark this weekend, with the Northern Irishman currently sitting on 299 defensive contributions for the season, a Baggies squad-high.

 

- Midfielder James Morrison remains the fulcrum of this West Brom side, leading the Baggies squad across numerous statistical fields according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. He’s now racked up 586 successful passes in the opponent’s half for the season, as well as 7 assists.

 

- Youssouf Mulumbu will be crucial to preventing Southampton from getting into their stride this weekend, his ability to break down opposition play a key facet of his game. No West Brom midfielder has made more defensive contributions than Mulumbu, his 120 at an average rate of 19.3 minutes currently setting the standard.

Apr 202013
 

Swansea v Southampton, 15:00

 

Swansea battled back to earn a 2-2 draw with Norwich last time out, Luke Moore’s goal earning Michael Laudrup’s side the point.

 

Michu will be looking to enhance his now glowing reputation before the end of the season by adding to his already impressive total of 17 goals. The Spaniard has a distinct ability to fashion shooting positions that Southampton defenders must be aware of this weekend and they will certainly be trying to curb his current rate of a shot on goal once every 29.8 minutes.

 

– Look for Jonathan de Guzman to be involved should Michu register yet another goal against Southampton. The Canadian midfielder has a squad-high 7 assists and is consistently involved in their play going forward, amassing another squad-high of 742 passes in the opponent’s half.

 

– Young Ben Davies continues to impress this season, especially for one who only recently made the step up to first team football. Davies remains Swansea’s best defender this term, racking up a tackle success rate of 70.3% according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

Southampton inched closer to securing their Premier League status for next season with a 1-1 draw with West Ham last time out.

 

– With England still lacking a reliable source of goals in recent fixtures, Rickie Lambert may well be expecting the national side to come calling should he keep up the form he has demonstrated this season. Lambert has transitioned to Premier League football with ease, his 14 goals and Southampton squad-high 77 attempts on goal testament to that fact.

 

– Striker Jay Rodriguez is another who may have surprised many with his ability and confidence at Premier League level. Yet the elusive forward has the best minutes-to-shot on target ratio of any Southampton player, registering one on average once every 49.2 minute he’s been on the field this season.

 

Morgan Schneiderlin again remains atop the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for total tackles attempted this season with 136. Southampton will need his energy and industry in a midfielder packed with slick Swansea passers.

Apr 132013
 

Southampton v West Ham, 15:00

 

Southampton all but ensured their survival in the top flight with a fine 0-2 win over Reading last weekend.

 

– It is little wonder Southampton are flying high at this point in the season when you consider the solid defensive foundations that have seen them concede just three goals in their last five outings. Between then Jose Fonte and Maya Yoshida have amassed a highly impressive 538 defensive contributions between them this season.

 

– Midfielder Adam Lallana continues to prove that he belongs at Premier League level, posting some incredibly impressive statistics this season. The creative Englishman has been posting some fantastic all-round performances, racking up a tackle success rate of 71.6% as well a completed pass in the opponent’s half on average once every 4.4 minutes.

 

– Southampton will be desperate to cling onto the services of Luke Shaw come the summer, the youngster maturing with every game he plays in the top flight. At only 17 years of age, only 3 other players in the Southampton squad have contributed more defensively than Shaw (Schneiderlin, Yoshida and Fonte).

 

– A highly organized West Ham managed to negate Liverpool’s potent attacking threat as they battled to a 0-0 draw at Anfield last time out.

 

James Collins gained plenty of plaudits last weekend for his superb marshaling of the in-form Luis Suarez and his defensive authority will be needed again this week against a Southampton side full of attacking players. The Welsh international has the second best tackle success rate of any player in the Hammers squad to have made more than 10 attempted challenges, completing 70.6% of his 68 attempts according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

– Despite now being in his 30s, Joe Cole still has enough to influence proceedings when given the chance. Despite only playing 705 minutes for the Hammers this season, Cole has still managed to average a pass in the opponent’s half on average once every 4.1 minutes, the best rate in the West Ham squad.

