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...
Arsene Wenger will be hoping young Emmanuel Frimpong enjoys a good loan spell at Wolves for the rest of the season, but will be paying particular attention to his performance this weekend – where he’ll be up against Tottenham Hotspur, who currently sit nine points ahead of Arsenal. Wenger has never before finished below Spurs in his 15-year spell as Arsenal manager.
Wolves play a very different style of football to Arsenal, and that is reflected in the nature of Frimpong’s passes. In his debut for Wolves, at home to Chelsea, almost all his passes are vertically forward or backwards – compare that to his final game for Arsenal, away at Aston Villa, and he plays the majority of his passes sideways.
It’s interesting that Wenger was happy for Frimpong to go out on loan to Wolves – usually he’s careful to loan his players to play sides that attempt to play a similar brand of football, as seen with Jack Wilshere’s spell at Bolton. Frimpong's game is not based around passing as much as Wilshere's, but Wenger will hope it doesn’t become too direct.
The first meeting between Liverpool and Stoke this season saw the most ‘undeserved’ three points of the season going to Tony Pulis’ side – they won 1-0 despite having only three shots compared to Liverpool’s 24.
Without Luis Suarez, Kenny Dalglish has an interesting decision to make upfront – should he fight fire with fire by using Andy Carroll? The £35 million striker was left out of the first meeting between the sides, with Dalglish believing pace and movement was more likely to unsettle Stoke. He was probably right – but Liverpool lacked that finishing touch, and a static central striker might work well at Anfield.
Swansea are very much like Arsenal – short passes, lots of possession, but a bit flimsy and not great at physical challenges. Brendan Rodgers’ side are particularly poor at aerial duels – they only win 6.5 balls in the air per game.
Arsenal, then, find themselves in the unusual position of being the more physical side, more likely to dominate in the air. In the first meeting between the sides at the Emirates, Arsenal won 14 of the 17 high balls. Will Arsenal look to exploit this by being more physical than usual, or will it be a battle of short passing?
Swansea’s main threat is likely to come down the flanks – their wingers often look to check inside, but with Arsenal still without any recognised full-backs, Rodgers would do well to tell his wide players to take on their opponents.
There are a couple of interesting statistical features of the Everton v Aston Villa game this weekend. First, Everton take a higher percentage of shots, 74%, from central positions than any other side. Perhaps one of their problems with goalscoring – aside from the lack of a clinical striker – is that they are simply too predictable with the positions of their shots. The midweek away defeat to Tottenham Hotspur showed the problem – all the shots from a similar zone, none of them were on target.
While Aston Villa have been one of the most negative sides away from home in the league this season, their last game on the road was the surprise 3-1 win away at Chelsea. There was an obvious area they excelled in at Stamford Bridge – tackles, winning 17 from 21 – and Everton will have to be ready for a physical battle in this match.
Stats Zone, the app from FourFourTwo powered by data from Opta, is available now at the iTunes App Store
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