EPL

Premier League data dive: Tottenham take top spot as Fernandes ends wait for Man Utd home win

By Sports Desk November 22, 2020

Pole position in this unpredictable Premier League season changed hands twice on Saturday as Jose Mourinho's Tottenham moved to the summit.

Leicester City – not in action until Sunday – started the day on top of the pile, but victories for Chelsea and then Spurs saw the Foxes nudged down to third.

Elsewhere, Manchester United belatedly got up and running at Old Trafford, while Brighton and Hove Albion also triumphed.

We reflect on another topsy-turvy day of top-flight action with the aid of Opta data.

 

Newcastle United 0-2 Chelsea: Tammy and Timo team up

Chelsea had taken top spot in the day's early fixture thanks to a 2-0 success at St James' Park, their 26th Premier League win over Newcastle United.

It was a familiar sinking feeling for Newcastle and Federico Fernandez, who put through his own net for the opener. The former Argentina defender has scored a joint-high five own goals since his 2014 top-flight debut, while this was the Magpies' fifth home defeat in seven.

Tammy Abraham wrapped up victory with his 23rd goal in all competitions since the start of last season, 11 more than any other Chelsea player.

Timo Werner could not get on the scoresheet despite a host of chances but teed up Abraham's strike, his 11th goal involvement in his past 10 appearances in all competitions.

Edouard Mendy was scarcely troubled at the other end and kept his seventh Chelsea clean sheet in nine games. The Blues have three in a row away in the Premier League.

 

Aston Villa 1-2 Brighton and Hove Albion: More Welbeck woe for hosts

Brighton landed their second Premier League win of the season and just their fifth in 27 attempts as Aston Villa went down 2-1 at home.

It should have come as no surprise to see Danny Welbeck break the deadlock, however, as he netted his fifth top-flight goal against Villa, a career high. Only Robbie Fowler (five) has more Premier League strikes at Villa Park as a visiting player than Welbeck's four.

Ezri Konsa responded, a league-high ninth set-piece goal conceded by Brighton this term, before Solly March's fine strike earned the points despite Tariq Lamptey's late red card.

England's Jack Grealish was the subject of praise during the international break and of Brighton's attentions on Saturday. He was fouled seven times and has earned at least one foul in each of his past 102 league appearances.

 

Tottenham 2-0 Manchester City: A night for Spurs to savour from the summit

Tottenham finished a day on top of the Premier League for the first time since August 2014 after beating Manchester City 2-0 at home.

And not since January 1985 had Spurs enjoyed the view from the summit overnight in the top flight after at least nine games of a season.

They were set on their way by Son Heung-min's fifth goal in his past five games against City in all competitions, arriving after just four minutes and 19 seconds – the earliest City have conceded in the Premier League since Theo Walcott netted after four minutes and six seconds in December 2016.

The second – created by Harry Kane's ninth assist of the campaign – came courtesy of Giovani Lo Celso, just 35 seconds after his arrival as a substitute. The only other Tottenham player to score within a minute of coming off the bench in the league since 2006-07 was Lucas Moura in August 2019, also against City.

City lacked the same clinical touch and have lost consecutive games against Spurs without scoring despite attempting 41 shots across the two fixtures.

 

Manchester United 1-0 West Brom:  Home comforts return for Red Devils

United were aided by penalty controversy as they defeated West Brom 1-0 to finally win at home in the Premier League this season, their first such victory in seven attempts going back to last term.

An apparent foul on Conor Gallagher looked to have given the Baggies a chance from 12 yards, but that decision was overturned on review and United instead had a spot-kick following a handball. Bruno Fernandes' attempt was saved, only for a re-take to be granted and dispatched.

That strike was United's first home league goal in 324 minutes – since Fernandes' penalty against Tottenham – and proved enough for a much-needed success.

It was perhaps inevitable a spot-kick should provide the Red Devils' salvation, as 16 per cent of their Premier League goals since the start of last season – including seven of Fernandes' 14 – have been penalties.

West Brom had not been beaten on their previous two trips to Old Trafford but have now failed to win any of their opening nine games to a league season for the first time since 1985-86.

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    Six members of Lyon's Champions League-winning team, plus their coach, have been nominated for The Best FIFA Football Awards for 2020.

    Lyon won a fifth consecutive European crown in August, beating Wolfsburg in the final, and they are unsurprisingly set to be at the forefront of FIFA's end-of-year awards ceremony.

    Of the 11 players on the shortlist for The Best FIFA Women's Player, five played for Lyon last season.

    Lucy Bronze - third in this category last year and second in the 2019 Ballon d'Or Feminin - has since moved on to Manchester City but makes the cut alongside a host of former team-mates.

    Dzsenifer Marozsan was second in 2018, the same year she finished third for the Ballon d'Or, and will now compete against Delphine Cascarino, Saki Kumagai and Wendie Renard.

    Chelsea have three contenders in Pernille Harder (signed from Wolfsburg), Ji So-yun and Sam Kerr, while Caroline Graham Hansen and Jennifer Hermoso represent Barcelona. Viviane Miedema is in for Arsenal.

    Such is the depth of Lyon's squad that Ada Hegerberg - the 2018 Ballon d'Or winner, then third behind Marozsan in the FIFA voting - is not in the running this year having been out since January with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.

    Although Lyon have continued to win regardless, their four-year, 80-game unbeaten Division 1 Feminine streak was ended by Paris Saint-Germain last week.

