Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Chelsea vs West Ham United

Friday 26th December 2014
Stamford Bridge

Chelsea vs West Ham United

Chelsea on Boxing Day. This is the sort of game that epitomises English football.

The Boxing Day fixture. London derby. Galacticos vs Underdogs. Split family loyalties. Huge bragging rights. And this year, it's a top four clash.

Uncles, Aunts and Cousins of mine are firm Chelsea fans, and the annual pilgrimage to see the family over the holidays will centre around this. And that's what football is all about for me.

Key Player
Where do you start? Man to man, Chelsea are the best side in the country, and probably up in the top 5 in the world at the moment. Every single spot in their starting XI is a player who is capable of winning you a game on his day.

But there are a few that shine even brighter than the rest. Nemanja Matic has been a phenomenon since returning to West London in January, Diego Costa has shown his lethal touch on 12 occasions this season already, and John Terry's performances are arguably the best of his career.

I've been having a debate in my head about who to focus on out of Chelsea's two best players, but the fact that Eden Hazard may miss the game after limping off against Stoke City last night has forced my hand.

Cesc Fabregas has been an utter revelation since joining the Blues. He's got 12 Premier League assists in his first 16 games, and has a further 3 in the Champions League. In his total 22 league and European performances, he's created 72 chances.

The man is a genius, and he showed it again on Monday night.

Against Stoke, Fabregas ran the show, creating the first and scoring the second. The images below illustrate his game perfectly. The heat map on the left shows that the Spaniard moves all over the middle third of the pitch, popping up in pockets of space all over the park, without getting into the box too often.

And you can see from the chances he created (right) that he doesn't need to get too far forward to cause damage. He is a master of the defence splitting through ball from deep, and allowing him any space in the midfield is suicidal.

Whoever it is who marks Fabregas on Friday, they will need to be right on top of their game.

How do you stop Chelsea?
The real answer to that question is that you don't.

Chelsea have lost one game all season, and have drawn three league games. But none of those have been at Stamford Bridge. This season, they have won every home league game they have played. Last season, they won 15 out of 19, drawing three (obviously, one was against us) and losing to Sunderland in April.

The only time they have failed to win at home this season was their Champions League opener against Schalke.

The Germans did what most visitors do at the Bridge, worked incredibly hard, hoped for a bit of luck, and took their chance when it came. The image below shows their tackles on the day. Schalke attempted 42 tackles, which is big anyway, but massive for a European game.

On top of this, they also made 24 interceptions, 38 clearances and blocked 5 shots.

As I said, they also took their opportunity. Chelsea dominated much of the game, and were pressing for a second goal when Klaas-Jan Huntelaar nicked the ball in the middle of his own half, and he and Julian Draxler sprung a lightning quick counter attack to snatch a point. The image below shows how quickly they broke and scored.

If West Ham can frustrate the Blues enough to draw them out of position on Boxing Day, quick counter attacking led by the likes of Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia and the two fullbacks could be the order of the day.

Chelsea don't really have any weaknesses, particularly at home. However, if you were going to pick anything as their main flaw, it would probably be England centre back Gary Cahill.

Whilst Cahill is one half of probably the best centre back pairing in the division, he is capable of costly lapses in concentration. So far this season, Cahill has made four defensive errors in his 17 appearances, twice as many as the next highest by a Chelsea player. 

This is a recent introduction to Cahill's game, as he made no defensive errors in 30 appearances last season, and just two in 26 the year before. The main change in circumstance since then has been the departure of David Luiz, and the subsequent loss of any real threat to his position.

Perhaps the England centre half is getting complacent, perhaps he's just had a couple of dodgy moments. Whatever it is, he is the most likely of the Chelsea side to give anything away, and West Ham must look to exploit him as often as possible.

The say a lot can change very quickly in football, and it certainly has since we last played Chelsea. It must've been a good couple of centuries since our last visit to the Bridge, and both sides are much better outfits than our last trip west.

It's unlikely that we will head home with anything to show on Friday evening, but if we can keep Fabregas quiet, hope that Hazard doesn't make it, and pounce on the potential gaps in their defence, who knows?

