Arsenal vs Cardiff 15:00
A tight affair at St James’ Park on Sunday eventually saw Arsenal claim a vital three points away to Newcastle after Olivier Giroud nudged in a Theo Walcott delivery. It was not the prettiest of Arsenal wins but it ensures they end 2013 as league leaders.
Despite a hamstring pull that threatens to rule him out for a spell, it is unlikely that any player, Arsenal or otherwise, will challenge Aaron Ramsey’s statistics as the most complete all-round player in the league this season in his absence. Not only does the Welshman rank third on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for passes completed in the opponent’s half (669), he has been one of the best defenders in the league as well. He is the only player in the top 5 in this category to have surpassed 100 defensive contributions (blocks, interceptions, clearances, tackles won) and he has won more tackles (62) than any of the players in the top 10.
The speed at which Mesut Ozil has adapted to the Premier League has been quite incredible but when you have his level of ability, few things should be a surprise. Despite being criticised for a somewhat quiet spell at present, the German has nonetheless been superlative in the figures he has compiled. He is the only new arrival in the Premier League to currently have a lower average rate for passes completed in the opponent’s half than one every two minutes (1.94).
The return of Lukas Podolski from injury will have been a welcome sight for Gunners fans with Olivier Giroud looking a little tired in recent weeks and in need of a chance to recuperate. Podolski offers a different dimension to the Arsenal attack, and before his injury had established some solid shooting statistics. He’s so far only had five attempts on goal, but 80% of them have been on target.
Newly managerless Cardiff were unable to kill off the game as they had to settle for a 2-2 draw with Sunderland after a last minute equaliser. Despite goals from Jordon Mutch and Frazier Campbell, Cardiff missed out on what could be two valuable points as the begin their search for their new manager.
It says something perhaps amount the mentality of football on these shores that when it comes to blocks, 12 out of the top 20 players in the league are British. No one has typified this more so this season than Steven Caulker, who currently leads the league in this regard with 29 according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.
Helping Caulker in this regard has been Kevin Theophile-Catherine, the Frenchman currently possessing some of the best defensive statistics in the squad. No Cardiff player has won more tackles than him this term, with 44 successful challenges to his name.
Jordon Mutch has acquitted himself well this season for Cardiff, turning in some solid performances during a turbulent season thus far for the club. Not only has he racked up the joint highest number of attacking contributions in the Cardiff squad (shots on goal, assists, crosses, dribbles), he’s also had the second highest number of attempts on goal in the Cardiff squad with 22.