Wenger: Mourinho should have more respect

Scott 1/05/2015
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 Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger is asked for his reaction to Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho's comments after the teams' goalless draw last week and the Frenchman previews the Hull City fixture. 


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#360stats: Balotelli's torrid record & more

Sport360 staff 30/04/2015
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Balotelli will be embarrassed by his record, Adrian and West Ham fans will be proud.

Ahead of every round of Premier League games, Sport360 – with some help from our friends at Opta Stats – will provide the pick of the facts and figures. Here are this week's highlights:

SATURDAY MAY 2 – 15:45 (GST)

Leicester City v Newcastle United

The Magpies have lost seven successive league games for only the second time in their history.

  • Newcastle United have won five and lost none of the last nine league matches against Leicester City.
  • The Magpies are unbeaten in their last five away league games against the Foxes (W1 D4), though they have drawn the last four in a row.
  • Newcastle have scored a divisional-high 69% of their goals in the second half of games this season.
  • Newcastle have gone just 12 minutes short of seven hours of Premier League football away from home since they last scored on the road.
  • Newcastle have the worst record of any club in the Premier League since John Carver took charge (nine points, -15 goal difference).
  • Papiss Demba Cisse serves the last match of his seven game ban. He has been missed after scoring a goal every 92 minutes on average this season, the best rate of any player with five or more goals in the top flight.
  • The Magpies have scored more goals from substitutes than any other team in the top division (9).
  • Only Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea (13 each) have picked up more points in the last five games than Leicester (12).

SATURDAY MAY 2 – 18:00 (GST)

Aston Villa v Everton

Gabriel Agbonlahor has scored seven goals vs Everton, more than he has mustered against any other opponent in the BPL.

  • Everton have taken as many points (16) in their last six Premier League games as they did in the previous 19 matches.
  • Aston Villa have won just one of the last 12 Premier League games against Everton (W1 D7 L4) and none of the last eight (D4 L4).
  • This will become the first fixture in English league history to have been played 200 times. Of the 199 so far, Villa have won 72, Everton 74 and there have been 53 draws.
  • Christian Benteke has scored eight goals in his last seven Premier League outings.
  • Roberto Martinez’s side have dropped more points from winning positions than any other team in the Premier League this season (19).
  • Aston Villa are averaging a goal every six shots under Tim Sherwood compared to one every 16 under Paul Lambert.
  • The Villans have scored the highest percentage of first half goals in the Premier League this season (69%).
  • The Toffees have conceded the lowest percentage of first half goals in the top flight this season (37%).

Liverpool v Queens Park Rangers

Coutinho has scored in both of his BPL games against Queens Park Rangers.

  • QPR have picked up seven points away from home in their last five Premier League away games after accruing none in their first 11 on the road this season.
  • Liverpool have won 19 and lost just one of 22 home league games against QPR.
  • The Reds have lost just one of their last 11 Premier League matches at Anfield (W7 D3 L1).
  • Liverpool have not scored in their last two Premier League games – they haven’t failed to score in three in a row since March 2005.
  • Mario Balotelli has one goal to his name from 940 Premier League minutes of action for Liverpool, despite attempting 56 shots (inc. blocked).
  • Since the start of last season, Charlie Austin has scored 36 league goals for QPR (inc. playoffs) – 29 more than any other player for the club (Zamora the next most with seven).
  • Liverpool have won just four points from their last five Premier League games (W1 D1 L3); only Burnley (1) and Newcastle (0) have won fewer in their last five matches.
  • Queens Park Rangers have won just two of their last 17 Premier League matches (D4 L11).

Sunderland v Southampton

Tadic got a hat-trick of assists in the reverse fixture against Sunderland.

