Is it time to ring the changes after a poor start or stick with the players who got you off to a flying start?

If you picked Bruno Fernandes for the opening round of Premier League fixtures, the Manchester United midfielder delivered with interest as he scored a stunning hat-trick against Leeds United.

Whether your team is sitting pretty or languishing in the lower reaches of the league, you have no doubt spent this week pondering potential selections.

Using Opta data, here are Stats Perform's Fantasy Picks that can rack up the points.

 

EDOUARD MENDY (Arsenal v Chelsea)

Edouard Mendy started the campaign with a clean sheet as Chelsea cruised to a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace.

The European champions face another London derby at Arsenal on Sunday and Mendy can ensure the Gunners fire a blank.

Since Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard in January, Mendy has kept more clean sheets than any other top-flight goalkeeper with 10. His clean sheet record of 53 per cent from 32 matches is the best in Premier League history for those who have played at least 10 games.

 

KIERAN TIERNEY (Arsenal v Chelsea)

Arsenal were beaten 2-0 by newly promoted Brentford in the first game of the campaign.

Mikel Arteta could have no complaints over Kieran Tierney's performance, with the marauding full-back creating six chances.

That was more than any other player in the opening round of fixtures and he can pose questions of the Chelsea defence in the London derby.

 

AARON CRESSWELL (West Ham v Leicester City)

West Ham defender Aaron Cresswell made a great start to the campaign and scored in a 4-2 victory at Newcastle United.

Cresswell has played a big part in the Hammers' success under David Moyes and is definitely one to consider picking for their home clash with Leicester City.

Since the start of last season, Cresswell has provided more assists (eight) than any other defender in the competition. No player has been involved in more goals than his tally of nine.

 

JOE WILLOCK (Aston Villa v Newcastle United)

Newcastle fans were delighted when Joe Willock returned to the club from Arsenal on a permanent deal following a successful loan spell last season.

Willock was not involved in a home loss to the Hammers, but can hit the ground running at Aston Villa.

The midfielder could become only the fourth player to score in eight consecutive Premier League games after ending last season in sensational form.

 

KEVIN DE BRUYNE (Manchester City v Norwich City)

Midfield maestro Kevin De Bruyne was restricted to a late substitute appearance as champions Manchester City were beaten at Tottenham last weekend.

Norwich City will be hoping the Belgium playmaker plays a limited role again, as he can cause all sorts of trouble if Pep Guardiola unleashes him from the start.

De Bruyne has been involved in five goals in four games against the Canaries, scoring three and setting up two. He has scored four and assisted seven in his past eight appearances versus newly promoted teams.

KELECHI IHEANACHO (West Ham v Leicester City)

Striker Kelechi Iheanacho was another player who started the Premier League as a substitute but he can make a big impact at West Ham.

He has been involved in four goals in his past four appearances against the Hammers, netting three times and providing an assist.

Iheanacho has enjoyed capital gains, scoring in his last three appearances in London.

 

ROBERTO FIRMINO (Liverpool v Burnley)

Brazil striker Roberto Firmino was on target in Liverpool's comfortable opening-day win at Norwich.

He has fond memories of coming up against Burnley, scoring five times and setting up a goal in his past six appearances versus the Clarets.

Firmino opened the scoring in a 3-0 victory at Turf Moor when the two sides last met in May and can strike again at Anfield.

Newcastle United midfielder Joe Willock has revealed he considered quitting social media due to the racist abuse he has been subjected to online.

Willock, who completed a permanent move from Arsenal to Newcastle last week, says more must be done to prevent individuals from sending such vile messages.

"Every day I get messages," Willock told BBC Radio Newcastle. "Messages saying about my colour or different things that are disgusting, really.

"There's not much you can do - you just have to try and ignore it. I don't think Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have put up enough of a fight for us to do anything else.

"I feel like the only thing you can do in this day and age is just ignore it and try to put it at the back of your head.

"It comes up on your phone and they have a way of direct messaging you on to your phone these disgusting things and it sort of hurts. It hurts a lot - even speaking about it."

