Oct 052013
 

Fulham vs Stoke, 15:00

– Yet more pressure was heaped on Fulham manager Martin Jol last weekend as his side lost 1-2 at home to Cardiff as their poor run of league form continues. Despite a fine goal from Bryan Ruiz, Fulham fans will be hoping for a turnaround in fortunes this weekend.

– Goals have been relatively hard to come by for Martin Jol’s side so far this season, but he will be keen to see his players simply start to get more attempts on goal before anything else. So far no Fulham player has broken into double-figures for shots on goal, with the entire squad combining for 39 shots with a collective return of 4 goals.

– Despite being 32 years old, Scott Parker may prove to be one of Fulham’s most important signings of recent times with the stability he brings to the Cottager’s midfield. He’s been showcasing the old adage that class is permanent, his 124 completed passes in the opponent’s half making him the joint second oldest player in the league to moved beyond the 120-pass barrier so far this season.

– Midfielder Patjim Kasami may have given away the joint 4th highest amount of fouls of any player in the league this season (14) but according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index he also has a tackle success rate of 81.2% from 22 attempted challenges. One can only assume that if he stayed on his feet more, and was perhaps more measured in his approach when rushing opponents, his success rate would be even higher.

– Steve Sidwell is once again at the heart of Fulham’s defensive efforts this season, leading the squad for total defensive contributions (blocks, interceptions, tackles won, clearances) with 48 according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

– A relatively lacklustre performance from Stoke saw them fall to a 0-1 defeat at home to Norwich, in a game where they managed to muster just one shot on target.

– Steven N’Zonzi is undoubtedly an integral component of the Stoke midfield and has the stats to prove it. So far this season he’s completed 206 passes in the opponent’s half, making him the only player in the top 12 of the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index in this category to come from a team outside of the top ten in the league.

– Defender Geoff Cameron has been showcasing some excellent form so far this season, the American international seemingly willing to adapt to Mark Hughes’ philosophy and push higher up the pitch when the opportunity presents itself. Only one other defender in the Premier League (Everton’s Seamus Coleman) has attempted more dribbles than Cameron’s current total of 11.

– Marc Wilson’s commitment to the Stoke cause is most certainly not in question with 39 tackles attempted so far this season, the third highest total in the league and an average of one every 13.8 minutes he’s been on the park. However he could perhaps do better to time these challenges better as he currently has the lowest tackle success rate of any player in the top ten on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for total tackles attempted with 56.4%.

– Normally relatively reliable in front of goal, Jonathan Walters has been surprisingly off-form when it comes to his shooting so far this season. So far only 37.5% of his 8 shots this term have tested the opposition keeper.

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Aug 312013
 

West Ham vs Stoke, 15:00

– Despite creating the better chances, West Ham were unable to break their deadlock with Newcastle last weekend and could only leave Tyneside with a point for their efforts. Winston Reid was one of the standout performers on the day, further cementing his position as one of the most effective fullbacks in the league.

– Guy Demel looks to have the bit between his teeth this season, the imposing defender establishing a tackle success rate of 83.3% from 6 challenges so far according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

– Indeed, the Hammers look to have a solid back four ahead of a long campaign, with Demel’s defensive colleague Winston Reid once again positioning himself as a key part of their backline. The New Zealand international ranks 4th in the league for clearances with 24.

– Jussi Jaaskelainen will be more than happy to sit behind what has been a rock solid defence so far this season. Not only have West Ham yet to concede a goal but Jaaskelainen has only had to make 1 save in his 180 minutes on the pitch.

– At the other end of the park though, Sam Allardyce will be looking for more potency in front of goal at home this weekend, having seen only two of his players (Maiga and Cole) manage to establish a shot accuracy rate in front of goal of 50% or more.

– Mark Hughes’ Stoke fought back from a goal down to register their new manager’s first home win of his tenure thanks to goals from Charlie Adam and Ryan Shawcross.

– Mark Hughes will be looking for his defense to start providing Asmir Begovic with more protection this weekend. His keeper currently leads the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for saves with 14, 5 ahead of David De Gea in second place.

– Midfield enforcer Steven N’Zonzi looks to have been working hard on his technique over the summer, quickly racking up a tackle success rate of 91.7% from 12 attempted challenges. Along with Crystal Palace’s Joel Ward, this represents the joint highest success rate of any Premier League player who has attempted more than 5 challenges.

