Manchester City vs Chelsea

Manchester City vs Chelsea Preview: Jesus’ turn to shine?

If the title race was back on after City beat Liverpool, it’s dangerously close to swinging in City’s favor now. Thanks to victories over Arsenal and Everton, City are once again on top of the Premier League, though Liverpool will have a chance to wreck that before City’s match with Chelsea kicks off on Sunday.

This is one of City’s three remaining games against top six sides, and of course the reverse fixture of one of City’s few losses this season. In that game, a delightful long ball from David Luiz releasing Pedro led to Kante eventually scoring and a Luiz header from a corner polished off the win.

Assisting both of those goals was one Eden Hazard. Chelsea’s leader in Twelve’s rating, he also somehow both tops the team in progressive passes and runs made and progressive passes received. Another way to highlight his involvement is his Usage Rate, where he is by far the top player for Chelsea, using (that is, involved in the final action of) 18% of his team’s possessions. Read More

Newcastle vs Manchester City

Newcastle vs Manchester City: Patched up Magpies midfield will suffer

Newcastle United always have some key things going for them. They have one of the best kits in the league, excellent fan support, and a genuinely cool stadium. Unfortunately, those don’t necessarily translate to success on the pitch and in that respect the team are in a bit of a rough spot.

Manchester City visit St. James’ Park with the Magpies just two points above the drop zone, and even that precarious position is courtesy of a critical win against fellow strugglers Cardiff City in their most recent Premier League match. Mike Ashley is Mike Ashley, so looking to the transfer market as a potential way out is probably a waste of time.

Still, it’s more the sales of players they’ve had rather than a lack of arrivals that have brought them to this point. As a reminder, they had both Dwight Gayle (the whole season) and Alexsander Mitrovic (for a brief second) on the books last season; the pair combined have more goals in 2018/19 than Newcastle do as a team.

A look at Newcastle’s xG (expected goal) timeline highlights their glaring deficiency in attack. I hope it’s not a surprise to most readers that averaging less than 1.0 xG per game is probably not going to translate into a lot of wins. Read More

Manchester City vs Liverpool

Manchester City vs Liverpool Preview: The Big One

Manchester City vs Liverpool. This is the big one. The game for all the marbles. The two best teams in the Premier League square off for a second time to see if Liverpool’s march to a first title in almost three decades will be assured or if who will win the Premier League is still an open question.

With over half of the season now gone, we’ve gotten answers to many of the big pre-season questions. One of mine was how Liverpool would fare as a more possession-based team. The addition of Alisson in particular suggested that Liverpool were going to play as more of a possession-oriented side. Given the Reds often struggled when they couldn’t rely on their press and were forced to break down an opponent last season, it made sense to focus in that area.

Though Liverpool’s results against lower sides have improved, it can’t really be said they’re playing more of a possession game, as their possession percentage this season is slightly lower than last (58% to 57% per Whoscored). As expected, Alisson has turned the ball over about 2.5 fewer times per 90 compared to the Karius/Mignolet duo, but the percentage of possessions ending in a turnover hasn’t decreased. Read More

Leicester vs Manchester City

Leicester vs Manchester City Preview: Can City Outfox Leicester?

With a sublime bit of skill to create space and a vicious rasp into the corner, Kevin De Bruyne announced his return to the City lineup in style last Tuesday against Leicester City in the Carabao Cup. Just over a week later, City face the same opponent in the league and their talisman should again prove the difference. City have generally weathered his spell on the sidelines well, but his presence is surely an early Christmas present to all City fans.

The issues of De Bruyne’s absence were laid bare all too quickly in the subsequent defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday. With Palace’s narrow 4-5-1 forcing the issue and City’s entirely second-choice midfield of Gundogan, Bernardo and Stones unable to pass through the center, most of the attack was sent to Sterling and Sane on their respective wings.

Unfortunately, fullback is an area where Crystal Palace have strength and they rode strong performances from Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Patrick Van Aanholt, with excellent help in defending provided by Townsend (Twelve’s top-rated Palace player in the game), to limit City’s attack. Sane and Sterling combined to lose possession 13 times and had just three successful dribbles out of 15 attempted. Read More

Watford vs Manchester City Preview

Watford vs Manchester City Preview: Rotation, Rotation, Rotation

As City travel to Watford on Tuesday, it’s getting busy in the Premier League. A mid-week fixture is the perfect time to ponder the potential limits of two squads who have been successful relative to their goals so far, but who may have some difficulties with fixture congestion.

