After an insufferable international break, the Premier League was back with some brilliant fixtures to sample Saturday. Here are some tactical thoughts on the two games I watched:
Reasons to be positive for Liverpool:
Liverpool were particularly unlucky not to come away from the Stadium of Light with all three points. The Reds were superior in all aspects of the game, but wasteful finishing and a defensive lapse cost them dearly.
Joe Allen kept up his impressive start to his Liverpool career, continuing to be impressive in possession. He completed 103 of his 111 attempted passes, recycling possession in midfield and allowing Gerrard and Shelvey to push forward. Gerrard also had an impressive game, completing 22 passes in the attacking third. The Sunderland midfield pressed well initially, but seemed to tire drastically in the second half. Allen and Gerrard were both allowed much more time to impose themselves on the match towards the end of the game.
Whilst Liverpool controlled the midfield, most of the chances in the game were created from wide areas. Suarez initially operated from the left, with Sterling rampant down the right hand side. Between them, they created 8 chances, with Sterling’s dangerous cross playing a key role in Suarez’s equalizer. Sterling has been the main positive for Liverpool this season and his direct approach was particularly effective today. He took on his full back 11 times throughout the ninety minutes, getting the better of the defender 5 times and giving young left-back Danny Rose a debut to forget.
Glen Johnson showed the good and bad sides of his game. Going forward, Johnson was a constant menace cutting in from the left-side, rattling the bar with one outstanding effort. He linked up well with Suarez down the left but had little support defensively from the Uruguayan, with him often drifting off the wing (illustrated by Suarez’s attempted passes). The lack of a tackler in midfield was a key component Liverpool seemed to be missing at times in the first half. The Sunderland goal came from down the Liverpool right-side and whilst Johnson could have been stronger in a tackle leading up to it, he was left particularly exposed.
Liverpool still only have two points from their opening four games, but they showed signs of starting to adapt to Brendan Rodgers’s philosophy.
Garcia impresses on City debut.
Roberto Mancini is still without a win at The Britannia Stadium as Stoke battled to a 1-1 draw against the champions. New signing Javi Garcia was particularly impressive as he was thrust into the blood and thunder of the Premier League for the first time.
New Stoke signing Charlie Adam operated in a tight midfield three along with Whelan and N’Zonzi. This allowed the two City holding midfielders a lot of the ball, as well as full-backs Clichy and Maicon. But the likes of Nasri and Sinclair were starved of possession in dangerous areas, Tevez resultantly looked to drop deep to receive the ball and Balotelli was occasionally isolated up against Shawcross and Huth.
Garcia was useful in possession, completing 62 from 74 attempted passes coupled with a good debut goal. But defensively he was very impressive, and he stood up well to Stoke’s direct style. The former Benfica man won 7 out of 12 aerial duels in the match and won 3 tackles, 2 in his own penalty area. In comparison Scott Sinclair failed to impose himself, with the winger failing to create a chance or register a single shot at goal. Other new signing Maicon saw a lot of the ball down the right hand side due to Stoke’s narrow compact style, but failed to make any real in-roads up against Stoke’s solid back line.
The Stoke City midfield were tireless in their attempts to shut down City’s creative players. Tevez and Nasri were kept shackled by Stoke’s defensive players, with the two central midfielders dropping very deep to restrict the space for the aforementioned stars to operate in. N’zonzi and Whelan won all of their attempted tackles, which meant City were left frustrated in their attempts to create chances.
It was a game in which the genius of Silva or Aguero maybe could have unlocked the Stoke City defense, City will be glad to welcome them both back to the first eleven. Both sides will be relatively happy with how their new signings fared.
I’d be interested to know who impressed you this weekend. How did your sides new signings fare? Do you have any thoughts ahead of the Reading vs Spurs or Everton vs Newcastle games?
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