– N’Zonzi has also proved more than adept with the ball at his feet, leading the Stoke squad for passes in the opponent’s half with 50.

Aug 242013
 

Stoke vs Crystal Palace, 15:00

Stoke put in an impressive defensive performance in their opening fixture against Liverpool, with Steven Nzonzi winning nine tackles, more than an other player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index

Team mate Marc Wilson also signaled Stoke’s intentions for the new season by attempting 10 tackles, the most of the weekend, winning 7. That contributed to 20 defensive contributions by Wilson in the game, the second highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index after the first round of game

Meanwhile Ryan Shawcross was one of four players to make three blocks in their first game of the season. Shawcross ended last season having won an impressive 62.8% of tackles attempted (49 out of 78) and made 179 interceptions, ending the season at the highest ranked Stoke player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index

Undoubtedly the hero of Stoke’s display was, however, Asmir Begovic who delivered a man of the match display to limit Liverpool to one goal. Begovic made ten saves in the game.

Crystal Palace impressed on their first game since their return to the Premier League. Mile Jedinak in particular put in an impressive midfield display, making 14 defensive contributions overall across tackles, interceptions, clearances and blocks, second only to Everton’s Marouane Fellaini in the opening round of games.

Dean Moxy will be disappointed to have conceded the penalty which ultimately gave Spurs victory, but after captain Jedinak Moxey did more defensively for the Eagles than any other player. Moxey attempted 6 tackles (winning 4), and also made 4 clearances and 2 interceptions.

Despite their defensive grit, Palace will need more quality in the attacking half to unlock Premier League defences. Owen Garvan was the only Palace player to complete more than 20 passes in the opposition half against Spurs, while no player attempted more than one shot at goal in the match against Spurs

Palace fans will be hoping that play-off hero Kevin Phillips can recreate his form in the Premier League this season. In his last season in the Premier League with Blackpool Phillips scored just one Premier League goal and contributed one assist in 555 minutes on the pitch. However, the veteran striker’s accuracy in front of goal suggests that some things never age. Phillips got 80% of shots on target in that campaign.

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 102013
 

Stoke v Tottenham, Sunday 13:30

 

– Stoke drew 1-1 with Sunderland last time out, Jonathan Walters grabbing an early goal for Tony Pulis’ side.

 

– Midfielder Michael Kightly currently sits as Stoke’s most accurate attacker this season, outshining his striker colleagues with a squad-best 68.2% shot accuracy rate from 22 attempts.

 

– American defender Geoff Cameron retains the distinction of being Stoke’s most prolific defender, having attempted more challenges than any other Potters player (93) whilst also retaining the highest tackle success rate in the Stoke squad with 69.9%.

 

– Despite allowing his aggressive streak to sometimes get him into trouble, Steven Nzonzi’s influence in the heart of the Stoke midfield can be crucial. The Frenchman has made a squad-leading 608 successful passes in the opponent’s half this season.

 

– An end-to-end game of high drama saw Tottenham leave Stamford Bridge with a point after a 2-2 draw with Chelsea, Emmanuel Adebayor and Gylfi Sigurdsson with the goals for Andre Villas Boas’ side.

 

– Gareth Bale was the only player to have four shots at goal in the last round of games, with two on target and two off, as his Premier League rivals had a surprisingly shot shy weekend.

 

– Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen has adapted to the rigours of the Premier League with staggering ease this season, and his ability to reclaim possession and read the game will be crucial for Tottenham in a fixture which could well decide their European future next season. He’s currently sitting on a superb tackle success rate of 78.8% from 99 attempted challenges as well as a squad-high 11 interceptions.

 

– Despite being forced to miss the last few weeks with injury, Moussa Dembele clearly has the midfield poise to help drive Tottenham further on in their development in the next few seasons. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index the Belgian has made more successful passes in the opponent’s half than any other player with 720.

May 062013
 

Sunderland v Stoke 20:00 

 

- After back to back wins against Newcastle and Everton Paolo di Canio’s reign as Sunderland manager was brought back down to earth after a 6-1 defeat at the hands of Villa. 

 

- Danny Rose had equalized for Sunderland before Villa ran riot in the second half. That was Rose’s first goal of the season, in a year in which he has excelled in the defensive aspects of his role. Rose has won 65.5% of the 82 tackles he has attempted this season. 

