Granit Xhaka

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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.

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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.

Fifty fearful predictions for 2019-20 Premier League season

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We’re about to start 250-plus days of frenetic, teeth-grinding, pulsating days of Premier League football, so what do you say we have a little fun with what could happen over the next nine months.

[ MORE: Transfer records for all 20 PL clubs ]


1. Virgil Van Dijk will win the 2019 Ballon d’Or.

2. Arsenal will be better than most expect en route to winning a trophy this year.

3. Man City and Spurs will make the deepest runs in the UEFA Champions League (unless drawn against each other early in the knockouts).

4. Harry Kane will be near the top of the Premier League goal charts in August, bucking his early season trend.

5. He won’t win the Golden Boot, though, as Mohamed Salah earns that honor.

6. Christian Pulisic will register double-digit assists for Chelsea, but finish just shy of double-digit goals.

(Photo by David Geieregger/SEPA.Media /Getty Images)

7. It will be the other way around for Newcastle record signing Joelinton.

8. Aston Villa’s Dean Smith will finish second in PL Manager of the Year voting, and only because not enough voters will select someone outside the Top Four.

9. Ederson will win the Premier League’s Golden Glove.

10. Norwich City will be the first team to sack its manager.

11. Alexandre Lacazette will have more total goals+assists than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

12. So will Nicolas Pepe.

13. But Aubameyang will finish tied with Harry Kane for second-most goals in the Premier League.

14. Raheem Sterling will win Premier League Players’ Player of the Year.

15. Dele Alli will start less than half of Spurs league matches.

16. A team will be relegated despite reaching the 40 point mark.

17. Watford will lead the league in yellow and red cards.

18. Either Burnley’s Sean Dyche or Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe will take a new coaching job before the end of the season.

19. Ruben Loftus-Cheek will return from injury in the winter and become a key piece of some team’s season, whether at Chelsea or on a half-season loan.

20. Arsenal will lead the league in expected goals per game.

21. Everton will be in the Top Four come Nov. 2’s visit from Tottenham.

22. Liverpool will lose the UEFA Super Cup to Chelsea in penalty kicks, and penalty kicks v. Liverpool will become just about the most useless, annoying buzz topic in English football.

23. Man City won’t lose until Dec. 14 at Arsenal.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

24. At least one $30 million-plus summer transfer will be sold or loaned in January.

25. Once healthy, Kieran Tierney will have a better first 22 games at Arsenal than fellow Scottish import fullback Andy Robertson had at Liverpool.

26. Sheffield United will be top half of the table at the first international break.

27. Marcus Rashford will score 10 goals and 10 assists for Manchester United, but it will be regarded as not enough due to unrealistic expectations.

28. Burnley will not sit above 10th at any point after Week 1.

29. Brighton’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh will rise from his terribly disappointing debut season in England to score at least one otherworldly goal.

30. Mike Ashley will start a new or renewed takeover rumor right before the January transfer window.

31. Marko Arnautovic‘s brother will link his brother with a return to the Premier League in January.

32. VAR will decide a critical, hairline goal in a Man City-Liverpool match.

33. Liverpool will go unbeaten at home.

34. Everton will win a Merseyside Derby.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

35. Aaron Wan-Bissaka will have as many assists as Trent Alexander-Arnold.

36. Josh Sims‘ loan stint with the New York Red Bulls will make him an in-demand transfer target for a PL team in January.

37. Speaking of Southampton, Saints will be in the conversation for a Europa League place before the festive season (Ultimately, the season flames out).

38. At least one non-Top Six team will win a domestic cup.

39. Watford and Crystal Palace see the biggest drop in point total from last season to this.

40. Southampton and Everton make the biggest leap in point total from last season to this.

41. Alexis Sanchez will end up starting matches for Manchester United.

42. Olivier Giroud will match his Premier League best for goals in a season (16, twice).

43. Everton will qualify for Europe.

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

44. Andy Carroll will score against former clubs West Ham and Liverpool.

45. Ismaila Sarr will score 10 goals as Watford’s record transfer.

46. It will be a breakout season in England for Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, who will look more like the force he was in the Bundesliga.

47. Gabriel Jesus will return to double-digit goals for Man City.

48. West Ham’s Felipe Anderson will post the most assists of any player not on Liverpool or Man City.

49. Jonas Lossl will start 10 or more matches for Everton.

50. Man City will threepeat, and the title will be decided before the final week of the season.

Report: Torreira not pushing to leave Arsenal

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According to a report by Sam Dean of The Telegraph, Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira is not actively looking to leave The Emirates, contradicting reports from Italy over the past week that have claimed the Uruguayan is unsettled in England and hoping to return to Serie A.

The Telegraph report cites “sources close to the player” and says that Torreira is “happy” at Arsenal.

There have been heavy links with Torreira to AC Milan, as the new manager Marco Giampaolo was his old boss at Sampdoria before he moved to London last summer. While Torreira himself admitted that he has struggled to adapt to life in England and has faced significant adversity with the language barrier, The Telegraph report calls any suggestions that the player is looking to force his way out “wildly exaggerated.”