He added: "If you come off social media, you lose that connection with all the wonderful fans that are supporting you every day, want to see your everyday life and see what you do and have that connection with you over the platform that they wouldn't have in real life."

Willock spent the second half of 2020-21 on loan at St James' Park and scored eight goals in 14 Premier League appearances for Steve Bruce's side.

The 21-year-old had netted only once in 40 Premier League games for the Gunners before his move to Newcastle, for whom he scored 16 minutes into his debut at home to Southampton.

Willock had an outstanding end to the campaign with goals in successive appearances against Tottenham, West Ham, Liverpool, Leicester City, Manchester City and Sheffield United to become the youngest player to net in six consecutive Premier League games.

Arsenal have sold midfielder Joe Willock to Newcastle United for a fee reported to be in the region of £25million.

Willock spent the second half of 2020-21 on loan at St James' Park and scored eight goals in 14 Premier League appearances for Steve Bruce's side.

The 21-year-old had netted only once in 40 Premier League games for the Gunners before his move to Newcastle, for whom he scored 16 minutes into his debut at home to Southampton.

Willock had an outstanding end to the campaign with goals in successive appearances against Tottenham, West Ham, Liverpool, Leicester City, Manchester City and Sheffield United to become the youngest player to net in six consecutive Premier League games.

In scoring on the final day of the season against Fulham, he matched Alan Shearer (in 1996) as the only Newcastle players to score in seven matches in a row in the competition – a record streak Willock could own outright with a strike on his second Magpies bow.

Bruce made no secret of his desire to keep Willock on a permanent basis but has had to bide his time as the former England youth international has featured sparingly for Arsenal in pre-season.

Willock becomes Newcastle's first signing of the transfer window, penning a "long-term" contract, which Bruce revealed to span six years. He did not join in time to face West Ham on Sunday.

WHY ARE ARSENAL SELLING WILLOCK?

Mikel Arteta's decision to cash in on Willock is a curious one given Arsenal lack the same sort of goal threat from midfield.

A scoring rate of one every 122.5 minutes for Newcastle ranked Willock third in the Premier League last season among players with multiple goals, behind Gareth Bale (83.9 mins) and Kelechi Iheanacho (121.3).

Meanwhile, no Arsenal midfielder netted more than Bukayo Saka's five goals in 32 matches. The Gunners last had a midfielder score eight in a season when Mesut Ozil matched that number in 33 2016-17 outings – before that, it was Aaron Ramsey (10 in 23) in 2013-14.

Even if Willock was not a guaranteed starter at Emirates Stadium, behind Emile Smith Rowe in the pecking order, his record as a substitute for Newcastle was hugely impressive.

The midfielder scored three goals in three appearances from the bench, averaging a goal every 15.7 minutes as a sub. Only 10 different Arsenal players have netted three or more times as a substitute across a single Premier League season.

However, Willock's exit appears to boost Arteta's hopes of bringing in a new signing in a similar position.

Leicester City's James Maddison and Martin Odegaard of Real Madrid – on loan at Arsenal last season – have both been linked and are far more effective creators than Willock.

Maddison last season created 2.2 chances per 90 minutes, including 0.3 'big chances', for an expected assists (xA) total of 0.15 per 90. His passing accuracy into the final third was 76.5 per cent.

Similarly, Odegaard, at Arsenal, created 2.1 chances, including 0.1 'big chances', for 0.20 xA per 90, completing 87.0 per cent of his passes into the final third.

For Newcastle, Willock created only 0.7 chances per 90 and no 'big chances', with an xA of 0.06 per 90, while his accuracy with passes into the final third was 68.8 per cent.

Lionel Messi has officially left Barcelona following Sunday's press conference and farewell.

Paris Saint-Germain have been widely linked with a move for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

The Argentina international admitted that a move to PSG was a possibility but said nothing was confirmed.

