Liverpool draw blank, Ramsey's unhappy return and Spurs get 'Frimponged'
It was Groundhog Day for Liverpool in their match against Stoke this weekend, as they again failed to score despite dominating possession.
Kenny Dalglish opted to play three central defenders against Peter Crouch as a lone target man, allowing Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson the freedom to both push forward. However, it was at the other end where Liverpool struggled, registering a single shot on target in a Premier League game at Anfield for the first time since May 2010 against Chelsea.
This was mainly due to Dalglish opting to spearhead his attack with Dirk Kuyt, who often came deep to receive the ball and link up with the rest of the Liverpool midfield. This allowed the Stoke defence to drop off and let Liverpool play in front of them, making their job much easier, and meant Liverpool rarely had targets in the penalty area for those advanced wing backs to hit; only five of 42 attempted crosses found a Liverpool man. The game was screaming out for Andy Carroll to provide a presence in the box, as suggested in the Stats Zone preview, but perhaps his lack of contribution in the thirty minutes he was on the field suggests why Dalglish was loathe to start him.
If only Dalglish could call upon Fernando Torres for that presence in the box... the Chelsea man may not have been on the scoresheet this weekend, but at least he's not hiding. Twelve touches in the opposition box was more than any other player in the Premier League this weekend, and he also led the league in scissors-kicks-against-the-bar assists, as Frank Lampard bundled in his rebound for the winner.
Another team making chances from close range were Wolves, who achieved a 1-1 at White Hart Lane by keeping Spurs shooting from distance. Luka Modric was the most prolific, attempting six shots from outside the box (a weekend high) and scoring Tottenham's goal with one of them.
Part of Wolves' success was due to them stopping Spurs from playing through them, intercepting the ball 31 times or once every three minutes. Leading the interception count for the visitors was Arsenal-loanee Emmanuel Frimpong with five, along with three tackles and a block. He also managed five fouls and a yellow card against his North London rivals before the inevitable red card was averted with his withdrawal on 67 minutes.
But not every Arsenal midfielder had a good weekend against old rivals this weekend. Former Cardiff City man Aaron Ramsey returned to Wales and perhaps wouldn't have minded an early substitution himself. Whether the former Cardiff man was affected by the Swansea crowd, or was struggling in the absence of Arteta alongside him is unknown, but he gave away a penalty and was caught on the ball for Swansea's second goal. His pass completion percentages also fell, from 90% at Fulham to 76% this weekend.
One-time Arsenal youth prospect Leon Britton showed Ramsey how it's done in that area, leading the league in successful passes this weekend with 71 as Swansea won the tiki taka battle at the Liberty stadium.