EPL

Premier League data dive: Away-day specialists Man City close in on title, Havertz at the double

By Sports Desk May 02, 2021

Away-day specialists Manchester City saw off Crystal Palace 2-0 to close in on another Premier League title and equal a top-flight record in the process.

Chelsea beat Fulham by the same scoreline elsewhere in Saturday's Premier League action, thanks to a couple of goals from Kai Havertz.

A two-goal success was also the outcome when Brighton and Hove Albion welcomed Leeds United to the Amex Stadium, the Seagulls all but securing their top-flight status for another season.

In the late match, Aston Villa edged out Everton 2-1 to boost their chances of a top-half finish and derail their opponents' European prospects.

We use Opta data to take a look at the best facts from Saturday's games.

 

Crystal Palace 0-2 Manchester City: Patient Citizens win again on their travels

Goals from Sergio Aguero and Ferran Torres in the space of 83 seconds proved enough for City to pick up a victory that leaves them on the brink of another piece of silverware.

Those strikes came from the Citizens' first two shots on target and saw them reach the 700-goal mark under Pep Guardiola in all competitions.

City's 57-minute wait for their first on-target attempt of the match was their longest in a Premier League game since November 2019 against Southampton.

Torres added to Aguero's opener moments later with a good finish from 20 yards - the 11th league goal Palace have conceded from outside the box this term, which is the joint-most of any Premier League team alongside Sheffield United.

The victory was City's 11th in a row away from home in the Premier League, equalling the all-time English top-flight record held by Chelsea (April-December 2008) and City themselves (May-December 2017).

Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 Leeds United: Whites lose again on south coast

Brighton moved within touching distance of securing a fifth successive season of Premier League football thanks to a well-earned victory at home to Leeds.

Pascal Gross found the bottom corner from a 14th-minute penalty and Danny Welbeck added to that with his fifth Premier League goal of the season in his 21st outing - the forward's best top-flight return since 2017-18.

It was an all-too-familiar tale for Leeds, who have now lost five successive away league meetings against Brighton without scoring - the first time that has happened in their history against a single opponent.

In fact, Brighton have won eight of their last nine league meetings with Leeds home and away, which is more than they managed in their previous 28 against them.

Leeds managed just two attempts on target as Graham Potter's Brighton claimed a seventh home clean sheet of the season, a tally bettered only by Manchester City and Chelsea (nine each) in the Premier League this season.

 

Chelsea 2-0 Fulham: Havertz inflicts more derby misery on Cottagers

Kai Havertz doubled his Premier League goals tally with a brace in Chelsea's routine victory over Championship-bound Fulham.

All eight of the Germany international's goals for Chelsea in all competitions have now been scored in London, seven of those at Stamford Bridge and one at Selhurst Park.

His second goal in this game involved some nice link-up play with Timo Werner, who with that assist became the first Chelsea player to reach double figures for both goals (11) and assists (10) in his debut season for the club since Eden Hazard in 2012-13.

Werner's combined 21 goals and assists is the most of any Chelsea player this term, and he is one of five Premier League players to reach double figures for both metrics across all competitions alongside Harry Kane, Bruno Fernandes, Son Heung-min and Marcus Rashford.

Fulham have now gone 19 away games without a win at neighbours Chelsea in all competitions - only versus Everton (31), Hull City (23) and Middlesbrough (21) are the Blues currently enjoying a longer unbeaten run against an opponent on home soil.

The Cottagers are also now winless in 24 Premier League London derbies since beating West Ham in January 2014 - only Palace have endured a longer such run in English top-flight history, going 31 London derbies without a win between August 1969 and March 1973.

Fulham missed some good chances as Chelsea kept an 11th Premier League clean sheet under Thomas Tuchel - the most shutouts for any manager in their first 15 games in the competition, one more than ex-Blues bosses Jose Mourinho and Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Everton 1-2 Aston Villa: Toffees' poor Goodison run continues against familiar opponents

Villa dented Everton's European hopes with victory at Goodison Park in what was the 205th top-flight meeting between the clubs - the most played fixture in England's top division.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Villans have won more games (20) and scored more goals (73) in the Premier League era against Everton than they have against any other side in the competition.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored his 20th goal in all competitions this season to open the scoring in Saturday's late kick-off - with that haul including a Premier League leading seven headers - to cancel out Ollie Watkins' opener.