TOP STORY - MONDAY PSG MEDICAL FOR MESSI

Messi is scheduled to have a medical with PSG on Monday before he completes his free transfer move from Barcelona, according to L'Equipe.

The Argentina international bid farewell to Barcelona on Sunday and the Parisians appear the frontrunners to sign him.

The report says PSG and Messi have almost agreed to all the final details of the contract, with ESPN claiming he will be unveiled at a special ceremony at the Eiffel Tower this week.

 

ROUND-UP

- Inter are targeting Anthony Martial as they look to replace Romelu Lukaku, who is expected to join Chelsea, reports The Sun. Manchester United are believed to be ready to sell him for £50million. Inter want Martial initially on a season-long loan.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Jose Mourinho's Roma are plotting a move to sign French striker Alexandre Lacazette from Arsenal. The stumbling block may be that Lacazette wants to play Champions League football, which Roma cannot offer this season.

- Arsenal are lining up a move for Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic if they cannot land Tammy Abraham from Chelsea, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. The Serbian scored 21 league goals for Fiorentina last term.

- Arsenal and Newcastle have agreed to a fee of £25m for English midfielder Joe Willock, claims Sky Sports. Willock spent the second half of last season on loan with the Magpies.

- The Sun claims that Southampton are trying to lure Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain back to the club on loan from Liverpool.

 

Jack Grealish has been linked with a move away from Aston Villa in the past, and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is a known long-term admirer.

Grealish is currently on holidays after Euro 2020, but talks of a huge transfer to City have not gone away.

Could the Premier League champions be about to make their move?

 

MAN CITY SET TO TABLE GREALISH BID

Manchester City are set to officially commence their move for Aston Villa's Jack Grealish with a £75m bid, claims the Daily Mail.

According to the report, Villa will hold out for £100m for their star England international.

Villa have no desire to sell Grealish for anything less and will know Guardiola is keen to secure his services.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea have opened talks with Sevilla about potentially signing French centre-back Jules Kounde, according to The Guardian. The 22-year-old has a release clause worth €80m (£68.4m).

- Arsenal have enquired with Inter about star forward Lautaro Martinez, reports the Telegraph. It is believed Inter may be willing to sell the Argentina striker for €90m (£77m).

- Eurosport reports that West Ham are interested in a move for Manchester United defender Phil Jones who has struggled with injury in recent times.

- Newcastle are closing in on a deal for Arsenal's Joe Willock, and it could be finalised  within the next 48 hours after his loan stint last season, claims Mail Online.

- Liverpool may sign Wolves' Spanish winger Adama Traore in a cut-price £30m deal, according to the Star.

All indications are Raphael Varane is set to move on from Real Madrid. 

The France international appears locked in on one destination. 

Manchester United are said to be close to a deal for the defender. 

 

TOP STORY – UNITED CLOSE TO VARANE MOVE

Manchester United have been linked to Raphael Varane in transfer rumours for months. 

Now it appears the move could come to fruition, as Marca reports United and Real Madrid are close to a €50million (£42m) agreement. 

Though the Mirror reports some at the Premier League club are worried the 28-year-old is merely using them to get a better deal out of Madrid, Fabrizio Romano says United are "confident" a deal is close and that no other clubs are involved. 

 

ROUND-UP

– With his Arsenal contract set to expire next year, Alexandre Lacazette is in demand, and Calciomercato says Atletico Madrid are pondering a potential €15m offer. 

Erik Lamela is set to join Sevilla in a swap deal, with Tottenham getting Bryan Gil, Marca says, while Romano says Spurs will also get €25m in the deal and Gil will sign through 2026.  

Newcastle are eyeing Ross Barkley as a potential addition if they cannot pry Joe Willock away from Arsenal, says The Athletic, with a loan move for Leicester's Hamza Choudhury also a possibility.

West Ham could make a move for Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, says the Express. 

Ben White's £50m move from Brighton to Arsenal will be official next week, reports Romano. 

Paris Saint-Germain have had talks with Kalidou Koulibaly's agent about a move from Napoli, reports Corriere dello Sport. 

