EPL

Premier League data dive: Ronaldo hat-trick helps Man Utd overcome Norwich, Tottenham and Arsenal slip up

By Sports Desk April 16, 2022

With Manchester City and Liverpool facing off in the FA Cup on Saturday, the Premier League's attention turned to the race for a top-four spot.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick as Manchester United beat Norwich City 3-2, with the Red Devils taking full advantage of 1-0 defeats for Tottenham and Arsenal against Brighton and Hove Albion and Southampton respectively.

Elsewhere, Watford's slim survival hopes were dealt a blow as they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Brentford.  

Stats Perform takes a look at some key Opta facts from the day's games.

Manchester United 3-2 Norwich City: Ronaldo racks up yet another treble

Ralf Rangnick's side delivered another disjointed performance at Old Trafford, yet they did enough to secure a 13th win in their past 16 Premier League games against the Canaries.

Ronaldo was the star of the show, the Portuguese superstar plundering the 60th hat-trick of his professional career for club and country.

The 37-year-old has now scored 20 or more goals across all competitions in each of his past 16 seasons at club level – a run that started in the 2006-07 campaign during his first spell at United.

His first goal was teed up by Anthony Elanga, who is 17 years and 81 days younger than Ronaldo. It is the greatest age gap between a United goalscorer and the player who assisted him in Premier League history.

Teemu Pukki had given Norwich hope of a memorable result when he pulled the visitors level at 2-2 from 2-0 down, the Finland international becoming the first Canaries player to score 10 or more goals in two different Premier League campaigns (11 in 2019-20 and 10 in 2021-22).

As is so often the way, though, Ronaldo had the last word.

Tottenham 0-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Seagulls leave it late to edge out blunt hosts

Spurs missed the chance to strengthen their grip on fourth position as they suffered a third home defeat in their past six home Premier League games – as many as in their previous 14 on home soil.

Despite starting with the in-from trio of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Dejan Kulusevski in attack, Spurs did not manage a single shot on target. It was the first time they had failed to do so in 21 Premier League games, since November last year against Everton.

Brighton's winner came in the 90th minute through Leandro Trossard, who has now scored six goals in the top flight this season – his best-ever season return in the competition.

Graham Potter's side have now won consecutive away league games for the first time since September 2021 and are unbeaten in three Premier League games, winning the last two, after losing each of the six before that.

Southampton 1-0 Arsenal: Wasteful Gunners punished by Saints

Arsenal missed the chance to pull level on points with Tottenham after a third consecutive Premier League defeat, having lost just two of their previous 13.

The Gunners dominated at St Mary's, taking 23 shots and enjoying 76 per cent possession. There have been 11 instances of a team failing to score having taken 20 or more shots in a Premier League match this season, with Arsenal responsible for three of those.

They were undone by Jan Bednarek's goal on the stroke of half-time, the first they have conceded from a corner situation in the top flight this season.

Bednarek has now scored four goals in 27 Premier League games this season, which is one more than he scored in his previous four campaigns combined (three in 100 appearances).

Watford 1-2 Brentford: Hornets' miserable home run continues

Pontus Jansson's 95th-minute winner for Brentford meant Watford became only the third team to lose 10 consecutive top-flight home games in a row, after Birmingham City in February 1986 and Sunderland in August 2005.

Alongside Birmingham, they are only the second to do so within a single season.

That run means Hornets boss Roy Hodgson is the first manager to lose his first five home Premier League games in charge of a club since Chris Ramsey with QPR in 2015.

Brentford, meanwhile, have won five of their last six Premier League games (L1) and have won three top-flight games in a row for the first time since September 1946.

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    At the end of February 2022, Leeds United bosses had seen enough.

    "This has been the toughest decision I have had to make," said chairman Andrea Radrizzani at the time.

    Leeds had taken just one point from six games, leaving them only two points above the relegation zone. A 4-0 home defeat by Tottenham was the final straw for Marcelo Bielsa, who was dismissed on February 27. 

    At the beginning of February 2023, Leeds United bosses had again seen enough as they parted company with Bielsa's successor Jesse Marsch.

    Leeds have taken just three points from their past seven games, leaving them level on points with Everton in the final relegation spot, albeit having played a game fewer than the three teams below them.

    Unlike Bielsa, who ended the club's long wait to get back into the Premier League and then guided them to a ninth-placed finish in their first season back, Marsch never truly won over the fanbase.

    Whereas Bielsa had murals dedicated to him all over west Yorkshire throughout his time in change, with his exit doing little to impact the esteem he's held in around Leeds, Marsch's year in charge will likely soon be a distant memory.

    Indeed, the 95-word statement put out by the club on Monday confirming his departure – with no comment from Radrizzani or his peers – was as brutal as it was damning.

    And so Leeds are now on the lookout for a new man to keep them in the division, with Carlos Corberan – who has impressed in his four months at West Brom – the early frontrunner to take charge.

    Bielsa is also reportedly among the contenders to succeed the man who succeeded him, while Mauricio Pochettino, Ange Postecoglou and Ralph Hasenhuttl have been touted as other options.

    New manager bounce?

    Pulling the plug on Marsch's tenure was a big call by Leeds chiefs, coming in the same week they face Manchester United in back-to-back Premier League games.