 Head to Head 
39% Head to Head Win % 39%
53 Won 53
29 Drawn 29
53 Lost 53
229 Goals Scored 242
242 Goals Conceded 229

 Recent Form (excl. Friendlies) 
W L W W W W Last 6 L W W W D W
14 Goals Scored 10
4 Goals Conceded 5
W W W W W W Home/Away Form L W D L W D
18 Goals Scored 10
2 Goals Conceded 9
 Form Player (excl. GK) 
 (Last 6 League) 
Cesc Fabregas - Andy Carroll
5 Appearances 6
436 Minutes Played 515
40.9 Sum WhoScored Performance Score 46.4
8.2 Average WhoScored Performance Rating 7.7
484 Passes Attempted 201
414 Completed 123
86% Success Rate 61%
21 Chances Created 6
3 Assists 1
5 Attempts on Goal 18
4 On Target 6
1 Goals 3

3 Take Ons Attempted 4
1 Successful Take Ons 1
33% Success Rate 25%
33 Tackles Made 4
20 Successful Tackles 1
61% Success Rate 25%
1 Interceptions 5
5 Clearances 14
0 Blocks 0
1 Defensive Actions Per Game 3
8 Aerial Duels 109
4 Won 73
50% Success Rate 67%

0 Defensive Errors 0
0 Leading to a Goal 0
 Last Meeting 
29 January 2014
4-2-3-1 Starting Formation 4-2-3-1

Petr Cech - Adrián
Branislav Ivanovic - Guy Demel
Gary Cahill - James Collins
John Terry - James Tomkins
(63') Cesar Azpilicueta - Joey O'Brien (90')
(63') Jon Obi Mikel - Mark Noble
Ramires - Matthew Taylor
Willian - Stewart Downing
(80') Oscar - Kevin Nolan (80')
Eden Hazard - Mohamed Diamé (30')
Samuel Eto'o - Andy Carroll (64')

Mark Schwarzer - Jussi Jääskeläinen
David Luiz - George McCartney
Ashley Cole - Ravel Morrison
(63') Frank Lampard - Antonio Nocerino (80')
(63') Nemanja Matic - Matt Jarvis (30')
Andre Schurrle - Carlton Cole (64')
(80') Demba Ba - Marco Borriello

Chelsea: Eden Hazard
West Ham United: Mark Noble

West Ham United: 

  Opposition Last Time Out (League)
vs Stoke City
 Goals Scored: 2
 Goals Conceded: 0
 Starting Formation: 4-2-3-1

  Thibaut Courtois

  Branislav Ivanovic  Gary Cahill  John Terry  Cesar Azpilicueta

  Jon Obi Mikel  Nemanja Matic

  Willian (80')  Cesc Fabregas  Eden Hazard (92')

  Diego Costa (85')

Petr Cech
  Kurt Zouma (92')
  Nathan Ake
  Filipe Luis
  Andre Schurrle (80')
  Didier Drogba (85')
 Best Player: Cesc Fabregas(SR: 8.9)
 Worst Player: Diego Costa(SR: 6.4)
 Top 5's (Min 5 Apps) 
 Goals Scored 
Diego Costa 12 - 7 Diafra Sakho
Eden Hazard 6 - 4 Stewart Downing
Didier Drogba 3 - 3 Andy Carroll
Oscar 3 - 3 Enner Valencia
Loic Remy 2 - 2 Mauro Zárate

Cesc Fabregas 12 - 6 Stewart Downing
Oscar 5 - 2 Enner Valencia
Eden Hazard 3 - 2 Diafra Sakho
Ramires 3 - 2 Carl Jenkinson
Nemanja Matic 2 - 2 Cheikhou Kouyaté

 Passing Accuracy 
John Terry 91% - 86% Mark Noble
Jon Obi Mikel 91% - 85% Stewart Downing
Eden Hazard 89% - 84% Mauro Zárate
Cesc Fabregas 88% - 82% Winston Reid
Nemanja Matic 88% - 80% Morgan Amalfitano

 Chances Created per 90 
Cesc Fabregas 2.61 - 2.88 Stewart Downing
Eden Hazard 2.42 - 1.31 Mauro Zárate
Didier Drogba 2.35 - 1.26 Mark Noble
Diego Costa 1.84 - 1.1 Alex Song
Oscar 1.61 - 1.05 Diafra Sakho

 Successful Dribbles per 90 
Eden Hazard 4.72 - 2.4 Mauro Zárate
Willian 2.11 - 1.8 Enner Valencia
Loic Remy 1.59 - 1.7 Alex Song
Nemanja Matic 1.56 - 1.26 Diafra Sakho
Ramires 1.5 - 0.87 Morgan Amalfitano

 Tackles Won per 90 
Filipe Luis 3.47 - 2.62 Mark Noble
Andre Shurrle 3.05 - 2.6 Alex Song
Cesar Azpilicueta 2.88 - 2.44 Cheikhou Kouyaté
Nemanja Matic 2.58 - 1.52 James Tomkins
Branislav Ivanovic 2.29 - 1.46 Carl Jenkinson