Roma have offered €15m for Barcelona's Clement Lenglet, says Sport. 

Manchester City's pursuit of a new striker is well known.

Sergio Aguero's exit has left a void for the Premier League champions.

City have been linked with a host of big names including Erling Haaland and Harry Kane.

 

TOP STORY - MAN CITY MONITORING LEWANDOWSKI

Manchester City are monitoring the status of Bundesliga top scorer Robert Lewandowski, according to the Daily Mail.

Lewandowski has two years remaining on his Bayern Munich deal but has previously indicated he may be open to a move elsewhere.

The report claims City are worried they may not succeed in their pursuit of Kane and see 32-year-old Lewandowski as an option given his quality and potentially lower asking price.

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool is readying a £60million (€70m) bid for Inter and Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella according to La Repubblica. However, Fabrizio Romano claims Inter will not sell him.

- Everton have submitted a £30m (€35m) bid for Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, but the Italian club have told the Toffees to double the offer, claims Calciomercato.

- The Telegraph reports that England full-back Kieran Trippier is desperate to return to the Premier League as he waits on a move from Atletico Madrid to Manchester United.

- The Telegraph also claims that Joe Willock will spend time on loan again at Newcastle from Arsenal. He will join the Magpies on a season-long deal.

- SPORT claims that Chelsea are tracking Sevilla's Jules Kounde after he recently rejected interest from Tottenham.

- Chelsea are looking to utilise Tammy Abraham as a sweetener in any deal to land Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, reports The Mirror.

- West Bromwich have turned down West Ham's offer for goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, claims The Athletic.

The Premier League race is run. A season that has seemingly been a never-ending story finally concluded on Sunday with the focus centred on the top four.

Chelsea lost but still ended up securing Champions League qualification, Liverpool won to astonishingly end an eventful campaign in third and poor Leicester City missed out after a crazy game at home to Tottenham as Harry Kane clinched the Golden Boot.

West Ham finish above Spurs in sixth to make the Europa League, while Manchester United ruined Nuno Espirito Santo's last game in charge of Wolves. There was yet another goal for Joe Willock, while David McGoldrick made sure he will no doubt be the subject of a pub quiz question in years to come.

Manchester City had clinched the title long ago, but a home game with Everton offered a chance for their returning fans to say farewell to a club legend.


Aston Villa 2-1 Chelsea: Tuchel slips up on the road as Blues lose

Thomas Tuchel's side held on to their top-four spot thanks to the result at the King Power Stadium, with the German coach able to celebrate despite suffering his first away defeat in the league since taking charge at Stamford Bridge.

Bertrand Traore scored the opener for Villa, in the process becoming the 25th different player to manage a Premier League goal against Chelsea having previously been at the Blues. Anwar El Ghazi doubled the lead with the 100th penalty scored in the competition this season, the first time a campaign has reached triple figures.

On the subject of penalties, Jorginho finished with the most goals for Chelsea in the league with seven – all from the spot. It is the lowest number for the club’s leading scorer in a top-flight season since 1974-75, when Ian Hutchinson also managed seven.

Liverpool 2-0 Crystal Palace: Mane helps Reds prosper at Anfield

Jurgen Klopp has now finished in the top four at the end of the five full seasons he has had in charge of the Reds, who handed their former boss Roy Hodgson a 2-0 defeat in his Palace swansong.

Sadio Mane got both goals, the second with the aid of a huge deflection. He has scored 10 or more in all seven of his Premier League campaigns, including his two with Southampton before moving to Anfield in June 2016.

Liverpool won their meetings with Palace by a combined 9-0 score; only against Ipswich in 2001-02 (11-0) have they enjoyed a bigger aggregate margin across two Premier League games in the same season. While he had no need to conjure up another last-gasp goal this time, Alisson Becker did manage to keep a clean sheet on his 100th league outing for Klopp's side.

Leicester City 2-4 Tottenham: Foxes run into trouble against Bale and Kane

Leicester spent 242 days in the Premier League's top four this term, only to end the final one sitting in fifth place. For a second successive year, a late loss of form has cost them a Champions League place.

