Lewis Marshall meets the England football team
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With the 2010/11 Premier League in full swing, we have a look at some of the top-flight partnerships that have enriched the season to date.
Big-spending Manchester City lead the way so it comes as no surprise that they have two of the top-ten partnerships, one in defence and one in attack, following the arrival of Argentina ace Sergio Aguero.
Ashley Young has settled in quickly at Manchester United and is boosting Wayne Rooney's game, while surprise packing Newcastle United have two partnerships of their own included.
Between them, they have 13 goals and eight assists in the league. Not bad. If Gervinho is the cake then Dutch marksman Van Persie is very much the icing. Van Persie is the Premier League's leading scorer with an incredible 11 league strikes, culminating in the October Player of the Month award. Although Gervinho has not exactly lit up England's top flight during the opening months of the campaign, what is a growing belief is that his understanding with Van Persie is second to none.
This is more of a theoretical, hopeful entry to this list, because the partnership has not quite got going just yet. Mata has displayed flashes of brilliance while we all know what Spain international Torres is capable of once he hits top form. 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 Torres...it could be wonderful. Like a will they/won't they romance in a sitcom, lets just hope they get it together soon.
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 was not physically up to professional football as a youngster 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 us hope this continues. Rooney has helped himself to a healthy nine Premier League goals this season, many coming from a Young pass.
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 Gunners boss 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."
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 never looked out of place since swapping his defensive midfield role for a place in the heart of City's defence.
They love a pass, do Swansea. Loads of them. Manager Brendan Rodgers has modelled his Swans side on that of Barcelona - the passing champions. But more importantly these passes are incredibly accurate. With an 85 per cent passing success rate over the season, only two teams are more accurate than 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.
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 have 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 superb this season and epitomised everything that Alan Pardew is striving for. The Taylor/Coloccini partnership with the help of Tim Krul is part of the tightest defence in the Premier League. Just read that again - 'the tightest defence in the Premier League'.
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 did not make a bid for ex-West Ham man 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 Rafael 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 is one half of one of the best midfield duos in the Premier League.
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.
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.
The original version of this article first appeared on football365.
Baines and Pienaar. Superb together they were. Thier interchanges and triangles could tear apart any team
Posted 15:58 30th January 2012
Umm Holt and Morrison goals assists oh and they cost less than most of the above's yearly wage
Posted 09:45 24th January 2012
being a bias Villa fan, where are Gabby and Bent? They have been on fire lately!
Posted 13:38 18th November 2011
what happened to bent and gabby. u have tores and mata up there as a hopefull one. bent and gabby are far better at the minute. and will continue to be all season
Posted 13:29 18th November 2011
So Darren Bent and Gabby Agbonlahor don't make it into the top 10 then? They've only scored 10 goals between them... Yet another good decision putting Juan Mata and Fernando Torres in at number 9. And Joe Allen and Leon Britton at 5! WHO CAME UP WITH THIS LIST???
Posted 12:36 18th November 2011
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