 

- Rose has now topped 200 defensive contributions overall, stepping in on opposition attacks 208 times in total this season, including 127 interceptions (enough to put him in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index’s top 20 for this discipline). 

- The worrying aspect for Sunderland fans for the Villa game is that but for the heroics of Simon Mignolet it could have been worse. Mignolet made 10 saves in that game, the most by any goalkeeper in the last round of games. 

 

- Stoke seem to have done enough now to ensure another season of Premier League football, with survival once again built on organization and an impressive defensive record. 

 

- Sixteen of Stoke’s 35 Premier League games this season have involved one or fewer goals, and their last outing was true to that form with Charlie Adam the only goalscorer in a 1-0 win over Norwich. 

 

- Adam’s goal was his third of the season, although he has also contributed four assists, meaning he has had a hand in 22.5% of Stoke’s 31 goals this season. 

 

- Stoke will need to build on their rock solid defence with a more prolific goalscoring option next season. Their top goalscorer Jonathan Walters scored seven goals this season. Only two clubs have a top goalscorer with a lower tally - Norwich (Holt, 5) and QPR (Taraabt, 5). 

 

- Stoke’s focus on defending even from the front is clear when you consider that Walters and Peter Crouch are ranked 3rd and 4th among the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index’s strikers for tackles attempted, with 74 and 72 respectively, although Crouch won just 11 of his 72 attempted tackles.

Apr 232013
 

With a defiant ‘no one likes us, we don’t care’ attitude, Stoke City have played the role of villain with great relish since returning to the top flight. But, it feels like a long time ago that defending a Rory Delap throw-in was talked up as a rite of passage for aspiring centre- backs and rookie goal keepers.

If they go down this year, it’s not stretching things to say Stoke won’t be missed by many. I was not automatically anti-Stoke simply because their default tactic is to lump it. I like the fact that Stoke are outsiders, and a name from ‘old football’ – by that I mean Stanley Matthews played for them – I have no idea if they were any good. I also remember Watford playing Stoke back in the early 90’s, and in those days they were one of the few clubs that brought a proper away following with them. They made plenty of noise back then, too. I haven’t been to the Britannia Stadium, but many have commented on the impressive decibels kicked out by the home fans, making it practically the only new build stadium to have retained an atmosphere from what it replaced.

I’m not sure what they’re cheering now, though, because this season Stoke have been relentlessly dire, epitomised by a moment of play during their recent game with Manchester United that I shall now describe: Ryan Shawcross was moving towards a loose ball. He had time and space to find a team mate, but having carefully assessed his options, proceeded to lump it skyward, using enough physical force to kick through four inches of solid steel. As the players waited for the Earth’s gravitational pull to draw the ball back towards the pitch, one of Stoke’s forwards engaged in a no holds barred WWF style grapple with his marker. Somehow, the Stoke player managed to gain a free kick. The free kick came to nothing.

This was one of Stoke’s attacking highlights featured on Match of the Day. This is what present day Stoke bring to the table. Needless to say, the table makes depressing viewing, both metaphorically and literally. Another example of their struggles this season occurred during a televised match at Everton. Goodison Park is not the quietest stadium in the league, so the fact that Tony Pulis was clearly audible above the crowd was impressive. Unfortunately for Pulis, it meant viewers could hear the full extent of his in-game instruction, which involved the bellowing basic commands like a frustrated granddad trying to play FIFA for the first time – “Turn! Turn!” he shouted at Jonathan Walters. Ah, Jonathan Walters. You might hate Stoke, but it’s hard to hate Walters. Last season he relegated Bolton by forcing the ball into the net via a collision with their goal keeper. It was a goal straight from the Matthews era – but not in a good way.

Walters also took one of the best penalties I’ve ever seen against QPR. It was disallowed for encroachment, but it was hit so hard that had Rob Green put his hand in the way I’m convinced it would have ripped his entire arm clean out of its socket. It was a classic Stoke goal – and by that I mean it was brutal. But, they don’t do that enough anymore. A group of Norse warriors known as the Beserkers used to work themselves into a rage before battle (hence the term). I’m pretty sure this is what Pulis’ original tactics were based on. Mamady Sidebe was never a Premier League striker, and even Pulis probably knew that, but by god did he scare the shit out of defences.