 

– No West Ham player has been more willing than Mohamed Diame to take the game to the opposition this season, the Frenchman currently sitting the highest in the squad for dribbles with 19. Sam Allardyce’s side will need his powerful runs from the midfield to give the likes of Lallana and Schneiderlin something else to think about when moving forward.

Mar 302013
 

Southampton v Chelsea 15:00

 

Southampton are now 8 points clear of the relegation zone with 8 games to go in the Premier League after beating Liverpool 3-1 in their last outing.

 

Morgan Schneiderlin, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez were all on target, while Southampton fans have received another boost since with the news that Rickie Lambert has signed a new contract.

 

– As well as hitting five goals this season, Schneiderlin has won more tackles than any other player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, winning 76 so far this season and attempting 127 in total.

 

– Away from his colleagues’ goal scoring heroics, Southampton’s Jose Fonte has been in great form in defence, making 180 interceptions, the joint second highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. Fonte has made 267 defensive contributions in total this season across tackles, clearances, interceptions and blocks, the fifth highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

Chelsea ‘s 2-0 win over West Ham will be remembered by Blues fans for Frank Lampard’s 200th goal for the club. Veteran midfielder Lampard was joined on the score sheet by Eden Hazard, who is at the other end of his Chelsea career but put in a similarly memorable performance.

 

Hazard had five shots on target against West Ham, more than any other player in the last round of games.

 

Lampard’s goal was his 12th of the season, coming at an average of one every 124 minutes, the fourth best in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

– Villa’s Matt Lowton has played more minutes than any other outfielder this season with 2898, and using his average minutes per goal if Lampard had played that many he would be the Premier League’s top scorer with 23 goals this season.

 

Demba Ba passed 100 shots at goal for the season against West Ham, though he may not to dwell on those efforts as he missed a couple of great chances. Ba has 15 goals this season, though his on target shooting percentage remains just 58%.

 

Ba can have no complaints about playing in front of Chelsea’s talented midfield. Eden Hazard and Juan Mata each have 13 assists to their name this season, ranking 2nd and 3rd in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

Mata and Hazard also topped the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for passes completed in the last round of games, completing 54 and 50 respectively, while Eden Hazard completed the most dribbles by any player in a single match this season with 8.

 

– Those more creative midfielders have been supported by the solid defensive work of Ramires this season. Ramires won 6 tackles this in the game against West Ham, the joint highest in the last round of games.

Mar 152013
 

Southampton v Liverpool, Saturday 15:00

 

Southampton would have felt hard done by to have a lost a match they dominated last weekend, their fixture with Norwich ending in a 0-0 draw after Luke Shaw conceded a late penalty.

 

– The tenacity of Morgan Schneiderlin has been something to behold at times this season, the Frenchman providing no small amount of bite and work ethic to the Saints midfield. He tops the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for total tackles attempted with 123, winning a solid 60.9% of them.

 

– Despite his foul leading to an eventual penalty last weekend, Luke Shaw continues to show all the signs of developing into a top class left back. He’s made 150 defensive contributions this season, with his reading of the game being particularly impressive, 100 of those contributions being from interceptions by the young defender.

 

– Southampton will be keen to keep Adam Lallana fit for as long as they can given the influence he has been exerting on games this season. The technical midfielder has delivered more crosses than any other Saints player (46) as well as chipping in with 5 assists.

 

Liverpool secured a vital 3-2 over Tottenham at Anfield last Sunday to keep their hopes of making it into the top four alive this season. Luis Suarez got his obligatory goal, and saw his strike added to by efforts from Stewart Downing and Steven Gerrard.

 

– The irrepressible Luis Suarez continue to cement himself as a Liverpool legend with the incredible run of form he is currently enjoying. He now tops the league for goals scored with 22, no surprise given that he has had an enormous 143 attempts on goal according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

– Despite impending shoulder surgery, Joe Allen’s arrival in the game against Tottenham last weekend gave his side the stability and calm demeanour required at the time. The Welshman has now completed a pass in the opponents half once every 4.1 minutes this season, playing a pivotal role in the Reds’ midfield.

