Through the first two rounds of Premier League fixtures, there had been no case for Manchester United's defence. At Old Trafford on Monday, Liverpool's went completely missing.

A week is a long time in football, to use the most fatigued of tired cliches. United had just over a week to stew over their 4-0 humbling at Brentford, during which there was no shortage of talk about another prospective hammering from Jurgen Klopp's consistently merciless Reds. 

Yet after United pressed and harried their way to a surprise 2-1 win in front of a raucous home crowd whipped up by the latest round of protests against the Glazer family's ownership of the club, it will surely be Liverpool who has to face headlines pointing to a crisis among a group of players who have set such remarkable standards in the recent years of Klopp's tenure.

It would be an exaggeration to label Liverpool as a team in crisis – they were without nine first-team players for this derby – but, as the persistent squabbles between Virgil van Dijk and James Milner illustrated, there are certainly problems to fix at the back.

Though the focus may have been on their public disagreements, the first of which came after Jadon Sancho produced composure that has been largely lacking since his move from Borussia Dortmund to put United 1-0 up in the 16th minute, in the aftermath of this game there is more likely to be scrutiny on the performance of the defender to Van Dijk's right.

While Van Dijk was partly at fault for the opener after failing to close down Sancho, it was a goal that was a direct consequence of the frequent success United enjoyed when attacking Trent Alexander-Arnold.

To blame in part for the first goal, Alexander-Arnold was tormented by Anthony Elanga in the first half and had a similarly torrid time when Marcus Rashford switched to the left flank for the second. It was Rashford who doubled United's lead, ending a run of 997 minutes without a goal in all competitions for United by coolly finishing after a counter-attack with Alexander-Arnold conspicuous by his absence.

Alexander-Arnold, regularly maligned for his defensive deficiencies, conceded two fouls and lost possession a game-high 24 times in a performance to swiftly banish from the memory.

Yet to point the finger squarely at him would be to ignore the struggles of those in front of him. Milner, who won under half of his 16 duels, and Jordan Henderson offered little in the way of control or protection for the Liverpool backline. Both were eventually withdrawn in the second half, injury robbing Klopp of the opportunity to introduce a clearly desperately needed Thiago Alcantara.

To focus on Alexander-Arnold and Liverpool's failings would also do a disservice to the impressive nature of United's display.

Scott McTominay, with Casemiro, his new team-mate in the engine room, watching on, was sublime in midfield, his 10th-minute through ball for Bruno Fernandes deserving of a goal that the right-hand post denied Elanga.

Fernandes, forlorn in the two opening defeats, had nine final-third entries, more than any other United player. Rashford, meanwhile, was a player rejuvenated, recording five of United's 12 shots.

At the back, Lisandro Martinez brushed off jokes and questions about his diminutive stature to deliver an all-action showing that featured three blocks, including one clearance off the line to prevent a Fernandes own goal, while left-back Tyrell Malacia's five tackles were the most of any player.

For all the standout displays, United could not stop Mohamed Salah from fraying the nerves with a header after David de Gea denied Fabio Carvalho.

Yet the fact United did not allow that setback to spark a collapse is testament to the speedy turnaround Erik ten Hag – who became the first Red Devils boss to secure his maiden competitive win against Liverpool – engineered in the wake of their meek surrender at Brentford.

Klopp will almost certainly dismiss any crisis talk about a team who suffered their first defeat in 22 Premier League games and have failed to win their first three Premier League games for the first time since 2012-13. However, after seeing his side concede the first goal for the seventh successive league fixture and fail to recover, Klopp must find solutions that have the same impact of those Ten Hag discovered in the compelling latest chapter of this great rivalry.

It is easy to imagine how Manchester United landed on Casemiro's name in the week that followed their shambolic 4-0 defeat at Brentford.

United were preyed upon by the Brentford press, giving up three chances and two goals from high turnovers as Christian Eriksen – a false nine in their previous match – ended up as the deepest midfielder and struggled badly.

Through two games, no Premier League side allowed more shots following high turnovers than United (eight).

At the very least, Casemiro – a five-time Champions League winner anchoring one of the great modern midfields at Real Madrid – should make United harder to play against.

Yet the 30-year-old, whose arrival at Old Trafford was confirmed ahead of Monday's game against Liverpool, possesses a vastly different profile to the previous two midfielders United very publicly pursued – ultimately unsuccessfully.

The progression from Frenkie de Jong to Adrien Rabiot to Casemiro was not a particularly obvious one, but have the Red Devils now ended up with the right man?

No more 'McFred'

Few United fans who have seen their 'McFred' midfield repeatedly overrun in recent seasons would complain about the club recruiting an upgrade on Fred.

The numbers would suggest that is what they are buying in Casemiro, who is comparable to his Brazil team-mate by several metrics.

Only two LaLiga midfielders made more recoveries than Casemiro (230) last season, yet his 8.0 per 90 were topped by Fred's 8.7. Fred matched Casemiro for tackles per 90 (both 2.8) and edged him in terms of interceptions (1.4 to 1.3).

However, Casemiro's physical presence ensured he won 59.7 per cent of his duels, far outperforming Fred's 47.8 per cent.

And the Madrid man, crucially, is more effective with the ball once he has won it.

Carlo Ancelotti's side attempted 43 shots at the end of sequences that started with Casemiro recovering possession, seeing the midfielder lead LaLiga in this regard and trail only Marcelo Brozovic (44) across Europe's top five leagues.

Although just 27.6 per cent of Casemiro's passes were played forward – versus Fred's 30.4 per cent – he was at the heart of so many Madrid attacks.

Casemiro played 34 passes to players who immediately created chances for team-mates, which compared very favourably with Rabiot (12), Scott McTominay (18), Fred (19) and, indeed, De Jong (22).

Carrying United's hopes

There was an obvious appeal to the attempted signing of De Jong, who would have offered something different to the United midfield.

Highly skilled with the ball at his feet, De Jong's carries progressed the play 113.6 metres upfield per 90 last season. Ahead of playing Liverpool, United's five midfielders (Fred, McTominay, Eriksen, Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek) had progressed the ball only 384m combined so far this season – or 192m per 90.

Casemiro clearly cannot offer this dynamism either, given he carried the ball just 54.3m upfield per 90 last term.

And United could seemingly still benefit from a player of De Jong's talents, as Casemiro is used to being able to rely on others in midfield to fulfil this role; he was by far Madrid's least progressive midfield carrier in 2021-22, behind Toni Kroos (80.6m), Luka Modric (85.7m), Eduardo Camavinga (91.1m) and Federico Valverde (133.3m).

But considering the difficulties in getting that deal done with Barcelona, United's scattergun approach has at least – via Rabiot – picked out a player capable of helping them both with and without the ball.

No Premier League team conceded more goals than United through the first two matchweeks of the season, while they only netted themselves courtesy of an own goal.

One man alone may not be able to get United's season back on track, but Casemiro is primed to give it a good go.

English football had a very different landscape in October 2010 when Fenway Sports Group won a court case to buy Liverpool.

The Reds had not won a league title in over 20 years, had lifted just two trophies in the previous nine, and had finished seventh in the Premier League the previous season.

Meanwhile, Manchester United would go on to win their 12th Premier League title at the end of the 2010-11 season, their 19th league win at the time, taking them one ahead of Liverpool overall.

The Merseyside club had allowed itself to drift and needed to learn lessons from their fiercest rivals.

When Tom Hicks and George Gillett bought Liverpool from David Moores in 2007, they brought with them promise of investment that should have enabled the club to finally catch up with United.

The Red Devils had timed their period of dominance perfectly, with the birth of the Premier League seeing an explosion in money and interest in the English game, and the combination of ambition, stability under Alex Ferguson and numerous smart decisions on and off the pitch cemented United as leaders domestically, while Liverpool struggled to keep up.