At the other end, Ryan Shawcross is capable of valuable defensive work, but it is difficult to make a similar argument for Andy Wilkinson. The Stoke right back appears to contribute little other than wild tackles, bookings, and the awarding of free kicks to the opposition. He is the type of player that managers like Tony Pulis adore because, like Walters, they run like bastards and do what they’re told. Truth be told, players like Wilkinson are often popular with the fans too (see ex-Watford and WBA fullback, Paul Robinson) or at least, the particularly English type of fan whose default and only tactical advice is to ‘get into them’ at every opportunity. But, while effort is important, it isn’t enough to sustain a winning side. I mean, does anyone even remember that Stoke signed Tuncay? Here’s what Pulis said at the time:

“Tuncay is an exciting player with his pace and skill who will certainly get the crowd going.”

Oh, Tone. You tried, but it’s just not you. Stoke invested in their squad, but all they have to show for it is a boring side that won’t be missed. The one thing they did well was make some of their more established opponents look stupid. They don’t do that any more, they don’t really do anything.

Apr 202013
 

QPR v Stoke, 15:00

 

QPR were pushed ever-closer to relegation last weekend as they fell to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of a much strong Everton side at Goodison Park.

 

– Expect Loic Remy to be well-marshalled by Stoke this Saturday should the Potters have done their research on Harry Redknapp’s side. The French striker has made an immediate impact on QPRs ability to threaten in front of goal and already has the best shot accuracy in the Rs squad at 72% from 25 attempts.

 

– Arriving at a club which is likely to struggle in a league as strong as the Premier League would cause many players to go into their shell, but not Esteban Granero. The gifted midfielder has shouldered much of the responsibility in the QPR engine room since his arrival and is now the fulcrum of their attacking play. Granero possesses a squad-high 438 successful passes in the attacking half according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

Stephane Mbia’s reading of the game will be crucial this weekend, Stoke being a side who know how to shut up shop and protect a lead once gained. Mbia has the most interceptions of any QPR player this season with 102.

 

Stoke come to this match with their own relegation worries having been outclassed by Manchester Utd to the tune of a 0-2 defeat last weekend.

 

– Tony Pulis will need Geoff Cameron in top form this weekend to ensure his side have some chance of taking a vital three points away from this game. The American defender has by far the best tackle success rate in the Stoke squad, with 71.4% from 91 attempted challenges. Only Aston Villa’s Matthew Lowton can boast a better success rate from more challenges (74.2% from 105) according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

– Should he play a role this weekend, Peter Crouch must be careful not to let defensive indiscretions stifle potential opportunities for Stoke. Crouch has committed more fouls than any other Stoke player this season with 42, and should likely stick to doing what he does best rather than tracking back into midfield.

 

Matthew Etherington will be desperate to get some return on his attacking efforts this weekend as Stoke as they league enters its final phase of the season. Etherington has now delivered 39 crosses yet registered 0 assists, the only player in the league who has delivered 35 crosses or more to have done so.

 

Apr 142013
 

During Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Stoke City the home fans were caught on camera making the gesture of aeroplane wings to mock the Munich Air Disaster. This was followed by audible chants also mocking the disaster.

During the 15th minute Stoke fans held a minute’s applause for 14-year-old Kameron Bourne who was found dead at his home last weekend. His father, grandfather and brothers were season ticket holders at the Britannia Stadium. United fans were unaware what the applause was for and sang “what the fucking hell was that?” which lead Stoke fans to mock the dead of Munich just a minute after honouring the death of one of their fans. Sadly, this wasn’t the first time and probably won’t be the last time that Stoke fans have sung the song and made these gestures.

Before kick-off today, several Stoke fans were proudly displaying their “Munich bastards” banner outside a pub local to the ground.

Apr 142013
 

Stoke v Manchester United, 14:05

 

– A second half Michael Kightly goal was not enough to prevent Stoke falling to another disappointing defeat, 1-3 at the hands of Aston Villa last weekend.

 

– Stoke have been enduring a hard run of form at late and the champions-elect will no doubt be testing their defence again this weekend. No player is more ready to deal with that challenge than Ryan Shawcross though, the Stoke captain throwing himself in the way of anything that moves this season and sitting second on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for blocks with 38 as a result.

 

– United will likely dominate possession for much of the match this Sunday so getting tight to their most influential passers in the midfield will be key for any chance of success for Stoke. Glenn Whelan may well be key in this regard, having the best tackle success rate of any Potters midfielder, completing 55.5% of his 63 challenges.

