English Premier League Tactical Review: 5 Things We Learned
Week 13 of the English Premier League saw Manchester United come from behind, Aston Villa remain resolute and West Bromwich Albion win again.
In turn, we're asking why the Baggies are perceived in such a derogatory way, how good Wigan really are and how the Villans find relief in tough games.
Read on for more details.
Just a Striker Away...
Wigan Athletic are one clinical striker away from becoming a top-10 side in the English Premier League.
Roberto Martinez has put together a dynamic, attacking team using an unorthodox formation and this regularly stumps the opposition.
The 3-4-3 is not common enough in England for managers to become accustomed with it—how to defend against it or how to nullify its attacking prowess. Sam Allardyce admitted as much before West Ham's loss to the Latics (via SkySports).
Roberto Martinez's only issue remains the same as everyone else's—finding a 20-goal striker.
Arouna Kone has been wonderful but he's still not the born poacher this team needs to become consistent. Darren Bent is the type of player who could propel this Latics side into consistently good territory.
West Bromwich Albion have been labelled by some as a direct, counterattacking team.
That's not a fair assessment of a good outfit in excellent form—they're much more than a long ball up to Shane Long with a "see what happens" kind of attitude.
The Albion average the fourth lowest possession percentage per game with 43.1—a figure lower than the likes of Aston Villa, Sunderland and West Ham—but that doesn't paint the entire picture.
Their intricate buildup play in tight areas is as good as you'll see, and rather than calling them direct, you should use the word "incisive" instead.
How many West Brom attacks are long, drawn-out affairs involving 20 passes? None. They get it down with three or four moves. Ruthless.
The Return of the Target Man
Who said the target man was dead?
Playing styles such as that of John Toshack and John Carew were supposedly extinct, with only Andy Carroll flying the flag for the traditional centre-forward.
Step forward Christian Benteke, Aston Villa's knight in shining armour.
This diagram shows a whopping 51 passes received by the Belgian beast as he provides relief for his side in a tough encounter with Arsenal at Villa Park.
Having an easy outlet such as this is crucial to Paul Lambert's young team. When they're feeling the pressure, he's a big body to aim for.
Anderson a Dire Need
Sir Alex Ferguson is stubborn.
Despite his Manchester United side failing to get anything going from the start of games on three successive occasions, there's still a risk Anderson won't receive a fully deserved start midweek against West Ham.
The Red Devils' midfield has looked dangerously static in November. Take the defeat to Norwich as a valuable lesson in using midfield movement to open up opportunities elsewhere on the field.
Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes are good at what they do, but what they do isn't want United need to overcome the issues they're facing.
Fergie needs energy and vertical movement in his midfield to open up the channels for Javier Hernandez. The Brazilian midfielder transformed the game for his team on Saturday and was probably the Man of the Match, despite only playing 30 minutes.
What Is Leighton Baines?
As the season goes on, it's becoming increasingly evident that Leighton Baines is no regular human being.
We're not sure when the transformation took place, but what we do know is that David Moyes is using his left-back as a playmaker.
Against Norwich, Baines managed four successful take-ons, three tackles, three interceptions and 52 passes. This diagram outlines the 56 passes he received from his teammates, suggesting he marauds the touchline at will as his colleagues look to him for attacking inspiration.
Moyes is asking him to contribute in every area of the pitch and he's obliging. That's a rare level of all-round talent.