The below is a brief overview of the key talking points from our somewhat challenging season to date. There isn’t really much point to the article, just some raw data with a bit of commentary and some subjective ranting on each issue….
As the table (left) shows, we have had major problems starting games well which has led to us conceding first in 66% of our games this season with no first half goal in our last 10 league games.
2. …..But strong finishers
One thing we have got right this season is playing to the final whistle – testament to the fitness and focus of the squad. The Blues have won more points (11) in the final 10mins of games than any other side in the league. A whopping 76% of our goals have come in the second half – the most in the top flight. This is due largely due to Moyes substitutions with 33% of our goals being scored by subs – again a league high.
3. Reliance on crossing
Baines has put in more deliveries than any player in the top flight. Crossing is something of an imprecise art with completion figures always low in comparison to usual passing data. Baines has made 48 successful crosses from 171– a 28% accuracy rate…his assist ratio is way down though – just 1 compared to the 11 he made last season. Our friends from across the park make more crosses per game than any side in the top flight as shown in the passing table further down the article.
4. Missing the Cutting Edge
The Stoke game was perhaps the best example of this lack of cutting edge as we had 67% of the ball but failed to register a single shot on target. There is an over reliance on Royston Drenthe who is comfortably our most incisive player from open play with 5 assists from just 6 starts. Out of the 10 home games we have lost five– RD made just 1 sub appearance in those 5 games. Of the other 5 he has featured we haven’t lost and he has chipped in with 2 goals and 1 assist.
Leon Osman is our highest ranked player in the division for through balls per game but is way down in 63rd position with just 2 all season. David Silva (13) polled the highest. Rodwell is statistically our best passer; ranked 19th in the top flight for retention with 88% but with 0 through balls.
As the above table shows our conversion of 7% of chances to goals is below the league average of 10%. Wigan and Liverpool have the joint worst figures here with 6.3%. Saha is our highest ranked player in the division in terms of shots per game with 50 shots in total yielding just 1 goal.
6.Problems with counter attacking
For the most part, with Drenthe and Coleman missing we have had no pace in the final third. We also lack somebody in the middle of the park who can turn defensive situations into attacking ones with long diagonal passes – e.g. Modric registers the 6th highest long balls per game in the top flight having successfully delivered 146 our of 178 (82% completion) long passes for Spurs to feed Bale/Lennon runs in behind at speed. Fellaini doesn’t have this in his locker. Jags is ranked 8th in the top flight in terms of long balls per game, with a 56% accuracy. Our first fast break goal of the season came last week – unsurprisingly Donovan and Anichebe were involved and with Drenthe looking ready for a prolonged run in the side we are starting to look more setup for counter attacking than we did earlier in the season
As the chart shows, only Liverpool spend a higher % of time in the opposition half than the Blues…this is a common feature of sides who squeeze the play using a high line.
8.Solid at the back
We don’t concede many shots as the below table shows – and concede the fewest amount of shots in the league at home. However, opposition conversion of chances against us is disproportionately high overall and especially so at home (14%) being the highest in the league. Distin is statistically our best defender thus far, ranked 11th in the league for clearances per game and 13th in the league for interceptions per game.
The squad is not balanced enough in terms of age. Compare the side that finished the 2009 Cup Final (average age 25) and that which finished to Bolton a few weeks ago (average age 29). This shows it’s an ageing squad…although it is does have raw youth on the periphery….but minimal in-between. The only outfield players in their prime would be Baines, Heitinga and Jags. It’s a similar problem Capello will face at this summer’s Euros when England will struggle to make it past the group stage. Cahill, Neville, Distin and Saha are all in the winter of their careers. All have been terrific servants to the club but out of the 4, only Distin is looking able to continue as a regular starter. The other 3 will (probably) be retained til the end of next season but are now only good enough as cover. Gibson will take the Arteta/Neville midfield slot whilst Coleman will take over as right back competition to Hibbert. Barkley has the tools to replace Cahill as a more natural trequartista however we have no in house replacement for Saha. With the lack of funds, Moyes will continue to try to ‘evolve’ and not ‘revolve’ to coin a well known DJ.
……The above is just some scribbles based on the previews/ reports from the games this season and is in no way presented as any kind of definitive assessment. Please feel free to chip in with further key themes I have missed….