 

Stewart Downing is starting to show Liverpool fans the kind of form that has so far won him 34 England caps. The winger has been highly effective on the flank for Brendan Rogers and has so far delivered 37 crosses and compiled 4 assists.

Mar 082013
 

Norwich v Southampton, Saturday 15:00

 

Norwich found themselves on the end of a heavy defeat at Old Trafford last weekend, as they fell to a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Man Utd. It was a dominant display by the Red Devils but Norwich’s industry and attitude will have given their manager plenty of hope ahead of Southampton’s visit this weekend.

 

Robert Snodgrass continues to be Norwich’s main creative fulcrum this season, completing a squad-high 595 passes in the opponent’s half, at a rate of one every 3.9 minutes according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

– Some of Norwich’s more defensive-minded players have certainly had plenty to occupy their thoughts this season, but they have been stepping up to the challenge. The Norwich squad now boasts 7 players who have made more than 100 defensive contributions (Snodgrass, Bassong, Garrido, Johnson, Martin, Turner, Tettey)

 

Bradley Johnson unfortunately continues to concede fouls at a higher rate than Chris Hughton will likely be happy with. He currently sits 5th on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index with 48 fouls.

 

Grant Holt remains one of Norwich’s most consistent threats on goal this season, the imposing frontman boasting the lowest minutes per shot rate in the Norwich squad for players with more than 5 attempts. Holt has had a shot on target once every 86.2 minutes this season.

 

Southampton’s survival prospects were dealt a blow as they could not prevent QPR taking all three points back to London in a 1-2 defeat. Gaston Ramirez’s solitary goal will have provided scant consolation and the Saints will be desperate to claim a win this weekend.

 

– Midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin has been garnering rave reviews for his all action performances this season, and has the stats to back them up. His 13 successful tackles last weekend was the highest by any player in a single match this season.

 

Scheneiderlin can also boast a record of 533 successful passes in the opponent’s half, the highest in the Southampton squad, at a rate of 4.8 minutes according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

– Portuguese defender Jose Fonte has been once of the defensive lynchpins in the Southampton side this season and has continued this form as we approach the run-in. He’s made a squad-leading 226 defensive contributions including an exceptional 150 interceptions

 

– Southampton will be looking to Nathaniel Clyne and Adam Lallana to be the providers from the flanks this weekend. Between the two of them they have combined for 85 crosses this season.

Mar 012013
 

Southampton v QPR, Saturday 15:00

 

Southampton remain three points clear of the relegation zone, despite a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Newcastle in their last game.

 

Morgan Schneiderlin and Rickie Lambert were both on target despite the Saints leaving St James’ Park without a point.

 

Lambert’s Premier League goals for the season now count 12, coming from 65 shots at goal with an accuracy rating of 49.2%. Of the 18 players in the Premier League to have scored 10 or more goals this season, Lambert is the only one to have done so while getting less than half his shots on target.

 

Lambert is also ranked 7th among the Premier League strikers for passes completed in the opposition half, having completed 407 so far this season.

 

– As well as having scored four goals in the Barclays Premier League this season, Schneiderlin is one of three players to have attempted 100 or more tackles. He has now attempted 102 tackles, winning 56.8% of them.

 

– Team mate Nathaniel Clyne has also thrown himself into the tackle on his step up to the Premier League from the Championship. Clyne is ranked 23rd for tackles attempted with 76. His most impressive stat, however, is the percentage of tackles he then wins. Clyne wins the ball from 73.6% of tackles, the second best among the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index’s most prolific tacklers.

 

QPR remain six points adrift at the bottom of the table after suffering a 2-0 defeat at the hands of league leaders Manchester United. Despite the scoreline, QPR threatened on occasion with Loic Remy and Christopher Samba both going close.