However, despite promises of a new stadium and backing of then manager Rafael Benitez, with Gillett famously saying: "If Rafa said he wanted to buy Snoogy Doogy, we would back him", initial investment dropped off quickly, before it became apparent that the American duo were more interested in taking money out of the club than putting it in.

A dramatic few days at the High Court in London essentially kept Liverpool from going under as Hicks and Gillett were forced to sell up, and a bright new dawn appeared to have arrived with the purchase by FSG (then known as New England Sports Ventures).

Having successfully turned around the fortunes of the Boston Red Sox in Major League Baseball, Liverpool's new owners set about trying to put in place the building blocks to do the same in English football.

Struggling manager Roy Hodgson was swiftly dismissed and replaced by club legend Kenny Dalglish, while Damien Comolli was appointed as director of football strategy, tasked with using the fabled 'moneyball' approach made famous in baseball, to the extent it was later made into a Hollywood film starring Brad Pitt.

It was indicative of the hit-and-miss nature of the approach in its early stages that the first two major investments were Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll, with one an undoubted success and the other a spectacular failure.

The strategy was adjusted after their first pre-season transfer window when significant money was spent on players who, on paper, were undervalued, but proved to still be overpriced in Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam, while a young Jordan Henderson had too much expected of him too soon.

Initial promise under Dalglish disappeared in the new owners' first full season in charge, with an eighth-place finish in the league, though reaching both domestic cup finals was not to be sniffed at, winning the EFL Cup against Cardiff City.

Dalglish always felt like a short-term stop gap to appease the fans and give FSG time to get to know the sport better, and their appointment of Brendan Rodgers in 2013 felt like the first that truly had their stamp on it.

Rodgers implemented a new style of play, and in his second season, very nearly won that elusive Premier League title, but fell agonisingly short.

Losing Suarez to Barcelona at the end of that campaign did not help matters, but worse still, the club's inability to replace him even slightly adequately – buying Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli – set them back further still.

 

When Liverpool lost 6-1 away to Stoke City on the final day of the 2014-15 season, it felt like all the hard work up until then had been undone, and on top of all that, club legend Steven Gerrard was retiring.

FSG had set up a transfer committee of sorts, with the idea that several heads were better than one, recruiting scouts Barry Hunter and Dave Fallows from Manchester City, and appointing Michael Edwards as technical director.

Rodgers did not seem to like working under those conditions, and a bizarre compromise appeared to be made in 2015 whereby the transfer committee would get to decide on one signing, such as Roberto Firmino, while Rodgers was allowed to decide on another, such as Christian Benteke.

It became apparent early in the 2015-16 season that this would not work, and so Rodgers was replaced by Jurgen Klopp, the man FSG had wanted before the Northern Irishman only to be turned down by the then Borussia Dortmund head coach.

Since then, everyone at Liverpool has pulled in the same direction, which has led to almost every major decision made being a correct one.

It has also caused the trophy cabinet to fill up again, with a Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup all being collected since the start of the 2018-19 season.

Their hit rate in the transfer market has been the envy of all major clubs, with the likes of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Alisson all coming in to significantly strengthen the team in recent years.

There has also been efficient continuity behind the scenes, with Edwards promoted to sporting director in 2016 and overseeing so much success in transfer dealings, and his exit at the end of last season saw Julian Ward replace him, having worked under Edwards, being prepared to pick up where he left off.

Naby Keita is arguably the only major signing since Klopp’s arrival that has not been a roaring success, and even the Guinea midfielders' struggles could be put down to his unfortunate injury issues.

 

By comparison, Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher looked at United’s signings since 2013 on the most recent edition of Monday Night Football and came to the conclusion that only two of the 33 players listed could be considered successes (Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Bruno Fernandes).

United fans have been vocal in recent years around their opposition to the club's owners, the Glazer family, believing their own American custodians taking money out of the club has been stymying the ability to have success on the pitch.

The giants of English football that won 13 of the first 21 Premier League titles have not won any of the last nine since Ferguson's retirement in 2013, and have only lifted three trophies in that period.

There has still been significant investment on the pitch, in fact, far more than there has been at Liverpool.

Since FSG arrived in 2010, according to figures from Transfermarkt, with the addition of Casemiro from Real Madrid, United have spent over £1.47billion on players, with a net spend of around £1.08bn.

Liverpool have also spent plenty, with £1.12bn going out on players, but having made significantly more than their rivals in player sales, have a net spent in almost 12 years of just over £400m.

The key difference has been the intelligence of decisions being made rather than money being invested, which is where United need to focus to try and claw their way back towards the top again.

Their meeting on Monday actually sees both teams seeking their first wins of the season, but prospects at Liverpool still seem infinitely better whatever the outcome at Old Trafford.

It is surely now time for United to start learning lessons from Liverpool.

Arsenal went top of the Premier League with a 3-0 win at Bournemouth – and for the first time since 1972 they lead the way concurrently with Manchester United sitting bottom of the pile.

Gunners captain Martin Odegaard scored his first double in a top-flight league game since he was 15 years old and playing in his native Norway, while Arsenal's north London rivals stayed in close touch with the leaders after Harry Kane reached a Premier League goals record in a win over Wolves.

Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard watched his side slide to a 3-1 defeat at Crystal Palace – a sixth loss in seven games in London for Villa since the start of last season – while Fulham were 3-2 winners in their derby against Brentford. That was a first home victory for the Cottagers in a Premier League London derby since January 2014, ending a 12-game wait.

Elsewhere, Southampton came from behind to take a 2-1 victory at struggling Leicester City, and Everton and Nottingham Forest duked out a 1-1 draw.

Stats Perform has rummaged through Opta's data trove to present numbers-led angles on the day's top Premier League action.

Tottenham 1-0 Wolves: Harry's game as Kane writes more Spurs history

It was up there with the easiest of finishes, but they all count and Harry Kane's close-range header was his 185th Premier League goal for Tottenham – thereby making him the highest scorer for a single club in the competition's history.

What's more, it was Kane's 250th goal in all games for the club, and Tottenham's 1,000th at home in the Premier League. Only Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea had previously totted up 1,000 goals at home since the league's 1992-93 launch.

Even if the performance left room for improvement, Tottenham are unbeaten in their opening three games. The same applied last season when they won three out of three under Nuno Espirito Santo. Five defeats in the next seven cost Nuno his job, and Spurs will hope to avoid any such slide now.

With Antonio Conte in charge, a Spurs collapse seems unlikely. This was head coach Conte's 70th win in the Premier League from 107 games, the bulk of which came across his two seasons at Chelsea. Among managers or head coaches with at least 70 Premier League wins, only Manchester City's Pep Guardiola (74 per cent) has a better win percentage than Conte's 65 per cent.

Bruno Lage's Wolves are without a win in their last 10 league games, spread across this season and last. They have only had one previous double-digit streak of winless Premier League games in their history – a 17-game sequence that spanned a relegation campaign in 2011-12 and the start of the 2018-19 season on their return to the top flight.

Bournemouth 0-3 Arsenal: From teenage kicks to picking off Cherries, Odegaard doubles up again

Odegaard was already grabbing the attention of Europe's elite clubs when he scored twice for Stromsgodset against Lillestrom in October 2014. Three months later, he would sign for Real Madrid.

Almost eight years down the line, he has finally netted another double in a league game, leading by example and helping Arsenal hit top spot for now.

It was August 22 in 1972 when Arsenal last sat top and great foes Manchester United were propping up the rest in the English top flight, but that is once again the scenario. In this third round of the 2022-23 season's fixtures, United play Liverpool on Monday.

Arsenal have won their opening three league games for the first time since 2004-05, the season that followed their 'Invincibles' campaign. Boss Mikel Arteta has named the same starting XI for their first three games, and that last happened with Arsenal in the famous 2003-04 campaign that saw them complete a league programme undefeated.