    It will be only the second time in the competition's history that the same two teams have met in successive games, following Arsenal's 2-0 and 4-2 wins over Bolton Wanderers in January 2010.

    Leeds are in a race against time to bring a new man in before the first of those games at Old Trafford on Wednesday, although they then have a further four days ahead of welcoming their fierce rivals back to Elland Road.

    As it stands, Marsch's assistant Chris Armas, who previously worked as Ralf Rangnick's right-hand man at Old Trafford last season, is expected to oversee the midweek match in Manchester.

    A new manager bounce would come in handy for at least one of those games. In the view of many Leeds fans, simply having anyone other than Marsch in the dugout will boost their chances of getting a result.

    Whether it be a caretaker or a permanent head coach, though, history suggests bringing in someone new ahead of playing United very rarely pays off.

    Of the 16 previous occasions a manager or caretaker has taken charge of his first Premier League match against United, the Red Devils have won 12 times, drawn once and lost only three times.

    However, the most recent such instance was just three months ago when Unai Emery inspired Aston Villa to a 3-1 home win against Erik ten Hag's side, ending United's nine-match winning run in such encounters.

    Emery joins an elite list that also includes Alan Curbishley and a certain Jose Mourinho, who masterminded wins over United in their first Premier League games in charge of West Ham and Chelsea respectively.

    Little joy for Leeds

    Perhaps a more telling statistic, though, is the one that highlights just how badly Leeds have performed in this fixture down the years, regardless of who has been at the helm.

    Leeds have won only one of their past 17 Premier League games against the team from across the Pennines, with that a 1-0 victory in September 2002.

    That winless run goes back even further when only accounting for top-flight matches played at Old Trafford, where they were last victorious in February 1981. 

    Returning to the elite after 16 years away has done little to change the one-sided nature of this fixture, with Leeds losing three of their four meetings over the past two campaigns and drawing the other.

    The 15 goals they have conceded against United in 6-2 5-1 and 4-2 defeats are second only to the 16 shipped against Manchester City over that same period.

    Furthermore, since the start of last season, Leeds have taken just one point from their eight games against sides starting the day in the top three.

    Marsch or not, this was always going to be a match in which the odds were stacked massively against Leeds, particularly with their opponents on a 13-game winning streak at Old Trafford in all competitions.

    That is the Red Devils' best run since a record 20 wins in a row between December 2010 and September 2011.

    Plenty to play for

    Ending that barren run will go a long way to boosting Leeds' survival hopes, although ultimately whoever comes in will have 16 matches after this week's unique double-header to steer the Whites to safety.

    Without a win in seven Premier League games, with that the longest ongoing run of any side, it hardly came as a big surprise to see Marsch given his marching orders on the back of 1-0 loss at Nottingham Forest.

    The American departs with a Premier League win percentage of 25 across his 32 matches, which is the second-lowest of any Leeds boss in the division after Eddie Gray (24 per cent).

    Another new era now beckons at Elland Road, and whoever it is that replaces Marsch will have their work cut out in the short term keeping Leeds above the dotted line.

    Whether that can be achieved remains to be seen. But if we have learned anything about Leeds throughout the Premier League era, it is that it will certainly make for entertaining viewing either way.

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    There is concern for Hatayspor winger Christian Atsu following devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

    The tremors have killed more than 2,000 people, and reports suggest search and rescue teams are still looking for Atsu, along with his club's sporting director Taner Savut.

    Atsu, 31, scored a stoppage-time winner for Hatayspor in Sunday's Super Lig game against Kasimpasa.

    The Ghana Football Association was seeking to make contact with Hatayspor as news was awaited on the player's wellbeing.

    "We pray for Ghana international Christian Atsu and victims of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria," a Twitter post said.

    "We continue with our efforts to establish contact with officials of Hatayspor and the Turkish Football Federation, considering the difficult situation.

    "Our thoughts and prayers are with Christian Atsu and our brothers and sisters in Turkey and Syria. We remain hopeful for positive news."

    Newcastle United, who Atsu represented for five years, playing 121 times, posted: "Praying for some positive news, @ChristianAtsu20."

    Several leading players have shared their support for those affected in Turkey and Syria.

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    Neymar has returned to full training with Paris Saint-Germain in a big boost for the French giants ahead of three big matches across the next week.

    The Brazil international has not featured in PSG's past two games – league wins over Montpellier and Toulouse – due to suffering from muscular fatigue.

    However, Neymar is now in contention to return for Wednesday's Classique against Marseille at Stade Velodrome in the last 16 of the Coupe de France.

    Ligue 1 leaders PSG then face fourth-placed Monaco in the league on Saturday, before hosting Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie next week.

    PSG posted an image of Neymar in training on Monday, while fellow recent injury absentee Sergio Ramos was also present.

    Kylian Mbappe is expected to miss at least the first leg of that showdown with Bayern, however, with the prolific forward still nursing a thigh injury.

    Prior to his short lay-off, Neymar – who celebrated his 31st birthday on Sunday – had scored 17 goals and assisted 14 more in 25 appearances this season.

    Those 31 goal involvements put Neymar level with team-mate Mbappe and behind only Manchester City's Erling Haaland (34) among players from Europe's top five leagues.

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