 

– QPR’s threat in the game is clear when you consider they forced Nemanja Vidic to be the busiest defender in the Barclays Premier League last weekend, making 27 defensive contributions in total across tackles won, interceptions and clearances.

 

Fabio da Silva sat out the game, but watched his twin brother score one of the goals of the season for Manchester United against his team. Fabio has one 62.1% of his tackles this season, and also made 34 interceptions, averaging 14 minutes 42 seconds per defensive contribution

 

Adel Taraabt continues to show his undoubted talent this season. No player has completed more dribbles, with Taraabt leading the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index with a defence terrifying 42 successful runs with the ball.

 

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.

Feb 112013
 

Any lingering hopes of a charge towards the title evaporated yesterday as City lost 3-1 away at Southampton, leaving United with the chance to extend their lead at the top of the table to 12 points with victory over Everton today. It was the first time under Roberto Mancini that City have been so comprehensively outplayed in the Premier League; a defeat inflicted on us by a very average side. This was Southampton’s first victory against a team in the top half of the table, and only their sixth win this season. City left the south coast embarrassed and with Chelsea and Spurs breathing down our necks in the race for second.

Not since the shambles that was the 3-0 defeat to Spurs back in 2009 have City been so totally dominated in a league game. Back then we had Mark Hughes in charge and poor displays were largely expected. We were all over the place when under Hughes: leaking goals at a ridiculous rate, and playing with all the strength of a Liberal Democrat pre-election pledge. Sides cut through us with ease and we struggled to find any kind of consistency.

As soon as Mancini took over in December 2009, things quickly started to change. He may have only moved us up one place (Hughes left us in 6th and we finished that season in 5th), but the difference in our approach was obvious: we looked a professional outfit capable of stringing together unbeaten runs. Mancini was laying the groundwork for our future success.

What followed that season has been consistent improvement domestically, with no side managing to beat us in the manner Spurs, and many other sides, did under Hughes… until yesterday. Southampton were simply better than us in every area of the pitch. Take away the clangers from Hart and Barry and you’re still left with a shambolic display that proves beyond doubt we have gone backwards since we won the title in May.

And Mancini, the architect of our rise top the top of the English game, must take some blame. We ended yesterday with four, yes FOUR, full-backs on the pitch. Barring an injury crisis of extreme proportions, when does any side need four full-backs on the pitch?

He also opted to start Javi Garcia at centre-back, despite the returning Kolo Toure being available, a decision which backfired hugely as he struggled with the pace and positional sense needed to play that role, with City looking Hughes-era bad defensively. We’ve seen flashes of decent play from Garcia, but if we’re honest he’s been a disaster since his summer move. He lacks the pace and range of passing to be truly brilliant midfield player, and judging by this performance he’s certainly not a centre-half.

Mancini’s decision to remove Silva in place of Maicon was another head-scratching move from the Italian. Why take off your finest playmaker in a game your chasing? It made no sense to me whatsoever, and Mancini would do well to explain it.

With the title race all but over, City must now focus on securing second spot and winning the FA Cup, but if we are to do that we must start picking our strongest side and stop making nonsensical substitutions that stymie our play. Silva must be played more centrally and should be playing full 90 minutes consistently; Tevez, when available, should be starting ahead of Dzeko; and Samir Nasri should be dropped permanently after was can only be described as a dreadful season from him. Mancini deserves time to put right our current troubles, and our transfer strategy this summer must be far better than last. In the meantime, there are ways the manager can stop contributing to our own downfall.

Feb 092013
 

After putting Southampton 1-0 up against Manchester City, James Puncheon celebrated by pretending to wipe his backside.

Last month, during his side’s 0-0 draw with Everton, he ran off the pitch to go to the toilet.

“All the players have given him some stick about it — but he said it was better he did it in the changing room than out on the pitch!” said team mate Morgan Schneiderlin. “It is the first time I have ever seen that and I am sure not many other players have seen that before. But he has taken it well. He loves giving the banter and he has a great personality.”