 

Jonathan Walters has been Tony Pulis’ go-to man this season when it comes to grabbing late winners but his shot accuracy has been somewhat wayward at times. Walters has only mustered a 45.2% shot accuracy rate from 42 attempts so he’ll need to find his shooting boots to beat David de Gea on Sunday.

 

Manchester United’s lead at the top of the Premier League was cut to 12 point, as ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City delayed the victory parties at Old Trafford with a 1-2 win.

 

Antonio Valencia hinted this week that United were ‘worried’ following their defeat to City on Monday evening, however the Ecuadorian winger doesn’t have much to worry about when it comes to his own performances according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. He leads the Utd squad for crosses completed (49) as well as dribbles (18).

 

– Defender Jonny Evans continues to underline his importance to the current Utd side with some highly mature performances this season. It is this new-found level of composure that has seen his tackle success rate rocket, the Northern Irishman being successful with an excellent 71.8% of his 32 challenges this season.

 

– By his own lofty standards, Robin van Persie has been enduring something of a dry spell in recent weeks. However his statistics suggest that more goals to add to his current tally of 19 won’t be far off, the Dutchman so far having a shot on goal on average once every 24.8 minutes.

Mar 302013
 

Everton v Stoke 17:30

 

– A brilliant all-round Everton performance saw them record a 2-0 victory over reigning Premier League champions Manchester City at Goodison Park.

 

– Left-back Leighton Baines has remained superb this season for David Moyes’ side in both defence and attack. Not only has he managed to rack up 156 defensive contributions, he’s also now whipped in 106 crosses.

 

– Eeverton will miss the guile and technique of Steven Pienaar following his sending off against Man City. The South African has completed more passes in the opponent’s half than any of his team mates with 801, averaging out at a pass every 3.2 minutes according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

– Moyes will be looking for more of his players to help Marouane Fellaini’s efforts in front of goal, given that the Belgian still leads the Everton squad for shot accuracy, with 66.6% testing the goalkeeper so far this season.

 

Stoke battled to a somewhat lackluster 0-0 draw with West Brom at the Britannia, a result which saw them move into the top half of the Premier League.

 

– No Stoke player has been more willing to throw their body on the line than Ryan Shawcross this season, the centre-half racking up 35 blocks according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, a squad-high.

 

– Imposing French midfielder Steven Nzonzi has let his temper get the better of him at times this season but his ability to influence a game from the centre of the park cannot be questioned. He’s completed a pass in the opposition half on average once every 5.2 minutes he’s been on the field, the lowest in the Potters’ squad.

 

– Look for Matthew Etherington to test out the Everton defence this weekend, he leads the Stoke squad for dribbles with 15.

Mar 162013
 

Stoke v West Brom, 15:00

 

Stoke were leading Newcastle 1-0 right up until the 72nd minute last weekend, before going on to lose the game 2-1.

 

Jonathan Walters won a penalty and then scored from the spot to put the Potters ahead. Walters has six goals in the Premier League this season and is now Stoke’s top goal scorer after over taking Peter Crouch who has five.

 

Walters’ goals have come from 39 shots at goal, although he has got just 43.6% of shots on target. Crouch, meanwhile, may consider himself unlucky as he has the better on target percentage of 63.2%, and has had just one fewer shot, with 38, but has scored just five goals compared to Walters’ six.

 

– The one thing Walters and Crouch do have in common is the urgency to try and win the ball back. The two are ranked third and fourth in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index’s strikers for tackles attempted, with 63 and 62 respectively.

 

Matt Etherington must be hoping either will start converting his crosses this season. Only two player’s in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index (Angel Rangel and Luke Shaw) have delivered more crosses than Etherington’s 31 without being credited an assist

 

Asmir Begovic once more excelled to keep Stoke in the game, making 11 saves in total, the joint highest of any keeper in the Premier League last weekend.

 

West Brom come into the game on the back of the same scoreline as Stoke, but were on the happier end after goals from Romelu Lukaku and a Jonathan de Guzman own goal saw off Swansea in their last game.

 

Lukaku’s strike means he has now over taken Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko to have the second best minutes per goal rating in the league. Lukaku has scored 13 times in the Premier League this season, averaging 112 minutes 28 seconds. Only Chicarito has a better minutes per goal rating with a goal every 93 minutes 30 seconds.

