Premier Analysis: Lefty Liverpool, Arsenal's box-botherer, City's odd man out
Young and United blunted without Rooney
Wayne Rooney's England ban has prompted suggestions that Ashley Young could step up, but he hardly excelled in Rooney's absence for Manchester United at Liverpool. Young made his fewest passes in any Premier League game this season, while Danny Welbeck Ã¢ÂÂ another touted as a stand-in for the sidelined Scouser Ã¢ÂÂ made twice as many tackles (four) as he had shots. At least he didn't get sent off.
As Zonal Marking and FFT's Michael Cox predicted in his Friday preview, Liverpool were heavily weighted down their left flank. All their successful crosses and corners came from that side, and as @CounterAttack9 showed in an adroit screenshare, at times they dominated down the left. Even so, they were comparatively unsuccessful at converting them, completing only four of their 33 crosses (including corners) while Manchester United completed six of their 11.
As usual Stewart Downing was at the heart of Liverpool's left-sided activity, and that caused United's right-sided Park Ji-Sung a problem. Downing completed 35 of his 42 attempted passes, while Park completed only 7 of 10 before being sacrificed in Sir Alex Ferguson's point-saving 69th-minute triple substitution.
Gervinho: hard-working but unfoxy
Responding to claims that Arsenal lacked cunning at their cutting edge, Arsene Wenger memorably described ÃÂ£10m signing Francis Jeffers as his "fox in the box". That didn't work out but this summer's striker signing, ÃÂ£10.5m Gervinho, has certainly got busy in the opponents' penalty area.
The Ivorian striker has the Premier League's highest average number of touches in the opposition box with 8.8 per game, but he has scored only one league goal. On Sunday he had seven touches in the Sunderland box, but managed just two shots.
Even so, Steve Bruce's side slide down the table after another loss. They didn't lack for commitment: no side has given away more fouls this season than their 19. But the visitors couldn't kick the Gunners out of their stride, the home side creating 15 chances and completing 483 of their 565 passes Ã¢ÂÂ an 85% success rate which compares favourably with Sunderland's 75% (249 out of 331).
Is this City big enough for Nigel and Yaya?
With Roberto Mancini shuffling his Manchester City pack against Aston Villa ahead of a Champions League midweek, Nigel De Jong made only his second Premier League start of the season, with Yaya Toure pushed further forward into the role he occupied for much of last season.
The 4-1 win indicates that City thrived, and De Jong made the most completed passes for the home side (86), but Toure didn't. Substituted after 65 minutes, the Ivorian had only completed 22 passes, easily his lowest of the season so far. His second-lowest total is 41 at home to Swansea Ã¢ÂÂ the only other league game De Jong has played in. Of course, Toure could always drop back in alongside De Jong to replace Gareth BarryÃ¢ÂÂ¦
City dominated the game, attempting and completing twice as many passes as Villa (583 out of 663 compared to 276 out of 361) and commanding 64.1% possession. Under increasing pressure, Villa frequently chose the long ball - but their poor completion rate simply surrendered possession again.
Pass or shoot?
Norwich vs Swansea was an attractive attacking game which highlighted the sides' different styles. Both like to pass the ball but the Swans average 45 passes per shot, by far the highest in the Premier League (Wigan are next on 32, with Chelsea on 31). Norwich, by contrast, average 24 passes per shot: only Wolves (23) average fewer.
The same pattern was in evidence on Saturday at Carrow Road. Norwich are hardly 'direct' but their 306 completed passes yielded 18 shots, while the visitors' 535 successful passes produced just 12 shots Ã¢ÂÂ and only three on target.
Corners aren't everything
Wolves had more of the game at West Brom but still lost 2-0. The visitors had more attempts on goal (19 to 18); more on target (8 to 7); more passes attempted and completed (323 of 401 compared to 222 of 309) and a higher completion rate (81% to 72%) Ã¢ÂÂ plus 56% possession and a startling 11 corners to West Brom's two. Wolves also dominated down the flanks, but none of this will cheer Mick McCarthy up.
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