EPL

Premier League data dive: Pogba and Fernandes run riot as Salah breaks opening-day record

By Sports Desk August 14, 2021

Paul Pogba assisted four of Manchester United's goals as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side started their 2021-22 Premier League campaign with a 5-1 thrashing of Leeds United.

Bruno Fernandes netted three of them, with Mason Greenwood and Fred also getting in on the action as United issued a statement of intent.

Chelsea followed up that victory with a 3-0 win over Patrick Vieira's Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge, while Liverpool rounded out the day by beating newly promoted Norwich City by the same scoreline.

Leicester City, Everton, Watford and Brighton and Hove Albion also claimed wins to get their seasons started in style.

Using Opta data, we take a look at the key statistics from across Saturday's fixtures.

 

Manchester United 5-1 Leeds United: Pogba and Fernandes leave Whites reeling

Pogba became the seventh player in Premier League history to assist four goals in a single game on Saturday, as he and Fernandes helped United seal a record 20th opening-day win. 

Dennis Bergkamp, Jose Antonio Reyes, Cesc Fabregas, Emmanuel Adebayor, Santi Cazorla and Harry Kane had previously teed up four goals in a Premier League match.

Two of Pogba's assists were for Fernandes, whose hat-trick was the 10th scored on the opening weekend of a Premier League season, while the playmaker was the first United player to achieve the feat since Lou Macari in 1977.

Mason Greenwood benefitted from a sublime Pogba pass shortly after Luke Ayling's sensational equaliser – the full-back's first top-flight goal – and he is now the fifth-highest scoring teenager in the history of the competition with 18 goals.

United netted five goals in their opening game of a Premier League game for only the second time, after beating Fulham 5-1 in August 2006, while Leeds shipped five in an opener for the first time.

Norwich City 0-3 Liverpool: Records tumble as Salah stars

Liverpool might have relinquished their Premier League title last season, but Mohamed Salah picked up where he left off last term as he scored and provided two assists in Liverpool's 3-0 win at Norwich.

Salah teed up both Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino before netting himself in the 74th minute. It means he has scored on matchday one in all five of his Premier League seasons with Liverpool, while he is the first player in the competition's history to find the net on five consecutive opening weekends.

Norwich have now lost 11 successive top-flight games – only Sunderland have had a longer losing streak in the competition.

Firmino came on from the bench to score Liverpool's second. It was the 49th league goal scored by a substitute under Jurgen Klopp, the most of any side in the competition since the German joined in 2015, while the Brazil international also brought up the Reds' 8,000th league goal in the process.

Chelsea 3-0 Crystal Palace: Pulisic predictably punishes Eagles again

This trip to Stamford Bridge played out in painfully familiar fashion for Palace, who have lost more Premier League games against Chelsea (19) than versus any other side in the competition's history.

In a routine 3-0 opening-day victory, the Blues became the third team – after Tottenham (nine) and Liverpool (eight) – to win eight in a row against Palace in the Premier League era.

The nature of the first two strikes was predictable, too, with Marcos Alonso netting Chelsea's 50th direct free-kick goal in the competition – trailing only United (64) – before Christian Pulisic grabbed his fifth in five games against Palace, more than versus any other opponent.

The third was slightly more surprising, as centre-back Trevoh Chalobah's superb strike made him the second youngest Chelsea player to score on their Premier League debut for the club after Paul Hughes (22y 40d for Chalobah, 20y 274d for Hughes against Derby County in 1997).

Everton 3-1 Southampton: Benitez off to a winning start

Rafael Benitez was a contentious appointment at Everton but his tenure started with a 3-1 win over Southampton. It was the first time the Toffees have won a league match in which they trailed at half-time since September 2015.

On the other hand, since Ralph Hasenhuttl took over at Southampton in December 2018, they have lost 60 points from winning positions in the Premier League, more than any other side.

Adam Armstrong opened his Southampton account to put the visitors ahead at Goodison Park. Since the start of 2019-20, only Ivan Toney (55) has scored more goals in the top four tiers of English football.

Fresh from Olympic glory with Brazil, Richarlison scored the equaliser and has now netted in each of his last four league games against Southampton.

With Abdoulaye Doucoure lashing Everton ahead, Dominic Calvert-Lewin made it 3-1 with a diving header. He has now netted 12 headed goals in the league since the start of 2019-20, four more than any other player.

Elsewhere, Leicester City saw off Wolves 1-0 thanks to Jamie Vardy's first-half effort. The Foxes have lost just one of their last 25 home league games against the Midlands club.

Only Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Alan Shearer (all eight) have scored more goals on the opening weekend of Premier League campaigns than Vardy (seven).

Watford 3-2 Aston Villa: Ings on the spot but post-Grealish era starts in defeat

Watford have now lost their opening league match in just one of the past 15 campaigns (W8 D6), after the Hornets overcame Aston Villa 3-2.

Emmanuel Dennis became the fourth different Nigerian player to score on his Premier League debut to put Watford ahead, with Ismaila Sarr registering his 20th goal for the club before Cucho Hernandez became the first Colombian to net on his debut in the competition.

John McGinn scored his second goal in the space of four league appearances, as many as he had in his previous 55, to pull one back, before Danny Ings converted a late penalty.

He is the 24th player to score on his Premier League bow for Villa, while his spot-kick was the 2,000th penalty scored in Premier League history.

