Jack Grealish

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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.

Smith wants ‘competitive’ Aston Villa following loss in PL return

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Despite a 3-1 loss, Aston Villa fought tooth and nail in their return to the Premier League against Tottenham, and manager Dean Smith wasted no time in affirming that that’s the integrity he expects from his team this season.

“We want to be competitive in this league,” Smith told the BBC following the match. “Next week we’ll be walking out at Villa Park – but we’ll be doing so with zero points and that’s something we have to work on.

“The better team won on the day in the second half,” he added. “We were perhaps unfortunate with the goals. Their physicality shone through in the end.”

Up only nine minutes in following John McGinn‘s left-footed strike, Villa defended their lead for more than 60 minutes in front of a vociferous Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, remaining narrow and compact in the back. Summer signing Tom Heaton, who had three saves throughout the 90 minutes, was heavily applauded and cheered by Villa’s traveling faithful for his superlative saves. Tyrone Mings and Björn Engles set a positive tone defensively.

“The first half performance and our defensive organization was very good,” Smith admitted. “They’re not Champions League finalists for nothing – they have a very well coached group of players. We’re always learning lessons, today’s game has set a standard for us.”

At the end, Villa’s defensive solidity and dangerous counter-attacks – powered by McGinn and captain Jack Grealish – weren’t enough to offset one of the league’s best in Harry Kane. Tottenham’s striker recorded a brace in the final minutes to spoil any chances of Villa walking out with points, adding to Tanguy Ndombele‘s memorable debut goal.

The newly-promoted side left North London empty-handed, yes, but with a good lesson learned. And while on the field, they made sure to send a clear message: earning three points against them will not come easy.

What we learned from opening PL Saturday

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LONDON — The new Premier League campaign is off and running and we learned so much from the opening Saturday of the season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Hot takes: Aston Villa are probably going to finish in the top 10. Man City may well score 150 Premier League goals this season. Harry Kane will win the Golden Boot. And maybe we were all a little too hasty to write off the likes of Sheffield United, Brighton and Burnley before a ball was kicked…

What did we learn from the opening Saturday of the season?


VAR WORKED VERY, VERY WELL

This was the first weekend VAR was used across the Premier League and, all in all, it went very smoothly. In what was probably the most high-profile use of the new system, it was used to order a retake of a penalty kick which Sergio Aguero missed at West Ham. After two Hammers defenders encroached into the box, and were then able to get to the ball first after Fabianski’s save, they became active and VAR was used correctly.

From offside decisions to possible red cards, VAR was used quickly and efficiently and if you want a primer about how it’s going to work this season, click here. If the first week of VAR is anything to go by, the PL’s decision to wait to use this system has been proved correct.


MAN CITY OUTDO LIVERPOOL

Liverpool scored four, so Man City had to score five, didn’t they? After Liverpool’s first half blitz against Norwich led to a 4-1 win at Anfield on Friday, Man City destroyed West Ham 5-0 at the London Stadium on Saturday. Pep Guardiola‘s men stepped on the accelerator in the second half and with Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan on the bench, plus Joao Cancelo, their strength in-depth is ridiculous. Raheem Sterling‘s hat trick was a thing of clinical beauty and Man City are in midseason form.

There are plenty of twists and turns ahead in the Premier League title race and it is clear, especially after the opening weekend, that Liverpool and Man City can beat most teams without getting out of second gear. City looked fresh and with Alisson going down injured against Norwich, you’d have to say it is advantage Man City after the opening weekend. One down, 37 to go…


NEW SEASON, SAME HARRY KANE

Harry Kane looked fit, sharp and hungry as Tottenham fought back to beat Aston Villa 3-1. Spurs didn’t start well but when they equalized through debutant Tanguy Ndombele, there was only one winner. Christian Eriksen‘s arrival off the bench made a massive difference and Kane pounced twice to finish clinically.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

He missed two chances in the first half he would usually have scored, and even though he rarely scores in August, he grabbed two crucial late goals to send Spurs’ fans wild. Without Jan Vertonghen, Heung-Min Son and Dele Alli, Kane stood tall to lead Spurs to victory. Now he has had an entire summer to relax and recover, England’s star striker and everyone connected with Spurs will be hoping he can shake off his ankle injuries to lead them on a title push with Liverpool and Man City. Spurs have so many attacking options with the arrival of Giovani Lo Celso, plus Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela around, but Kane remains their biggest hope of silverware.


ASTON VILLA WILL BE DANGEROUS

As we are about to discuss below, the opening weekend usually springs a few surprises. Aston Villa looked like they would spring one of those at Tottenham. With 12 summer signings, it was difficult to know how Villa would line up but Dean Smith’s side put in a near-perfect away display. The last five minutes saw Harry Kane score twice and they lost 3-1. They scored early, sat back and soaked up pressure and looked dangerous on the counter as they built off Wesley‘s knockdowns. Jack Grealish was a beast in midfield, Tyrone Mings held things together at the back and Tom Heaton made a string of fine saves in the second half.

The team from England’s second city have a huge fanbase and the former European champions are a Premier League club. It is as a simple as that. With John Terry‘s influence on their defense obvious, the flair of Smith’s side is led by Grealish and there was a decent balance to Villa in the first 60 minutes before they ran out of steam. I’m not saying they’re going to be better than Wolves were last season, but a top 10 finish isn’t out of the question in 2019-20.


