ZonalMarking.net's Michael Cox uses the StatsZone app – from FFT and Opta, available now – to preview the best of the weekend's Premier League action...
Despite all eyes being on Andy Carroll, Newcastle may miss another old boy rather more. Jose Enrique has been excellent at left-back for Liverpool so far this season, rarely letting an opposition winger get the better of him. He’s also improved his attacking game and frequently gets forward to provide crosses from the left, and is probably more of a threat in this respect than fellow summer signing Stewart Downing.
There have been suggestions that Enrique is in the frame for a call-up to the Spanish national side, but Vicente Del Bosque seems reluctant to select him. Instead, Spain’s number three shirt is on the back of Valencia’s diminutive Jordi Alba. Using Enrique and Alba’s performance in the same fixture, away at Chelsea, Alba seems more suited to tiki-taka – his passes are shorter, more patient and take place higher up the pitch.
After Tottenham’s fine victory at Norwich, Harry Redknapp revealed that he had told both Rafael van der Vaart and Gareth Bale to ‘play where they want’ during the match. It worked rather well – the Dutchman had a fine game finding space between the lines, while Bale popped up all over the place and scored two good goals.
It’s particularly interesting to see where Bale moves when he has no positional instructions – although he receives the ball a few times out in his usual left-sided position, he also drifts to the right, into central positions and into the box too – where he received a pass from Emmanuel Adebayor to slot home his first goal.
Van der Vaart is something of a tactical anarchist anyway, and generally picked up the ball in his usual positions – right-of-centre – generally from lateral passes rather than forward balls.
Dimitar Berbatov is back in the picture for Manchester United, but unfortunately has become a player exclusively used for thrashing relegation-threatened sides. Of his 11 league goals in 2011, all 11 came against bottom-half clubs, eight were at Old Trafford, and nine were against clubs who were either relegated in May or are currently in the relegation zone.
Therefore, Saturday's home match with bottom-placed Blackburn seems to be the perfect match for him. He hit five goals against them in this fixture last season, a joint Premier League record, and is fresh off the back of a hattrick in the 5-0 win over Wigan.
Swansea’s Wayne Routledge will get the chance to take on one of his many former clubs as Tottenham visit the Liberty Stadium this weekend. Routledge joined Spurs in 2005 after an impressive debut Premier League season for Crystal Palace, but made only five league appearances, and was twice loaned out before being sold to Aston Villa in 2008.
Routledge hasn’t had an impact in the games he’s played against better sides this season, chiefly because he finds it difficult to become involved in play. In the 1-0 defeat to Manchester United, for example, he only attempted 24 passes, half the number he does in a usual league match, as shown by the comparison with the home win over Fulham.
Swansea are one of only two sides, along with Wigan, to have scored less than one goal per game this year, and Routledge must take some of the blame here. In his 115 Premier League appearances for seven different clubs, he’s yet to score a single goal – a terrible record for a winger
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