William Saliba became the 21st Frenchman to score a Premier League goal for Arsenal – only Newcastle United (also 21) have had as many different French goalscorers – while Bukayo Saka played his 100th Premier League game. At 16 days short of his 21st birthday, it made Saka the youngest player to do so since Raheem Sterling in September 2015.

Arsenal's win percentage against Bournemouth stands at 77 per cent after this 10th win in 13 meetings. Among teams they have faced at least 10 times, they only have a better win ratio against Reading (100 per cent, won 14/14) and – you'll never guess – Glossop North End (86 per cent, won 12/14).

Everton 1-1 Nottingham Forest: Gray day as Toffees scrape a point

After defeats to Chelsea and Aston Villa, coming from behind to draw against promoted Forest represents some sort of progress for Frank Lampard and Everton.

Yet their one point from three games is the fewest Everton have achieved at this stage of a season since 2010-11 (also one point), and the Toffees have stumbled on an obvious early-season problem against newcomers. They have won none of their last eight matches against promoted clubs in August (D5 L3) so might be glad they have Brentford and Leeds United in their remaining league games this month.

Jordan Pickford became the first Everton goalkeeper to assist a Premier League goal since Joel Robles in December 2016 against Leicester City, with a long kick creating the opening for Demarai Gray to snatch the 88th-minute equaliser. The goal ended a barren run of 21 league games for Gray, who had last netted against Arsenal in December.

Brennan Johnson's opener seven minutes earlier took him to 20 goals since the beginning of last season, the most by any Forest player. He thought it was a winner, but the ending of Gray's drought brought a little cheer for the struggling hosts.

When Kamaru Usman steps into the cage on Saturday against Leon Edwards, he will be defending not just his UFC welterweight title, but also his status as mixed martial arts' top pound-for-pound talent.

Usman, 35, has never lost in the UFC, compiling a 15-0 run in the welterweight division since winning his season of the popular reality show The Ultimate Fighter.

After nine wins with the promotion, Usman was rewarded with a title shot against Tyron Woodley and manhandled the champion in dominating fashion, and since his first defence against Colby Covington in a competitive win, he is yet to be truly challenged.

Against an elite striker, he defeated Jorge Masvidal twice, including a stunning knockout in their second meeting.

When faced with an elite wrestler in Covington – who has arguably not lost a single round to anybody other than Usman since 2015 – the champion showed incredible toughness to outlast his outspoken opponent for a technical knockout in the first fight, before completely dominating the rematch to close that chapter.

Completing his championship resume is his knockout victory against Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Gilbert Burns, who figured to be too good of a grappler to be manhandled by Usman, so he instead unveiled his new and improved jab to pummel the challenger to a third-round stoppage.

To this point of his championship reign, Usman has fought specialists, and has passed every test with flying colours – so what happens against a supreme jack of all trades like Edwards?

His British opponent is undefeated in the past seven years, with Edwards' last loss coming against the very champion he is looking to dethrone, going down to Usman via unanimous decision in December 2015.

Why should anything be different this time around? Well, while Usman was a 28-year-old imposing physical specimen in 2015, Edwards was a raw 24-year-old less than a year removed from a split-decision loss to journeyman Claudio Silva.

Usman had grown up as a wrestler, competing his entire life in the sport, culminating in a 44-1 record and a division two national championship as a senior in college before deciding to pivot to mixed martial arts.

Edwards grew up in Birmingham, after moving from Jamaica at nine years old, with no real grappling background, and at such an early stage in his career, he was unequipped to handle the smothering physical presence which Usman presented.

Seven years later, Edwards is a completely different fighter, with some of the sharpest kickboxing in the division, as well as a terrific pressure-grappling game.

Among active UFC welterweights, Edwards absorbs the second-fewest strikes per minute at 2.15, trailing only Michael Chiesa (0.79) who has since moved down to lightweight. He also finds himself in the top-10 for total grappling control time and takedowns landed.

It creates an interesting dynamic, as not only has Edwards become someone nearly impossible to control in the grappling side of things, but he is also an expert in point-fighting on the feet, while being extremely durable.

Despite this being his first title fight, Edwards has an average fight time of 15 minutes and 15 seconds – which is notable considering all non-main events only last 15 minutes. It shows he thrives in long, grinding fights, which he is sure to be faced with against Usman.

It poses the question: What is Usman's game plan?

Against another terrific controlling grappler – Covington – Usman was able to rely on his below-average striking and turn it into a kickboxing match since Covington's striking was also so weak.

Usman's striking has improved significantly, but he will not have an advantage in that area against Edwards, and while Usman is seemingly impossible to finish with strikes, Edwards has shown repeatedly that he is more than happy to point-fight his way to a decision.

So what happens if Usman's first few takedown attempts are unsuccessful, and this turns into a rangy kickboxing battle? 

Does he continue to try and grapple and clinch, pushing Edwards against the cage, using his physicality, or does he try to test out his developing striking skills? If he opts for the latter, he could find himself down a round or two against a fighter who will not slow down, and who has been planning for this rematch for seven years.

Knockouts can be addicting, and after three consecutive eye-opening striking performances from Usman, who has been working with world-famous striking coach Trevor Wittman for two years now, his hubris in his standup abilities could prove to be his fatal flaw against an opponent so skilled in avoiding damage on the feet.

Usman is the deserved favourite, the current pound-for-pound king and the most dominant champion in the male divisions.

But to beat such an established minute-winner in what is almost assured to be a 25-minute decision, Usman must avoid his own ego and steer clear of the striking exchanges that have defined his evolution as a champion.

It is easy to imagine how Manchester United landed on Casemiro's name in the week that followed their shambolic 4-0 defeat at Brentford.

United were preyed upon by the Brentford press, giving up three chances and two goals from high turnovers as Christian Eriksen – a false nine in their previous match – ended up as the deepest midfielder and struggled badly.

Through two games, no Premier League side have allowed more shots following high turnovers than United (eight).

At the very least, Casemiro – a five-time Champions League winner anchoring one of the great modern midfields at Real Madrid – should make United harder to play against.

Yet the 30-year-old, whose arrival at Old Trafford appears imminent, possesses a vastly different profile to the previous two midfielders United very publicly pursued – ultimately unsuccessfully.

The progression from Frenkie de Jong to Adrien Rabiot to Casemiro was not a particularly obvious one, but have the Red Devils now ended up with the right man?

No more 'McFred'

Few United fans who have seen their 'McFred' midfield repeatedly overrun in recent seasons would complain about the club recruiting an upgrade on Fred.

The numbers would suggest that is what they are buying in Casemiro, who is comparable to his Brazil team-mate by several metrics.

Only two LaLiga midfielders made more recoveries than Casemiro (230) last season, yet his 8.0 per 90 were topped by Fred's 8.7. Fred matched Casemiro for tackles per 90 (both 2.8) and edged him in terms of interceptions (1.4 to 1.3).

However, Casemiro's physical presence ensured he won 59.7 per cent of his duels, far outperforming Fred's 47.8 per cent.

And the Madrid man, crucially, is more effective with the ball once he has won it.

Carlo Ancelotti's side attempted 43 shots at the end of sequences that started with Casemiro recovering possession, seeing the midfielder lead LaLiga in this regard and trail only Marcelo Brozovic (44) across Europe's top five leagues.

Although just 27.6 per cent of Casemiro's passes were played forward – versus Fred's 30.4 per cent – he was at the heart of so many Madrid attacks.

Casemiro played 34 passes to players who immediately created chances for team-mates, which compared very favourably with Rabiot (12), Scott McTominay (18), Fred (19) and, indeed, De Jong (22).

Carrying United's hopes

There was an obvious appeal to the attempted signing of De Jong, who would have offered something different to the United midfield.

Highly skilled with the ball at his feet, De Jong's carries progressed the play 113.6 metres upfield per 90 last season. United's five midfielders (Fred, McTominay, Eriksen, Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek) have progressed the ball only 384m combined so far this season – or 192m per 90.

