Premier Analysis: Chelsea culprits named, Devils steal Angel's halo & why Fabregas left England
After two defeats in three league games, Chelsea needed to set some season-high stats at home to Liverpool. They did, but sadly for Andres Villas-Boas's pension plan, it wasn't a good one: during the course of the 2-1 defeat, they equalled the record for most off-target shots (14, level with Man City vs Wigan).
All five of the Blues' first-half attempts were wayward and although they managed three on target after the break, they also had nine off-target, with two blocked. Also off-beam were their two mainstays: John Terry misplaced eight passes and Frank Lampard 14, each man's most in a game this season. (For the record, David Luiz Ã¢ÂÂ blamed by many for the defeat Ã¢ÂÂ only misplaced six.)
By contrast, Robin van Persie was yet again Arsenal's main man this weekend, scoring both goals as the Gunners came from behind to win at Norwich. Not only has van Persie scored 31 in 29 Premier League matches during 2011, he also has seven assists in that time Ã¢ÂÂ meaning he's been involved in 38 of ArsenalÃ¢ÂÂs 58 league goals in 2011 (66%).
For the ninth time in 12 Arsenal games this season, Van Persie had the most shots; of his six three were on target and two went in. Strike partner Gervinho managed four on target Ã¢ÂÂ more than any other player this weekend Ã¢ÂÂ without scoring.
Gervinho was the main victim of an excfellent afternoon from Norwich keeper John Ruddy, who kept the score respectable: Arsenal had 11 shots on target, the fifth-most by a team in the PL this season, and five more than any other side this weekend.
Van Persie converted one of the four chances Theo Walcott created from the right wing, taking the England winger to seven assists in 2011 Ã¢ÂÂ a total topped only by David Silva (10), Ashley Young (10) and Nani (9).
Despite Newcastle scoring a late consolation goal, Roberto Mancini will have been pleased with the way his Manchester City side played out from the back in their 3-1 win: the leaders didn't misplace a single one of 88 passes in their own defensive third. As Michael Cox noted in Friday's Stats Zone preview blog, Newcastle's tackling tends to take place in their own third, and even more so this weekend Ã¢ÂÂ although it did them no good: for the sixth successive league game City scored at least three goals.
More tidy possession, as usual, in Swansea's game Ã¢ÂÂ but this time shared with their opponents, Manchester United. Swans midfielder Leon Britton completed 63 out of 64 passes, but Michael Carrick's 92 (out of 96) topped the weekend league for successful passes Ã¢ÂÂ with City right-back Angel Rangel second on 69 (out of 77).
Again, Michael Cox's Friday blog had noted that Swansea frequently build from the back through the Spanish right-back dÃ¢ÂÂ but sadly for Rangel and his team, one of the passes that didn't get there was gobbled up by Ryan Giggs who set up Javier Hernandez for the winner.
It was the Mexican's only shot all day, but typically deadly Ã¢ÂÂ his 18th goal from 33 shots on target in his Premier League career. His strike partner, meanwhile, was much busier: Wayne Rooney completed 59 of 64 passes, including more in the final third than any player this weekend (30, Nasri 28).
If that game was one for the passing purists, Stoke v QPR would have made Cesc Fabregas vomit into his paella. The game featured just 309 successful passes, 53 fewer than any other Premier League match this season (362 in Sunderland vs Newcastle), and the fewest in a Premier League game since Stoke and Blackburn managed 290 in February 2010.
To give that stat some context, nine of the other 14 teams playing on Saturday made more successful passes than QPR and Stoke combined. (Meanwhile, during their most recent game in the Champions League Ã¢ÂÂ also trackable on Stats Zone Ã¢ÂÂ Barcelona completed 790 out of 859 passes.)
The uncompleted passes at the Britannia were partly because of an extraordinary number of clearances Ã¢ÂÂ 130 (split 66/64 in QPR's favour). That's 40 more than any other Premier League match this season (Stoke vs Newcastle 90). But the sides were widely different in their efficiency in front of goal.
Both had five shots on target, but Stoke had 15 other efforts (13 off target, 2 blocked) compared to QPR's three (two blocked, one off target Ã¢ÂÂ Shaun Wright-Phillips hitting the post). Stoke's profligacy fits a pattern: they have the Premier League's poorest shooting accuracy with only 33% on target: next is Aston Villa on 36%. Only two sides have had more shots off target in a match this season: Chelsea yesterday against Liverpool, and Man City against Wigan in September, both recorded 14 wayward attempts.
One more Hoops stat for you: QPR are the only Premier League side this season to have had more half of their shots (52%) from outside the box, but only one of these has resulted in a goal. By contrast, six of WiganÃ¢ÂÂs 10 Premier League goals this season have come from outside the box this season, including two in their absorbing 3-3 draw with Blackburn.
The Latics had almost three times as many shots (26) as their visitors (9), who attempted only four crosses from open play in this match Ã¢ÂÂ the joint-lowest total in a Premier League game this season (with West Brom against Wolves). Setting a better record was Rovers defender Scott Dann, whose six blocks is the most by a Premier League player this season.
The draw did neither strugglers any favours and Bolton complete a trio of lacklustre Lancastrian laggers in the relegation zone after a 2-1 loss at West Brom. It truly was a game of two halves at The Hawthorns, to the visitors' chagrin: before half-time Bolton had more passes and shots than the home side, but fell away spectacularly.
Although Bolton's passing stats remained consistent in each period (152 out of 216 in the first half, 147 of 205 second half), the Baggies all but doubled their passing rate Ã¢ÂÂ from 137/186 in the first half to 247/305 after the break, as can be seen by examining the two halves side by side.
The density of second-half passing on West Brom's left wing shows that Roy Hodgson had pinpointed Bolton right-back Joe Riley as a weak link. Although the youngster totalled four successful tackles out of six - topped only by Baggies anchorman Youssuf Mulumbu's six out of six Ã¢ÂÂ only two of these (and only one successful) came in the second half.
As can be seen on the Player Influence screen Ã¢ÂÂ which shows players in their average position, with the biggest names being the most involved Ã¢ÂÂ first-half goalscorer Jerome Thomas stayed wider and was helped by the overlapping Nicky Shorey, who created five chances, more than any other Premier League player this weekend.
The net result was that despite maintaining their levels of passing, Bolton managed only two second-half shots compared to their eight before the break Ã¢ÂÂ and compared to 10 from West Brom, who had managed just six in the first half. For their part, Wanderers need to feed the Croat and he will score: Ivan Klasnic scored again to make it six goals from 10 shots on target this season.
West Brom's local rivals Wolves almost gained a very efficient point at Everton. Stephen Hunt's penalty was their only attempt from inside the area and their only shot on target. They managed just five shots in all; only five teams have had fewer shots in a Premier League game this season, including another visitor to Goodison Ã¢ÂÂ QPR, who scraped together just four in their 1-0 win back in August.
The difference this time was Leighton Baines, who scored the winning penalty himself after setting up Phil Jagielka's equaliser. Baines now 12 assists since the start of last season, more than any other defender and seventh best overall.