The weekend’s victory against Aston Villa was huge for our survival hopes and marked the first time we have won three successive Premier League matches since the Rafa Benitez era.
Eddie Howe has managed to develop an effective way of playing. There are still areas that need to improve, chiefly our ability to dominate possession. However, the work rate, pressing and organisation have come on a lot in a short amount of time.
Villa have been a good team under Steven Gerrard. The three points on Sunday should give the players a lot of confidence.
Below, we discuss three interesting stats from the game.
Joe Willock – 38 pressures
A lot of praise has come Willock’s way after the weekend and for good reason. There has been praise for his 100% pass success rate, but that isn’t the stat we will be highlighting today. The midfielder accrued 38 pressures during the game. These are classified as the amount of times a player pressures an opposition player receiving, carrying or releasing the ball.
In the Premier League this weekend, only Alex Iwobi (46) managed a higher number. This underlines the importance of Willock out of possession. It is clear that Howe has instructed the team to press higher up the pitch. For this to be successful, he needs energy and mobility, as players need to cover a lot of ground.
Some are less effective than others, but Willock is clearly central to the press. He can often be seen pushing ahead of Chris Wood to press centre backs, as Howe trusts his recovery runs to get back into position should the press fail.
To provide context, Joelinton (25) and Jonjo Shelvey (19) were the next highest in our team.
Ryan Fraser – 8 progressive passes received
One of the main focuses of the January transfer window was signing players to progress the ball more effectively. The improvements in our build up play have been evident and this will only improve further when Bruno Guimaraes is integrated into the team.
It is one thing to have players to pass the ball forwards. You also need players that can find space to receive the ball in the final third. Ryan Fraser has shown himself to be our best player for this. Whereas Allan Saint-Maximin likes to drop deep, our other winger looks to run in behind and take up pockets of space in the half-spaces.
His movement and reading of the game in the attacking half makes him very difficult to defend against. On Sunday, the next best in our team was Joe Willock with three progressive passes received.
To compare with Aston Villa, Philippe Coutinho (10), Matty Cash (9), Ollie Watkins (6) and Lucas Digne (6) all showed themselves to be effective at receiving progressive passes.
We need an improvement across the rest of the team, but this does underline Fraser’s importance during the adjustment phase.
Kieran Trippier – 34 touches
We will end on a negative note that underlines how much we will miss Kieran Trippier. He has become our de-facto playmaker during his short time at the club. In his 47 minutes on the pitch, he managed 34 touches. This is more than six other players managed in the match.
Fabian Schar (39) managed the most touches in our team and had only five more than Trippier managed in 47 minutes. The right-back was on course to hit 65 touches had he continued at the same rate.
Trippier has been a crucial player during this run of three successive wins. His leadership, set pieces and passing have all stood out.
Howe will now need to develop a different way of playing and make adjustments to the current system, as no other right-back can have the same influence.
It could lead to Bruno Guimaraes being integrated to the starting eleven, as he has the quality to replace Trippier’s playmaking qualities.