But Anwar El Ghazi snatched all three points for the Villans 10 minutes from time with his eighth goal in 23 Premier League games this season, doubling his tally from 34 appearances in the competition last time out.

Everton have now won just one of their last 10 home league matches and have tasted defeat at Goodison Park eight times this season - only in 1993-94 have they lost on more occasions (nine) in a single Premier League campaign.

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  • Potter braced for 'awkward' Chelsea conversations after Boehly spending spree Potter braced for 'awkward' Chelsea conversations after Boehly spending spree

    Graham Potter warned there will be "awkward conversations" ahead at Chelsea after the signing of Enzo Fernandez capped a staggering spending spree.

    The head coach can register just three of the seven new recruits for his Champions League squad, ahead of the last-16 tie against Borussia Dortmund, while even in the Premier League it will be difficult to keep players happy.

    Chelsea have stars coming back from injury, to add to the sudden influx of fresh blood, and the onus is on Potter to shape a team that can win consistently after a stuttering start to his Blues career.

    Owner Todd Boehly brought in Fernandez from Benfica on deadline day, with the World Cup winner joining the long list of arrivals at Stamford Bridge, after Chelsea also acquired Mykhaylo Mudryk, Benoit Badiashile, Andrey Santos, David Datro Fofana, Joao Felix and Noni Madueke.

    Potter described Argentine midfielder Fernandez as "a fantastic player" and "an impressive young man", adding: "I'm excited by the second part of the season we have here, happy the transfer window's closed, and we can move forward and work with the players."

    Chelsea had to inform UEFA by the end of Thursday about their squad choices for the Champions League knockout stage, and Potter said some players would inevitably be disappointed to miss out.

    Loanee Joao Felix, fresh from arriving from Atletico Madrid, was described by Potter as being "in contention", but the coach would not commit any further on his choices.

    "Of course, there's going to be a few awkward questions, that's the reality of where we are," Potter said. "A few awkward conversations because only 11 can play and only a certain amount can be in squads, so there's always going to be ones that are disappointed.

    "It's about being as honest and open and transparent as you can and create an environment where you respect that people want to play, and respect the fact that players want to compete and help the team, but they have to be patient and make sure they're ready to play and perform and help us win."

    Potter's Chelsea sit 10th in the Premier League, already 10 points behind fourth-placed Manchester United with 18 games left to play.

    Their hopes of a top-four Premier League finish look bleak, but Potter will be expected to send Chelsea shooting up the table now he has ample resources.

    "Everybody that's been in this room in the last four months, the word we've always spoken about is pressure, so that's not going to change," Potter said, speaking at Chelsea's press conference ahead of Friday's game against Fulham.

    "Clearly, if you spend money, the external noise goes up. I understand that. Spending money is one thing, but you need to be able to align them, make the right decisions and provide a culture, a team, an environment.

    "It's not the amount you spend on its own that gets success, it's more than that.

    "Challenge is the right word, but I'm certainly not complaining about it. It's exciting. It's a test for me and the staff, but it's an exciting one.

    "We've got a lot of really good players and we have to create an environment where there's healthy competition and they can push each other and understand there'll be frustration at times."

    Potter says Chelsea have "tried to build something for the now and for the future", and he said he was "calm, calm" on deadline day as club officials negotiated to complete the Fernandez deal.

    "I'm very, very pleased because we've got a fantastic player, and I'm looking forward to working with him," Potter said. "I spoke to him. My Spanish isn't great and his English isn't great, so we needed a translator, but we'll get there."

    Hakim Ziyech's move to Paris Saint-Germain collapsed late on Tuesday, meaning he will stay with Chelsea, and Potter said the former Ajax winger would be "an important player for the rest of the season".

  • Ten Hag feeling optimistic about Man Utd options after Sancho return and Sabitzer signing Ten Hag feeling optimistic about Man Utd options after Sancho return and Sabitzer signing

    Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag projected an air of optimism regarding his squad depth after the return of Jadon Sancho and deadline day signing of Marcel Sabitzer.

    United were dealt a massive blow earlier this week with the news Christian Eriksen will potentially be out for three months due to an ankle injury caused by a heavy challenge from Reading's Andy Carroll.

