Thursday, 22 January 2015

Cuadrado and Chelsea: a good fit?

There have been an increasing number of reports linking Chelsea with Fiorentina wide man Juan Cuadrado. Cuadrado was one of the stars of the Colombian side that impressed at the World Cup and he was responsible for the joint highest number of assists alongside Toni Kroos.

In the summer the winger was linked with a move to Old Trafford but that failed to materialise and now Stamford Bridge seems a more likely destination. That said, it is likely Chelsea will have to offload players in order to comply with the FFP rules, at the minute it looks likely that Andre Schurrle and Mo Salah could be on the way out.

Despite the fact that this move seems to be in the early stages we take a look at how Cuadrado might fit in at the Bridge. In 16 Serie A games the 26 year old has four goals and four assists, which is a good return. He has had the 7th highest number of shots per game so far with an average of 3.1 shots per game. To add to his assists Cuadrado also creates 2.2 chances per game, the fifth highest average in Serie A.

He completes 2.5 dribbles per game and his ability on the ball is further shown by the fact that he is fouled an average of 4.9 times per game, a lot of defenders struggle to cope with his pace and trickery.  Facing up against Hazard and Cuadrado would be a terrifying sight for almost all full backs.

Jose Mourinho is a fan of his attacking players doing their share of the defensive work to, it was the reason levelled at Juan Mata’s exclusions from his side at the start of last season. Cuadrado makes an average of 1.3 tackles and 1 interception per game, whilst his four yellow cards and 1.3 fouls per game show he is capable of doing the dirty side of the game.

Whether or not this move pans out remains to be seen, arguably Chelsea don’t need another attacking player but that hasn’t stopped them before. Cuadrado is certainly a talented individual, but he must be a team player too if he is to fit in at Chelsea, unseating the likes of Willian would be by no means an easy feat. I for one would like to see Cuadrado in the Premier League but we’ll have to wait and see how this one develops.


 Statistics courtesy of whoscored.com

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Where does Bony move leave City and Swansea?

Manchester City and Swansea have agreed a fee of £28m for Ivorian striker Wilfried Bony. Bony, who is currently on international duty with the Ivory Coast, will bolster the attacking lines at City who have been without Aguero and Dzeko in recent weeks.

Bony has 9 goals so far this season and was the top scorer in the calendar year 2014 with 20 goals. Bony has been used primarily as a lone striker in his time at Swansea but will presumably find himself partnered with Aguero, with Dzeko falling down the pecking order. I think Bony will be viewed as competition for Dzeko, the two have a similar playing style and at the minute Bony looks to have the advantage in terms of form this season. City will probably return to the 4-4-2 formation they used for much of the early part of the season.

Bony has proved he is technically gifted and not just a battering ram. He has scored some excellent goals in his time in England. Playing alongside the likes of Aguero, Silva and Nasri we would expect Bony to get more chances and so you’d expect him to score more. Also his assists tally of two is likely to grow.

City have undoubtedly captured a top class Premier League player, it is up to Bony to show he can step up to the plate. His lack of European experience may be a drawback but that could be an advantage too, he would be an unknown quantity.

For Swansea, whilst they will have been reluctant to let Bony go, they will feel the fee is large enough to get a suitable replacement. The Swans have made a considerable amount the £12m they paid for Bony from Vitesse.

In the summer they secured the services of Bafetimbi Gomis who in the meanwhile will be hoping to step into Bony’s rather large shooting boots. Gomis has started just five games so far and has made a handful of substitute appearance. Saturday’s goal against West Ham was his first in the Premier League, adding to the three he has in the cup competitions.

In his time in France he proved himself a prolific goal scorer, last season he managed 13 in 27 starts. Whilst the step up to the Premier League can be at times a struggle, Gomis has international experience and his physical presence will be an advantage. If he can get a decent run in the team I think he will easily reach double figures in this Swansea side.

It remains to be seen whether or not Swansea will feel the need to invest right now or wait until the summer. I think given the risks associated with January signings and the promising start made by Gomis, Garry Monk and co. may be tempted to wait until the end of the season. Although recalling Michu from his loan at Napoli might be worth considering.

Statistics courtesy of whoscored.com

Friday, 9 January 2015

Chadli thinking inside the box

Last season much was made of the way Spurs spent the money made from the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, the general consensus was that they had signed quantity over quality and not enough of the players were up to scratch. For many of those players that still rings true, Paulinho is yet to start a game this season, Soldado has just one Premier League goal and has been usurped by Harry Kane and Erik Lamela has shone brightly at times, but not consistently enough.

