Here's something I picked up on the Guardian Chalkboards. Pablo Zabaleta stepped in for the injured Wayne Bridge at left back on Sunday, for the first time this season. And while I'm a huge fan of Zabaleta, the chalkboards suggest that he offered nowhere near the attacking threat that Bridge does from the role.
This graphic is a comparison of Zabaleta's and Bridge's attempted passes in the Sunderland and Aston Villa home games respectively. The main difference between the two seems to be in their attacking play: due to both a difference of caution and in success of crossing. Bridge regularly advanced into the final third of the pitch (within 30/35 yards) down the left hand side, attempting sixteen (by my count) passes from within the final third. Zabaleta however, attempted only one pass from within the final third. There was also a difference in success of balls into the box: Bridge made four successful passes (from ten attempts), while Zabaleta didn't make a single successful pass into the box (from three attempts). I guess this is to do with Zabaleta being less proficient with his left foot, and therefore less confident in getting down to the byline and crossing with it. In Zabaleta's defence, he made more successful passes than Bridge - most of them in the middle third of the pitch. But as an attacking left back, Bridge is demonstrably superior. The question for Hughes, then, is where to play Zabaleta now that Vincent Kompany and Nigel de Jong are fit?
by Guardian Chalkboards