 Aerial Duels Won per 90 
Didier Drogba 3.52 - 12.83 Andy Carroll
Branislav Ivanovic 3.06 - 4.8 James Collins
Gary Cahill 2.61 - 4.64 James Tomkins
John Terry 2.47 - 3.45 Diafra Sakho
Andre Schurrle 2.35 - 3.17 Carlton Cole

Jose Mourinho - Sam Allardyce
26/01/1963 DOB 19/10/1954
51 Age 60
 Playing Career 
Sesimbra Main Club Bolton Wanderers
35 Appearances 231
1 Goals 24
4 Total Clubs 9
94 Appearances 512
13 Goals 43
Portugal National Team England
0 Caps 0
 Managerial Career 
Benfica First Managerial Role Preston North End
20/09/2000 Start Date 30/09/1992
14y 3m 5d Experience 22y 2m 25d
6 Sides Managed 7
7 League Titles 2
13 Cup Wins 0
67.4% Win % 40%
480 Won 358
140 Drawn 235
92 Lost 302
 Longest Role (excl. Current) 
Chelsea Club Bolton Wanderers
02/06/2004 Appointed 19/10/1999
20/09/2007 Left 29/04/2007
3y 3m 17d Time in Charge 7y 6m 9d

2 League Titles 0
4 Cup Wins 0
67.0% Win % 41.2%
124 Won 153
40 Drawn 104
21 Lost 114
 Current Job 
03/06/2013 Appointed 01/06/2011
1y 6m 23d Time in Charge 3y 6m 25d
0 League Titles 0
0 Cup Wins 0
66.2% Win % 41.2%
55 Won 64
15 Drawn 36
13 Lost 55

Friday, 19 December 2014

West Ham United vs Leicester City

Saturday 20th December 2014
Boleyn Ground

West Ham United vs Leicester City

On Saturday afternoon West Ham will entertain a side who have lost their last seven away games in the league, a side who have not won in eleven league games, a side who have picked up two points since September.

Leicester City are the league's basement side going into this game. Only three teams have scored fewer goals, only one team has conceded more.

On paper, this is a game we should comfortably win. But the game isn't played on paper, is it?

Key Player
Despite their disappointing recent form, the Foxes have a number of players in their ranks who have the capability to win any game.

Jamie Vardy showed in their last victory (against Manchester United) that he can mix it with the best on his day, Leo Ulloa has only scored one goal less than Diafra Sakho, and Esteban Cambiasso has played for some of the biggest clubs in the world in his career.

In recent weeks though, there has been one man who has performed consistently for Leicester, and can be a thorn in the side of any fullback. Riyad Mahrez is one of few players in the squad to have continued in the same vein as last season.

The Algerian winger is creating more than a chance a game, has hit the target with 68% of his shots on goal, and has been successful with 50% of a massive 58 attempted take ons (this after just 12 appearances).

In their last game, a one nil defeat by the reigning champions, Mahrez was a box of tricks and full of attacking intent. On the day, he attempted a massive 11 take ons, and was successful with six of them (as shown in the image below).

Whilst Mahrez is a clear threat going forward, his stats suggest that he is also a worker. In 12 appearances this season, the winger has attempted 46 tackles, winning 12 of them.

In the last away game the Foxes played, the visit to Villa Park, Mahrez attempted five tackles, made two interceptions and blocked three passes. The tackles are shown below.

Leicester may not be the most dangerous side in the league, but with players like Mahrez in their ranks they will always be capable of springing a surprise and causing an upset.

How do you stop Leicester City?
Nigel Pearson has commonly gone for a 4-4-2 this season, with Ulloa and Vardy seemingly the preferred combination up top. He has mixed this up and played variations on the 4-5-1 on a few occasions, but according to WhoScored.com, the Foxes have gone with a traditional 4-4-2 9 times out of 16.

In the main strike pairing, Leicester have a traditional little and large combination, with Vardy the rapid, willing runner and Ulloa capable of giving any centre back a tough day at the office.

The image below shows the average positions of the Leicester side in the last two away games that Vardy and Ulloa have both started. What you can clearly see, is that Vardy (#9) pushing ahead of Ulloa (#23). This suggests that the Argentine drops off to win flick ons, whilst the Englishman runs ahead to pick up the loose ball.

The way in which opposition defences have combated this approach is for one the centre backs to play relatively narrow, one to drop off slightly, and at least one central midfielder sitting slightly in front, anchoring the defence.