 

Graham Dorrans enjoyed a fantastic game in midfield for West Brom, completing 50 passes in the opposition half, more than any other player in the last round of games, while James Morrison ranked 3rd with 41.

 

– Meanwhile, Gareth McAuley is ranked fourth overall in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for defensive contributions across tackles won, blocks, clearances and interceptions with 262 overall.

 

McAuley has excelled in particular in clearances, where he is ranked third with 69 so far this season, while his team mate Jonas Olsson is ranked first with 77, making for a fascinating battle in the penalty area between McAuley and Olsson and Walters and Crouch.

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
 

Stoke v West Ham, Saturday 15:00

 

Stoke fell victim to a piece of Dimitar Berbatov genius last weekend as they left Craven Cottage with nothing following a 1-0 defeat.

 

– The list of suitors for Asmir Begovic appears to be growing following the arrival of Jack Butland in January and it’s not hard to see why. The Bosnian stopper boasts 139 saves this season according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

– Stoke fans will have been pleased to see Ryan Shawcross sign a new contract recently given his value to the Potters’ defence. His centre-half partnership with Robert Huth continues to develop and been the two of them they have made an excellent 481 defensive contributions this season, including 277 interceptions and 54 blocks.

 

Peter Crouch could certainly learn a thing or two from his defensive colleagues. He has one of the lowest tackle success rates in the league, having come out on top in on 9% of his 51 attempted challenges.

 

– Stoke have traditionally been viewed as primarily a defensive team who rely on physical stature and long-ball tactics to win games but they are slowly removing this label. They now have 7 players in the squad who have made 200 or more passes in the opponent’s half this season.

 

– A valiant effort was not enough to earn West Ham anything as Tottenham, powered by the superb Gareth Bale, snatched a 2-3 victory at the death last weekend.

 

– Whilst not yet back to his imposing best, Andy Carroll looks to be inching back to somewhere near his best form. He’s had an attempt on target once every 63 minutes he’s been on the field this season.

 

James Tomkins has been demonstrating some outstanding consistency at the other end of the park as well, establishing an excellent tackle success rate of 77% from 39 attempted challenges.

 

– The Hammer’s go-to man still seems to be Mark Noble though, given his sheer level of involvement in their play in their centre of the park. He’s made more passes than any other West Ham player in the opponent’s half (502) according to EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

Noble has also provided the second highest number of crosses (46) and the joint highest number of assist (3) for Sam Allardyce’s team this season.

Feb 092013
 

Stoke v Reading 15:00

 

Stoke came within 12 minutes of holding Arsenal in their last Premier League game, before losing out to a deflected Lukas Podolski free kick.

 

– Up until then Asmir Begovic had been in inspired form to keep the Gunners out. He’s made 130 saves this season, the 5th highest so far this season in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

– Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross has been putting his body on the line for Stoke this season, and has made the third highest number of blocks in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index with 27. Team mate Robert Huth is in 7th with 22.

 

– Stoke winger Matt Etherington has been unlucky with his deliveries this season, he has delivered 29 crosses without being credited an assist, more than any other midfielder in the league.

 

Reading have made a habit of late winners recently, taking ten points from twelve in their last four games. Their latest victims were Sunderland, with Jimmy Kebe scoring both goals in a 2-1 win.

 

Kebe’s goals took his tally for the season to five, from an efficient 16 efforts at goal with 68.8% on target. In fact, of the players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index to have scored five or more goals Kebe has needed the fewest shots per goal, with an average of 3.2 shots for each goal scored.

 

– Team mate Adam le Fondre has the fifth best shots per goal ratio in the league, averaging 3.6 shots for each of his ten goals this season, making them one of the most dangerous strike pairings in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

– In the middle of the park, Jem Karacan is one of only 16 players in the league to have attempted 25 or more tackles while still maintaining a 75% + success rate for tackles won. Karacan has won 77.1% of the 35 he has attempted.

 

Ian Harte is undergoing a renaissance of form this season at Reading, and delivered 9 crosses against Sunderland. Only Leighton Baines delivered more in the last round of games with 10.

 

– New signing Hope Akpan has made the step up to Premier League football seamlessly for Reading, contributing 3 assists in 3 appearances at an average of one every 48 minutes 20 seconds.