    The Denmark midfielder had been one of United's key players due to his creativity, as reflected by his haul of nine assists being bettered by no one else in the squad.

    United moved quickly to bring in Sabitzer on loan from Bayern Munich until the end of the season as a replacement, with the Austria international's arrival appearing even more necessary after it emerged Scott McTominay is also facing a short spell out.

    Ten Hag was thrilled to get the deal done, and he has high expectations for the former RB Leipzig star, despite him struggling to make much of an impact at Bayern.

    "We're really happy with that transfer because we need it after Donny [van de Beek] dropped out, now [Christian] Eriksen for a longer time, for a short time Scott McTominay is not available," Ten Hag told reporters after Wednesday's 2-0 EFL Cup semi-final second-leg win over Nottingham Forest.

    "To bring a quality player in on deadline day, that is difficult. We got this opportunity.

    "I know the player for a long time from Salzburg, especially Leipzig, [where] he performed fantastic. I expect the same here.

    "He has a great attitude, he's the right age. I'm sure this opportunity will motivate him and he will perform for us."

    Among the big talking points from the win over Forest was the comeback of Sancho, who had not played for United since October 22.

    The England international had been absent due to "circumstances with fitness and mood", which even resulted in him spending a period away from the club.

    He played the last 27 minutes on Wednesday, receiving a huge ovation from the Old Trafford crowd, and Ten Hag was thrilled to have such a talented player available again.

    "It was great for Jadon and the fans cheered him and gave him a loud applause, and that's great and he sees how the fans like [him], give him this love," the manager continued. "So we are happy with that. We need to keep that connection with the fans and we need that all season.

    "He has really high standards, he has great capabilities to contribute to our team and I think, especially now the team is improving, we are playing more in the opponents' half and I think his capabilities are coming more in front.

    "He can act on them more because he will have more touches on the ball and that gives him the best platform to perform.

    "Most important players enjoy football, which gives energy, that gives them the motivation to act and to perform. I think it was great, the reception from the fans to him, and also that will give him even more a push to continue in the way he's now acting.

    "He's just started again, a restart. He's [been] back at Carrington [United's training base] for two weeks, we see that smile and hopefully he can keep that and contribute to the team because when he is in good form, he is really important for us.

    "I hope, same as [Anthony] Martial, when you are all the time available and play often together with the players we have now in the midfield and front line, our attacking plan will improve and create more chances, then it's a process players enjoy more and are better motivated to work together."

    United are next in action on Sunday when they host Crystal Palace in the Premier League.

  • McCarthy takes on Cowboys play-calling duties as EVP Jones calls for 'something different' McCarthy takes on Cowboys play-calling duties as EVP Jones calls for 'something different'

    Head coach Mike McCarthy will take over play-calling duties for the Dallas Cowboys next season, it has been confirmed.

    The shift in responsibilities comes after the departure of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who left at the start of this week and has joined up with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    His exit followed the departures of six others, including assistant head coach Rob Davis and offensive line coach Joe Philbin, in the wake of the Cowboys struggling offensively in a 19-12 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional round game.

    McCarthy's evolving role had been anticipated and was verified by team owner and general manager Jerry Jones and executive vice-president Stephen Jones on Wednesday.

    Jerry Jones said: "This is the logical step to build on it and use what we've established, if you will, the foundation of the things we've got. This is the time for us to build on it. That's what this is, a building step."

    Moore had been the Cowboys' offensive coordinator since 2019, with Dallas leading the NFL in total yards in 2019 and 2021, also having the league's top-ranked scoring offense last season at 31.2 points per game.

    The Cowboys finished the 2022 regular season ranked fourth in the NFL in scoring (27.5 points per game) and 11th in total offense (354.9 yards per game), but the team managed just 282 total yards and one touchdown in the loss to the 49ers.

    Dallas have not advanced past the Divisional round of the playoffs since winning the Super Bowl following the 1995 season.

    Quarterback Dak Prescott had a career-worst 15 picks over the season, and Stephen Jones called for sweeping changes to be made, saying: "Sometimes in order to take the next step, you have to get uncomfortable.

    "Sometimes for Dak to take the next step, he might have to get uncomfortable and do something different.

    "For Mike to take the next step, he’s got to do something different. For us to take the next step, same thing.

    “If you keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results, good luck."

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