We can see this in both the Aston Villa and QPR line ups. 

For Villa, both Ciaran Clark (#6) and Jores Okore (#5) played close together with Okore ever so slightly deeper, whilst Ashley Westwood (#15) set in between in a holding midfield role.

For QPR, Nedum Onuoha (#15) dropped off even deeper, but was still close to Steven Caulker (#4), whilst Joey Barton (#8) marshaled the midfield.

If you compare this to the average positions of the Manchester United back line in that famous 5-3 win for the Foxes, you can see exactly what went wrong for Louis van Gaal's team.

Jonny Evans (#6) and Tyler Blackett (#42) both dropped off very deep, but were alone in this, as the rest of the side just went gung ho. Daley Blind (#17) was charged with anchoring the midfield, but you can see that he was far advanced from his colleagues. The gap between the centre backs was also very wide, allowing the likes of Vardy to run into space.

Leicester have a number of key weaknesses, that I've already highlighted. They don't score enough goals, they can't win away, and they concede far too many.

The most important of those is probably that defensive frailty. What is interesting about Leicester's defensive weakness, is that is not underpinned by poor mistakes. They rank 15th for defensive errors conceded (7 errors), and only two of those have led to goals.

That is less errors than the likes of Chelsea, Everton and Liverpool.

What this suggests though, is that Leicester concede goals not because of lapses in concentration or one person slipping up. Instead, they concede goals because they are not that good at the back.

This is borne out by WhoScored.com's statistically calculated team characteristics. According to WhoScored, Leicester's weakness include all manner of defensive vulnerabilities.

In the league this season, no side has allowed the opposition more shots on their goal than Leicester, only one side has made more fouls per game, and only one side has conceded more goals.

This is a game West Ham should win.

Our home form has been terrific since we started the season with a hat-trick of defeats, with us winning 5 and drawing one of our subsequent matches at the Boleyn.

Leicester have players that can hurt us, and we should be mindful of that, but anything less than a home victory will be a disappointment.

 Head to Head 
40% Head to Head Win % 35%
51 Won 44
31 Drawn 31
44 Lost 51
208 Goals Scored 189
189 Goals Conceded 208

 Recent Form (excl. Friendlies) 
D L W W W D Last 6 L D L L L L
8 Goals Scored 4
5 Goals Conceded 11
W W W D W W Home/Away Form L L L L L L
11 Goals Scored 3
3 Goals Conceded 12
 Form Player (excl. GK) 
 (Last 6 League) 
James Tomkins - Marcin Wasilewski
5 Appearances 6
450 Minutes Played 540
38.1 Sum WhoScored Performance Score 43
7.6 Average WhoScored Performance Rating 7.2
145 Passes Attempted 119
104 Completed 80
72% Success Rate 67%
3 Chances Created 2
0 Assists 0
1 Attempts on Goal 5
1 On Target 0
1 Goals 0

1 Take Ons Attempted 0
1 Successful Take Ons 0
100% Success Rate 0%
14 Tackles Made 29
10 Successful Tackles 10
71% Success Rate 34%
10 Interceptions 19
45 Clearances 55
7 Blocks 5
12 Defensive Actions Per Game 13
30 Aerial Duels 30
24 Won 17
80% Success Rate 57%

0 Defensive Errors 0
0 Leading to a Goal 0
 Last Meeting 
23 April 2012
0-1 Jermaine Beckford 34'
1-1 Winston Reid 39'
2-1 Jack Collison 58'
4-2-3-1 Starting Formation 4-4-2

Robert Green - Kasper Schmeichel
(76') Guy Demel - Lee Peltier
James Tomkins - Sol Bamba
Winston Reid - Wes Morgan
Matthew Taylor - Paul Konchesky
Mark Noble - Ben Marshall
Gary O'Neil - Danny Drinkwater
Ricardo Vâz Te - Richard Wellens (22')
Kevin Nolan - Andy King (46')
(88') Jack Collison - Jermaine Beckford
(81') Carlton Cole - Dave Nugent (65')

(81') Danny Collins - Sean St Ledger (46')
Papa Bouba Diop - Lloyd Dyer (22')
(76') Julien Faubert - Steve Howard
(88') Henri Lansbury - Darius Vassell
Sam Baldock - Martyn Waghorn (65')

West Ham United: Mark Noble
Leicester City: Kasper Schmeichel, Richie De Laet, Matthew Upson

West Ham United: 
Leicester City: 