A sixth defeat in 13 matches did not appear on the cards when they twice led against Spurs thanks to Jamie Vardy, who scored two penalties in a match for a third time this season. However, a Kasper Schmeichel own goal – his second in the top tier – levelled matters, with the visitors then moving clear in a frantic finish.

Gareth Bale scored twice late on in potentially his final game for Tottenham, but will Kane still be there when the transfer window shuts? The striker's 41st-minute effort lifted him to 23 for this term as he became only the third player to win the Golden Boot award as many as three times, following in the footsteps of Thierry Henry (four) and Alan Shearer (also three).

Aguero at the double, Willock matches Shearer (yes, really)

In scoring twice after coming on as a substitute, Aguero ended his City career as he had started it – with a brace off the bench (he had done just the same on debut against Swansea City, way back in August 2011). His double takes his final tally to 184 Premier League goals, in the process surpassing Wayne Rooney (183) for the most by a player for a single club.

As for Manchester United, a 2-1 triumph at Wolves sees them become just the fourth side to remain unbeaten away across an entire top-tier season, a feat most recently achieved by Arsenal in 2003-04. The current-day Gunners beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0, though still finished eighth for a second year in a row.

At Fulham, Willock was on target once more in a 2-0 win for Newcastle United. It means the on-loan Arsenal midfielder becomes only the second Newcastle player to score in seven consecutive Premier League appearances, after hall-of-famer Shearer in 1996.

West Ham secured a top-six finish for only the second time in the Premier League era thanks to a 3-0 win over a Southampton team who do not prosper on their travels – they ended up losing 10 of their 11 away fixtures in 2021, during which they leaked 33 goals and scored just seven times.

There was a win for Leeds United at home to West Brom, taking them up to 59 points – the most by a promoted club since Ipswich Town (66) in 2000-01. Sheffield United finished bottom, but at least signed off on a winning note. Striker McGoldrick grabbed the only goal against Burnley to earn his own place in history: it was the 1,000th scored in the Premier League during the 2020-21 season.

Joe Willock's hugely successful loan spell with Newcastle United concluded in typically impressive fashion on Sunday as he matched an Alan Shearer record.

The midfielder signed from Arsenal in January until the end of the season and has enjoyed an outstanding run of form.

Willock had scored only once in 40 Premier League appearances for the Gunners, but struck 16 minutes into his Newcastle debut against Southampton.

The loan man saved his best performances for the run-in, though, netting in consecutive appearances against Tottenham, West Ham, Liverpool, Leicester City, Manchester City and Sheffield United.

The goal against the Blades, securing a 1-0 win on Wednesday, made Willock the youngest player ever to score in six in a row in the competition.

And that run continued on Sunday against Fulham, as Willock's powerful run from deep on the right was only briefly disrupted on the edge of the area before he steered a low shot into the net.

Shearer, the Premier League's record goalscorer, is the only player to previously net in seven straight appearances in the competition for Newcastle. He did so between September and November 1996, shortly after his £15million world-record move from Blackburn Rovers.

Shearer responded to the latest goal in Willock's streak by posting on Twitter: "Yesssssss @Joewillock again. 7 on the spin."

Willock, who now has eight goals in 14 games for Newcastle, is expected to be a target for the Magpies in the transfer window, but Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said this week: "He will be back with us, we will have those conversations with him and plan the next step then."

Joe Willock has a bright future at Arsenal on the back of prolific loan spell at Newcastle United, says Gunners boss Mikel Arteta.

Willock headed the only goal as Newcastle beat Sheffield United 1-0 in midweek, becoming the youngest player in Premier League history to score in six consecutive appearances.

Those exploits mean he is the joint-top scorer in the division since the return from the March international break, alongside Chris Wood, Mason Greenwood, Matheus Pereira and Kelechi Iheanacho.

Newcastle are reportedly looking to make the move permanent, with a £20million fee mooted, while Willock said after Wednesday's win: "Hopefully there's more to continue in the future.

