Khamis, 17 November 2011

Top Ten: Premier League Partnerships

10 - Gervinho and Robin van Persie
Between them, they have 13 goals and eight assists in the league. Not bad.

9 - Juan Mata and Fernando Torres
This is more of a theoretical, hopeful entry to this list, because the partnership hasn't exactly got going just yet. But just imagine what could happen if these two do manage to hit it off. The subtle and probing passes of Mata, the movement and finishing of could be wonderful. Like a will they/won't they romance in a sitcom, let's just hope they get it together soon.

8 - Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young
There has always been a suspicion that Young would be the sort of player that improves along with his surroundings when presented with greater challenges. From getting over being told he wasn't physically up to professional football as a kid at Watford, to stepping up to the top flight with Aston Villa, to now with the champions of England, Young's performance level has increased more or less with every step up. A big part of that at United is how he dovetails with Rooney (before his withdrawal to central midfield), combining splendidly in the early part of the season. For England's sake, let's hope this continues.

7 - Alex Song and Mikel Arteta
Pete Gill is fond of writing that Arteta is performing the role that Denilson should've done but didn't for whatever reason. The purpose of the Song/Arteta partnership is basically to ferry the ball forwards to Aaron Ramsey, or whoever is playing in the advanced midfield role. Over to Arsene Wenger to discuss how they're doing with that one: "He (Arteta) is adapting to our game. If you look at the stats in the Premier League, Arsenal are the team who play the least balls backwards. That means when you have the ball it is not only a question of decision-making, it's a question of opportunity. It's about how many players you have in front of you - if you have players behind you have to play it backwards."

6 - Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott
As we've stated on a couple of occasions on F365, the thing about the Carlos Tevez 'did he/didn't he refuse to play' nonsense was that it firstly masked how badly City defended against Bayern Munich, but also what a daft decision replacing Lescott with an under-cooked Kolo Toure was. While Toure cannot be blamed entirely for the defensive snafus in Bavaria, the City defence certainly looks more solid with these two ahead of Joe Hart. Lescott seems to be recovering some of his form, and Kompany...well, he's Vincent Kompany, isn't he?

5 - Joe Allen and Leon Britton
They love a pass, do Swansea. Loads of them. But more importantly these passes are incredibly accurate. With an 85% passing success rate over the season, only two teams are more accurate than Brendan Rodgers' boys (Chelsea and Manchester City) and only two have a higher possession percentage (Chelsea again and, inevitably, Arsenal) with 56%. They're almost always short passes too - 84%, since you ask. Central to this are the midfield trio, but for this list we've picked out Allen and Britton, simply because they have made the most appearances this season. Kemy Agustien and Mark Gower also deserve a good deal of credit, but since we're in a statty mood, let's just take a moment for the pass success rates of Allen and Britton - 90% and 94% respectively. That, friends, is phenomenal. Obviously it helps that most of these are short balls, but even so, you have to applaud the consistency. And applaud it we will. Some worldly advice for you: Use that stat as an ice-breaker for girls in bars.

4 - Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini
If this list was being written at the start of the season, not only would Taylor and Coloccini be nowhere near it, but I probably would've poured a bucket of cold water over your head, told you to pull yourself together and gone about my day, guffawing at the memory of such a silly suggestion. Coloccini started life in England as an outrageously coiffured walking disaster zone, while Taylor has apparently spent the past couple of years shredding his former reputation as a future England stalwart. However, times have changed. The pair have been terrific this season, and with the help of Tim Krul, are part of the tightest defence in the Premier League. Just read that again - 'the tightest defence in the Premier League'. Doesn't seem right, does it?

3 - Scott Parker and Luka Modric
One of the most popular refrains of columnists discussing the problems of Manchester United/Arsenal/Chelsea/Liverpool this season has been to wonder why one of those teams didn't make a bid for Parker in the summer. There are various reasons why they did not, but one cannot deny that Parker has proved to be one of the better purchases of the last transfer window. Parker offers a valuable combination of grit and distribution that allows Modric (and indeed Rafa van der Vaart) to create, as Sandro did in the latter half of last season. At 31, Parker might not be a particularly long-term solution, but for the moment he's one half of one of the best midfield duos in the Premier League.

2 - David Silva and Sergio Aguero
Oh, it's been said a number of times, but the presence of these two in the Premier League makes it really very tricky to get too worked up about how City are distorting the division. Lord, just look at them. Watch them play, and if you don't appreciate the grace and beauty of their interchanges then there's a fair chance you a) don't have a pulse b) don't actually like football or c) were a Manchester United fan at Old Trafford a few Sundays ago.

1 - Yohann Cabaye and Chiek Tiote
Not that many teams play 4-4-2 these days. The fashion is to pack the midfield to ensure control of possession, and therefore control the game. This is clearly most efficiently done in a variant of a 4-5-1 formation, giving yourself an extra man in the middle to do some extra work. Of course, Newcastle don't actually have to play three in midfield, because they have Cabaye and Tiote. EA Sports, who are doing the Premier League's statistics these days, run a 'Team of the Week' on their website, and whichever poor whelp has to write the thing must be getting terribly bored, because every week they seem to write 'Cabaye covered the most ground, followed by Tiote.' The pair usually get through 14 miles a game between them. 14 miles. That's...well, it's a long way. In more ways than one, they're the central reason that Newcastle's season has started so damned well.


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