  • Sunderland have only won one of the last nine Barclays Premier League meetings with Southampton (W1 D4 L4).
  • Southampton are unbeaten in their last six league visits to the Stadium of Light (W1 D5 L0), but did lose there in both cup competitions last season.
  • Southampton’s 8-0 win in the reverse fixture was their biggest margin of victory in a league match since December 1921 (8-0 versus Northampton Town).
  • Sunderland scored three own goals in that 0-8 defeat and this has contributed to the fact that they have netted the joint-most own goals (5) in the Premier League and Southampton have benefited from the most (5).
  • Saints have now recorded their best ever Premier League points haul (57), despite having four games to play.
  • Sunderland have won just one of their last 10 Premier League games (W1 D4 L5).
  • Ronald Koeman’s side have picked up just one point from their last four Premier League away matches.
  • The Black Cats have scored just five goals in their last 10 league outings and never more than once in a single game in this run.

Swansea City v Stoke City

Crouch has scored four goals in his last six BPL games against Swansea City.

  • Swansea are unbeaten in their last five home games against Stoke (W4 D1 L0).
  • Stoke have won just one of their last six Premier League matches (W1 D2 L3).
  • Swansea have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last seven Premier League games at Liberty Stadium.
  • Gylfi Sigurdsson is only the third player to reach double figures for goal assists this season (10) after Cesc Fabregas and Angel Di Maria.
  • The Swans have seen their woodwork struck 18 times this season, more than any other team in the top flight.
  • The Potters are the only team in the Premier League this season who have not picked up any red cards.
  • However, only Crystal Palace (462) have committed more fouls than Stoke City (433) this season.
  • Stoke only need one more win to equal their best ever points tally in a Premier League season which came in 2013-14 (50), while Swansea have already set a new high in the competition with 50 points this season.
  • Charlie Adam has scored in three of his last four Premier League appearances.

West Ham United v Burnley

Adrian is the ninth goalkeeper in BPL history to save three penalties in a row; no keeper has ever done four.

  • West Ham have won just two of their last 17 Premier League games (W2 D7 L8) but those two victories in that run have been at Upton Park (W2 D3 L3).
  • Burnley have failed to score in seven of their last eight Barclays Premier League matches and netted only one in the other game.
  • The Hammers have scored more headed goals than any other team in the top flight (15).
  • 33% of the goals Burnley have conceded have been from headers; the league’s highest proportion.
  • Sam Allardyce’s side have scored just three goals in their last seven Premier League outings.
  • The Clarets have the worst chance conversion rate in the top flight this season, scoring with just nine per cent of their shots.
  • West Ham are the only team not to score from the penalty spot in the Premier League this season, missing their one opportunity.
  • Only 30% of West Ham’s shots have come from outside the penalty area, the lowest proportion in the Premier League.
  • But the Hammers have scored with 9.5% of their long range attempts, the best conversion rate from outside the area of any team.

SATURDAY MAY 2 – 20:30 (GST)

Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion

Wayne Rooney has scored 15 in his last 16 Premier League games at Old Trafford.

  • Wayne Rooney has scored in each of his last six Barclays Premier League starts against West Brom (seven goals total).
  • West Bromwich Albion have won just one of their last 21 league matches against Manchester United (W1 D4 L16).
  • West Brom have failed to score in 10 of their last 13 league visits to Old Trafford.
  • Man Utd have failed to score in their last two Premier League games. They have not failed to score in three consecutive games since August 2007.
  • West Brom have scored the highest percentage of goals from set pieces of any team in the Premier League this season (56%).
  • The Baggies have scored 14 goals from headers this season (only West Ham with 15 have more) accounting for a division-high proportion of 44% of their total.
  • The Baggies have shipped 11 goals in the opening 15 minutes, the highest number in the Premier League.
  • The Baggies have netted more goals from corners than any other team in the top flight this term (12) and only Burnley (12) have conceded more than West Brom (10) via this route.
  • West Brom scored with their only two shots on target in the 2-2 draw with Man Utd at the Hawthorns back in October.