"I'm not going to promise anything, but the conversation is going to be held."

But Arteta, asked whether the attacking midfielder had a future to look forward to at Emirates Stadium, told a news conference: "Yes, and I'm really happy that things have gone so well for him because of the potential that he has.

"It was great for him to go away and have a different experience. He has grabbed that opportunity in a really positive and remarkable way.

"He will be back with us, we will have those conversations with him and plan the next step then."

Arsenal conclude a fairly forgettable campaign at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday, while the curtain on the Premier League career of one of the competition's all-time greats will come down elsewhere.

Arteta worked on the Manchester City coaching staff under Pep Guardiola for three-and-a-half seasons and paid a glowing tribute to Sergio Aguero, who is set to play his final league match as the division's all-time leading goalscorer from oversees when Everton visit the Etihad Stadium.

"I know from working with him – his character, his personality, he is a lovely man," he said.

"One of the best talents that I've seen, what he has done in this league for so long, scoring the amount of goals he has done.

"He changed the perception of English football in different countries.

"For Manchester City, I think again he was a big contributor to the change in history and mentality in the winning years that they had."

It all comes down to this.

Whether you're flying high at the top of your local leagues, battling for the top 100 nationally or just desperate not to lose face with friends, matchday 38 of the Premier League is a decisive moment for fantasy football players the world over.

Amid last-minute transfers, wildcards and triple-captaincies, it can be difficult to find true value in selections that could give you the edge over your rivals.

That's where we come in.

Using Opta data, we have compiled a final selection of seven recommended players to draft in for this most dramatic of weekends...

 

MARTIN DUBRAVKA

If you were considering a Newcastle United goalkeeper but just didn't have the guts previously, now is the time to be bold.

Martin Dubravka kept his first clean sheet of the season last time out as the Magpies beat Sheffield United 1-0.

Next up, they face another relegated side in Fulham, who have scored a league-low nine goals at home in the whole of 2020-21 – and only one since February.

 

AARON CRESSWELL

West Ham's unlikely quest for Europe looks set to end in success, and Aaron Cresswell has played no small part.

The full-back has recorded eight assists this season, the most of any defender in the division. The last time a West Ham player assisted more was when Dimitri Payet set up 12 goals in 2015-16.

The Hammers conclude their campaign at home to Southampton, who haven't beaten David Moyes' side in their most recent six attempts.

STUART DALLAS

Only Patrick Bamford (16) has scored more league goals for Leeds United this season than Stuart Dallas (eight).

On Sunday, Marcelo Bielsa's men host West Brom, who have the leakiest defence in the whole of the division, conceding 73 times in 37 matches.

Leeds are also unbeaten in four against the Baggies, winning three of those games by 10-0 on aggregate, while they have not lost a league game at home to this weekend's visitors since January 2007.

JESSE LINGARD

Part of the reason Jesse Lingard found getting regular football tricky at Manchester United was the arrival of Bruno Fernandes, so it's fitting he should be chasing a record held by the Portugal star.

Last season, Fernandes set a Premier League best by registering 15 goal involvements (eight scored, seven assisted) despite not appearing in the competition until as late as February.

Lingard, who made his Hammers debut on February 3, has recorded nine goals and four assists for Moyes' men, a tally bettered only by Kelechi Iheanacho (12 goals, two assists) over the same time frame. Two more direct goal involvements against Southampton would see Lingard match Fernandes' exploits in 2020.

 

JOE WILLOCK

With his midweek winner for Newcastle against Sheffield United, Joe Willock became the youngest player to score in six consecutive Premier League appearances.

Remarkably, the Arsenal loanee – who is being tipped for a permanent move to the Magpies – has the best minutes-per-goal rate (127) of any Newcastle player in the league this season with at least three goals.

Should he net against Fulham, Willock will become only the second player for the club to score in seven Premier League games in a row, after Alan Shearer in 1996.

