John McGinn

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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.

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.

Spurs turn it up late to beat cagey Aston Villa

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Harry Kane‘s here for August again

A notorious slow starter earlier in his career, Spurs’ superstar scored an 86th minute match-winning goal and an 89th minute insurance marker as Tottenham Hotspur came back to beat Aston Villa 3-1 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: Kane reacts | 3 things ]

Tanguy Ndombele‘s gorgeous welcome to the Premier League gave Spurs its second half equalizer after John McGinn had put Aston Villa ahead early, and Dean Smith’s Villans were content to pack the back against the heavily-favored Spurs.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]


Four things we learned

1. Harry Kane had been known to struggle in August in terms of putting goals on the board before a last season, being blanked in August from 2013-17 before scoring twice last season. A pair of wayward chances by the hour mark had many thinking the demons may have returned to North London. A player of his quality, however, is always going to be near the score sheet, and he found his deserved winner late before lashing an insurance strike past Tom Heaton.

2. Tanguy Ndombele can strike a soccer ball really, really, really hard.

3. Christian Eriksen is still plenty valuable and changed this game off the bench. Giovani Lo Celso has a hard act to follow once he’s ready for his Spurs debut.

4. Aston Villa is going to be a problem for clubs hoping to pick up points against the promoted new boys, and goalkeeper Tom Heaton is the right man for their job.

Man of the Match


Lucas Moura was denied by Tom Heaton in an early bid to take the lead, and Erik Lamela presided over a dangerous eighth minute free kick that zipped over the goal.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

That’s when things went sideways for Spurs, with McGinn racing behind the back line and cooking Danny Rose before slotting past Hugo Lloris for a 1-0 advantage.

Trezeguet then had a good chance to make it 2-0, cutting past a defender but seeing his left-footed shot sent away from Toby Alderweireld.

Villa then set up in a squished Christmas tree at the back, 4-5-1, and Spurs all had sorts of problems finding a way to the back. Harry Kane headed over just before halftime, then missed a breakaway shot toward the far post.

Villa lost track of Moussa Sissoko inside of five first-half minutes, and the French midfielder comically missed the frame.

Kane had a 55th minute lash blocked out for a corner, and Spurs looked ready to fire home an equalizer. Ndombele lashed a wild shot wide in the 58th.

Ndombele was the man to get the job done, taking a lay-off from about eight yards outside the 18 and lashing it past a flying Heaton. An incredible hit.

Heaton then made an incredible save on a Christian Eriksen free kick, as the Danish sub’s presence changed the game.

VAR took a look at a handball with 10 minutes to play but controversially did not award a penalty to Spurs.

That’s when Kane made it work for the hosts, emerging from traffic to beat Heaton 1v1 and cause a collective exhale in the lilywhite part of North London.

Kane then tore into a shot on the edge of stoppage time to complete his brace.

Mings springs McGinn to give Villa stunning lead at Spurs

Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images
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The early moments of Spurs’ Premier League season opening match against Aston Villa were as predicted, but the returning Birmingham giants quickly went off-script.

John McGinn scored inside of 10 minutes to give Aston Villa a surprise lead over Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.

[ STREAM: Spurs-Villa on NBC Sports Live ]

McGinn raced behind the back line to collect a gorgeous ball from Tyrone Mings.

The diminutive Scot then cooked Danny Rose before slotting past Hugo Lloris to produce a 1-0 advantage to the visitors and a hushed crowd for the hosts at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.