Meanwhile, Burnley are now winless in their last 11 home league games (D5 L6) since beating Villa 3-2 in January, equaling their longest run without a win at Turf Moor, after Brighton came from behind to win 2-1.

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    Pep Guardiola came to the defence of 'exceptional gentleman' Steve Bruce following his recent departure from Newcastle United earlier this week.

    A decision that looked on the cards following the completion of the club's Saudi Arabian-backed takeover, Bruce left the Magpies by mutual consent on Wednesday after a difficult start to the Premier League season.

    Newcastle are yet to win in the league this season, having collected just three points from 24 on offer.

    The 60-year-old subsequently suggested it could be his final managerial role due to the abuse he received during his two-year tenure.

    "I think this might be my last job. It's not just about me, it's taken its toll on my whole family because they are all Geordies and I can't ignore that," Bruce told The Telegraph.

    "By the time I got to Newcastle, I thought I could handle everything thrown at me but it has been very, very tough.

    "To never really be wanted, to feel that people wanted me to fail, to read people constantly saying I would fail, that I was useless, a fat waste of space, a stupid, tactically inept cabbage head or whatever. And it was from day one."

    Newcastle's Allan Saint-Maximin paid tribute to the 'gentle' and 'caring' Bruce, and Manchester City boss Guardiola believes that the winger's social media post epitomised the respect warranted by the ex-Manchester United defender, who took charge of his 1,000th game as a manager in Sunday's defeat by Tottenham.

    Addressing the media ahead of City's trip to Brighton and Hove Albion, Guardiola said: "I read the post on Twitter and Instagram from Saint-Maximin.

    "This is, for me, what Steve Bruce is – [he is] an exceptional gentleman. He always took care of me so nicely when I came here from Catalonia. I wish him all the best. 

    "I'll tell him 'don't pay much attention to the comments because it is bull****.'

    "Steve Bruce and all other managers want to do the best; sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. He does not have to worry. I'm pretty sure all the people in Newcastle – the board and especially the players – know exactly what Steve is."

    It was a sentiment echoed by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who told a news conference: "Is it social media? Don't read it, don't watch it, especially not in average or bad periods. That's the best advice you can give to every manager in the world.

    "I'm really sorry for Steve Bruce if that happened. I think the most important skill in modern football for a manager is to not let criticism get too close to you or just ignore it. That's what I do."

    Rafael Benitez preceded Bruce at St James' Park, and was a popular figure with the club's fanbase. The current Everton boss has ruled himself out of contention to take over at Newcastle, however.

    Asked if such harsh criticism could possibly lead potential managers to stay away from coaching, Benitez said: "Not for me at Newcastle or here at Everton. You have to accept that in football if you win, everything is fine, if you lose, you can lose your job.

    "This is the situation for many years, in a lot of countries.

    "My relationship with the Newcastle fans is fantastic, my relationship with the people in the city was very good so I have good memories. At the same time, I do not want to see any manager lose his job, that is the only thing I can say."

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    "No big news, for Romelu and Timo the thing I can say is they are out tomorrow and the Southampton game and from there we will see what's next.

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    With Chelsea's fixtures before the next international break comparatively kind - trips to Newcastle United and Malmo follow the Southampton match, before a home game with Burnley on November 6 - Tuchel was asked if Lukaku's enforced break had come at a good time.

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    "Mentally, he was a bit overplayed, like other players in our squad, but that does not mean we have to rest them. Jorginho and Mason Mount are in the same spot but they played a fantastic match, so it is like this, they played a lot of competitions with a lot of enthusiasm and personal targets.

    "It was not a muscle injury, it was an accident. It is just some percentage, don't underestimate the effort these players go through. 

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    "You cannot keep a squad of 40 players," he added. "If you think Oli, Tammy and Michy would be in the perfect shape now, but hadn't made it into the 20-man squad, then would they be in the perfect shape?

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    Thomas Tuchel has urged Kai Havertz to shine as he gets the opportunity to lead the line for Chelsea with Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner out injured.

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    Tuchel confirmed Lukaku and Werner will miss at least two games each and suggested it would be Havertz who fills the void after netting against Malmo.

    Havertz has only started four of his side's eight league matches this season, scoring once while yet to register an assist, creating only one chance for his team-mates across 320 minutes of action.

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    "To speak the truth, there is only one way to make it to the pitch and stay on the pitch, that's performance," Tuchel said at his pre-match news conference.

    "Kai was not at his highest level, others were closer to their level, so it was necessary he waited some matches - we felt other guys were in better shape. 

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    "Here we go, there's so much talent, so much potential and he needs to show it, it is as easy as that. 

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    Chelsea have won 10 of their last 12 Premier League games against Norwich (D2), last losing against them in the top flight back in 1994. 

    Tuchel believes Havertz, who scored the winning goal against Manchester City in the Champions League final at the end of last season, can serve as a similar focal point to Lukaku against the Canaries.

    He added: "For me it's not so much a false nine because Kai is also very strong, in the last line, behind the last line, arriving in the box. 

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    No side has conceded fewer goals than Chelsea in the Premier League this season (three), while Norwich have the worst attack so far (two goals scored). 

    But Norwich will go to Stamford Bridge looking to keep three consecutive Premier League clean sheets for the first time since November 2012, the third game of which was a 1-0 victory against the side who were leading the league at that time, Manchester United.

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