EPL

Salah's double threat, Fernandes the benchmark, Brentford the most clinical – the Premier League weekend's quirky facts

By Sports Desk October 04, 2021

Premier League football takes a back seat again for the best part of a fortnight now as the international break arrives, but the past weekend gave us plenty to chew on in the interim.

Liverpool and Manchester City played out a belter of a match at Anfield on Sunday, as Mohamed Salah shone yet again on English football's biggest stage.

That contest provided further evidence of the gap between those two and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United, though Bruno Fernandes' latest achievement suggests the Norwegian should be doing better given the talent at his disposal.

Below, Stats Perform looks at some of the quirky Opta facts from the weekend…

Salah a double threat

Sunday's 2-2 draw between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield was utterly engrossing, and Mohamed Salah played a key role in that.

Not only did he set up Sadio Mane's opener with a brilliant run and pass, he then got Liverpool's second at the end of an incredible run that saw him evade most of the City defence.

That was the 20th time he has both scored and assisted during a single Premier League game, which is six more than anyone else in the top-flight since his Reds debut on 2017-18 — Son Heung-min is next with 14.

There is also no Liverpool player particularly close to him in that regard in the club's entire Premier League history, with Steven Gerrard second to Salah with 16 instances of getting a goal and assist in the same game.

Fernandes setting the pace

Manchester United may be erratic, but Bruno Fernandes certainly isn't when it comes to decisive moments in the Premier League.

He set up Anthony Martial with a lovely turn and throughball for the first goal in United's 1-1 draw with Everton on Saturday, that assist taking him to 50 goal involvements in 58 Premier League matches — only Andy Cole (43), Alan Shearer and Eric Cantona (both 54) reached that mark in fewer games.

But putting his achievement into modern-day context, Fernandes (30 goals, 20 assists) sits top of the pile for most involvements since his debut, his 50 being four more than Salah (34 goals, 12 assists).

The only other player on more than 40 in that time is Harry Kane (44 involvements, 30 goals, 14 assists).

The Premier League's deadliest attack… Sort of

So, you think you know which team is the most clinical in the Premier League this season? Well, you're wrong.

It's not Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester City. It's certainly not Tottenham or Arsenal… It's Brentford. In a way.

When it comes to the amount of goals scored from their shots on target, the Premier League new boys have been the most clinical, netting 10 (or 45.5 per cent) of their 22 accurate attempts following the 2-1 win at West Ham.

Liverpool are the league's leading scorers with 17, but those goals have come from 53 shots on target, meaning only 32.1 per cent of their accurate efforts are beating the goalkeeper.

Norwich City prop up the table (11.8 per cent), with Spurs (18.8 per cent) and Arsenal (19.2 per cent) also in the bottom three.

Vardy almost the 'golden oldie'

Jamie Vardy's story is a familiar one these days. His journey to the top wasn't straightforward, but since getting there he's been absolutely devastating.

Of course, his 24-goal haul was essential in Leicester City's incredible title triumph of 2015-16, but he's continued at a great level, only recording under 15 Premier League goals in a single season once since.

He already looks well on track to better his tally of 15 from 2020-21 this season, with the former England man on six in seven league games, and now he's closing in on a record.

Vardy's goal against Crystal Palace at the weekend was his 90th in the top-flight since turning 30 in January 2017, with Arsenal great Ian Wright (93) the only player in the competition's history to score more after his 30th birthday.

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    Roy Keane could not understand Michael Carrick's praise for his Manchester United players after a 1-1 draw at Chelsea on Sunday.

    United battled to a point away at the Premier League leaders, following up a 2-0 win at Villarreal in Carrick's first game as interim manager.

    The former midfielder is set to be replaced by Ralf Rangnick – another interim appointment – but was encouraged by their display, even as they attempted just three shots. United last had as few as three attempts against Manchester City in April 2017.

    There was certainly a shift in United's approach from their previous league game at Watford, the 4-1 defeat that spelled the end for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seeing only three high turnovers in an extremely passive performance.

    Starting on the path to the more aggressive set-up Rangnick is likely to employ, United had a season-high 14 high turnovers at Stamford Bridge.

    But ex-United captain Keane was irked by the change under Carrick, who previously formed part of Solskjaer's staff.

    Following a Sky Sports interview in which Carrick took issue with the penalty awarded against Aaron Wan-Bissaka, the pundit was asked for his opinion.

    "I disagree with everything he said in that interview," Keane said. "Everything he said – he's talking about a plan, he's talking about the penalty.

    "Of course it was a penalty. We've all looked at it, it's a penalty.

    "He's talking about the players' efforts, he's proud of them... He's been working with the players for the last few months. He was working alongside Ole, he was in the dugout with Ole, and now all of a sudden he's proud of them this week and they had a plan?

    "What about all the other games they had? Why aren't they making effort in the other games? Why aren't they closing down people in the other games?

    "He's talking about the high press – we've seen all the stats before the match, and they're the worst in the league at closing people down, winning the ball back.

    "He's praising players, praising players for doing their jobs. He mentioned the three midfielders... It's ridiculous.

    "He was sitting in the dugout for the last few months with Ole, the last few years – he was sitting with Mourinho, as well. Now, all of a sudden, he's proud of the players this week? He's working with the same players."

