Jonny Evans

Five biggest surprise players in PL

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Heading into the new Premier League season, we all thought we knew which players would have breakout campaigns and impress.

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But it hasn’t exactly worked out like that in the opening weeks of the season, has it?

Below we take a look at five players who have surprised us all, so far, and have set the tone for fine campaigns.


Dani Ceballos (Arsenal, on loan from Real Madrid)
Man of the Match display on his first PL start against Burnley, the Spanish international looks the part. Able to create chances galore, he set up both of Arsenal’s goals in the 2-1 win over Burnley. But more impressive than that was his ability to work hard defensively to win the ball back. He did that for the game-winning goal and if Ceballos continues to play like this, it will be tough for Arsenal to buy him permanently from Real next summer.


Erik Lamela (Tottenham)
The Argentine is finally fully fit and has impressed in the opening weeks of the season. A goal and an assist to his name already, Lamela scored a clever goal against Man City and worked his tail off. He’s started both games and with confusion over Christian Eriksen‘s future, plus Dele Alli‘s injury, Spurs are glad to have Lamela back in the frame. Son, Lucas Moura and Giovani Lo Celso will challenge him for minutes, but right now Lamela is a guaranteed starter for Spurs.


Teemu Pukki (Norwich City)
Four goals in his first two PL games, it’s safe to say Pukki has taken to life in the top-flight like a duck to water. The Finnish striker is making up for lost time, with the 29-year-old scoring a hat trick in the 3-1 win against Newcastle and he grabbed a consolation goal at Anfield on the opening day. After scoring 29 goals in the second tier last season, Pukki showed his quality. After spells with Sevilla, Schalke and Celtic which didn’t really work out, Pukkimania is set to take over the PL. Norwich could have bagged one of the best free transfers in recent memory.


Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester City)
Who needs Harry Maguire, right? Leicester didn’t spend any of the $100 million they received from Man United for their star center back and now it is easy to see why. They have Jonny Evans, Wes Morgan and now Turkish center back Caglar Soyuncu, who has become a cult hero in the opening weeks of the season. Soyuncu was brought in last summer and made just six PL appearances last season as he learned the ropes. The 23-year-old is a Turkish international and has shown incredible composure on the ball, like Maguire, and is forming a great partnership with Evans.


Ashley Barnes (Burnley)
We shouldn’t be too surprised by Ashley Barnes play on the pitch. What you see is what you get. He bullies opposition defenders and is a battering ram of a center forward. But we should be surprised by his output. He scored twice against Southampton and once against Arsenal, and he could have scored even more. Barnes is getting himself into the right positions and Burnley are creating more chances with dangerous crosses into the box. The Clarets look back to their best and that’s because Barnes is leading the line with plenty of confidence.

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.

Welcome to unruly expectations, Harry Maguire

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It’s going to be challenging and it’s foolish to expect anything different, but comparing Harry Maguire‘s first full season as world record defender to Virgil Van Dijk is a tough way to go about evaluating the former Leicester City man’s gigantic move to Manchester United.

First and foremost, Van Dijk was the missing piece of Jurgen Klopp‘s master plan and turned a very good team into an elite one.

Maguire is just one step back, albeit a $103 million one, for a wobbly Manchester United who could’ve really used this player back when Jose Mourinho specifically wanted him for his system.

Statistically, there are a few others difficult aspects of this comparison thanks to Van Dijk engineering his move during the January window and playing a half-season with Saints before going to Anfield.

Let’s just choose their final full seasons with their previous Premier League employers (even if that is flawed thanks to a long-term injury for Van Dijk).

Maguire is 26, and will be moving to United at the same age that Van Dijk split St. Mary’s for Anfield.

Both players were instantly set to become the defensive centerpieces for their new sides, and Van Dijk had better tackles and interception numbers before the move, Maguire’s passing numbers were superior.

Van Dijk then saw his touches explode on a better team, and you have to remember we’re comparing Maguire to a player who became a Ballon d’Or candidate upon joining his new team. It’s unfair to expect the numbers to be close at this point.

Maguire is one of the better long ball playing center backs in the game, and his passing numbers should rival Van Dijk’s once he settles into his new digs.