However, the report also admits that AC Milan sees Torreira as a “priority” this summer and will hope to make a compelling move, led by former Arsenal sporting director Ivan Gazidis who is now employed by Milan. The 23-year-old has a whopping four years left on his contract, so the club still holds significant power over his future, and with the player supposedly yet to force a move, Milan would likely need to blow Arsenal out of the water with a bid to have a chance. The Telegraph notes that a successful offer would need to provide Arsenal with a significant return on investment of the $32 million they paid Sampdoria a year ago.

Torreira performed well in his first season at Arsenal, endearing fans with his no-nonsense style and a technical ability to help the team play out of the back. He made 32 Premier League appearances, struggling at first to earn a place in the starting lineup with Unai Emery unsure how to fit both he and Granit Xhaka in the formation together, but as the Arsenal boss began to pivot the two, Torreira found more time on the pitch, sometimes at the expense of Mateo Guendouzi.

Ronaldo hat trick puts Portugal in final

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It’s kinda what he does, you know, scoring huge goals?

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick as Portugal clinched a spot in the inaugural UEFA Nations League Final with a 3-1 defeat of Switzerland on Wednesday at the Estadio do Dragao.

[ MORE: Premier League VAR details ]

Ronaldo’s match-winner came in the 88th minute off a feed from Bernardo Silva, and then the Portuguese megastar cooked Manuel Akanji en route to a 90th minute insurance goal.

Ricardo Rodriguez scored a penalty kick for Switzerland’s lone goal.

Ronaldo’s performance came on the same day that the American lawsuit filed against Ronaldo for rape was moved to federal court.

The first goal was wonderful, a free kick sent through the wall after Ronaldo was fouled to win the opportunity, though it came after Bruno Fernandes was somehow not sent off for a sliding studs-up challenge. To be fair to Portugal, Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka could also have been sent off minutes later for a two-footed challenge.

The goals were the 86th, 87th, and 88th of his Portugal senior career.

And really the performance saved the story line, which would’ve been all about VAR after a penalty awarded to Portugal was never given thanks to a video review which nullified the foul in order to give a dodgy penalty to the Swiss.

That in itself had a measure of fairness, as the Swiss were the better team on the day. They just didn’t have Cristiano Ronaldo.

Chelsea win Europa League after Arsenal capitulate (video)

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Chelsea are champions of the Europa League after thumping Arsenal, who hit the self-destruct button ahead of an ultimately decisive 20-minute period to begin the second half, thus kissing goodbye their last remaining chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

[ MORE: Sepp Blatter wants to sue Gianni Infantino ]

The final score in Baku, Azerbaijan: 4-1.

Things didn’t start out all bad for Arsenal, though. The Gunners had a claim for a penalty kick denied in the 18th minute, when Alexandre Lacazette was played in behind the Chelsea backline. Arrizabalaga came rushing out and arrived just after Lacazette scooted the ball out of reach. The contact between goalkeeper and forward was minimal, if any at all, but that didn’t stop Lacazette from going to ground in dramatic fashion. With video review in play for the final, no second viewing was recommended.

Granit Xhaka was next to go agonizingly close for Arsenal, but the 20-yard screamer he struck in the 28th minute grazed the top of the crossbar and would have likely been covered and pushed over by Arrizabalaga had it been on target.

Emerson unleashed a well-hit strike right in the chest of Petr Cech, playing in the final game of his glorious career, in the 33rd minute, followed six minutes later by a decent chance for Olivier Giroud, which proved to be Chelsea’s best of the first half. The former Arsenal man forced Cech to make a full-stretch save with his left hand, though he never appeared to be scrambling to cover his far post.

[ TRANSFER RUMORS: Sadio Mane plays down Real Madrid links ]

Chelsea needed just five second-half minutes to break the deadlock, though, as Giroud got his head on the end of Emerson’s cross at the near post and and redirected the ball, with power, past Cech and snuck it just inside the woodwork. The 32-year-old Frenchman opted for a largely subdued celebration against his club of five and a half seasons.

Pedro made it 2-0 exactly 10 minutes later, when Eden Hazard sprang to life for the first time in the game. The Belgian, perhaps playing his final game for the club, broke down the left side of Arsenal’s penalty area before cutting the ball back to Pedro near the penalty spot. The Spaniard swept the ball just inside the far post.

The meltdown was complete on 64 minutes, when Ainsley Maitland-Niles barged through the back of Giroud just inside the box. Hazard stepped to the penalty spot, sent Cech one direction and rolled the ball over the line the other way.

Alex Iwobi pulled the goal back for Arsenal — far and away the greatest moment of quality in the game (WATCH HERE) — just four minutes later, the Nigerian’s right-footed volley proved powerless in changing the course of the game, because Hazard struck again three minutes later.