Casemiro clearly cannot offer this dynamism either, given he carried the ball just 54.3m upfield per 90 last term.

And United could seemingly still benefit from a player of De Jong's talents, as Casemiro is used to being able to rely on others in midfield to fulfil this role; he was by far Madrid's least progressive midfield carrier in 2021-22, behind Toni Kroos (80.6m), Luka Modric (85.7m), Eduardo Camavinga (91.1m) and Federico Valverde (133.3m).

But considering the difficulties in getting that deal done with Barcelona, United's scattergun approach has at least – via Rabiot – picked out a player capable of helping them both with and without the ball.

No Premier League team has conceded more goals at this early stage than United, while they have only netted themselves courtesy of an own goal.

One man alone may not be able to get United's season back on track, but Casemiro is primed to give it a good go.

A disappointing opening weekend for Barcelona saw Xavi's men held to a goalless draw against Rayo Vallecano at Camp Nou, with plenty to improve upon.

Having seen the transfer window dominated by discussions around the club's transfer additions and the battle to get them registered in time, there was no saving Barcelona from a forgetful opening clash.

Next up is a trip to the Basque country to tackle Real Sociedad, who opened their campaign with a 1-0 victory on the road against Cadiz and will be encouraged by Barcelona's inability to get going.

Despite Barcelona's dominance in this fixture, it will be far from an easy encounter and the hosts will be keen to pile further pressure upon their Catalan opponents.

Barcelona Basque-ing in glory

Real Sociedad have failed to win any of their last 12 LaLiga matches against Barcelona, drawing twice and losing 10, which is their second-longest winless streak against the Blaugrana in the top-flight after a 17-match winless streak between November 1952 and October 1960 (D3 L14).

Barcelona travel to San Sebastian unbeaten in their last six LaLiga visits to Sociedad (W4 D2) and have won two on the bounce – but the club have only had three or more consecutive away wins against La Real once, four in September 1955.

If Barca do break the deadlock, it could open the floodgates. Since 1955, Real have conceded six or more goals at home in two matches - both of which came against Barcelona, the most recent of which was a 6-1 defeat in March 2021.

It is unlikely La Real will ever have a better opportunity of securing revenge against Barcelona.

 

Dembele leading the way

In the opening weekend, Barcelona attempted 21 shots on goal without finding the net – their highest total of shots in a game without scoring since drawing a blank against Malaga in November 2016 (29 shots)

Ousmane Dembele, re-signed ahead of the season, was the most creative outlet with five goalscoring chances created, more than any other player in LaLiga, to continue his impressive year to date.

In total, Dembele has created 42 chances and sits behind only Athletic Bilbao's Iker Muniain (53) and Real Betis' Nabil Fekir (45) for chances created in 2022.

 

Barca's barren run

Barcelona prepare to face La Real having failed to win or even score in their last three LaLiga matches – a run that extends back to the end of the 2021-22 season, where Barcelona finished the campaign with a goalless draw against Getafe and a 2-0 loss to Villarreal.

Never in Barcelona's history has the club gone four LaLiga matches in a row without scoring and they will require a significant improvement on last week's showing if they are to avoid that unwanted record.

In order to find a breakthrough, Barcelona may look towards an aerial route as three of their last five goals against their Basque opponents have come via headers - a major change of approach, as just one of the last 29 against Real have been scored in this way.

With Dembele and Raphinha crossing into Robert Lewandowski, that return may be boosted further.

 

La Real's recovery

Victory against Cadiz last weekend made it three wins in four LaLiga matches for Sociedad, a significant improvement as they had previously failed to win any of their last four prior to the start of that sequence.

Their includes two wins over Cadiz and a triumph against Villarreal, with the sole defeat coming on the final day of last season with a loss at the hands of Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid.

That sequence was vital in securing a spot in the Europa League for La Real, who finished three points ahead of Villarreal and seven ahead of Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao.

We are just three weeks into the new Premier League campaign and already fantasy football managers are getting twitchy over their team selection.

While a number of big-name players have made a fast start to the season, others have yet to get going and some tough decisions have to be made.

Whether you're looking to make up ground on the leaders or consolidate your position among the early pacesetters, matchday three presents a chance to get points on the board.

With the aid of Opta data, Stats Perform has picked out a goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and striker for your consideration.


DEAN HENDERSON (Everton v Nottingham Forest)

David de Gea's shaky start to the season at Manchester United has coincided with Henderson's good form at Nottingham Forest, where he is spending the season on loan from Old Trafford.

Henderson conceded twice against Newcastle United on the opening weekend, but he starred in last week's 1-0 win over West Ham to give Forest lift-off on their top-flight return.

No goalkeeper has made more saves (11) or prevented more goals (2.2) in the Premier League than Henderson this season, while his save percentage of 75.52 since the start of 2019-20 is the best of any keeper to have recorded at least 50 saves.

 


RAYAN AIT-NOURI (Tottenham v Wolves)

Wolves are seeking their first win of the season at the third attempt this weekend, having so far struggled to find a way past opponents with just one goal in two games.

That is not down to a lack of trying from Ait-Nouri, as only Trent Alexander-Arnold and Aaron Cresswell (six) have created more than his four chances among defenders.

Ait-Nouri's expected assists (xGA) return of 0.53, meanwhile, is bettered only by Alexander-Arnold (0.97) and Reece James (0.48) in the same positional category.

 


KEVIN DE BRUYNE (Newcastle United v Manchester City)

Picking up from where he left off last term, De Bruyne has assisted a goal – and scored one of his own – in each of City's opening two Premier League matches.

The Belgium playmaker's three direct goal involvements this term is bettered only by former team-mate Gabriel Jesus, who has scored two and assisted two for Arsenal.

De Bruyne has been involved in 24 goals in his past 22 games in the competition, and he is one of four players to have scored and assisted in 20 different games since 2015-16.

 


OLLIE WATKINS (Crystal Palace v Aston Villa)

England international Watkins may be seeking his first goal of the campaign, but he chipped in with two assists in last week's victory over Everton.

The 26-year-old has now been involved in six goals in his past seven Premier League matches, scoring three and assisting three, having also ended last season strongly.

That form could spell bad news for Palace, as only against Liverpool (five) has he been involved in more top-flight goals than he has against the Eagles (three).

 

Whenever people talk about the NBA, one name is rarely far away from any conversation.

LeBron James is once again the talk of basketball after reports emerged on Wednesday he had agreed a two-year extension with the Los Angeles Lakers worth an eye-watering $97.1million.

The 37-year-old had been entering the final year of a contract worth $44.5m. His new deal includes a player option for the 2024-25 season according to ESPN, citing Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul.

James' deal takes him to $532m in guaranteed career earnings, which would mean he is the highest-paid player in the history of the league, ahead of Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets.

Apart from having four NBA championships, four Finals MVPs, four NBA MVPs, 17 All-Star selections and three All-Star MVPs, what has James done to earn such a lucrative deal?

Stats Perform has taken a trip down memory lane to remind ourselves just why he is still the hottest property in the NBA.

Breakout in Cleveland

As the first pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, it was hardly surprising that James impressed from the start with the Cavaliers, averaging 20.9 points per game (PPG) in his debut season from 79 games.

It was the 2005-06 season where he really exploded, though, averaging 31.4 PPG in the regular season, which remains his highest ever for a campaign, before recording 30.8 PPG in the playoffs, where the Cavs were eliminated in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals by the Detroit Pistons.

James took Cleveland to the postseason for five straight seasons, agonisingly losing the 2007 Finals to the San Antonio Spurs, before taking the mantel again in 2009 as he put up 35.3 PPG in 14 playoff outings before Conference final heartbreak against the Orlando Magic.

He had become a superstar in his home state of Ohio, though it seemed like championship glory was always going to elude him in Cleveland and so in 2010, it was time for a decision.