SUNDAY MAY 03 – 16:30

Chelsea v Crystal Palace

Jose Mourinho has coached Chelsea in 95 BPL games at Stamford Bridge, losing just one (W74 D20 L1)

  • Chelsea have lost just one of their last 14 league matches against Crystal Palace (W9 D4 L1).
  • Alan Pardew has won four of his last six Premier League matches as an opposition coach against Chelsea.
  • When Palace met Chelsea back in October, it was only the 12th time in Premier League history that both teams were reduced to 10 men before half-time.
  • Crystal Palace have recovered more points from losing positions than any other team in the Premier League this season (18).
  • Palace have only won seven of their 30 Premier League London derbies away from home (W7 D8 L15).
  • The Blues have kept five clean sheets in their last six Premier League games against London opposition, but conceded five in the other game (3-5 v Spurs).
  • Palace have committed more fouls than any other team in the Premier League (462).
  • The Blues have kept the most clean sheets in the Premier League this season (16), while Palace have kept the joint-fewest (6).
  • Chelsea will seal the title with a win. Their 2004-05 crown came in the 35th game, their 2005-06 one in the 36th game and their 2009-10 triumph on the final day.

SUNDAY MAY 03 – 19:00

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City

Dzeko has scored six goals in six BPL matches against Tottenham, though four of them came in one game, a 5-1 win at White Hart Lane.

  • Tottenham have kept just one clean sheet in their last 11 Premier League outings.
  • Manchester City have won seven and lost just one of the last eight Barclays Premier League meetings with Spurs.
  • Manuel Pellegrini has seen his side score 15 goals in their last three Premier League games against Spurs and at least four in each match.
  • Sergio Aguero has netted nine goals in six Premier League appearances against Spurs.
  • Samir Nasri has scored four Premier League goals against Tottenham Hotspur, more than against any other opponent in the competition.
  • When these two sides met back in October, four penalties were awarded in a Premier League game for only the second time (Bradford v Derby, April 2000).
  • Christian Eriksen has scored the most winning goals in the Premier League this season (7).
  • City have lost their last four Premier League away games in a row. They haven’t lost five on the bounce since April 2006.

MONDAY MAY 04 – 23:00 (GST)

Hull City v Arsenal

Sanchez has scored in both of his appearances this season against Hull City.

  • Hull City have lost five and drawn one of the last six Barclays Premier League games against Arsenal, including defeats in all three games at the KC Stadium.
  • The Gunners have won eight and lost none of the last nine meetings with Hull in all competitions.
  • Olivier Giroud has scored six goals in his last seven Premier League away matches.
  • Arsenal have won their last four Premier League away games all by a one-goal margin.
  • The Gunners haven’t conceded a first half goal in their last 13 Premier League matches.
  • Arsene Wenger’s side have more points after 33 games this season than any campaign since 2009-10; this despite having fewer points after 12 games than any other Premier League campaign.
  • Hull come in to this game on the back of a two game winning streak – they have only won three PL games in a row on one previous occasion; October 2008, when they won four successive PL matches.
  • Danny Welbeck has scored just four goals in 27 Premier League appearances this season – he’s scored more goals for England (six in seven games) since August.
  • Since their return to the Premier League in August 2013, Hull’s Ahmed Elmohamady has fired in 429 crosses from open play – 89 more than any other player.

All statistics and facts are brought to you by Opta Sports.

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The perils of LVG's Man United system

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Van Gaal salutes United fans with his big red tactics book.

The ‘death of tiki-taka’, as some dubbed the end of Spain and Barcelona’s dominance, was an excruciatingly painful and drawn-out affair. It suffered a demise attributed to a persistent and relentless assault on its limitations, not unlike the approach itself.

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Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan struck the first blow in 2010, beating Barcelona exclusively on the counter-attack in the semi-finals of the Champions League. Other sides began adopting similar measures and reaped the rewards, gradually exposing flaws in the system.

Jupp Heynckes’ all-conquering Bayern Munich side put the Catalans to the sword, demolishing them 7-0 over two legs in the 2013 Champions League semi-finals. The final nail in the coffin however was Netherlands’ 5-1 humbling of Spain at the 2014 World Cup – a ruthless onslaught masterminded by an advocate of possession football and a former Barcelona manager, Louis Van Gaal.

