EPL

'Boring, boring Man United', Liverpool facing ignominious achievement – the Premier League weekend's quirky facts

By Sports Desk April 26, 2021

A week on from the drama, controversy and anger surrounding the European Super League, it felt like football – rather than its potential ruin – was at the front of the agenda this weekend.

However, the spectre of the Super League continued to loom over much of the action, with many of the so-called "big six" seeing it used as a stick to beat them with as they largely stuttered to underwhelming results.

Of those in league action over the weekend (Manchester City beat Tottenham in the EFL Cup final), only Chelsea emerged victorious, as Manchester United and Liverpool were held, while Arsenal lost at home to Everton.

Using Opta data, we look at some of the quirky facts from the latest Premier League matches…

Liverpool 1-1 Newcastle United: Reds to join exclusive list?

It was another underwhelming weekend for defending champions Liverpool, as their 1-1 draw at home to struggling Newcastle United saw them lose further ground in the fight for Champions League places.

Jurgen Klopp's men are four points adrift of Chelsea in fourth, after the Blues beat top-four rivals West Ham 1-0 at the London Stadium.

Liverpool have five matches to close the gap otherwise they face the prospect of an ignominious achievement.

Only five times before have the reigning Premier League champions failed to qualify for the Champions League the season after winning the title.

Manchester United were the first in 1994-95, also doing so in 2013-14. The other teams do this were Blackburn Rovers (1995-96), Chelsea (2015-16) and Leicester City (2016-17).

Wolves 0-4 Burnley: Wood and New Zealand join the United Nations of hat-tricks

Chris Wood enjoyed a weekend to remember as he netted his first Premier League hat-trick in Burnley's 4-0 win over Wolves.

In doing so, he became the first New Zealand national to score a treble in the competition, meaning there have been hat-tricks scored by 46 countries in the Premier League.

New Zealand has joined Gabon, South Korea, Venezuela, DR Congo, Japan, Israel, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Paraguay, Iceland, Sweden, Costa Rica and Serbia on one.

England, unsurprisingly, leads the way with 154 hat-tricks from 69 individuals. Joint second with 18 each are Netherlands and Argentina, while France (17) and Spain (11) are the only other countries into double figures.

Leeds United 0-0 Manchester United: 'Boring, boring Man United'

Fans expecting a repeat of Manchester United's 6-2 thrashing of Leeds United will have been sorely disappointed, not just with the 0-0 draw, but also given it was a fairly drab encounter.

Sure, United have excited on occasion this season, that previous win over Leeds and the 9-0 demolition of Southampton immediately coming to mind.

But Sunday's stalemate was United's seventh 0-0 draw of the season, more than any other team in the Premier League.

On top of that, 2020-21 has now seen United play out more goalless draws than any other Premier League season.

They previously played out six in 2004-05 and 2016-17, but 2020-21 now leads the way.

West Ham 0-1 Chelsea: Tuchel's at home on the road

Thomas Tuchel has made a fine impression at Chelsea since replacing Frank Lampard in January. The achievements seem to be piling up.

Chelsea's latest win saw them leave London rivals West Ham with a 1-0 win that moved them back into the top four at the expense of David Moyes' boys.

As such, he became the first Chelsea manager to avoid defeat in his first 10 away games across all competitions.

The previous club record was set by William Lewis over 100 years ago in 1906-07, when they went nine unbeaten on the road.

Tuchel also matched the record set by Luiz Felipe Scolari for the number of clean sheets (10) in his first 14 Premier League matches.

What's even more impressive about that is it's a league record, rather than just relevant to Chelsea.

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  • Almeria 1-2 Real Madrid: Alaba's stunning first touch seals opening day win for champions Almeria 1-2 Real Madrid: Alaba's stunning first touch seals opening day win for champions

    Substitute David Alaba scored a stunning free-kick with his first touch as Real Madrid started their LaLiga title defence with a 2-1 turnaround win over Almeria on Sunday.

    Carlo Ancelotti's side started poorly at the Power Horse Stadium in Andalusia, and fell behind inside the opening 10 minutes courtesy of a clinical finish from former Manchester United youth player Largie Ramazani.

    Madrid struggled to find a way past an inspired Fernando Martinez in the Almeria goal, before Lucas Vazquez, who had an effort ruled out in the first half for offside, eventually pulled Madrid level shortly after the hour mark.

    Alaba replaced Ferland Mendy in the 74th minute and with his first touch curled a sumptuous free-kick past Fernando from 25 yards to seal all three points.

    Madrid's defence was caught out in just the sixth minute when Ramazani latched onto Inigo Eguaras' superb ball over the top and fired past Thibaut Courtois from just inside the penalty area.

    At five minutes and 50 seconds, that was the quickest goal Madrid have conceded on the opening day of a league season since Sergio Aguero scored against them for Atletico Madrid in August 2007.