LeBron brings the Heat

The television event titled 'The Decision' did not go down universally well, it is fair to say, as James dramatically revealed he was leaving the Cavs for the Miami Heat.

However, it turned out to be the catalyst for him to reach the next step as he was undoubtedly surrounded by more talent in Miami, and before long, much-deserved silverware.

Linking up superbly night after night with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, James reached the Finals every year in Florida, winning his first championship in 2012, before following it up in 2013 with another.

His numbers were ever so slightly lower at the Heat than they had been in Cleveland, though that clearly owed to having more help from the likes of Wade and Bosh.

James' first title win 2012 saw him average 30.3 PPG during the postseason, and led the way as he got some revenge on the Spurs in 2013, excelling in Game 7 to win his second championship.

 

The Cavalier returns home

In 2014, James came back to Cleveland with the desire to take his team to the promised land with him this time, and he did just that.

Just as he had in Miami, James went to the Finals every year of his second spell with the Cavaliers, and every year they played against the dominant Golden State Warriors.

After losing 4-2 in 2015, they returned to get revenge in 2016 as James starred on their way to an almost Hollywood-ending win against the Warriors, securing their first NBA championship.

They were unable to repeat the trick as the Warriors beat them in both the 2017 and 2018 Finals, but reaching four Finals in a row was still more than Cavs fans could have realistically expected.

Unfortunately for them, James was getting itchy feet again.

L.A. dreams not always what they are cracked up to be

James himself had a solid enough start to life in Los Angeles, posting 27.4 PPG for the Lakers in 2018-19, though injury issues sustained by him and several of his new team-mates led to a wobbly season, and therefore, no postseason for the first time for James since 2005.

Inevitably, he came roaring back the following year and in spite of the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, James and the Lakers returned to win the "bubble championship", the fourth title of his career with a third different team.

However, the 2020-21 campaign was one to forget as James recorded his lowest PPG for a season (25.0) since his rookie year, before the Lakers were dumped out of the playoffs in the first round by the Phoenix Suns.

Was it all over for LeBron? Not likely. He responded to that setback by scoring 1,695 points in just 56 games last season at an average of 30.3 PPG, his best regular season return since 2005-06.

James also reached a notable landmark in March, becoming the first player in NBA history to record 10,000 assists and 10,000 rebounds in a career.

 

Unfortunately for him, his team-mates were unable to match those efforts and the Lakers again failed to even make the playoffs, which could be why they were so desperate to find the funds to tie James' immediate future down.

His PPG has been higher in the playoffs than the regular season at every team he has played barring the Heat, where it was identical (26.9), proving the extent to which he is a clutch player and why it is imperative that the Lakers reach the postseason next year to make the most of the time they have left with him.

Injuries permitting, it is also practically certain he will overtake Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA's all-time leading scorer next season (currently 1,325 points behind).

Now that his new deal is agreed, you can be sure when that landmark arrives, LeBron will be wearing the same Lakers jersey Kareem did so famously.

David de Gea is not a new problem for Manchester United. Of course, his backers – and that appears to include many people at the club – will always point to his shot-stopping ability, which has clearly been a strength over the course of his career in England.

We can't forget that legendary performance against Arsenal in a 3-1 away win for United in the 2017-18 season, when De Gea equalled a Premier League record by making 14 saves.

But if that kind of goalkeeper becomes less reliable at arguably the one thing they're good at, questions have to be asked. De Gea was, of course, culpable in United's 4-0 humiliation by Brentford on Saturday.

He let Josh Dasilva's tame long-range effort sneak into the bottom-right corner, and that opened the floodgates on what was one of United's worst days in Premier League history.

But that wasn't all. His needless pass to Christian Eriksen when the Dane was under pressure brought the second goal and further highlighted something De Gea's detractors have started to mention frequently in the past few years: he's not good enough with the ball to be relied upon in a team that wants to build from the back.

That's the style of play Erik ten Hag wants to impose, yet De Gea appears to be far from the ideal candidate. Granted, the need to make saves will always be important for a goalkeeper, and the Spaniard's record of 2.8 goals prevented last season was second only to Jose Sa (8.5) in the Premier League.

But goalkeepers have become more and more important in the implementation of possession-based football over the past decade, and the longer you have the ball, the fewer opportunities the opponent has to score – for example, the three teams with the greatest shares of possession last term also faced the fewest shots.

 

So, if De Gea – who last season only completed 69 per cent of his passes – is not suitable, which goalkeepers are? Stats Perform takes a look at the Opta data of the more realistic potential targets...

KEYLOR NAVAS

If United were able to sign Navas, there's lots to suggest it would be a very shrewd acquisition.

Although the Costa Rican is 35, stylistically the Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper does appear to be a good fit for a team that wants to build from the back.

Over the past three seasons, Navas' 89.9 per cent pass completion rate last term is the highest by any goalkeeper (minimum 1,000 minutes played) in a single campaign across the top five leagues. He posted that figure as he and Gianluigi Donnarumma tussled for the starting role.

The season before he found a team-mate with 85.7 per cent of his passes, while in both campaigns he showed he was dependable when facing shots, recording 80.4 and 76.9 save percentages respectively – the former was the best such record of any keeper (min. 1,000 minutes played) over the past three campaigns.

When you consider PSG are seemingly willing to sell, with a move to Napoli apparently in the works, this could be a wonderful opportunity for United.

 

MARC-ANDRE TER STEGEN

This might seem a slightly unrealistic option initially, but Ter Stegen certainly shouldn't be seen as unattainable.

While Ter Stegen has rarely been suggested as a likely option for Barcelona to raise funds, he does still retain reasonable value and his sale would ease salary limit concerns – let's not forget, the Frenkie de Jong saga may be murky, but the Blaugrana need money.

As for his suitability to Ten Hag's brand of football, Ter Stegen's essentially been playing that way throughout his time at Barcelona. In each of the past three seasons, he has recorded a pass completion percentage of over 85 per cent – no other goalkeeper across the big five leagues can match that.

 

The concern, however, is his shot-stopping capabilities. In the three seasons mentioned he has, Opta data says, conceded more goals than the average goalkeeper would have expected to based on the quality of chances faced, and his save percentage figures for the three campaigns (68.8, 69 and 70.4) aren't much better than the average for the keepers in question (67.4 per cent).

WOJCIECH SZCZESNY

Poland international Szczesny may not be remembered especially fondly in the Premier League as he failed to live up to early promise at Arsenal.

But in Serie A he's carved out a fine career for himself. First, he kept Alisson out of the Roma team, and then he went on to become Juventus' chosen one to replace Gianluigi Buffon.

He isn't perfect, but again he is a goalkeeper with decent passing stats. His accuracy (79.4 per cent) last season was, admittedly, his worst record out of the past three campaigns, but in 2020-21 he was at 89.1.

 

Szczesny's save percentages over the period in question range from 68 to 74.4, which are reasonable without being spectacular, though he prevented 5.1 goals in 2019-20 and 2.3 last term. Both are fine records.

ILLAN MESLIER

Obviously, a goalkeeper's statistics are very often a reflection of the team they play in and the players around them. Just because a keeper has an excellent passing accuracy in one side doesn't mean they will in another, or vice versa.

Meslier is a keeper United are said to have been long-term admirers of, and in the data search that identified Navas, Szczesny and Ter Stegen as suitable, the Frenchman is one of precious few under the age of 23 who could fit the bill long term.

The 22-year-old hasn't played behind an especially effective defence since coming into the Premier League with Leeds United, but in the 2020-21 season he recorded a 72.6 save percentage and a reasonable passing accuracy of 77.1 per cent.

 

Granted, both were significantly poorer in 2021-22 and he endured a disappointing season individually – letting in 15.8 goals more than expected, the fifth-worst in Europe's top league – that will have raised some doubts, but he has shown potential in a Leeds team that is known for being chaotic.