OPENING WEEKEND STAYS WEIRD

Burnley beating Southampton 3-0? Brighton winning 3-0 away at Watford? Yeah, I told you in this Matchweek 1 preview video to beware of upsets during the opening weekend and it didn’t disappoint. Burnley battered Saints in the second half as Ashley Barnes morphed into a clinical battering ram, and the Clarets were back to their gritty best in defense.

Brighton’s new boss Graham Potter caught everyone by surprise as the Seagulls grabbed their first win in 10 PL games, with that run stretching back to March. Everyone questioning the dismissal of Chris Hughton will now be served up a plate of humble pie as Brighton’s attacking masterclass (with pretty much exactly the same lineup Hughton was using last season) was hammered home by subs Florin Andone and club-record signing Neal Maupay who both scored.

Kane praises Eriksen, said equalizer momentum led Spurs to win

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Harry Kane got the job done for Spurs after a little bit of a kickstart from a new pal.

Tanguy Ndombele‘s terrific second half goal gave Tottenham Hotspur an equalizer against cagey and newly-promoted Aston Villa, and Christian Eriksen reminded Spurs fans of his quality in a starring role off the bench.

Kane did the rest.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

The 26-year-old Spurs star went five years without a goal in August, but now has four in the last two (with two weeks to go).

Kane bundled a ball across the line in the 86th minute following a Jack Grealish giveaway to put Spurs ahead for the first time, then scoring a beautiful goal in stoppage time to salt away the points for the hopeful title contenders.

The tempo of the game changed in the second half,” Kane said. “We pressed higher and moved the ball quicker. After we made it 1-1, it was full throttle until the end. We know what Christian’s like, and when he came on he dictated the pace, and I made my movement off him.”

Eriksen is rumored to be leaving Tottenham, and the club made due without new signing Giovani Lo Celso. Still, you have to wonder if the Dane couldn’t be convinced to stay and play a part in a title fight and UCL run.

3 things we learned: Spurs-Aston Villa

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LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur fought back to beat Aston Villa 3-1 in north London on Saturday, with John McGinn‘s early goal cancelled out by Tanguy Ndombele‘s debut goal and then Harry Kane popped up twice late on to seal the victory for Spurs.

[ MORE: Match recap | Kane reacts ]

Mauricio Pochettino will not be content with the general performance from his team, while Dean Smith and Villa will be happy enough with the display but disappointed they couldn’t grind out a point.

Here’s what we learned from an intriguing, dramatic clash in north London on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]


HARRY KANE TO THE RESCUE, AGAIN

Normal service is resumed. Harry Kane is fit, sharp and scored twice late on to play the hero, once again. Kane has had a full preseason and has shaken off the ankle issues which plagued him last season. The England captain just does it season after season, game after game. He is ruthless and kept plugging away when his teammates were struggling to get the ball to him.

Kane missed two chances in the first half, dragging a shot wide and putting a header over the bar and he should have had a hat trick. He will probably be disappointed he didn’t score more on Saturday and that is exactly the Harry Kane Spurs’ fans know and love. His second goal was a typical Kane finish, curling home from the edge of the box into the far corner to send his adoring fans wild in the South Stand. New season, same Kane.


SPURS MISSED DELE, ERIKSEN

Tanguy Ndombele scored and showed flashes of brilliance in the final third on his Tottenham debut. His clever flicked pass to Harry Kane in the first half was majestic and he curled home a beautiful equalizer. But too often Spurs’ new club-record signing wasn’t given the ball around the box. With Christian Eriksen on the bench and Dele Alli out with an injured hamstring, they were badly missed. Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela are very similar players. They are speedsters who prefer to operate out wide and as soon as they tried to cut inside, Villa’s defensive unit got settled back in very quickly.

The creativity and genius of Dele and Eriksen was badly missed and as the game wore on Harry Kane found himself out on the wings 50 yards from goal. Eriksen’s arrival off the bench made a huge difference and proved he still has a huge part to play, if he signs a new deal and stays at Tottenham. Ndombele has all the skills to succeed, but Spurs shouldn’t move away from Dele and Eriksen as their main men. Eriksen was superb in the final 20 minutes which was Spurs the game.


EXCELLENT GREALISH PUNISHED RUTHLESSLY

“Super, Super Jack, Super Jacky Grealish!” sang the Aston Villa fans in the away end during the game. They may not be singing that after the game. Jack Grealish oozed class in Aston Villa’s midfield with the club captain and local hero showing Tottenham what they could have had if he had signed for them last summer. But then he made his only mistake of the game at a pivotal moment, dallying on the ball as Lamela robbed him of possession and Kane made it 2-1.

The 24-year-old is at the heart of Villa’s new-look team in the Premier League, as six new permanent signings started on Saturday. Along with with John McGinn and Conor Hourihane in midfield, Greliash showed them what it means to be a Villa player. He launched counters, put his foot on the ball when he was able to and launched into tackles and truly led by example. That one mistake cost his team but Grealish will dig Villa out of plenty of holes this season.