Jan 292013
 

Stoke v Wigan, 19:45

 

Stoke have been one of the best teams in the league defensively this season, but will need to return to that form to halt a run which has seen them concede ten goals in their last three Premier League games.

 

The most recent defeat was a 3-1 loss against Swansea, in which Michael Owen scored a late consolation goal.

 

Robert Huth has been at the centre of Stoke’s best defensive work this season. Huth is ranked third overall for defensive contributions this season with 238 across tackles won, interceptions, clearances and blocks. That means Huth interrupts an opposition attack every 9 minutes and 35 seconds on average.

 

Jonathan Walters’ season may be remembered for his nightmare performance against Chelsea which saw him score two own goals and miss a penalty, but in fact Walters should be credited as one of the most consistently hard working players in the league. Walters has covered 141.46 miles this season, the fourth highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. He has been Stoke’s hardest worker in 12 of their 23 league games this season.

 

Walters has also done more defensively than any other striker in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index with 77 defensive contributions across tackles won, clearances, interceptions and blocks. 888sport.com have Walters at an industry best price of 6/1 to buck his recent run of bad luck and score first against Wigan.

 

Wigan were unfortunate to lose 3-2 against Sunderland in their last league game, to make it three games without a win for the Latics.

 

Ronnie Stam’s shot forced a Sunderland own goal for the first, while Angel Henriquez hit the second. Henriquez is an industry best price of 9/1 with 888sport.com to make it two goals in two games and score first against Stoke.

 

Stam has delivered more crosses per minute on the pitch than any other player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index with one every 18 minutes and 18 seconds, 42 crosses in total.

 

James McArthur covered the most ground for the Latics in that game with 7.08 miles, the 7th time in 8 games he has topped his team’s charts for ground covered and taking his total mileage for the season to 104.39 miles.

 

Jean Beausejour has been a constant threat this season delivering 87 crosses so far, the second highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index and just one behind the league’s top performer Leighton Baines who has delivered 88 crosses.

Jan 192013
 

Swansea v Stoke 15:00

 

Swansea eventually succumbed to a 1-0 defeat in their FA Cup replay with Arsenal on Wednesday evening, a disappointing result after their 0-0 draw with Everton in the league the previous weekend. It fell to keeper Michel Vorm to come to Swansea’s rescue on several occasions, with their highly regarded attacking threats of Michu, Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer were unable to conjure.

 

– Star man Michu will likely have been disappointed to miss out on the chance to start against Arsenal in mid-week, but you can guarantee he will be looking to remain the Swans’ biggest goal threat against a normally stoic Stoke defence. The Spaniard shows no signs of slowing down from his incredible start to the season and boasts a shot-to-goal ratio of 4.6 from 60 attempts according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

Jonathan de Guzman has proven to be an almost tailor-made replacement for Joe Allen this season, the Canadian midfielder successfully completing 441 passes in the opponent’s half this season, the highest in the Swansea squad.

 

– The best leaders are the ones who demonstrate their expectations for the teammates through their own actions and Ashley Williams has been doing exactly that this season. He’d made 239 defensive contributions this season, placing him second on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

– Given his performance on Wednesday night, midfielder Nathan Dyer looks to be approaching somewhere near his elusive best. He’s racked up 387 successful passes in the opponent’s half and also has 4 assists to his name.

 

– If international caps were won on performance alone, Wayne Routledge would be knocking hard on England’s door. The pacy winger has an excellent 89% shot accuracy rate from 18 attempts, 5 goals and 4 assists.

 

– Stoke suffered a 4-0 at the hands of Chelsea last weekend, with Jonathan Walters enduring a particularly torrid afternoon after scoring two own-goals and missing a penalty. Asmir Begovic turned in another fine performance but was not able to keep the scoreline from running away from the Potters.

 

– South-after keeper Asmir Begovic remains one of the busiest keepers in the league, with his 118 saves placing him 5th on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

– Despite having an evening to forget, Jonathan Walters still turned in the kind of performance so prized at the Brittania Stadium, running for a squad-high 6.28 miles against Chelsea.

 

Robert Huth’s general defensive performances continue to be excellent in all areas this season. The big German leads the Stoke squad for interceptions with 133, also registering 20 blocks and 34 clearances.

 

Steven Nzonzi has already endeared himself to many of the Stoke faithful with some committed performances. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows him as contributing decisively in both defence and attack this season, racking up 320 passes in the opponent’s half this season, along with 77 interceptions.