He'd be a gamble, but at this point it could be argued United need as much change as possible.

The Premier League is officially 30 years old.

On Saturday, August 15, 1992, the Premier League's inaugural season began with a packed schedule of 15:00 kick-offs.

Its foundation came as a result of clubs in the old First Division breaking away from the Football League in order to maximise their earning potential, with much of that initially focused around the possibility of lucrative TV rights deals.

As the Football Association (FA) had a strained relationship with the Football League at the time, the FA backed plans for the formation of the breakaway league, and in July 1991 the Founder Members Agreement was signed by the top-flight clubs.

While the Premier League fell under the auspices of the FA, the league was given economic independence from the governing body and the Football League, and that has been a major contributing factor in it becoming the behemoth we know in 2022.

Thirty years on, many believe it to be the best league in world football, and on this day it only seems right to take a trip down memory lane with a look at key records, stats and figures from the competition's three decades...

Managing expectations

This is classic 'pub quiz' territory: which manager has presided over the most Premier League games?

You know it's either Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger, don't you? You probably end up going for the Manchester United icon because of his sheer longevity.

Alas, you'd be wrong.

Wenger took charge of 18 more Premier League games (828) than 'Fergie' before he brought his long Arsenal career to a close.

Nevertheless, Ferguson's 13 titles look unlikely to ever be matched. His closest rival in that respect is Pep Guardiola (four), with Wenger joined on three by Jose Mourinho.

Play on, player

Over the first 30 seasons of the Premier League, 4,488 players appeared in the competition at an average of 149.6 debutants per campaign.

If we ignore the inaugural and ongoing seasons for obvious reasons, the campaign with the most debutants was 2015-16 when 162 players made their Premier League bows.

Of the nearly 4,500 individuals to feature in the competition up to the start of the 2022-23 season, Gareth Barry sits clear with the most appearances (653), the last of which came during the 2017-18 season with West Brom.

It's a record that will take some beating, but if anyone's got a chance of toppling him, it's his former Manchester City team-mate James Milner.

The 36-year-old, now of Liverpool, is fourth on the all-time list with 589 outings.

Forever young

Everyone loves a 'wonderkid'. The Premier League has seen more than its fair share over the years, and some got started very, very young.

Mark Platts was the first 16-year-old to ever play in the Premier League when he made his Sheffield Wednesday debut in February 1996.

When Matthew Briggs came along 11 years later and featured for Fulham at 16 years and 68 days old, you'd have been forgiven for thinking his record would stand the test of time.

It lasted 12 years until another Fulham player shaved 38 days off Briggs' record – that player was Harvey Elliott. Now at Liverpool, the young midfielder looks set for a glittering career.

The name of the game

Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mohamed Salah, Wayne Rooney – when you think of Premier League goalscorers, these are probably the names that immediately spring to mind.

Well, you're wrong. You should be thinking about Andrew Johnson, Glen Johnson, Tommy Johnson, Bradley Johnson, Roger Johnson et al.

Why? Because there are more players with the surname Johnson to have scored in the Premier League than any other surname.

There have been 21 of them to be exact, two more than the Williams clan.

Synonymous.

Get to the points

It's been a frustrating few (nine?) years for Man United fans, and this season has started in horrific fashion. But don't worry, folks, if you just look at the big (massive) picture, it'll definitely all feel much better.

United still sit top of the overall Premier League table with 2,366 points, giving them a healthy 219-point cushion over second-placed Arsenal.

Manchester City may have won four of the past five league titles, a feat only United had achieved before them in the Premier League, but the real story is that they're way back on 1,635 Premier League points.

Yo-yo with the flow

To be fair, almost every single one of you knows what's coming here.

You guessed it, Norwich City's relegation from the last season makes them the yo-yoingest (yes, we've just made that up) club in Premier League history.

That was their sixth relegation to go with their five promotions to the top flight since 1992, taking them one clear of West Brom, who have the same number of ascensions but only five demotions to their name.

I love goals, goals, goals, goals

Of course, Shearer remains the Premier's League all-time leading scorer with 260, 52 more than Wayne Rooney in second.

But Harry Kane looks to be in with a chance of usurping both England greats – in fact, another solid season could take him beyond 200 as his header against Chelsea on Sunday took him to 184.

Kane also appears among the very best goalscoring combinations in the competition's history as he and Son Heung-min have linked up for 41 goals – that's five more than Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard as the next-best.

As for high-scoring matches, there have been three Premier League games that have finished with a nine-goal margin – two were achieved by Man Utd (9-0 v Southampton in February 2021, and v Ipswich Town in March 1995) and Leicester City managed it in October 2019, also crushing Saints 9-0.

Do call it a comeback

Your team's trailing 2-0, you're despondent and bereft of hope. But then, out of nowhere, you've got a goal back. Then the equaliser. And then, just when you'd convinced yourself "this draw feels like a win", a third goes in, and it's pandemonium.

There are few more satisfying situations in football than when you team produces such a turnaround – the despair you were feeling earlier only makes your full-time jubilation that bit more intense.

The biggest such turnarounds that led to wins all involved teams coming back from three goals down. Leeds United, Wimbledon and Wolves have all managed it in 4-3 victories, while Man United beat Spurs 5-3 from 3-0 down.

No team have done so since Wolves in October 2003, although Newcastle United certainly deserve a special mention – they are the only team to find themselves 4-0 down and avoid defeat. Their 4-4 draw with Arsenal in February 2011 remains a Premier League classic.

Stop the clock!

Here's another for the pub quiz enthusiasts: who scored the quickest goal in Premier League history?

Netting just 7.69 seconds into an April 2019 game between Southampton and Watford, Shane Long opened the scoring to break a 19-year record that had been set by Spurs defender Ledley King.

To put that into context, it'd take you longer to read that sentence. It was also quicker than Usain Bolt's world-record time in the 100 metres (9.58 seconds).

The latest goal ever is maybe a less notable record, but it nonetheless belongs to Bruno Fernandes, who in September 2020 scored a penalty after 99 minutes and 45 seconds to seal United a dramatic 3-2 win over Brighton and Hove Albion – yes, that's the game when the Seagulls hit the woodwork a record five times.

As for the quickest hat-trick, that was scored by Sadio Mane for Southampton against Aston Villa in May 2015, with his first and third goals separated by just two minutes and 56 seconds.

London derbies between Chelsea and Tottenham hold special reverence in the eyes of many neutrals because it's so synonymous with controversy, drama and – arguably above all else – aggro.

If Todd Boehly never attends another match at Stamford Bridge, he'll be safe in the knowledge that this contest had more than enough drama than 99 per cent of other Chelsea games.

Chelsea's new owner was attending his first home game since the pre-season takeover, and he was treated to an absolute thriller – though he'll ultimately have been frustrated by the Blues' inability to claim all three points as Spurs somehow stole a draw.

But the result, a 2-2 tie, only tells half the story of a gripping contest.

Of course, reminders of the respective situations of the clubs over the past few months was difficult to avoid in the build-up, with even Thomas Tuchel alluding to it in his pre-match press conference on Friday.

While Spurs made some key signings in January, finished the season well and then quickly went about more impressive transfer business in pre-season, Chelsea have had to contend with rather more uncertainty.

After being impacted by the United Kingdom's sanctions against Russian individuals and companies, which of course included then-owner Roman Abramovich, Chelsea couldn't even sell club merchandise to fans.

The £4.25billion takeover by the consortium led by Boehly ushered in a new era, but even then it's difficult to say it's all been plain-sailing since – the American and his partners have ripped up the club's hierarchy and he's made himself interim sporting director, and his movements in the market have attracted ridicule.

From missing out on a host of key targets to spending £62million on Marc Cucurella, they've hardly emitted an aura stability.