Of those captures Christian Eriksen continues to look the best acquisition, with 7 goals and 1 assist this term. However, another of those players also seems to be proving his worth: Nacer Chadli. Like Eriksen and Kane, the Belgian winger has 7 goals, last season he managed just one goal. Chadli also looks set to surpass the number of performances he put in last season, he has only started one less game in this campaign than in the whole of the last. I think that underlines his growing importance under Pochettino’s rule. Another has been his limited inclusion in the Europa League sides, which have been reserved mainly to give players game time.

Alongside Lamela, Chadli leads the way in the Spurs side with four assists. Despite having scored as many goals as Kane and Eriksen, Chadli doesn’t seem to have got as much recognition, he is quietly getting on with his job and to a good effect. His contributions in front of goal have been telling too, his goals against Arsenal and Sunderland secured draws and against Villa helped Spurs to win. The same is true of his assists. Unsurprisingly, Chadli has the third highest number of shots per game and makes the third highest number of chances. Interestingly, the rate at which he is creating chances hasn’t changed since last season, maybe it’s just that there is now somebody in the team capable of finishing them.

He has increased the number of shots he’s having from 1.4 to 1.8 from last season to this, but that’s not an increase that warrants the increase in the number of times he’s found the net to date. The reason becomes clearer if we delve a little deeper. Last season Chadli was having one shot every two games from inside the penalty area, this season that value is 1.4 shots per game, as many shots as he was averaging per game last season. 

Chadli' s shots by area
Having more shots from inside the area is, unsurpisingly, resulting in more goals. More of his shots are on target too, he’s managing 0.9 per game this season compared to 0.3 last season. That could be as a result of shooting from better positions and taking less shots from outside the area. This also suggests that Chadli is maybe assessing his options before he shoots, which is resulting in better positions for him and his team. 

Whether shooting from inside the box is something that Spurs have worked on, or is just a part of Chadli’s game which has grown as he’s become more confident and settled in England, is unclear but it’s certainly paying dividends. Spurs will be hoping that Chadli can continue this fine form for the remainder of the season and maybe also that some of the other signings from last season have a similar turn around in form.

Statistics courtesy of whoscored.com


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Analysing Dortmund's woes

When the Bundesliga returns on the 30th of January, Borussia Dortmund will find themselves 30 points adrift of league leaders Bayern Munich and perhaps more importantly 12 points off the Champions League places.  As things stand Jurgen Klopp and co may be more focused on survival than fighting for titles, his side are second bottom at the half way stage in the German league fixtures.

Dortmund have won just four times all season, drawn on three occasions and lost ten times. In the process they’ve scored a lowly 18 goals (4th lowest in the division) and conceded 26. They’ve already lost three more games than in the entirety of their last campaign.

Qualifying for the Champions League is surely a must, not just for the revenue that it brings but also in order to hold on to the likes of Mats Hummels and Marco Reus who are seemingly linked with a move to pastures new on a daily basis. The Champions League has offered some reprieve for Dortmund, they finished ahead of Arsenal in their group although they now face a tricky tie against Juventus. Perhaps their best chance of qualifying for next year’s competition is to win this year’s.

Injuries have hit Dortmund hard.  Pierre Emerick Aubemayang is the only Dortmund player to feature in all 17 league games this season and no player has been ever present. That is certainly a problem, I mentioned earlier that the likes of Hummels and Reus may well leave next season, as it is they’ve played just 1360 minutes between them all season. It’s hardly surprising that Reus has just 3 goals and 2 assists. Experienced winger Jakub Blaszczykowski has featured for just 69 minutes all season.

In recent years losing their best players is something which Dortmund fans have had to become accustomed to. Losing 20 goal a season Robert Lewandowksi to Bayern in the summer was a massive blow, worsened by the fact that they received no fee for the Poland centre forward. However, they secured replacements in the form of Adrian Ramos and Ciro Immobile. Ramos had performed well in recent season for Hertha Berlin whilst Immobile was the top scorer in Serie A last season. Neither player has truly hit the ground running though.

Ramos has started six games and appeared as a substitute in seven. The Colombian has scored twice and created two goals. He is averaging just 1.4 shots per game, last season he was having over two times as many (2.9) and managed 16 goals. Immobile has just three goals to his name. He managed 22 last season, he is clearly taking time to adjust to the German league.

I don’t think Dortmund’s performance levels, or lack thereof, are solely down to Lewandowski leaving. Although it will have played a part and his goals are missed, that does not account for the lack of defensive stability shown by Dortmund. Perhaps the biggest way the move has affected Klopp and his players is psychologically, his desire to leave and to such a big rival is bound to knock confidence and leave players questioning the clubs ambition and their own futures.

Dortmund are still having a high number of shots, 17 compared to 18 the season past, but only 5 on target compared to 7. They’re having marginally more shots  from outside the box which could be a cause of this.