  Opposition Last Time Out (League)
vs Manchester City
 Goals Scored: 0
 Goals Conceded: 1
 Starting Formation: 4-5-1

  Ben Hamer

  Danny Simpson  Marcin Wasilewski  Wes Morgan  Paul Konchesky

  Riyad Mahrez  Andy King  Esteban Cambiasso  Danny Drinkwater (79')  Jeff Schlupp (64')

  Jamie Vardy (73')

Adam Smith
  Liam Moore
  Dean Hammond
  Matt James
  Nick Powell (73')
  Anthony Knockaert (79')
  Leonardo Ulloa (64')
 Best Player: Riyad Mahrez(SR: 7.3)
 Worst Player: Jeff Schlupp(SR: 6.1)
 Top 5's (Min 5 Apps) 
 Goals Scored 
Diafra Sakho 7 - 6 Leonardo Ulloa
Enner Valencia 3 - 2 Jeff Schlupp
Stewart Downing 3 - 2 Esteban Cambiasso
Mauro Zárate 2 - 1 Chris Wood
Carlton Cole 2 - 1 Dave Nugent

Stewart Downing 6 - 2 Jamie Vardy
Enner Valencia 2 - 1 Riyad Mahrez
Carl Jenkinson 2 - 1 Jeff Schlupp
Cheikhou Kouyaté 2 - 1 Leonardo Ulloa
James Tomkins 2 - 1 Ritchie De Laet

 Passing Accuracy 
Mark Noble 86% - 87% Andy King
Stewart Downing 85% - 85% Dean Hammond
Mauro Zárate 84% - 82% Matt James
Winston Reid 82% - 81% Danny Drinkwater
Kevn Nolan 82% - 81% Anthony Knockaert

 Chances Created per 90 
Stewart Downing 2.94 - 2.05 Matt James
Mauro Zárate 1.31 - 1.29 Esteban Cambiasso
Mark Noble 1.26 - 1.25 Leonardo Ulloa
Alex Song 1.22 - 1.24 Riyad Mahrez
Aaron Cresswell 1.06 - 1.13 Marc Albrighton

 Successful Dribbles per 90 
Mauro Zárate 2.4 - 2.99 Riyad Mahrez
Enner Valencia 1.71 - 1.99 Jeff Schlupp
Alex Song 1.67 - 1.53 Anthony Knockaert
Diafra Sakho 1.38 - 1.5 Jamie Vardy
Morgan Amalfitano 0.88 - 1.4 Danny Drinkwater

 Tackles Won per 90 
Alex Song 2.67 - 3.4 Marc Albrighton
Mark Noble 2.62 - 2.86 Ritchie De Laet
James Tomkins 2.48 - 2.46 Andy King
Cheikhou Kouyaté 1.62 - 2.33 Danny Drinkwater
Carl Jenkinson 1.6 - 1.99 Jeff Schlupp

 Aerial Duels Won per 90 
Andy Carroll 12.38 - 9 Chris Wood
James Collins 4.82 - 3.99 Leonardo Ulloa
James Tomkins 4.17 - 3.4 Wes morgan
Diafra Sakho 3.45 - 3.22 Dave Nugent
Carlton Cole 3.17 - 2.86 Marcin Wasilewski

Sam Allardyce - Nigel Pearson
19/10/1954 DOB 21/08/1963
60 Age 51
 Playing Career 
Bolton Wanderers Main Club Shrewsbury Town
231 Appearances 184
24 Goals 5
9 Total Clubs 3
512 Appearances 479
43 Goals 24
England National Team England
0 Caps 0
 Managerial Career 
Preston North End First Managerial Role Carlisle United
30/09/1992 Start Date 17/12/1998
22y 2m 19d Experience 16y 0m 3d
7 Sides Managed 7
2 League Titles 2
0 Cup Wins 0
39.9% Win % 43.1%
357 Won 164
235 Drawn 107
302 Lost 109
 Longest Role (excl. Current) 
Bolton Wanderers Club Leicester City
19/10/1999 Appointed 20/06/2008
29/04/2007 Left 29/06/2010
7y 6m 9d Time in Charge 2y 0m 8d

0 League Titles 1
0 Cup Wins 0
41.2% Win % 51.4%
153 Won 55
104 Drawn 30
114 Lost 22
 Current Job 
01/06/2011 Appointed 15/11/2011
3y 6m 19d Time in Charge 3y 1m 4d
0 League Titles 1
0 Cup Wins 0
40.9% Win % 47.1%
63 Won 74
36 Drawn 34
55 Lost 49