Talking Tactics

Can Guimaraes get the edge over Neves?

By Adrian Clarke 10 Mar 2023
Guimaraes and Neves Talking Tactics

Adrian Clarke looks at key duels in three of the weekend's matches

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Adrian Clarke picks out three intriguing battles between players and teams taking place in Matchweek 27.

Bruno Guimaraes v Ruben Neves

Sunday will feature two of the division’s best all-round central midfielders, both 25, locking horns for the very first time in the Premier League, when Newcastle United face Wolverhampton Wanderers at St James’ Park.

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Guimaraes missed the reverse fixture, a 1-1 draw in August, a match where Neves scored Wolves’ goal with a fizzing 25-yard drive.

Last season, Neves was absent when Guimaraes featured in a 1-0 home win for Newcastle.

The two players are equally influential for their respective teams in and out of possession.

Guimaraes v Neves defensive stats
2022/23 Guimaraes Neves
Poss. won/90 7.8 6.9
Poss. won middle third/90 3.9 3.2
Interceptions/90 1.4 1.4
Tackles won/90 1.3 1.4
Blocks/90 0.2 0.7

Off the ball, these two technically gifted midfielders are also superb at breaking up play.

In terms of their ball-winning qualities, there is little to choose between them, although Neves will frequently drop back in as an additional centre-back to make blocks, something Guimaraes does not do.

Guimaraes v Neves attacking stats
2022/23 Guimaraes Neves
Shots 0.8 1.9
Chances created 1.1 0.8
Succ. passes in opp half 25.6 22.2
Total goals 3 5
Total assists 3 0

Going forward, these two players also offer plenty and again there is not too much to choose between their respective attacking outputs.

Guimaraes v Neves is one the most eye catching match-ups of the weekend.

Can Tarkowski handle Toney?

Goodison Park will play host to a duel between James Tarkowski and Ivan Toney that promises to be a physical affair when Everton host Brentford.

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The Bees are never afraid to go direct to their leading scorer with long passes, feeding off second balls to gain territory and create chances.

Toney is the division’s undisputed "flick-on king" this season, producing a total of 87 flick-ons in 22 appearances, 33 more than any other player.

Most flicks-ons and aerial duels won
Flick-ons Aerial duels won
Toney 80 Mitrovic 86
Gibbs-White 47 Mee 85
Mitrovic 42 Tarkowski 79
Moore 41 Toney 75

Both win a lot of aerial duels. Tarkowski is ranked third in the Premier League with 79, only four ahead of Toney.

When the two sides played out a 1-1 draw back in August, it was the Everton defender who came out on top.

While the latter did fashion a couple of attempts on goal, he won just one of six aerial duels, with Tarkowski successful in all seven of his.

Can Spurs or Forest stop rot?

Ten places and 19 points separate fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur with this weekend’s opponents Nottingham Forest, but they share a common issue that is costing them both valuable points.

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In open play, they concede far too many goals.

Spurs are battling for a top-four finish, but the structure of their 3-4-2-1 formation has not been robust enough this season.

Putting men behind the ball and conceding possession with a view to striking quickly on the counter-attack, they have not been able to withstand bouts of pressure on a consistent basis.

Most goals conceded from open play
Open-play goals conceded % of all goals conceded
Nott'm Forest 31 70.4%
Spurs 29 80.6%
Leeds 29 72.5%
Leicester 28 65.1%
Southampton 28 68.3%

Over 80 per cent of the goals they have conceded in 2022/23 have been from open-play situations.

Spurs have kept four successive clean sheets at home in all competitions, which should provide confidence.

However, the guile and movement of Forest's attacking midfielders Morgan Gibbs-White and Brennan Johnson can cause them problems.

Steve Cooper’s new-look side have also struggled to stem the flow of open-play goals they are conceding, registering a league-high 31 so far.

Away from home, they have particularly struggled, scoring only three times, while letting in 29 goals in total.

That profligacy on the road, coupled with Spurs’ mini-goal drought of three matches in all competitions, hints towards a low-scoring encounter, but their respective fragilities at the back tell a different story.

Next: Adrian Clarke analyses super-sub Solomon

Also in this series

Part 1: Can Lokonga withstand pressure from Man City midfield?
Part 2: Why AFC Bournemouth must fear resurgent Salah
Part 4: Why Solomon is Fulham's biggest threat to Arsenal

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