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Premier League Numbers Nerd: Week 1

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Small sample sizes can make for terrible science, but they’re delightful for stat hounds and simple amusements.

For example, the Premier League’s opening weekend saw a hat trick for Raheem Sterling and braces for Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, and Ashley Barnes.

[ MORE: USSF promotes Stewart, hires USWNT GM ]

Who was the top dog of the week in terms of match rating, though? Man City’s Riyad Mahrez, who was nearly perfect with two assists, 83.3 percent passing despite his placement in low success areas of the pitch, four tackles, two interceptions, and four key passes.

Here are our favorite numbers, notes, and names from Week 1 (Stats via WhoScored):

Two (2) assists is the current top total in the league. It won’t surprise you to see Mahrez and Paul Pogba on that figure, but the third player to do it is… Burnley’s Erik Pieters!

Four (4) players won eight or more aerial duels: League-leader Christian Benteke (9) of Crystal Palace, as well as Newcastle’s Joelinton, Burnley’s Ben Mee, and Brighton’s Shane Duffy.

Under five: Three players in the Premier League played 90 minutes and couldn’t register higher than a 5.0 on WhoScored’s rating system. Kurt Zouma of Chelsea (4.86) could not come close to replicating his stalwart play with Everton last season and conceded a penalty and four goals. West Ham star Issa Diop (4.93) had the sort of statistical day a lot of players do against Man City, and two of his back line teammates joined him in the Bottom Six. And Grant Hanley of Norwich City posted a 4.99, dinged largely by an own goal despite completing 92.3 percent of his passes against Liverpool.

Five (5) –> Villa fans will want this to be six, as Tyrone Mings couldn’t stop Tanguy Ndombele‘s equalizer, but no player in the Premier League blocked as many shots as the former Bournemouth man. And we’re not done with him yet.

(Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Five is also the league-best number of key passes recorded, by Chelsea’s Pedro. Perhaps Frank Lampard‘s feeling about his team’s play in a 4-0 loss to Manchester United will make sense over time.

And five is also the most fouls drawn by anyone in Week 1, with Villa’s Jack Grealish and Palace’s Jordan Ayew needing some time in an ice bath.

Finally, five is the number of players who completed more than 80 passes on Opening Day. Leicester’s Ben Chilwell led the way with 85, followed by Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Toby Alderweireld (Spurs), Harry Winks (Spurs), and Jonny Evans (Leicester).

Seven (7) interceptions were made by Newcastle’s Fabian Schar, the most in the league. Seven is also the amount of fouls committed by Crystal Palace’s Luka Milivojevic against Everton, three more than anyone else (Yes, he saw yellow).

Eight (8): The amount of shots taken by Harry Kane, double the amount of anyone else in the Premier League.

Eight is also the most successful tackles won by a single player this weekend, done by Liverpool’s Fabinho and Aston Villa’s John McGinn?

Seventeen (17): This would also be more appropriately read as “Seven-(expletive)-teen!” Aston Villa’s Mings cleared danger 17 times against Spurs, almost double the No. 2 man, Palace’s Martin Kelly.

100%: Only one field player in the league played more than a half-hour and completed all of his passes, and that was… Christian Pulisic of Chelsea and these United States of America. He was 12-for-12, but here’s the bad news: That came as part of a statistically miserable 6.09 showing.

Guardiola: I’m staying at Man City and I love this challenge

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This year’s managerial merry-go-round tells us that nothing should surprise us, and there are few high-profile jobs that feel safe from changes at any given time.

Manchester City is one of them, but upheaval at old club Bayern Munich and uncertainty at Barcelona have had many linking Pep Guardiola with an early exit from the Etihad Stadium.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City v. Chelsea ]

But as Chuck D warned us so long ago, don’t believe the hype; Guardiola says he’s very happy at Man City and not quitting on the project or the season.

“We don’t have a joker in our pocket,” he said. “I know, all around the world, people are saying the Premier League is done.”

“But if people think I am going to resign for these results, they don’t know me. I like this challenge. I love to be in this position. If the club wants me next season, I want to be here 100 percent.”

Few would be surprise if Man City went on a wild run of wins, especially once Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane return to the team. The reason folks think the Premier League is over is the idea that Liverpool would lose nine more points than City seems so unlikely (though they do meet again).

Milan hoping to woo “great champion” Zlatan next week

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Serie A mainstays AC Milan are trying to woo Zlatan Ibrahimovic back to the San Siro.

The full-court press makes sense, as it will take some financial sacrifices for Ibrahimovic to join the side given Financial Fair Play problems in Milan.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City v. Chelsea ]

Coach Stefano Pioli called Zlatan “a great champion” while admitting he has to focus on the table and not transfers, while former AC Milan CEO Adriano Galliani issued a glowing call for the Swede to return to town.

