ZonalMarking.net's Michael Cox uses the StatsZone app – from FFT and Opta, available now – to preview the weekend's Premier League action...
Arsenal’s trip to QPR on Saturday afternoon should see an interesting battle between two players who know each other well from their days at the Emirates together – Theo Walcott up against Armand Traore, who moved to Loftus Road at the start of the season.
Walcott’s main asset is his pace – but Traore is also extremely quick, and so when facing his ex-teammate, Walcott has to vary his game and show that he has the ability to beat an opponent with a trick, as well as with raw speed.
In the first meeting between the two earlier in the season, Traore largely stopped Walcott from doing anything in the penalty box – it’s notable how his interceptions and tackles are right on the edge of the area, and Walcott’s passing chalkboard illustrates how he struggled to make an impact inside the box.
Sunderland’s 1-0 win over Manchester City will go down as one of the most defensive – yet most effective – performances of the Premier League season. Ji Dong-Won’s late goal came after a dogged defensive display on New Year’s Day.
The pattern of interceptions and tackles is interesting – Sunderland intercepted the ball higher up, as they closed down City when they tried to play through midfield, but almost all their tackles took place very deep, within 20 yards of their own goal, and particularly in the left-back zone.
Sunderland will almost certainly play the same way in the return match at Eastlands, and City should be aware that they’re unlikely to be tackled in the centre of the pitch – that’s the zone they can create from.
Jose Enrique started the season in fine form for Liverpool, but a little like fellow Spaniards Juan Mata and David Silva, his displays have dropped in quality recently. Up against his former club Newcastle – currently eight points ahead of his new team – he’ll be looking to make an impact.
His performance in the shock home defeat to Wigan summed up his recent form – he got himself into good positions, but was then underwhelming with his delivery. Seven out of eight successful take-ons was contrasted with none of his attempted four crosses finding the intended target.
Swansea will be without centre-back Steven Caulker for their trip to White Hart Lane this weekend, since Caulker is on-loan from Tottenham, and therefore ineligible to play against his parent club.
Caulker is a solid defender, but like most Swansea players, his ability to pass the ball is also crucial in his selection over Brendan Rodgers’ other options in his position. Although the Welsh side are famed for their short passing play, Caulker is one of the few who tries to pass the ball over longer distances, as his pattern from last week’s defeat to Everton shows.
In contrast, likely replacement Garry Monk – who deputised in the reverse fixture, the last game Caulker missed – plays much less ambitious passes, and rarely strays forward from his natural centre-back position. Swansea will be weaker at the back because of Caulker’s absence, but might also miss him prompting attacks from deep.
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