HARRY KANE

Whether he stays at Tottenham or not, Harry Kane will be eager to get on the scoresheet at Leicester and boost his chances of claiming the Golden Boot.

His record against the Foxes is promising. Kane has managed 14 goals in 11 Premier League meetings with the team now bossed by Brendan Rodgers, more than he has scored against any other opposition. Those goals have come at an average of one every 65 minutes.

He has hit seven of those at the King Power Stadium, including four in one game in May 2017.

 

CHRISTIAN BENTEKE

Could Liverpool's top-four hopes be dashed by a former Reds player?

Christian Benteke has scored 10 league goals this term, his first double-figure return since he got 15 in 2016-17.

That season's haul included a double away to Liverpool in April and, throughout his career, Benteke has enjoyed facing his old employers: only Andy Cole (eight) has scored more Premier League goals as a visiting player at Anfield than Benteke (five in four games).

Joe Willock has claimed a piece of Premier League history by scoring for a sixth consecutive Newcastle United appearance.

The on-loan Arsenal midfielder headed Steve Bruce's men into a 1-0 lead on the stroke of half-time against relegated Sheffield United on Wednesday.

At 21 years and 272 days, Willock is the youngest player to score in six straight games in the competition.

He also puts himself in illustrious company as far as Newcastle are concerned. The only two other players to have netted for six appearances in a row for the Magpies are Alan Shearer in 1996 and Papiss Cisse in 2012.

Willock will have the opportunity to make it a magnificent seven when Newcastle travel to Fulham on the final day of the season.

Mikel Arteta insists Arsenal thought long and hard about sending Joe Willock out for his fruitful loan stint at Newcastle United.

Willock is ineligible to face his parent club when Newcastle host the Gunners at St James' Park on Sunday.

That in itself surely stands as a boost to Arteta, given Willock has come off the bench to score in each of Newcastle's past three Premier League games – strikes worth a total of four points to Steve Bruce's team, who are now nine points clear of the relegation zone with five matches remaining.

Willock is the first player to score on three consecutive substitute appearances in England's top flight since Adam Le Fondre did so for Reading in 2013.

Although his development is a boon to Arteta and others in north London, it is also possible to wonder what a player in such form might have done for an Arsenal side that have won just two of their past nine matches following Thursday's 2-1 Europa League semi-final first leg defeat at Villarreal.

"It was a difficult decision to let him go because we really like the player," Arteta said.

"But he needed more game-time and needed this type of experience.

"He has stepped in at big moments for them and scored some crucial goals so that is really good news because it is great for his development."

Nicolas Pepe might well have scored a crucial goal when it comes to salvaging something from Arsenal's season, having netted to reduce the arrears at El Madrigal from the penalty spot, despite Dani Ceballos being sent off before the hour.

It has been another mixed campaign overall for Arsenal's record signing  but Pepe has netted six times in 12 Europa League appearances, alongside five in 25 Premier League outings.

"I think he's come a long way in the last few months. His work ethic has been phenomenal and he's deciding many more games and doing what he can do in the final third in a much more consistent way," Arteta said,

"So I'm really happy with his performances and now he needs to continue like this.

"Confidence in every player is crucial and every time you step on that field, if they feel secure, if they feel protected, if they feel like they're supported by their manager and their team-mates, it's something that is crucial to be able to perform.

"Then with the things that he could do better, he's doing much better with as well. But it's all a mix that is reflected in his performance."

Arsenal's goal threat would be further enhanced by having Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang back to full fitness.

The club captain returned to training this week following a bout of malaria and featured as a late substitute against Villarreal.

"He hasn’t trained much, he is still not at the level in his physique that he should be to start," Arteta said, hinting a place on the bench is again most likely for Aubameyang at Newcastle.

"We will see again how he is. He could only play a few minutes but we managed to get him on the pitch, which is great news for us."

Liverpool's need for defensive reinforcements was always likely to dominate the headlines on transfer deadline day and so it proved as the Premier League champions made two late signings.

