EPL analysis: Plucky Chelsea, off-target Gunners & sassy Sessegnon
Overdue reward this weekend for Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon. The Benin-born playmaker bossed it at Bolton, topping the tables in attacking-third passes (19 completed out of 25), take-ons (4 out of 7) and chances created (5).
Indeed, those five chances created from open play take his total for the season to 19 Ã¢ÂÂ bettered only by Manchester City's David Silva, who has 28. However, while Silva has six assists (joint top of the entire league with team-mate Samir Nasri), Sessegnon finally got his first assist of the season in the 93rd minute by setting up Nicklas Bendtner Ã¢ÂÂ the Danish forward's second goal in 446 minutes of play for Sunderland. At least the Dane was more dead-eyed than Bolton winger Chris Eagles, whose shoot-on-sight policy barely reaped dividends...
Bendtner's parent club Arsenal also struggled for shooting accuracy in their game against Stoke Ã¢ÂÂ until they sent on the big gun. Before Arsene Wenger introduced star man Robin van Persie in the 67th minute, the Gunners had only hit the target with one shot out of six (Gervinho's goal); after the Dutchman's entrance, they hit the target with all three efforts, including two goals from the supersub skipper.
Such efficiency in front of goal makes the difference between winners and losers. As we've already shown in our special analysis of the Manchester derby, Manchester City scored with six of their seven attempts on target, but it was a very different story at Loftus Road.
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In an incident-packed game, Chelsea spent the entire second half down to nine men Ã¢ÂÂ but still attempted as many shots as their hosts QPR. And while the home side didn't get any of those on target, the visitors tested Paddy Kenny twice through John Terry and Nicolas Anelka. Chelsea also had more possession (with 53.2% of the ball in the second half).
Indeed, although QPR looked to stretch their depleted visitors with long verticals and diagonal passes to the wings, Chelsea managed to outpass their hosts in the second half Ã¢ÂÂ although they had noticeably more success with patient short-passing build-up than with longer straight balls (note the long red arrows, indicating incomplete passes).
Chelsea kept plugging away but didn't get their reward Ã¢ÂÂ unlike Wolves, whose late comeback from two goals down stunned sorry Swansea. The home side rained in nine shots from the 80th minute onwards as sub Nenad Milijas became a major influence. Such comebacks are rare; in the last six seasons, only seven teams have avoided defeat after being two goals down in the 80th minute.
Wolves were happy to stop their slide with a point but their fierce rivals West Brom are making a strong play to be regarded as the best team in the West Midlands. The Baggies are in the top six of the form table and Saturday's 2-1 win at local big noises Aston Villa takes Roy Hodgson's team level on points with the underimpressive Clarets. The visitors completed almost twice as many passes as the hosts and although Villa can count themselves unlucky to have gone down to 10 men after 35 minutes, Alex McLeish will be unhappy that Darren Bent's penalty was their only shot on target all day.