Fitting, then, that Chelsea fans welcomed Boehly to the Bridge on Sunday with a Madness-inspired tifo. An adapted display of the band's iconic One Step Beyond album cover – of which the title song is widely associated with the Blues – was unfurled depicting Boehly and his counterparts, and below it a second banner read 'Welcome to the House of Fun'.

Its message rang true as well. While Chelsea may not have beaten their visitors, there was a lot to like about the Blues' performance, and fun it certainly was.

Chelsea were particularly dominant in a first half that saw their intensity and fluidity suffocate Spurs at times. Mason Mount's roaming caused no end of problems, while the movement of Raheem Sterling and Kai Havertz helped ensure the visitors' midfield was forced to sit especially deep.

Then, behind them, Jorginho was at the top of his game, pulling the strings and helping to keep the hosts on the front foot with his expertise in such controlling roles.

As a result, Spurs struggled to gain a foothold in midfield and the front three were anonymous, which proved particularly problematic after Chelsea took a 19th-minute lead.

As if it was written, in front of the man responsible for buying them, two new signings combined for the first Stamford Bridge goal of the new era – and what a goal it was.

Cucurella's outswinging corner picked out Kalidou Koulibaly in space at the back of the area and the centre-back met it with an outrageous volley that spun off his foot and flew past the helpless Hugo Lloris.

Chelsea's issue was building on that lead. Dominant they remained until the second half, but another goal proved elusive and Spurs grew in prominence.

First, Edouard Mendy denied Son Heung-min just after the break, and then Harry Kane – without a goal in his previous five Premier League clashes with Chelsea – missed the target with only the goalkeeper to beat.

A pot shot from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg proved just the ticket, however. Jorginho, who until then was exceptional, was guilty of over-playing in his own box, and within seconds Spurs' Danish midfielder drilled into the bottom-left corner from 25 yards.

That seemed to bring everything to life. Immediately Conte's roaring celebration towards the Chelsea bench sparked a furious clash between the two sets of staff, with the Italian and Tuchel – who was angry with the failure to award the Blues a free-kick in the build-up – grappling with each other.

The spirit of the famous 2016 Battle of the Bridge had been mostly absent, but that moment showed it was merely looming in the shadows, waiting, and it made what Chelsea thought was the winner even sweeter for Tuchel.

Evoking memories of Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford while in charge of Porto, Tuchel hurtled down the touchline – right past Conte – after Reece James beat Lloris for his strike in the 77th minute.

Chelsea were in control again and seemed to be heading for the win, but right at the end of stoppage time a glancing Kane header was diverted in by James, rescuing a well-earned – if fortuitous – point.

While the football ceased with the full-time whistle, the action did not. Tuchel refused to let go of Conte as they shook hands, sparking another melee as both bosses were ultimately shown red cards.

This occasion may not have had the 12 yellow cards of the first Battle of the Bridge, but the amusing petulance and antagonising went some way to filling that void, with Boehly truly given a fitting welcome to the House of Fun.

The second Saturday of the new Premier League campaign did not disappoint, serving up a thrilling comeback, a spectacular home debut and a familiar sinking feeling for Manchester United supporters.

If last week's 2-1 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion represented a baptism of fire for Erik ten Hag, United's trip to Brentford provided further despair as the dismal Red Devils hit a 30-year low.

There was more joy for rivals Manchester City as they cruised to a 4-0 win over Bournemouth, while Gabriel Jesus made good on his pre-season promise with a dominant performance against Leicester City.

Here, Stats Perform trawls through Opta's data to bring you some of the best numbers from the day's Premier League action.

Brentford 4-0 Manchester United: Ten Hag matches unwanted Chapman record against brilliant Bees

Where do you start with this one? New United boss Ten Hag was left in no doubt regarding the side's problems when a Pascal Gross double sent them crashing to an opening-day defeat last week.

But not even the most pessimistic United follower could have predicted their collapse in west London, as Ten Hag became the first Red Devils manager to lose his first two games at the helm since John Chapman in November 1921.

Things got off to a dreadful start when David de Gea let Josh Dasilva's shot squirm into the net after 10 minutes; since the start of the 2018-19 season, only Jordan Pickford (11) has made more errors leading to Premier League goals than the Spaniard.

Mathias Jensen, Ben Mee and Bryan Mbeumo joined Dasilva on the scoresheet by the 35th minute as Brentford scored with their first four shots on target, while Cristiano Ronaldo cut a dejected figure on his return to the United team.

Only two teams had previously scored four first-half goals against United in a Premier League game; Tottenham in October 2020 and Liverpool in October 2021.

The result is that United have begun a top-flight campaign with back-to-back defeats for the first time since 1992-93, the Premier League's inaugural season.

And while the table has not quite taken shape two games in, United ended the day bottom of the Premier League for the first time since August 21, 1992.

Arsenal 4-2 Leicester City: Miraculous home debut for Jesus

Another side with Champions League ambitions has made a far brighter start to the Premier League season, as Mikel Arteta's Arsenal made it two consecutive wins with an entertaining victory over Leicester.

Former Manchester City forward Jesus was hailed as a coup for the Gunners when he arrived in the off-season, and he enjoyed a home debut to remember by scoring two goals and adding two assists.

In doing so, the Brazilian became the first player to score multiple goals on his home Premier League bow for Arsenal, as well as the first Gunners player to double up for goals and assists in a single league game since Theo Walcott against Newcastle in December 2012 (three goals, two assists).

Before Jesus assisted compatriot Gabriel Martinelli for Arsenal's fourth goal, he became the 12th different Brazilian to score in the Premier League for Arsenal – the most of any side in the competition's history.

Jesus was not the only player to impress, however, with Granit Xhaka both scoring and assisting in the same match for the first time in an Arsenal shirt, 252 games into his Gunners career.

Leicester, meanwhile, were subjected to a familiar feeling of frustration in north London – this was the sixth time they have conceded at least four goals in a Premier League game against Arsenal.

Manchester City 4-0 Bournemouth: Champions cruise despite quiet day for Haaland

Home teams hitting four goals seemed to be a theme of the day, as Pep Guardiola's Premier League champions followed up a win at West Ham by cruising past Bournemouth.

Scott Parker's team were likely not expecting a result at the Etihad Stadium; City have now won all 11 of their Premier League matches against Bournemouth, the best 100 per cent winning record against a particular team in the competition's history.

A Jefferson Lerma own goal came after strikes from Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden, as the Cherries made it 17 league matches without a win against City in their history – the most one side has faced another without a victory in English league history.

Kevin De Bruyne was at his creative best for City, scoring his 16th league goal since the start of last season before teeing up Foden's strike.

The Belgian has both scored and assisted in 20 separate Premier League matches since his September 2015 debut. Only Mohamed Salah (24) and Son Heung-min (21) have done so on more occasions in that time.

But while City were rampant, new talisman Haaland was quiet. The Norwegian only managed eight touches and two successful passes, but still managed to make an impact.

One of Haaland's passes was from kick-off, the other teed up Gundogan to score the first goal.

Southampton 2-2 Leeds United: Saints manage rare comeback as Aribo opens account

Elsewhere, Jesse Marsch's Leeds failed to make it two wins from two as Southampton launched a stirring comeback on the south coast.

Rodrigo was on the scoresheet in a win over Wolves last week before hitting a brace at St Marys, making him the first player to score three goals in Leeds' first two games of a Premier League season since Alan Smith in 2000-01.

But Leeds could not hold on, failing to win after going two goals ahead for only the second time in their last 36 Premier League games, and for the first time in 14 such contests (since a 3-3 draw with Charlton Athletic in May 2004).

Southampton have now avoided defeat in two of the last five Premier League games where they have gone two goals down (also a 2-2 draw against Brighton in April), but their love of a comeback is a new characteristic.

Before April, the Saints had only managed one win and one draw from the last 58 Premier League games in which they went two goals behind.