Centre-back Ben Davies arrived from Preston North End, while Liverpool made a further addition to the heart of their backline with the loan signing of Ozan Kabak from Bundesliga strugglers Schalke until the end of the season.

Those signings came on a day that saw Joel Matip ruled out for the rest of the season with an ankle ligament injury. Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are long-term absentees and Liverpool were forced to play Jordan Henderson and Nathaniel Phillips at centre-back in Sunday's win at West Ham.

Heading for the Anfield exit door is Takumi Minamino, the forward moving to Southampton on a six-month loan deal having only joined Liverpool last January.

It came after Southampton loaned veteran Shane Long to promotion-chasing Championship side Bournemouth.

Bournemouth also sanctioned the departure of Joshua King to Everton for a nominal fee until the end of the season.

There were outgoings at Arsenal as well, with Shkodran Mustafi signing for Schalke on a short-term deal and Joe Willock going on loan to Newcastle United, who let DeAndre Yedlin leave for Galatasaray.

Arsenal also sent Ainsley Maitland-Niles to West Brom on loan.

Turkish giants Galatasaray acquired Gedson Fernandes on a temporary deal from Benfica following an unsuccessful stint at Tottenham.

In Serie A, Parma landed Bayern Munich's teenage forward Joshua Zirkzee in a loan deal that contains the option to sign the 19-year-old permanently.

Atalanta are firmly in contention for a top-four finish in Serie A and bolstered their ranks for that push with the capture of Ukraine midfielder Viktor Kovalenko from Shakhtar Donetsk.

Roma can afford to have hopes of a title challenge and brought in teenage full-back Bryan Reynolds from MLS outfit Dallas on an initial loan deal, with an obligation to buy, to help them.

Frozen out at Juventus, midfielder Sami Khedira is back in the Bundesliga following a switch to Hertha Berlin, but one of European football's most exciting talents is heading to Italy after Udinese signed Jayden Braaf on loan from Manchester City with an option to buy.

Elsewhere, Everton defender Jonjoe Kenny joined Celtic on loan for the rest of the season, Brighton and Hove Albion signed highly rated midfielder Moises Caicedo from Independiente del Valle, West Brom loaned Okay Yokuslu from Celta Vigo and defender Teden Mengi moved from Manchester United to Wayne Rooney's Derby County on a temporary basis.

England international Ainsley Maitland-Niles has joined West Brom on loan from Arsenal until the end of the season, with Joe Willock making a similar switch to Newcastle United.

Maitland-Niles was part of the Gunners side that lifted the FA Cup and Community Shield last year, with his performances at wing-back earning a call-up to Gareth Southgate's England squad.

The 23-year-old Maitland-Niles made five appearances for the Three Lions across this season's three international breaks to date, although he has only managed the same number of Premier League starts in 2020-21.

Maitland-Niles, who has played 121 times for Arsenal and became the second youngest player in the club's history after Jack Wilshere when he turned out against Galatasaray in the Champions League aged 17 years and 102 days, is now poised for a relegation fight under Sam Allardyce at second-bottom West Brom.

"Ainsley is a very talented player and we are proud of his hard work and development with us," said Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, who also sanctioned the departure of Shkodran Mustafi to Schalke on a permanent deal amid a flurry of late deadline day activity at Emirates Stadium.

"This decision to go on loan to West Bromwich Albion for the rest of this season is to support Ainsley and his growth further.

"He will be working at a very good club in the Premier League and we all wish him the best of luck during his time at the Hawthorns."

Willock, whose 17 outings in all competitions this season are just four fewer than Maitland-Niles, will now also be concerned with matters at the other end of the Premier League table.

The 21-year-old midfielder bolsters a Newcastle squad who occupy 15th position, eighth points clear of the drop zone after a morale-boosting 2-0 win at Everton.

"Joe is a young player with great ability who is progressing very well and we are happy with his continued development," Arteta said of the England Under-21 international.

"At this moment in his career, Joe needs to be playing regularly. At Newcastle United, he is going to a very good club with a top quality manager and staff."

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