Dortmund have had higher possession this season, 57% compared to 52% last season. Their game has so often been based on counter attacks and swift attacks, a higher amount of possession suggests they lack that incisiveness and perhaps that is causing their game to suffer. This season Dortmund already have two red cards, they got none last season, there’s a lack of discipline creeping into their game, perhaps born out of frustration but it still leads to players missing games and makes winning that much harder.

At one stage Borussia Dortmund lost seven straight league games, they have recovered from that somewhat and they are surely too good to go down. They have however, left themselves a lot to do in terms of European qualification and finishing the season in a respectable position.   If they can get their full strength team fit and settled I wouldn’t bet against Dortmund climbing the table quickly.

 Statistics courtesy of whoscored.com

Monday, 5 January 2015

Assessing Everton's season so far

Everton’s third round FA cup tie at home to West Ham on Tuesday will be their 28th in all competitions so far this season. They go into that game on the back of a four game losing streak in the Premier League which has led to growing pressure on Roberto Martinez. Everton have suffered as many defeats this season as in the whole of the last campaign.

As it stands Everton are 13th and just 4 points above the relegation zone and 13 points adrift of fifth place and a successive European qualification. Their record is less than stellar, five games won, six drawn and nine lost. Only QPR have conceded more goals than Everton. Their problems have been at that end of the pitch, the Toffee’s are the league’s 6th highest scorers. It’s worth noting they have been unable to field a regular settled back four this season, Distin has played just 12 times and at 37 he is nearing the twilight of his career. Injury has prevented promising youngster John Stones from picking up the mantle, but it is presumably he and not Antolin Alcaraz who Martinez will look to in the future. Tim Howard’s injury is a further blow, his lack of experience is being missed between the sticks.

Leighton Baines has seven assists to his name so far this season compared to five in the whole of the last campaign and that’s certainly a positive. His prolific relationship with Steven Pienaar has been disupted through injuries.

Securing Romelu Lukaku’s services on a permanent basis following a successful loan spell at Goodison last season was seen by many as a coup. The big Belgian has six goals so far this season, making him the sides leading scorer. Last season he bagged fifteen goals in 31 games, so he is a bit behind that rate. However, I think it is worth considering that he has been overplayed and may be suffering from some burn out, especially since he featured quite heavily in the World Cup as well. He is winning just 1.4 headers per game this season compared to 2.9 last, perhaps Everton are playing less directly to his strengths or perhaps he is just burnt out.

Last season’s success was built around the solid foundation provided by JamesMcCarthy and Gareth Barry. Barry who also made his loan move permanent in the summer, has provided similar defensive cover this season, with 2.2 tackles and 1.6 interceptions (compared to 2.7 and 1.6 last season) while McCarthy has made the same number of interceptions (1.5) but fewer tackles (1.5 compared to 2.5) than last season.

Last season Everton arguably overachieved, in Martinez’s first year they finished 5th securing a return to European competition, albeit in the Europa League. That competition has been the reason for Everton’s manic fixture schedule. However, Martinez has refused to hide behind the gruelling schedule of Europe’s second tier intercontinental competition. That said, Everton have picked up just seven of a possible eighteen points in the games following Europa League excursions and three of those came after the Krasnador game when Martinez fielded a youthful side. That record suggests they have been struggling as a result of their extra commitments.

Some of the critiscim levelled at Martinez has been his lack of adaptability, with his side sticking to a passing approach at times when a more direct one may favour them more. Maybe other teams have got used to the way Everton play and have a system to stop them.  In his time at Wigan Martinez showed he was willing to change system, changing to a back three kept them up a few years ago, but he won't dismiss his philosophy so easily. 

With one of the worse defensive records it’s unsurprising that Everton have made fewer tackles and interceptions this season than last (16.4 and 11.3, compared to 19.4 and 12.2). Despite that they have conceded roughly the same number of shots (13 and 13.1) per game as last season, maybe their opponents are finishing better or perhaps getting better opportunities.

What is behind Everton’s poor league performances this season? It’s tough to put it down to one thing, I think the Europa League has undoubtedly taken its toll and injuries have played their part too.  Martinez hasn't been able to name his strongest side or even his strongest back four on as many occassions as he would like. Martinez will be granted more time given his successes last season and he deserves it too. Everton fans will be hopeful of a turnaround in form and maybe a cup run could be just the ticket to get that started. 

Statistics courtesy of whoscored.com

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Sanchez vs Costa: who has settled better?

Following another Alexis Sanchez goal to rescue Arsenal, Arsene Wenger  was prompted to say that no player had adapted quicker to the Premier League. Sanchez has nine goals in thirteen Premier League appearances so far for the Gunners, he works out at scoring every 117 minutes on average. He also has three goals in the Champions League so far and Arsenal fans will be hoping he can keep up that rate too.