From Football-Italia.com:

“It would be romantic if he returned. But I have a rule, I don’t talk about teams I’m not involved with anymore. I’m only a fan of Milan now. Still, his arrival would enrich Italian football, similar to when Cristiano Ronaldo came to Italy.”

Man, they know how to speak this guy’s language, don’t they?

Sky Sports says Ibrahimovic’s agent will meet with Milan again next week in the hopes of convincing him to take a lower wage deal, and the 38-year-old showed he’s willing to take one for the team during his stint with the LA Galaxy.

The move makes too much sense, with Milan’s 11 goals well below its expected goal number. They need a finisher, and Zlatan sure does that. And if lower wages means Zlatan gets to play mercenary for five months while proving he’s got the goods for a big wage for 2020-21, that’s an easy concession for the striker.

U.S. U-17 keeper Odunze learning from Schmeichel at Leicester City

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Leicester City’s huge secret was told to the world at the U-17 World Cup in Brazil, where imposing goalkeeper Chituru Odunze made several big saves in the United States’ quick exit from the group stage.

Odunze, who turned 17 last month, joined the Premier League outfit from the Vancouver Whitecaps last season, and is already getting some first team training time.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City v. Chelsea ]

This is all good news for a USMNT program which has a long history of goalkeepers shining at the top levels in Europe, including Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller, Tim Howard, and now Zach Steffen.

Odunze admits to being pleased at the tests provided by Jamie Vardy and the Leicester attackers, but says he’s learning more from the expertise on show from a trio of wise first team goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel, Danny Ward, and Eldin Jakupovic.

Schmeichel is a Premier League winner, Jakupovic a former regular PL starter with Hull City, and Ward helped Huddersfield Town to promotion during a loan from Liverpool. From The Leicester Mercury:

“They’re all really good role models at the club, and they sort of take you under their wing. They’ve taught me to calm down and be confident in my abilities,” Odunze said. “Of course, there are little pieces of technical information they give me while we’re training, but a lot of the lasting information I get from them is mental.”

The 17-year-old has a monstrous frame, so learning from Schmeichel and company at such a young age while getting tested by the Foxes’ electric attackers is a great combination. He is 2W-2L at the U18 Premier League level.

Premier League Preview: Manchester City v. Chelsea

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Manchester City and Chelsea both defend their slimmed title hopes when they meet Saturday at the Etihad Stadium (Watch Live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

City is hoping to avoid a second-straight loss after dropping nine points behind prohibitive title favorites Liverpool last match day, while Frank Lampard‘s Blues know a loss could see them drop as many as 11 points behind the Reds.

And, of course, a win will give either side the table advantage over the other.

Ederson and David Silva are available again for Man City. Christian Pulisicis in contention to play” for Chelsea after missing the international break with the United States.

A Champions League match day follows this one, with Man City meeting Shakhtar Donetsk in Manchester on Tuesday and Chelsea in Spain to meet Valencia one day later.


Injuries/suspensions

Manchester City: OUT — Bernardo Silva, Aymeric Laporte, Leroy Sane. QUESTIONABLE — None.

Chelsea: OUT — Ruben Loftus-Cheek. QUESTIONABLE — Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi.


Probable lineups

Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Fernandinho, Mendy; Rodri, Gundogan, B.Silva, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Aguero.

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Tomori, Zouma, Alonso; Kovacic, Kante, Mount, Pulisic, Willian; Abraham.


What they’re saying

City’s Pep Guardiola on Frank Lampard’s young managerial career: “From my experience, experience doesn’t count much. I would say that when you know the club it is a good advantage and Frank Lampard knows Chelsea perfectly and everything behind the scenes – media, fans, players – so that is good. When I arrived (at Barcelona) not many people trusted me, honestly. Few, few people. Maybe the president, sporting director and not many. “Maybe Frank was similar at Derby. It was a big club, he didn’t take results in the beginning and people said he didn’t have experience. Look now.”

Frank Lampard on being above Man City after 12 matches: “For us to be in that position is something I am pleased with, I actually want more as well. I look at ourselves and don’t consider others, only where we could have got more points too, and there are times where we could have done. At the same time it is nice to be up there and around it. It’s a great test tomorrow, head to head to see where we’re at. It won’t be the end story, anyone can go to Manchester City and lose, they are such a strong outfit. That is what Pep Guardiola and the club have built over recent years. So I won’t be making huge judgements win or lose tomorrow without a doubt.”


Prediction

Could go either way, couldn’t it, but it feels more likely we see a vintage, defiant bounce back effort from City that looks a bit too easy given Chelsea’s strengths. This is the first big league test for Chelsea since its narrow loss to Liverpool on Sept. 22. We see the six-match winning streak ending via a 3-1 final score.