  • Carrick dismisses theory Rangnick influenced Man Utd set-up in Chelsea draw Carrick dismisses theory Rangnick influenced Man Utd set-up in Chelsea draw

    Manchester United caretaker manager Michael Carrick insisted his team's set-up in Sunday's 1-1 draw at Chelsea was not influenced by Ralf Rangnick, the man expected to be appointed until the end of the season.

    Carrick was put in charge after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's sacking last weekend and has overseen a win and a draw in his two matches at the helm.

    The tussle with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge came amid reports suggesting United have agreed a deal to appoint Rangnick as interim manager until the end of the season, at which point he will move into a consultancy role.

    Rangnick has a fine reputation both as a coach and director, with the likes of Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel considering him an inspiration, while he helped transform German clubs Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig.

    While no announcement has been made yet by United, it was widely speculated that Rangnick's famed style of play – based on aggressive pressing and attacking – was being looked to by Carrick at Stamford Bridge.

    Cristiano Ronaldo, criticised in some quarters for his off-the-ball work ethic, was dropped to the bench and United appeared to press with much greater purpose than they generally did under Solskjaer, though Carrick seemed to suggest it was a mere coincidence rather than a plan hatched by Rangnick.

    Asked by BBC Sport if Rangnick had influenced their set-up, Carrick said: "No, that's not the case."

    Instead, the approach was based on an acceptance that United would have to graft for any form of positive result.

    "To come away disappointed and to feel like you have left something out there is a positive," Carrick said. "That intent and that hunger summed us up today. We knew it wasn't going to be free-flowing football at times, but we were prepared to dig in."

    United took the lead early in the second half with one of just three shots they had over the match – Jadon Sancho seized on a Jorginho error before beating Edouard Mendy, though the Italy midfielder later made amends from the penalty spot.

    "I don't think it was a penalty at all," Carrick said. "They have had a lot of shots, David [De Gea] had [some] saves, which we knew before the game he would have to make one or two.

    "Other than that, I have felt quite comfortable in the game. Of course, we want to be better. I'm not getting carried away, but I thought we defended well. I cannot fault the boys one bit."

    While Carrick might have felt Chelsea did not offer much, expected goals (xG) data suggests the Blues would have been worthy winners, creating chances worth 2.54 xG to United's 0.82.

    This was not lost on De Gea, who made four of his five saves in the first half, though the in-form Spanish goalkeeper considered the bigger picture.

    "On the pitch, in the goal, I was feeling danger for nearly the whole game," De Gea told Sky Sports. "We defended well, they missed big chances as well, and then once they gave us a chance and we score.

    "It is not enough to draw but, at the moment, with the way we are, it is a big point. The last games before, we were conceding three or four goals.

    "Now we concede one from a penalty, and a clean sheet against Villarreal. We are improving, but this is just two games. We need to show it in the games that are coming.

    "We were playing very poor. At least now we are defending well. We are fighting for every ball. I think that's good. Like I say, I'm proud of the team, we are fighting for every ball, but that's the minimum for Manchester United players."

  • Tuchel aims to 'steal back' points Chelsea dropped in Man Utd draw Tuchel aims to 'steal back' points Chelsea dropped in Man Utd draw

    Thomas Tuchel declared himself "absolutely happy" with Chelsea's performance against Manchester United and promised to "steal back" the points they dropped in a 1-1 draw.

    Premier League leaders Chelsea moved only a point clear of Manchester City after they were held at home on Sunday.

    Jadon Sancho pounced on a Jorginho error to score his first Premier League goal, before the Chelsea midfielder responded by converting an equalising penalty.

    This was a second consecutive home game in which Chelsea have failed to deliver maximum points, also drawing 1-1 with Burnley.

    Frustratingly for Tuchel, the United match followed the pattern of the Burnley game in that Chelsea dominated; across those games, the Blues have attempted 49 shots and faced just eight while taking 100 touches in the opposition penalty area.

    "We cannot be surprised. Things like this happen," the coach told Sky Sports.

    "It's happened now twice to us that we invest so much and we play such good games against Burnley and Man United and feel a bit disappointed, because we feel we did by far enough and pushed the limits and pushed the standards to win these games.

    "Over a long season, you drop points and you dig in and you try to steal them back if somebody steals points from you. This is what we do.

    "We don't count the points, when we are four up or one down or whatever. We are in the middle of the race, and this is where we want to be. From there, we go."

    Tuchel said he could "not at all" see the influence of Ralf Rangnick – his mentor, set to be appointed at Old Trafford – in United's play and was also "not at all" surprised by the visitors' performance.

    Of his own side, he said: "I'm happy, absolutely happy. I was happy to coach the team, I saw a huge effort, big intensity.

    "We had so many ball recoveries in the opponents' half, put the pressure up high. We controlled the counter-attacks before they started. We were brave and courageous.

    "They defended deep and you need maybe the first goal to open it a bit and to gain the last per cent of maybe freedom and confidence to have follow-ups and goals and big chances.

    "If you don't score, you always run a bit behind, because you feel that you're the stronger team, you play in the opponents' half.

    "We had two or three big chances that we should have maybe used, but in general I'm very happy, because I like the way we played."

    Chelsea are now winless in eight against United in the Premier League, their second-longest such league sequence in this fixture.

    It was the fifth time the Blues have hosted United as the Premier League leaders, winning three and losing one of the previous four. The three victories were followed by title triumphs.

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