Editor of ZonalMarking.net, Michael Cox, casts a tactical eye over three of the weekend's biggest Premeir League fixtures, using the Stats Zone app from FFT and Opta...
You know those weekends when you can’t really find any standout fixtures? This isn’t one of them.
The Merseyside derby and the North London derby bookend an intriguing round of Premier League fixtures, and the tactical battle in both should be very interesting.
First, Goodison Park. Everton may be at home, but Liverpool are favourites with the bookmakers, and David Moyes’ first intention will be stopping the opposition.
Last week, Moyes decided to use a man-marking strategy to stop David Silva, showing he’s happy to change the structure of his side to stop a particular opponent. Liverpool don’t have a player like Silva in midfield, but Moyes’ approach with regard to Charlie Adam will be particularly interesting.
The former Blackpool player loves time on the ball, but Everton are used to standing off the opposition midfield and letting them play, focusing on their defensive shape.
However, as Spurs showed at White Hart Lane a fortnight ago, pressuring
Adam puts him in real difficulty – and Moyes might attempt to use
Marouane Fellaini or Tim Cahill up against the Scotsman. The above diagrams show Adam’s passes in his most recent game, and Everton’s
interceptions in theirs. He often moves deep to pick up the ball, but
Everton rarely press in that area.
How will Kenny Dalglish go about stopping Everton? At the moment, it’s difficult to identify their main threat – they have no in-form strikers, and midfield playmaker Mikel Arteta has departed to Arsenal. Instead, you have to look deeper – it’s Leighton Baines who is probably the man Dalglish won’t want on the ball.
With that in mind, this seems like a perfect game for Dirk Kuyt, who has rarely featured so far this season, having slipped down the pecking order after Liverpool’s summer transfer spree.
The images below shows how important Baines is to Everton’s play – he was the most involved player against Manchester City, and as a result Everton generally entered the final third down the left.
Down in London, it’s a similar situation. Tottenham are the home side, but Arsenal are traditionally the favourites. Coming into this game, however, the balance of power is not so certain – Arsenal’s troubles are obvious, while Spurs have won their last three league games, and look in fine form.
The key player, though, is Robin van Persie. On a great run of form and fresh from his 100th goal for Arsenal, he continues to drop deep into space between lines, generally staying in central positions.
Tottenham will probably have a 2 v 3 numerical disadvantage in that zone anyway, and the addition of van Persie could mean Arsenal dominating possession.
That’s not something Spurs are used to – in the previous two Premier League weekends, Harry Redknapp’s side have completed more passes than any other Premier League team. Scott Parker, impressive so far, will have his hands full in the holding role.
Van Persie’s main threat is his shooting ability, of course – look how
many shots he had in the game against Bolton. Although he has a
reputation for being a good long-distance shooter, the image of his
attempts against Bolton back up the feeling that he’s become more of a
poacher in recent months.
Van Persie has a great relationship with Theo Walcott – the England forward’s last seven assists have all been for the Dutchman.
But, if fit to return to action on Sunday, he’ll also have an important defensive job to do. Bacary Sagna will need help in dealing with Gareth Bale (as Martin Skrtel and
Steve Gohouri will advise), but he also has to try and occupy Tottenham’s marauding left back, Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
As the diagram of Brad Friedel’s distribution against Wigan shows, he almost always passes the ball out to his left, the main area Tottenham look to launch attacks from.
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