Despite a loss to Leicester at the weekend, Watford have to be pretty happy with their performances so far this season. Per Twelve’s xG timeline, through 13 games they’ve had less xG in a game than their opponents just five times this season, and that was to Spurs, Liverpool, Manchester United, Fulham (shockingly), and Bournemouth (courtesy of an early red card to Christian Kabasele).

Watford FC stats

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Lyon vs Manchester City

Lyon vs Manchester City Preview: Lyon To Themselves

The first game of City’s Champions League campaign happened to be their worst result of the season so far. A 1-2 reverse to Olympique Lyonnais has since been followed by several decisive European victories against Hoffenheim and Shakhtar Donetsk, but as City’s only defeat this season the memory still lingers.

Did Lyon’s win mean they have some sort of secret sauce to beat City? Not particularly. This was more City being out of sorts in their initial Champions League encounter

Lyon’s defensive shape was pretty high, though they were decidedly not pressing City’s center-backs, waiting until the ball moved to Fernandinho to apply pressure. This is generally the right approach as City can eviscerate a high press and conceding too much space is often a death sentence.

City’s Usage Rates from the game appear to show Lyon’s approach worked, with Fernandinho’s Usage substantially increased from his season’s average as he struggled with passing and lost the ball three times. That said, most of the time City failed in the buildup it was mostly their own making, not an exceptional Lyon effort. Read More

Manchester City vs Southampton

Manchester City vs Southampton Preview: Saints Will Need a Miracle

After a scare-free Halloween week, City’s next opponent in the crowded fixture list is Southampton. Though the Saints put in an excellent performance against the Blues last year, City are much improved this season against teams in the lower areas of the table. Given the easy early schedule, I’m not quite ready to declare this team superior than last year’s edition despite the impressive start.

Still, one thing that can’t be denied is that they’ve played much better against teams outside last year’s top six. City last season averaged 13 shots and five shots on target more than such opponents, a pretty high baseline. This season, they’re averaging an incredible 19 and eight in those categories. Read More

Manchester City vs Burnley Premier League Preview

Manchester City vs Burnley Preview: The ultimate clash of styles

In my seemingly never-ending series of “City playing a team they should dominate” previews, the Blues take on Burnley at the weekend. While last week’s good, if ultimately unsatisfying, result at Anfield kept City on course for a repeat title, Burnley by contrast have been decidedly off their pace from last season.

Part of this was likely inevitable, as Burnley over-performed their expected goals (xG) a lot over the last few years. But the fact that it was continued over multiple seasons certainly made it seem as if they were doing it differently, to steal Mark Thompson’s line.

Over the past few years Burnley have been the soccer equivalent of the NBA’s “Grit and Grind” Memphis Grizzlies: zigging into old-school, physical play while everyone else zagged into technical play, while still being good enough with their approach to put a mild scare into top teams. While their method of play still appears basically the same, the results have flat-lined. Read More

Manchester City vs Brighton

Manchester City vs Brighton: How well has Bernardo replaced De Bruyne?

Six weeks in to the Premier League and Manchester City keep chugging along nicely. After the disappointing loss to Lyon in the Champions League, City responded in fine style against Cardiff and Oxford with eight goals scored in total and none conceded.

What’s perhaps been the most impressive element of City’s start to the season is that it comes without Kevin De Bruyne running the entire midfield. Last year, De Bruyne had the highest usage rate (the percentage of a team’s possessions in which a given player has the final action) of any City player by a wide margin, and he also rated as Twelve’s top attacker.

One of the key questions when he went down through injury was who would take on the offensive burden he carried last season. In order to measure that, below is a table showing each player’s usage rate so far this season compared with their record last season (for players with a minimum of 270 minutes in both campaigns): Read More

Manchester City vs. Fulham

Manchester City vs Fulham Preview: Time for Sané to start?

There’s no better way to leave the interminable international break behind than with an incredibly exciting Manchester City fixture. As an American, Fulham have always held a place in my heart as the club of Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey, and (to a much lesser extent) Carlos Bocanegra.

But more than that, the current incarnation of Fulham have a genuine buzz about them. Only Arsenal games feature more shots and shots on target, they have exciting young talents like Ryan Sessegnon, and they picked up a genuine star in Jean-Michel Seri in the transfer window. In short, get ready for some fireworks.

As with Wolves, Fulham aren’t your typical newly promoted side. Rather than playing defensively and seeking to counter-attack, they use possession to get their shot attempts and are even averaging a greater share of the ball than Spurs, United, or Arsenal thus far this season (albeit having endured a light schedule to date). Read More