Joe Aribo represents one of their most impressive additions following his arrival from Rangers, and his goal made him the first Nigerian to score in the Premier League for Southampton, as well as the 38th in the competition's history overall.

Few things will have made football fans feel stranger than seeing Lionel Messi wearing any other club shirt than that of Barcelona.

That is what happened in 2021 though, when the legendary Argentine made the move to Paris Saint-Germain due to the financial mess at the Camp Nou.

What could be stranger than that? Perhaps a Ballon d'Or shortlist of 30 names being released and not seeing Messi's among them?

On Friday, that once ludicrous suggestion became reality as the nominees for the 2022 award were announced in batches of five, only the familiar mention of the seven-time winner never came.

Of course, it was not especially a surprise. Messi struggled to make an impact at PSG after his free transfer to the Parc des Princes, scoring just six goals in 26 Ligue 1 games as his new team eased to the title, and a further five in seven Champions League outings.

By comparison, Messi won last year's Ballon d'Or after scoring 30 goals in 35 LaLiga games in 2020-21, as well as three in the Copa del Rey and five in the Champions League for Barca.

It still feels odd to see his name omitted, and Stats Perform has taken a trip down memory lane and looked at the last time Messi was not shortlisted for the prestigious award, all the way back in 2005.

The master before the apprentice

Before Messi, there was Ronaldinho, a player so captivating in 2005 he even earned a standing ovation at the Santiago Bernabeu from the Real Madrid fans for his performance in El Clasico.

The Brazilian consistently wowed the crowds with his skill paired with dribbling prowess and the ability to change a game all on his own. 

Unlike Messi, Ronaldinho did not earn plaudits for scoring incredible numbers of goals, more that he was generally a scorer of beautiful goals in important moments. Across league and Champions League, he scored 13 goals and recorded eight assists in 42 games for Barca in 2004-05.

That season saw him star for Barca as he won his first LaLiga title, which included providing an assist as a very young Messi scored his first senior goal for the club against Albacete.

Although Champions League glory would elude him until 2006, Ronaldinho still managed to make a mark even in Barca's first knockout round exit to Chelsea in 2005 as he scored both goals in the 4-2 second leg defeat at Stamford Bridge, including a delightful toe poke that flew past Petr Cech.

For a player of his undoubted ability, it was a surprise that this was Ronaldinho's only Ballon d'Or, with Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro winning in 2006, Milan maestro Kaka doing so in 2007 and Cristiano Ronaldo lifting the first of many in 2008, starting the era of dominance between him and Messi.

Two lions unable to roar to success

Not all that far behind Ronaldinho in the voting back in 2005 were England midfield pair Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.

The Barca man had received 50 votes in all, with Lampard second on 45 and Gerrard third on 39, though the Brazilian was significantly ahead of his two rivals in terms of those who voted him first (with voters marking down their top five in order).

It had been an excellent year for both Lampard and Gerrard though, with the former a key part of Jose Mourinho's dominant Chelsea who not only won the Premier League at a canter, securing 95 points and finishing 12 ahead of second-place Arsenal, but also dumped Barcelona out of the Champions League.

However, they in turn were eliminated from the competition in the semi-finals by Gerrard and Liverpool, who went on to lift the cup in Istanbul after a dramatic win on penalties against Milan in the final.

Had it been the modern day, in all likelihood, Gerrard would have received the most votes given the emphasis placed on winning the Champions League in recent years.

The Reds captain was a force of nature in 2004-05, dragging Liverpool through several games on his own though, like Ronaldinho, had not been a very regular scorer, only netting seven goals and four assists in 30 Premier League games, and Rafael Benitez's side finished a disappointing fifth.

Lampard was more of a net botherer though, scoring 13 goals and recording an impressive 18 assists in 38 league games for the Blues on their march to the title.

Funnily enough, Gerrard and Lampard will face each other as managers on Saturday as Aston Villa host Everton in the Premier League.

The little engine that would

Little did the game know what was about to hit it.

When Messi scored that goal against Albacete on May 1, 2005, it was the birth of a figure who would go on to become arguably the greatest footballer of all time.

It must be said that the last time Messi was not on what was then a 50-man shortlist for the Ballon d'Or, he was just 18 years old, and had been just 17 when he netted his first goal for Barca.

For the remainder of the year, Messi set about establishing himself as a key part of Barca's attack alongside Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o under the coaching of Frank Rijkaard.

Messi scored six goals in 17 LaLiga appearances for the Blaugrana in 2005-06, as well as notching his first Champions League goal in a 5-0 win over Panathinaikos at the Camp Nou.

In 2006, he was tied 20th in the voting for the Ballon d'Or and the rest, as they say, is history.

Don't bet against seeing his name back on the shortlist in 2023, having already scored three goals in his first two games for PSG this season.

There is also a World Cup on the horizon, after all.

Premier League football returned with a bang last week, and the second round of matches throws up the first clash between two sides anticipated to be right in the thick of the battle for a top-four finish.

Chelsea's first home game of the season hands them a London derby against Tottenham, with both on a high following their opening victories against Everton and Southampton respectively.

On the weekend the Premier League celebrates its 30th birthday, all eyes will be on Stamford Bridge as Antonio Conte faces off against his former employers.

Both Chelsea and Spurs had busy pre-seasons, including the former being taken over by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, and with both playing in the Champions League this season, will be among the favourites to secure their spots in Europe's elite competition once again.

Securing points against rivals in the battle may well be decisive come May, and Chelsea know they have the historic edge.

Spurs' Stamford Bridge struggles

In 2018, Spurs won consecutive Premier League matches against Chelsea – a rare phenomenon for the north London side, who are historically poor in their trips across the capital to Stamford Bridge.

Since losing 3-1 at Wembley in November 2018, Chelsea have returned to form in the fixture, with seven Premier League matches unbeaten against Spurs, six wins and one draw.

During that run, Chelsea have conceded just a solitary goal and not even that was scored by a Spurs player, with Antonio Rudiger netting an own goal in Chelsea's 2-1 win in February 2020.

Spurs' record at Stamford Bridge makes for even worse reading. Their 3-1 win in April 2018 is their only success in their last 37 visits to Chelsea, suffering 24 defeats and sharing the spoils on 12 occasions.

 

Kane's killing edge

Thierry Henry stands as the highest Premier League scorer in London derbies with 43, but Harry Kane (41) is now closing in on the former Arsenal captain.

The England skipper is a reliable threat in front of goal against opponents from the capital but has a poor run of form against Chelsea, having failed to score in any of his last five appearances against the Blues.

In the top-flight, Kane has only had longer goalless runs against Manchester City (seven games between 2017 and 2021) and Manchester United (six games between 2014 and 2016).

Kane comes into Sunday's clash seeking to open his account for the season but will have fond memories of his last London derby, where he struck twice in a convincing win over Arsenal in May.

 

Centurions in wait

Tottenham sit just one victory away from celebrating 100 wins in Premier League London derby matches and, if they beat Chelsea, will become the third side to reach that milestone after the Blues and Arsenal.

Securing a win at Stamford Bridge is difficult enough but Spurs are also edging towards being centurions in Premier League London derbies at the opposite end of the spectrum as they have 97 defeats – only West Ham (112) having more.

Both milestones could be reached during the course of the 2022-23 season, and Spurs will hope to tick off the former first.

 

Home headache

Two of Chelsea's last three home Premier League London derby matches have ended in defeat, having lost to Arsenal and Brentford in April.

In that run, Chelsea suffered as many defeats in three games as they had in their previous 17 – where they had only dropped 12 points from a possible 51.

Those losses to Arsenal and Brentford hit harder, however, with the fact that Thomas Tuchel's side conceded eight goals in total – as many as they had conceded in their previous 16 combined.

Spurs can pack a punch too, with Conte's men winning their last four Premier League matches with an aggregate scoreline of 13-1, which stands as the longest winning run within the top-flight.

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