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16 Oct 2015 00:00
Cesc Fàbregas. (Carl Recine/Reuters)
It is not a surprise to learn that no Premier League player has lost more challenges than Cesc Fàbregas, whose opponents have waltzed past him 20 times. As crucial as his partnership with Nemanja Matic was for Chelsea last season, it has become a huge source of concern for the champions.
Yet at least Fàbregas has company on the naughty step, for it transpires that Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey and West Ham’s captain, Mark Noble, have each lost 20 challenges as well.
Perhaps that helps to explain why Arsène Wenger has moved Ramsey away from central midfield, and Noble’s place could come under threat from Pedro Obiang if he continues to leave his defenders exposed.
No player has created more goals than David Silva, whose six assists emphasise his importance for Manchester City (Wes Hoolahan is second with five for Norwich City).
Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla is third with 29 and it is interesting to note that his team-mate Mesut Özil, whose effectiveness is often doubted, is second with 31. But the player who leads the way is West Ham United’s Dimitri Payet, who has carved open opposition defences 33 times.
Hazard has also completed the second-most dribbles (27) in the league, which suggests that others in Chelsea’s attack need to contribute more. But the Belgian is eclipsed by Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez, who is out in front with 33 dribbles. The Algerian has been excellent, although he was an unused substitute when Leicester won 2-1 at Norwich City on October 3.
Other dribblers who have been hard to contain are Arsenal’s Alexis Sánchez (24), Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha (22) and Everton’s Ross Barkley and Southampton’s Sadio Mané (both 21).
Crosses from open play
It is telling that four of the top 10 are fullbacks – Palace’s Pape Souaré (36), Aston Villa’s Jordan Amavi (35), Bournemouth’s Simon Francis (34) and City’s Aleksandar Kolarov (33) – and that two of them, Robbie Brady (37) and Ikechi Anya (30), have occasionally been used as fullbacks by Norwich and Watford respectively. With wide midfielders no longer hugging the touchline as much, defensive players are being asked to push forward.
However, old-fashioned wing play is not extinct. Swansea’s Jefferson Montero has sent in the third-most crosses, 40, and one of them led to a goal for André Ayew against Tottenham on October 4, and the player who tops the list with 46 crosses, Southampton’s Dusan Tadic, has also created the fifth-most chances (25). The challenge is to be accurate. City’s Jesús Navas has hit 41 crosses but he was widely derided for his aimlessness against West Ham.
Crystal Palace’s board feared that signing Yohan Cabaye for £12.8-million and paying him more than the rest of the squad would damage their wage structure. But Alan Pardew, Palace’s manager, persuaded them to budge and Cabaye has been typically inventive so far.
Another side to his game is his anticipation out of possession and his intelligence means that he has made the most interceptions, level on 30 with Amavi. Cabaye’s ability to protect his side by winning the ball quickly has given Palace another dimension.
The usual suspects are up there. Cazorla leads the way with 591 passes, and Fàbregas is second with 525. They have also had the most touches: Cazorla 841, Fàbregas 758. If only Fàbregas was doing more with all that possession. If he does regain his touch, it appears that he is well placed to start hurting opponents again.
Another name stands out. Bourne-mouth’s Andrew Surman, a neat and tidy player who goes about his job without too much fuss in central midfield, has made the fourth-most passes (485).
Surman has also been a tireless runner, covering 96km. His team-mate Matt Ritchie is third with 95km and it is clear that, if Eddie Howe’s side go down, it will not be because of a lack of effort.
Another two who catch the eye are Noble in eighth place (90km) and Fàbregas in ninth (89.6km) – presumably because they spend so much time chasing after opposition midfielders.
Yet the identity of the player who has run the most will shock no one. Who else could it be but Liverpool’s James Milner on 100km?
Jürgen Klopp will love him.
Petr Cech demonstrated his value to Arsenal by making a superb save to prevent Anthony Martial from dragging Manchester United back into the game at the Emirates Stadium and the former Chelsea goalkeeper has the highest save percentage in the league (81.58%).
Palace’s Alex McCarthy is second with 80.56%, City’s Joe Hart pipped into third place with 80%. – © Guardian News & Media 2015
Statistics courtesy of Opta
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