While the Dutch performed admirably to finish third in the competition ahead of far more illustrious sides by playing direct counter-attacking football, it’s not the kind of style Van Gaal would normally associate himself with.

Ideally, his philosophy centres around ‘control’ and the inescapable truth is that it invariably goes hand in hand with possession. Now as manager of Manchester United, Van Gaal has once again begun to mould a team in his image.

He believes he has a responsibility to share his knowledge and in what is likely to be the final job of his distinguished career, he’s determined to leave his mark on United by presenting the club with the gift of a philosophy he so ardently stands by.

As United faltered and stuttered along nervously at the start of the season, it would’ve been inconceivable then that only a few months later, the same side would go on to win convincingly at Anfield before enjoying a comprehensive Manchester derby win.

It took time and wasn’t an easy transition, one that’s still incomplete in many ways, but United have recorded an average possession of 60.97% this season, the highest in the Premier League and their best since Opta first recorded the data in 2005.

They recently dominated at Stamford Bridge against the champions elect with 71% of possession, a clear indication of Van Gaal’s influence. Mourinho even chose to show United the same respect he would a Barcelona side in the Pep Guardiola era, setting up his troops to defend deep and break quickly on the counter-attack.

The bottom line however, is that Chelsea’s ploy worked and they emerged 1-0 winners. What’s worse is that United followed up that result with a toothless performance at Goodison Park where they were swept aside as Everton scored three without reply.

The Red Devils now face a very real threat of seeing their progress over the last couple of months disintegrate along with their grasp on fourth place if the situation isn’t addressed. Now that they’ve established themselves as a possession-based side, more teams will adopt reactive tactics to thwart them.

The good news for the Old Trafford faithful is that their side is led by a manager who isn’t averse to altering his system. Indeed, for the first half of the season, his constant tinkering was a source of much frustration among the United supporters. However, now that his philosophy has been largely implemented and the team is more settled, adjustments can be made.

The overall theme will remain the same; control, discipline and fluidity will take precedence but Van Gaal can be assured enough of the foundation he’s laid down to make changes to account for any shortcomings.

Van Gaal and his United coaching staff.

The Dutch tactician has always been somewhere between a purist and a pragmatist. Moreover, he doesn’t see the marriage of the two extremities as a compromise of either one but crucially as the price of finding the right balance for a particular team under specific circumstances.

His utilisation of Marouane Fellaini this season speaks volumes of his willingness to incorporate strategic modifications so long as they prove effective.

From a defensive aspect, the solution to United’s current predicament may be as simple as ensuring that both full-backs aren’t too far forward at the same time or the employment of Angel Di Maria’s pace and work-rate in central midfield ahead of Fellaini’s muscle. On the other hand, it may be far more complex but Van Gaal’s knowledge and flexible approach should facilitate answers.

Going forward, it’s plain to see that they lacked penetration with their runs as well as passing. In Di Maria, United have a world-class direct runner at their disposal but the Argentine’s form has been woeful of late.

Meanwhile, the last two games have highlighted just how integral Michael Carrick is to the team. Towards the end of Paul Scholes’ illustrious career, he gracefully picked up the baton and assumed the role of midfield general and in the current philosophy especially, he is essential to the set-up.

The lack of penetrative passes through the middle in Carrick’s absence is a cause for concern as is the fact that United have won only 37.5% of their games without him this season as opposed to 72.2% with him.

It is not just the control and composure, but it is his (Carrick’s) forward passes, he just moves the ball forward into good areas quickly.” – Gary Neville

Ultimately, the real test of United’s potential to challenge for honours next season begins now as teams have recognised their threat and begun to show them more respect. Breaking down oppositions will require more guile and guarding against the counter-attack more alertness and understanding.

Whether or not they’re capable of evolving further in order to cope is up for debate but Van Gaal has been crafty enough to get them this far so there’s no reason why his philosophy should suddenly fail them at this juncture.

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