But he’s also going to have gigantic expectations hoisted upon him, especially considering he was the 14th ranked center back in the Premier League (min. 15 appearances) last season, not too far ahead of partner Jonny Evans. For comparison, Van Dijk and Joel Matip were one and two. You can imagine which one is pulling up the other in each case.

What Maguire represents, however, is Red Devils chairman Ed Woodward acknowledging that he had been negligent at the back, failing to sign proven Premier League commodities to play in front of David De Gea.

And Maguire will give Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw the freedom to maraud — something Maguire doesn’t hate doing from time-to-time — and give larger measures of confidence to the midfielders in front of him.

The prices of the transfer market are now insane and a new normal. Gone are the days when $10 million could land a big club a big player, as the Premier League’s money allow teams like Leicester City to play hardball.

Finally, perhaps it’s wrong to compare the two players given that Maguire’s fee is subject to the English player tax, which isn’t a real thing but also the reason we’ve seen nutty fees for any player who brings significant Three Lions experience or hope (See: Barkley, Ross and Drinkwater, Danny).

Chelsea misfires in draw with Leicester City on final day (video)

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The Blues had chances throughout, but Gonzalo Higuain and Ross Barkley both had bad misses as Chelsea ends the campaign on a goalless battle with Leicester City. The Foxes were up for the task as well, but also couldn’t put together a winning moment.

Ross Barkley got through in the opening minutes, but his shot clattered straight into the face of Kasper Schmeichel who made himself big in the one-on-one. Chelsea was forced to wait until the 28th minute for its next good chance, but Gonzalo Higuain fired just wide right after finding space at the top of the box.

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Leicester City, dangerous throughout, came incredibly close just before the break thanks to a David Luiz slip that allowed the hosts in on a two-on-one, but Jamie Vardy‘s feed for Youri Tielemans was too heavy, and it ruined the opportunity leaving the Belgian extended to the end line.

Somehow, Higuain found a way to miss right in front of net on the stroke of halftime, making a complete mess of a cross on a platter by bundling the ball wide right on the doorstep. It was a horrid miss from the Argentine who failed to sort out his feet with the goal begging two yards away.

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Leicester remained threatening all second half, forcing the Blues to defend on numerous occasions. Ben Chillwell made a blistering run with 15 minutes to go, bursting down the left but his cross came too late and was cut out by David Luiz. Eden Hazard looked to have found the breakthrough receiving the ball from Ruben Loftus-Cheek at the penalty area, but he was bundled over by Jonny Evans and somehow the referee did not point to the spot.

The draw, along with Spurs’ shared spoils against Everton, sees Chelsea finish third with 72 points, a solid position given Sarri’s occasional struggles and the dominance of the top two teams. Leiciester City, meanwhile, ends the campaign in ninth on 55 points, the lowest finishing team with a positive goal differential.

Clinical Palace defies Leicester City in big win (video)

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  • McArthur with two assists
  • Zaha scores twice
  • Batshuayi, Milivojevic also score
  • Evans with lone Leicester tally
  • Foxes out-attempt Palace 27-7

Crystal Palace made the most of their limited chances, a deceptive scoreline of 3-1 greeting their win over Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.

James McArthur had two assists, while Wilfried Zaha, Michy Batshuayi, and Luka Milivojevic scored for the Eagles.

Jonny Evans had the lone Leicester goal.

Palace moves into 13th place with 30 points, six clear of the drop zone, while Leicester fails in its bid to go 10th.

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A pair of near-misses greeted Leicester City’s control of the first 10 minutes, as both Jamie Vardy and James Maddison came close to putting the Foxes ahead.

Leicester was clearly the superior side, and Palace was sloppy when it found a rare spell of first half possession.

So, of course, Palace scored first, as Leicester backstop Kasper Schmeichel was wrong-footed when Batshuayi swung his leg and redirected a James McArthur rip from distance.

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The Foxes leveled the score deservedly when Harvey Barnes‘ pass to Jonny Evans was met with a lunging leg that swung the ball past Vicente Guaita.

But Zaha restored Palace’s lead in the 70th, as Harry Maguire and the Leicester City defense completely lost track of the electric Ivorian for a back post finish of McArthur’s cross.

And wouldn’t you know it: A penalty! Evans took down Jeff Schlupp in the 82nd minute, and Milivojevic did what he usually does from the spot to make it 3-1.