EPL Analysis: Deepening Devils, pass-master Parker & non-porous Newcastle
You know what you're going to get when you play Swansea: passes. On Saturday Chelsea and the Swans attempted 995 passes between them Ã¢ÂÂ the third-highest number this season, topped only by Swansea's trip to Man City (1004) and their home game last weekend with West Brom (1036).
You also know what you're going to get when you play Stoke: a lot of hoo-haa about Rory Delap's throw-ins. But Delap is now much more useful to Tony Pulis as a midfielder than as a catapult: only one of his five throw-ins against Manchester United reached its target, and that was a relatively short one. Still, better than last week at Sunderland, when none of his 11 throws reached a Potter.
Indeed, those long throws may be more of a threat than a promise. Although they undoubtedly have the potential to worry defences and create what managers love to call "second-ball situations", they've long since stopped being a direct source of assists. In 2008/09 four Stoke goals came straight from Delap's hands, but there were none the following season, one last season and none so far this.
Not that Stoke are averse to, shall we say, a lofted pass. Peter Crouch's legendary Good Touch For A Big Man wasn't particularly evident on Saturday Ã¢ÂÂ he misplaced half of his passes in United's third Ã¢ÂÂ but then again, looking at the average length of passes he received, perhaps that's quite an achievement.
Certainly Stoke took some containing: although United had 58.5% possession it was much deeper than usual, and they ceded 55.9% territory to the hosts. The champions have now conceded 39 shots on target this season, a total matched by Bolton but 'bettered' by nobody.
Contrary to pundit supposition it's not just long shots from opportunists testing David De Gea: 23 of the 39 have been from inside the box, a total topped only by Bolton and Swansea (25). And here's something you don't say every week: Newcastle have the division's tightest defence, at least in terms of shots allowed on target Ã¢ÂÂ 18 in total, 12 inside the box. Meanwhile, up the other end, Alan Pardew's posse peppered 21 shots on Blackburn's goal Ã¢ÂÂ but only four were on target, of which three were goals.
After a boo-inducing midweek home defeat to Bolton, the last thing Aston Villa needed was to look woeful in the opening half-hour at QPR. Sadly for Alex McLeish that's what he got: in the opening 35 minutes Villa struggled to find fluency, or frankly team-mates, being systematically outpassed by the hosts and not managing a single shot or even corner.
Presumably terrified of McLeish's rapidly reddening face, they improved rapidly after that and doubled their passing rate over the next half-hour, before withdrawing into their shell again after QPR replaced Jay Bothroyd with DJ Campbell just after the hour. In all, Villa's defenders had a measly 62% pass completion rate Ã¢ÂÂ well under the 80% Premier League average.
Stewart Downing has impressed for Liverpool this season but on Saturday his passes in the Wolves defensive third were frequently backwards or at least laid inside Ã¢ÂÂ while behind him, left-back Jose Enrique was far more direct. This could have been a cunning ruse from Kenny Dalglish and Steve Clarke to draw Wolves' defence out of positionÃ¢ÂÂ¦ or perhaps Downing's just scared of Wolves right-back Richard Stearman.
Robin van Persie reached 100 Arsenal goals this weekend, with a little help from his friend Theo. Mr Walcott set up the Dutchman's centenary to continue a remarkable run: each of the youngster's seven assists in all competitions this calendar year have been for Van Persie. Some may say the former Southampton flyer should be leading the line, but Van Persie won't object to being set up Ã¢ÂÂ and the players' passing patterns reflect the fluidity of Arsene Wenger's system.
Finally, hats off to Harry Redknapp: for the second weekend in a row, Tottenham made the most passes, this time against Wigan. Scuttling away in the heart of the side, quietly dictating things by retaining possession and switching the point of attack, is Scott Parker. The summer signing is making more successful passes per 90 minutes than anyone: an average of 70 per game, and rising. Great, Scott.