The weekend's top-flight action analysed by Nick Govier, the Editor of Footballistically.co.uk
The pick of this weekend's matches was undoubtedly Arsenal's trip to face Manchester City. It rapidly became an end-to-end shootout, but there were some tactical elements which helped the home side gain the upper hand.
City pressed high up the pitch when the Arsenal defence were in possession, often forcing the ball back to Wojciech Szczesny and not giving him an option to play a short pass back out to his back four. This prevented Arsenal from building from the back and instead forced Szczesny to kick long – which played into the hands of the taller City defenders. Compare Szczesny's distribution with that against Everton last week when he was able to pass short and keep possession more often.
Another element in the victory was how well Pablo Zabaleta contained Theo Walcott. The winger has been playing exceptionally well recently but was prevented from making much impact at all on the game by an outstanding performance by Zabaleta, who dispossessed Walcott on a number of occasions and nullified his threat in behind.
Manchester City's win took them back to the top of the Premier League, after Manchester United had briefly taken top spot following a relatively untroubled victory over Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road. The match was most notable for Michael Carrick's first goal in 70 matches, and a partnership with Phil Jones in the centre of midfield which looked very promising indeed. Jones has been played in several positions since his move to Old Trafford, but his box-to-box ability may see him playing in a midfield role for a while yet.
Another midfielder impressing in West London this weekend was Clint Dempsey. Notionally playing on the left, he often drifted infield and was at the centre of most of Fulham's positive play. He left the field with a fine headed goal and an expertly-weighted through-ball assist, and could have created more goals had it not been for the determination of the Bolton defence to throw themselves in front of shots and keep the score respectable.
Bolton are bottom of the league, but a win on Tuesday evening against Blackburn will leave Steve Kean's charges at the foot of the table. In last week's review we noted via Paul Robinson's kicking stats how direct Blackburn play; this week that directness resulted in a classic Route One goal.
Scott Dann scored against West Brom after a Paul Robinson punt was nodded down by Christopher Samba. Examining Samba's passes received and player dashboard shows how much of his play takes place in the opponent's penalty area: he won two flick-ons and the knock-down for the goal.
Blackburn have regressed a long way from Mark Hughes' tenure at the club, when Morten Gamst Pedersen and David Bentley were relentlessly seeking out the likes of Roque Santa Cruz with dangerous crosses from wide areas. Under Steve Kean the flanks are ignored completely as their pass map shows – only twice did Blackburn attempt a cross from within 18 yards of the byline.
And finally, "row Z" may be the cliché, but this weekend some of the shooting was so wild that fans weren't necessarily safe even if they weren't behind the goals…
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