    Los Blancos had a whopping 17 shots before the interval, yet a combination of smart goalkeeping from Fernando and uncharacteristically wasteful finishing from Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior prevented them from finding a leveller.

    Fernando continued to frustrate Madrid after the break, denying Benzema with a fine save, but he was eventually beaten in the 61st minute when Vazquez slammed home after the Almeria goalkeeper had kept out Vinicius' effort. 

    Alaba then ensured Madrid went back to the capital with maximum points, whipping past a helpless Fernando immediately after entering the action.

    What does it mean? Madrid bounce back to deny plucky hosts

    Almeria had won just one of their 12 games against Madrid in LaLiga prior to Sunday's clash, but they looked like they might earn a famous victory thanks to Ramazani's early strike and some inspired goalkeeping from Fernando.

    Vasquez and Alaba had other ideas, though, as Los Blancos stretched their unbeaten run on the opening day of LaLiga to 14 games.

    Alaba's instant impact

    Alaba did not need to settle into the action before dispatching a glorious free-kick past Fernando with his first touch. That goal meant he is one of only two players, alongside Real Betis' Nabil Fekir, to have scored two goals from free-kicks in LaLiga since the start of last season.

    Fantastic Fernando

    Fernando can consider himself exceptionally unlucky to have finished on the losing side. The 32-year-old made an incredible 13 saves to frustrate the visitors, but there was little he could do about Madrid's two decisive strikes.

    What's next?

    Madrid are away at Celta Vigo on Saturday, while Almeria visit Elche two days later. 

  • Chelsea boss Tuchel takes aim at referee after ill-tempered Tottenham draw Chelsea boss Tuchel takes aim at referee after ill-tempered Tottenham draw

    Thomas Tuchel does not want referee Anthony Taylor to officiate a Chelsea game again, with the Blues boss left furious after his side's 2-2 draw with Tottenham.

    An ill-tempered encounter at Stamford Bridge looked set for a victory for the hosts after goals for Kalidou Koulibaly and Reece James, despite Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's response.

    But a last-gasp Harry Kane header earned a draw for Spurs, with the full-time whistle marked by an aggressive confrontation between Tuchel and opposite number Antonio Conte.

    Both men were shown red cards by Taylor, but much of the German's ire stemmed from his belief that the referee failed to spot a number of incidents, including an alleged offside before Tottenham's first goal and an apparent foul on Marc Cucurella by Cristian Romero prior to the late equaliser.

    Speaking after the game, Tuchel suggested it was far from an isolated number of Chelsea fans who felt Taylor made mistakes during their matches.

    "I don't think just some of the fans think that," he stated. "I can assure you the whole dressing room of us, every single person, thinks that. 

    "I can't understand how the first goal is not offside and I can't understand how when a player is pulled by their hair, the other player stays on the pitch."

    Asked whether he would prefer Taylor not to oversee Chelsea's matches, Tuchel concurred, though he also pointed to the VAR official as equally culpable for the decision-making process.

    "Maybe it would be better, maybe it would be better," he added. "But honestly we also have VAR, to help make the right decisions.

    "Since when can players have their hair pulled, since when is that? And if he does not see it I don't blame him – I didn't see it.

    "We have people at VAR who check this, and then you see it. And how can this not be a free-kick, and then a red card? How?

    "This does not even have to do with the referee in this case. If he does not see something that's why we have people to check if this is a decisive error or not."

    Tuchel failed to spot his own post-game dismissal for his part in the fracas with Conte, and made clear his displeasure that he faces a touchline ban, adding sarcastically: "So good - I cannot coach but the referee can whistle the next game."

  • Forest add Freuler from Atalanta in latest transfer Forest add Freuler from Atalanta in latest transfer

    Nottingham Forest have continued their busy transfer window by bolstering their midfield with the capture of Remo Freuler from Atalanta.

    The Switzerland international arguably represents one of the biggest coups managed by Steve Cooper's side to date, making his switch to the Premier League from a regular contender for Champions League qualification.

    Freuler follows hot on the heels of Emmanuel Dennis and Cheikhou Kouyate, both of whom were confirmed as Forest players ahead of their first home game back in the top flight against West Ham on Sunday.

    A Taiwo Awoniyi goal was enough to hand the hosts a 1-0 win at the City Ground in that match, downing David Moyes' Hammers and getting Cooper's men off the mark for the season.

    Freuler, a member of his nation's squads for both the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020, netted when Switzerland beat Bulgaria last November to beat Italy to a place at this year's tournament in Qatar.

    He leaves Atalanta having made over 250 appearances for the club across all competitions, including featuring regularly in three successive Champions League campaigns between 2019-20 and last term.

    Reports have suggested Forest have agreed part with a fee of around £7.5million (€8.9m) for the 30-year-old.

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