    Sarah Bouhaddi, who conceded the only goal in that game, is up for The Best FIFA Women's Goalkeeper as the sixth Lyon player honoured.

    She is up against Ann-Katrin Berger, Christiane Endler, Hedvig Lindahl, Alyssa Naeher and Ellie Roebuck.

    The French giants' Jean-Luc Vasseur is among seven nominees for The Best FIFA Women's Coach after a successful first season in charge at OL.

    Future England coach Sarina Wiegman, the 2017 award winner who finished second in the subsequent two years, is also in contention.

    Lluis Cortes, Rita Guarino, Emma Hayes, Stephan Lerch and Hege Riise are the others under consideration.

  • Lewandowski the leading contender for FIFA award but Haaland looks a future winner Lewandowski the leading contender for FIFA award but Haaland looks a future winner

    Robert Lewandowski is among the leading contenders for The Best FIFA Men's Player in 2020 after he was named among 11 nominees on Wednesday.

    The Bayern Munich superstar fired his side to the treble in 2019-20 and has continued his outstanding form at the start of the new season.

    With no Ballon d'Or this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, FIFA's award represents Lewandowski's best chance of recognition for a standout year.

    He has tough competition in the form of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and four Liverpool players, but the 32-year-old must surely be considered the frontrunner.

    Lewandowski's potential success in this category would be built on Bayern's Champions League triumph and Opta data in that competition since the start of last season helps make his case.

    LEADING THE WAY

    Virgil van Dijk ran Messi close in 2019, but this year's top honour surely belongs to an attacker - particularly with the Liverpool centre-back and Sergio Ramos playing just eight and seven games respectively over this span due to injury and suspension.

    Lewandowski is therefore the obvious choice. He has scored 17 goals in 13 games; for contrast, Messi has six goals and Ronaldo five.

    The Poland international has benefited from playing at the forefront of a brilliant team, however, and has had by far the most shots of any player in this time.

    His 63 attempts outperform Messi's second-placed 48 by 15. Ronaldo is third with 47, with the leading five shot-takers all nominated as Mohamed Salah (42) and Kylian Mbappe (41) are next on that list.

    But Lewandowski has made the most of these opportunities, hitting the target 36 times - another high.

    The striker's shot conversion rate of 27.0 per cent far outstrips Salah (14.3 per cent), Neymar (13.3 per cent), Sadio Mane (12.5 per cent), Messi (also 12.5 per cent), Mbappe (12.2 per cent) and Ronaldo (10.6 per cent).

    For balance, Ramos is the leading scorer among defenders in this period, netting three goals.

    MISSED THE CUT

    Although Thiago Alcantara, who has since departed for Liverpool, was included, it was perhaps slightly surprising to see only two members of Bayern's treble-winning team make the list.

    The players who created Lewandowski's opportunities went unrewarded.

    Joshua Kimmich has a joint-high seven assists and has created the most chances of any player with 38. Thomas Muller played 31 key passes.

    Similarly, at Paris Saint-Germain, where Neymar and Mbappe are considered, Angel Di Maria supplied six assists, 24 chances and 12 big chances.

    One admission who will surely make the cut in the years to come is Erling Haaland, widely considered the heir to Lewandowski's crown as the Bundesliga's leading marksman.

    The 20-year-old Borussia Dortmund man, who was named the 2020 Golden Boy, is the only player to come close to Lewandowski's level of productivity in the Champions League.

    Despite playing the first half of last season at Salzburg, who did not qualify from their group, Haaland has 16 goals in just 12 games.

    Serge Gnabry, another team-mate of Lewandowski's, is third for goals behind the pair but has a relatively modest nine.

    Of Haaland's 40 shots, 24 have hit the target - a tally beaten only by Lewandowski and matched by Messi (from eight more attempts). A shot conversion rate of 40 per cent is the best mark of any player with 40 or more shots.

    This might well be Lewandowski's year, but the future is not far away.

  • Van de Beek believes deeper role worked well in Man Utd victory Van de Beek believes deeper role worked well in Man Utd victory

    Donny van de Beek believes his deployment in a deeper role worked well as Manchester United thrashed Istanbul Basaksehir in the Champions League.

    United won 4-1 at Old Trafford on Tuesday, with Bruno Fernandes' early double added to by strikes from Marcus Rashford and substitute Daniel James.

    With the superb Fernandes causing havoc in the number 10 role, Van de Beek played as a holding midfielder alongside Fred.

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's use of the Netherlands international has been a subject of intense debate given he is yet to start a Premier League game but the 23-year-old has played in all four continental matches, starting three.

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    While he enjoys playing in a more advanced position, Van de Beek also feels comfortable in a deeper role and believes the system was a good one.

    "It worked really well," Van de Beek, a £40million signing from Ajax, said to MUTV.

    "Some games I play number 10 and sometimes the coach needs me in the control position.

    "That is fine for me because before, when I played at Ajax, I was playing in those positions, so it is okay.

    "It was a good reaction from the away game. To win 4-1 at home I think you can be happy. The first half was really good especially the first 30 minutes and we played nice football and scored nice goals.

    "In the second half we lost too many balls and gave them some chances but the last five minutes we controlled the game again."

    A third straight win in all competitions for United avenged their defeat in Turkey earlier this month and put them three points clear at the top of Group H.

    They have now won their last seven home games in European competition by an aggregate score of 24-2.

    "It is not finished but we are in a good position," added Van de Beek, with United sitting ahead of Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig.

    "We need to keep working and everything will be fine. We now have eyes on the weekend [against Southampton]."

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