Of his nine Premier League goals, 5 have come at the Emirates and 4 away from home. Without his goals Arsenal would be 7 points worse off, giving them a points total of 16, the same amount as Villa. Sanchez has scored 41% of Arsenal’s goals so far this season, that outlines how vital he has been to their side.

It’s undoubtedly true that Sanchez has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water, but quicker than anyone else? That is a very bold claim. Let’s compare him to another big summer signing who has hit the ground running and see if Wenger’s claims check out.

The other exciting summer striker signing from La Liga was Diego Costa, the Spanish striker cost Chelsea a hefty £30 million but he is looking worth every penny of it so far.  Costa has eleven Premier League goals so far this season, two more than  Sanchez. That’s from 11 appearances to, meaning Costa has found the net on average every 83 minutes, an unbelievable conversion rate.

Arguably Sanchez plays a deeper role than Costa who is the focal point of Chelsea’s attacks so we’d maybe expect him to get fewer goals. Sanchez has two assists to his name so far this season, Costa has none. Costa creates fewer chances (1.6) than Sanchez (2.6).

Without Costa’s goals Chelsea would only be five points worse off, still top of the league, that probably says more about how good the rest of Chelsea’s team is though. Costa has scored in 8 separate games, bagging a hat trick against Swansea and a couple against Everton. Sanchez too has scored in 8 separate games. There is little difference in the number of shots the two players have per game, Costa with 3.1 and Sanchez with 3.0.

Both players have been praised for their work rate, that has been identified as one of the reasons that they have settled so well in England. Defending from the front has become an important part of the modern striker’s game. Costa averages 0.7 tackles and 0.4 interceptions, Sanchez is yet to make an interception and averages 0.4 tackles per game. Clearly, they are both doing more off the ball than those statistics suggest, it’s more about closing players and putting them under pressure.

Both sides would undoubtedly be worse off without their new talismanic forwards, I think Sanchez is more important to Arsenal right now but that is arguably because they’ve been without Giroud and lack the strength in depth Chelsea have. You still get the feeling Costa isn’t 100% fit.

It’ll be interesting to see how both players fare over Christmas, with both used to having a winter break. Who has settled better? I think Costa settled faster, he grabbed 7 goals in his first four games but Sanchez has certainly caught him up and he is vital to Arsenal right now. That said both have adapted extremely well to the Premier League, they’ve lived up to the hype and their respective price tags.


 Statistics courtesy of whoscored.com

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Blind leading the blind

With all the talent to come through the door at Old Trafford this season the least exciting was probably Daley Blind. This is not a criticism, I’m a huge fan of the Dutchman but he’s not going to light up Old Trafford in the same way that Di Maria or Falcao might, his job however, is probably the most important in this United team.

Against Everton Van Gaal lined up with a midfield of Di Maria, Blind and Valencia, with Mata deployed further forward. That’s leaving a lot of work for Daley Blind, whilst Di Maria and Valencia are industrious and will certainly put in a shift, they are at heart attack minded wide players. Blind is essentially tasked with the job that most teams entrust at least two if not three men to do.

In his 4 Premier League appearances Blind has made an average of 3 tackles and 2.8 interceptions per game. Only Phil Jones and Rafael have made more interceptions and only Jones and Herrera have made more tackles. His importance to the midfield is apparent from that alone. When you add in an average of 3.8 clearances per game, his defensive contributions are added to.

In comparison Di Maria offers little defensively, he’s made just 4 tackles and 7 interceptions in his 5 games at Old Trafford, Valencia fares a little better, with an average of 2.8 tackles and 2.2 interceptions. This shows how much work Blind has to get through, if United wish to control games in the manner they’ve become accustomed to and to stop leaking so many goals they will need more cover in midfield.

There’s no doubt that Blind’s versatility is in part why he was signed, he’s at comfortable at centre back as he is at left back or in the role he currently occupies. Given his versatility it’s not surprising he’s such a well-rounded player.

His work is as much off the ball as it is on the ball, breaking up play is as important as starting attacks. His average pass accuracy is 88.9% and Blind plays an average of 67.8 passes, the 10th highest of all players in the league. His passing range is varied, he has played 3.3 long balls per game so far, so he can release United on the counter or switch the play if needed. Unsurprisingly, Blind hasn’t created many chances for his team mates, his role is that of the middle man, by occupying space he can receive the ball and feed those who supply the goals.

Presumably Herrera will replace Valencia when fit and that will add some more solidity to the centre of the park. It’s clearly a problem of having such a plethora of attacking talent that fitting all those players in isn’t going to be easy and the solution seems to be removing a man from midfield. At the minute United aren’t a balanced side, there’s too much emphasis on attack and that isn’t sustainable, they’d benefit more from dropping one of the strikers for more midfield cover.



 Statistics courtesy of whoscored.com