Feb 082013
 

Southampton v Man City, Saturday 17:30

 

Southampton will have been left disappointed with a 2-2 draw after they fought back against Wigan only to be denied all three points by a last minute goal by the Lactics.

 

– At 17 years old, defender Luke Shaw continues to draw admiring glances from many of the Premier League’s top sides. Southampton fans will be hoping he returns quickly from his ligament injury sustained on international duty with the England U21s so he can build on his excellent total of 84 interceptions and 10 clearances.

 

– Fellow young defender Nathaniel Clyne has also been showcasing his talent to potential suitors this season in both defence and attack. He’s established an excellent 72.6% tackle success rate from 73 attempts, as well as providing 3 assists according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

Adam Lallana is in line to make his return from injury this weekend, a welcome boost for the Southampton midfield. Despite the layoff, he’s still provided more crosses than anyone in the squad with 37 and is joint second for assists with 4.

 

– Midfield workhorse Morgan Schneiderlin has certainly been stepping up to the plate in Lallana’s absence, racking up a squad-high 483 passes in the opponent’s half this season.

 

– In a game marked by two special goals, one in particular from an outrageous angle by Sergio Aguero, Man City battled to a 2-2 draw with Liverpool at The Etihad last Sunday.

 

– Man City will be extremely pleased to have the services of Yaya Toure at their disposal once again following his return from the African Cup of Nations. Despite his absence he still leads the City squad for completed passes in the opponents’s half with 916, one every 2.2 minutes he’s been on the pitch, placing him 2nd on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

– Not far behind him in this regard is David Silva, who looks to be nearing something like his best form. Roberto Mancini will be looking to see him use his touch and vision to add to his total of 9 assists and 821 completed passes in the opponent’s half.

 

Gael Clichy has quietly established himself as one of City’s most solid defenders this season, compiling a squad-high tackle success rate of 77.1% from 48 challenges.

 

– Much of the attacking responsibility will as usual fall on the shoulder of Carlos Tevez this weekend, something he has been welcoming with open arms this season. The Argentinian has registered either a goal or an assist once every 79.7 minutes according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

Jan 312013
 

1. After dropping points against Spurs in such disappointing circumstances, and seeing City somehow only managing a draw against QPR, it was essential that we took full advantage of their slip-up and extended our lead at the top of the table back to seven points. Looking back at the game yesterday, I can assure you that most of us would have taken three points up front if it meant that we would play as poorly as we did in the second half. I certainly would have, and so no complaints with me. As Fergie pointed out, we can’t win all our games by three or four goals and sometimes you’ll have to rely on luck to get you the win. However, I’m sure Alex will not be happy with that performance and will let the players know exactly how he feels about it.

2. In the first half, we were allowed to play our own game thanks to the space the Southampton players offered us, something which Kagawa full utilised with a series of fantastic passes and runs. As soon as they started pressing us high up the field however, we started to panic on the ball and do everything we can to get rid of it. Danny Welbeck in particular looked really bad and lost the ball numerous times after being surrounded by opposition players. Taking into account how high Real Madrid like to press, you’ve got to wonder whether or not we’ll be able to cope with their front line.

3. Our second half performance yesterday was arguably the most disappointing I have seen us play all season. At times it looked like we were unable to string together more than five or six passes. As noted before though, this seems to be a recurring theme with us, and more specifically, our midfield disappearing completely in the second half in recent games. Having said that, we still nearly managed to score a few more in the second half if not for a wrongly ruled offside call and an unbelievable save from Boruc to deny Robin van Persie on two separate occasions.

4. Two minutes was all it took for us to fall behind in yet another game this season. After a clumsy pass from Anderson and a disastrous pass-back from Carrick, De Gea was left to look a fool after a good touch from Rodrigues took him away from the goalie. I find it shocking just how much blame falls on the young Spaniard, especially since Carrick himself accepted full responsibility of the goal conceded, and rightly so.

