Norwich v Man Utd, Saturday 17:30
– Norwich played out a 0-0 draw with Reading in their last game to give them an impressive return of just one goal conceded in their last four Premier League games.
– Sebastian Bassong has divided opinion throughout his career, but looks to be back towards his best at Norwich. He made 8 clearances against Reading, the joint second highest by a player in a single match this season and adding to his tally of 24 this season so far.
– Leon Barnett has been instrumental to Norwich’s defensive performances, winning 8 of his 15 attempted tackles and making 10 clearances, 35 interceptions and 3 blocks. That’s an average of a defensive interception every 9 minutes 44 seconds.
– John Ruddy, meanwhile, continues to impress and the England number two has been the fifth busiest goalkeeper in the Premier League so far this season, making 55 saves. Ruddy has conceded 18 goals for those saves, averaging 3.05 saves per goal conceded. England rival Joe Hart, however, has conceded just ten goals, but has only had to make 28 saves behind one of the league’s tightest defences, averaging 2.8 saves per goal conceded.
– Wesley Hoolahan topped the chart for ground covered against Reading with 6.77 miles, the third highest by a Norwich player all season.
– Manchester United beat Villa 3-2 in their last league game, but Villa gave United a scare in the game going two goals up with both goals coming from crosses from the left.
– Rafael da Silva has come of age in an attacking sense this season, completing 241 passes in his opponent’s half, second only to Leighton Baines among defenders in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. However, he may want to sharpen up his tackling, as he has come away with the ball after just 57% of his 30 tackles attempted this season, displaying the defensive frailty exposed by Villa.
– When delivering balls into the box Norwich should be wary, however, of Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evan’s ability to clear the ball. Both are in the top 20 for clearance this season with 19 and 16 respectively, an impressive feat considering only Vincent Kompany and Phil Jagielka feature in the top 20 from the other current top 4 sides.
– However, winning the ball from the feet of a player is another matter. Rafael da Silva’s 17 tackles won is the highest among his United team mates, ranked 50th in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, while Ferdinand has won just ten tackles, suggesting that running at United may be more fruitful than high balls into the box.
– That’s not necessarily great news for Norwich, as no Canaries’ player has completed more than five dribbles this season. New signing Robert Snodgrass has that tally to his name.
– Michael Carrick has been at the top of his game this season, quietly dictating play for United. He made an incredible 92 passes in his opponent’s half against Villa, more than one a minute and the most by a player in a single game this season.
– That performance by Carrick, and Paul Scholes who completes a pass in his opponent’s half more than once every two minutes, typifies United’s passing style of play. Conversely last season Nani finished the season top of the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for crosses with 133 and Valencia in fifth with 107, averaging 16 crosses per game while their passes completed in their opponent’s half averaged 238 per game.
– This season United have averaged 11 crosses per game and 256 passes completed in the opponent’s half, as United seem to have focused their play through the middle to feed to the feet of league top scorer Robin van Persie.
– Norwich will need to beware the trademark United sucker punch, should they find themselves leading against Manchester United. Javier Hernandez has made a habit of coming off the bench to rescue Manchester United this season. Hernandez has the best minutes per goal contribution (a goal or assist) in the league, having contributed a goal or assist every 39 minutes 48 seconds while on the pitch this season. His goals have come at a rate of one every 59 minutes 45 seconds, the best in the league.