5. Wayne Rooney seems to be scoring at will now which is extremely pleasing to see given our so called ‘reliance’ on Robin van Persie. Although the Dutchman has scored his fair share, it’s pleasing to see the other strikers scoring their fair share as well, what with Hernandez scoring for fun as well. Wazza took both his goals well and deserves credit for it, although he could and probably should have had a third if it wasn’t for a poor touch.

6. It’s amazing just how much more effective we are from set-pieces this season, and all it took was to find someone capable of taking them. No surprises there then. Ever since RvP took charge of our freekicks and corners, we’ve looked much more dangerous and capable of scoring from them. Another important thing to note is Evra’s continuous contribution to our attacks after he notched his second ‘match-winning’ assist in three league games, after setting up Rooney’s second yesterday and Vidic’s winner against Liverpool.

7. As we enter ‘that time of the season’, the strength of our squad is looking more and more impressive as our previously injured players continue to return and get themselves back to full fitness. Luckily for us, and for the first time in three or four years, we haven’t picked up a real significant number of injuries * Knock on wood*. Yesterday we managed to win the game without the likes of Giggs, Cleverley, Hernandez or Valencia featuring which just goes to show the depth of our squad. Yes, I know we were only playing against Southampton at home but the point still stands.

8. As the game dragged on and the nerves started to unsettle the United players, and with the Spurs result fresh in our minds, Sir Alex decided to play it safe and bring on Rio Ferdinand to shore up the defence. Rio’s experience and composure added some much needed steel to our defence and helped carry us forward passed the finish line. If you want to appreciate Sir Alex’s substitutions, simply take a look at Rafa Benitez at Chelsea yesterday night. With them needing to hold on, the fat Spanish waiter brought on a striker and allowed Reading to snatch a late draw after being two down with ten minutes left. How spoilt are we?

9. Whilst watching the United game on the TV, I was also watching the Real vs. Barcelona game on my laptop simultaneously. Although it means that I’m now probably cross-eyed, it was an entertaining match to watch, especially when you consider how close our tie with them in the Champions League is. Real didn’t play too well yet still managed to grind out a draw against a Barca side in top, top form. Ironically it was Varane, a player we were very keen on signing, who got Madrid that all important equaliser.

10. Can we beat Real Madrid? Realistically, I think we can beat them over both legs but everything has to go right for us. As of yet, Mourinho’s men have only the Champions League in mind and so will be throwing everything they can at us. As long as we turn up on the day and hope for a bit of luck, then I think we can progress to the next round. It’s going to be difficult but winning the Champions League nearly always is. We can do it.

Jan 302013
 

Man Utd v Southampton, 20:00

 

Manchester United’s last league outing saw them denied three points by a late Spurs equaliser. Robin van Persie has put United ahead with his 18th goal of the season earlier.

 

Van Persie’s goal scoring has allowed Wayne Rooney to drop deeper into more of a supporting role, a move supported by his stats which show he makes more passes per minute in the opposition half than any other Premier League striker. Rooney averages a pass every 2 minutes 53 seconds.

 

Tom Cleverley provided the assist for van Persie’s goal, just his second of the season, despite having completed 386 passes in the opposition half at a rate of one every 3 minutes 6 seconds.

 

Manchester United defender Phil Jones made five blocks during the game against Spurs, the joint second highest number of the season.

 

Southampton’s new manager Mauricio Pochettino got his career off to a promising start with a 0-0 draw against Everton in their last game.

 

Pochettino has inherited the hardest working team in the Premier League. Southampton have covered more ground than any other team in the Premier League with a total of 1474 miles.

 

Morgan Schneiderlin, meanwhile, takes the individual trophy for most distance run with a total of 148.2 miles so far this season, one of only five players to have topped 140 miles so far.

 

Schneiderlin has also completed 414 passes in the opposition half this season, more than any other Saints player.

 

Rickie Lambert is Southampton’s top ranked player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index having scored ten goals in the Premier League at a rate of one every 191 minutes 40 seconds, and one every 5.1 shots.

 

Lambert also has five assists to his name, meaning he has contributed to exactly half of Southampton’s 30 Premier League goals this season.