EPL

Guardiola streak ends, no capital gains for Palace, history for Firmino - Premier League quirky facts

By Sports Desk August 16, 2021

Manchester City saw their main rivals for the Premier League title get off to a flying start on Saturday before the champions stumbled at Tottenham on Sunday.

Son Heung-min continued his phenomenal recent record against City with the only goal, while Pep Guardiola's men drew a blank for a third consecutive game in all competitions. Perhaps there's someone in north London who could help them out with that?

Manchester United and European champions Chelsea revelled back in front of full houses and Liverpool gave newly-promoted Norwich City a reality check.

But those are the bare facts. Let's delve a little deeper to examine some of the quirkier happenings on the Premier League's opening weekend.

Stumbling start for City

Guardiola suggested his stars returning from Euro 2020 and Copa America duty might be undercooked and so it proved. The 1-0 loss at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium puts City in territory they are not used to.

You have to go back to 2008-09 and a 4-2 defeat at Aston Villa for the previous time City lost their opening Premier League fixture.

In that same campaign, Guardiola's fledgling Barcelona tenure got off to an inauspicious start with a reverse against Numancia that indicated little of the treble win that was about to unfold. The Catalan had overseen 11 subsequent opening day wins since then.

Perhaps it was always going to be Spurs who halted his run, Guardiola has now lost more away games against Tottenham (five) in all competitions than any other opponent in his career.

It is also worth considering whether he is chasing the wrong Spurs forward. Only Jamie Vardy (nine) has more than Son's seven goals against City since Guardiola took charge in 2016.

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  • Xavi: Undeserved win will give Barcelona big morale boost Xavi: Undeserved win will give Barcelona big morale boost

    Xavi believes Barcelona's 3-1 win over Villarreal will give his players a morale boost despite acknowledging their performance did not warrant all three points.

    The former Barca midfielder oversaw a 1-0 win over Espanyol last weekend after taking over the reins from Ronald Koeman, but it looked like he would be denied another victory on Saturday when Samuel Chukwueze cancelled out Frenkie de Jong's opener.

    Memphis Depay came to Barca's rescue, though, with a vital goal in the 88th minute, before Philippe Coutinho added a third from the penalty spot in stoppage time.

    Not only was it Barca's first away win in LaLiga this season, it was also the first time they have won back-to-back games in the competition this term.

    The win over Espanyol was followed by a 0-0 draw with Benfica in the Champions League in midweek, and Xavi says the victory at La Ceramica was comfortably the worst his side has played across his first three games in charge.

    "It was very even, Villarreal is a great team," he told a media conference. "Of the three games that I have played, it is the one that we have dominated the least and the one that we least deserved to win.

    "Today could have ended up as a draw and instead we are leaving with a victory. That is tremendous and gives us a lot of morale.

    "It is a spectacular victory that gives us a lot of morale to continue growing. This victory gives us life.

    "That game was the minimum required. Belief, attitude, respect for the badge, and hard work; they are the foundations of a team. Today was a victory of team spirit. When we do not play well, we also have to win. We are Barca."

    Both sides had cause to be frustrated with the officials during a chaotic opening 10 minutes. 

    Villarreal midfielder Dani Parejo was fortunate to escape a red card for a shocking early challenge on Sergio Busquets, while Gerard Pique went unpunished for a blatant handball in the penalty area soon after. 

    Xavi refused to criticise the officials, though, adding: "In the end, I will not talk about the referees. It is a very difficult job and I will not put myself into it.

    "In the end, it is the referee who decides. One day he can help you and another day harm you. It is difficult to be a referee."

    Jordi Alba was replaced by Oscar Mingueza in the 71st minute after sustaining an injury, with Xavi revealing the full-back fought through the pain barrier to continue. 

    "At half-time it looked like he could not continue, but he has made a brutal effort to carry on," the Barca boss said. "He is an example; he is one of the captains, and he is pushing us forward. Jordi has made an effort until he couldn't take any more."

  • Premier League data dive: Liverpool thump Southampton, Arsenal cruise past sorry Newcastle Premier League data dive: Liverpool thump Southampton, Arsenal cruise past sorry Newcastle

    Liverpool were in typically ruthless form on Saturday as they brushed aside Southampton 4-0 at Anfield.

    The result meant Jurgen Klopp's men became just the second English top-flight team to score two or more goals in 17 consecutive games in all competitions, after Sunderland in 1927.

    Elsewhere, rock-bottom Newcastle United's winless start to the Premier League season continued as they were beaten 2-0 by Arsenal at Emirates Stadium.

    Steven Gerrard secured his second consecutive win since taking over as Aston Villa boss, with his side sealing a 2-1 away win at Crystal Palace.

    Brighton and Hove Albion and Leeds United played out a goalless draw at the Amex Stadium, as did Norwich City and Wolves at Carrow Road.

    Here, Stats Perform looks through the pick of Saturday's Opta facts…


    Liverpool 4-0 Southampton:Jota at the double for rampant Reds

    Liverpool have now scored 39 goals in their 13 Premier League games this season – their highest total at this stage of a top-flight campaign.

    Diogo Jota got them on the way with their earliest goal in the Premier League (one minute and 37 seconds) since Naby Keita netted against Huddersfield Town in April 2019 (15 seconds).

    Another from Jota and a strike from Thiago Alcantara put Liverpool 3-0 up at the break, before Virgil van Dijk rounded off the scoring early in the second half.

    Netherlands international Van Dijk's goal was created by Trent Alexander-Arnold, who earned his 40th Premier League assist. Only Wayne Rooney (22 years and 200 days) and Cesc Fabregas (21y 188d) have reached such an assists total in the competition at a younger age than the Liverpool right-back (23y 51d).

    Salah reached 150 Premier League goal involvements by setting up Jota's second, reaching that total (108 goals, 42 assists) in just 171 games. Only Alan Shearer (148 games) and Thierry Henry (163) have got there in fewer games.

    Southampton, meanwhile, have lost more away games (14) and conceded more away goals (47) than any other side in the Premier League side this calendar year.


     

    Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle United: Gunners cruise against Howe's beleaguered men

    The Gunners continued their fine home form under Mikel Arteta with a routine win against Eddie Howe's struggling side.

    Since Arteta's first home game in charge in December 2019, only Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea have won more points at home in the Premier League than Arsenal (67).

    Bukayo Saka got them on their way before Gabriel Martinelli added a second just 93 seconds after coming on as a substitute. It was just Martinelli's second Premier League goal at the Emirates Stadium and his first since January 2020 against Sheffield United.

    The Magpies, meanwhile, became the sixth different team to fail to win any of their opening 13 games to a Premier League season, with four of the previous five sides suffering relegation (only Derby County in 2000-01 survived).

    Crystal Palace 1-2 Aston Villa: Gerrard's winning start continues

    This victory meant former Rangers boss Gerrard became only the second manager to win his first two Premier League games in charge of Villa, after John Gregory in February-March 1998.

    Matt Targett scored the opener for Villa with his first Premier League goal in his last 75 appearances in the competition, the full-back having not netted since getting a late winner against Brighton in October 2019.

    John McGinn then added a second, the Scotland international already equalling his best goal tally for a full Premier League season (three in both 2020-21 and 2019-20).

    Marc Guehi pulled one back in stoppage time, but it was too late to prevent the Eagles suffering a first defeat in their last eight Premier League games (W2 D5), since a 3-0 away loss to Liverpool in September.

    Norwich City 0-0 Wolves: Smith maintains unbeaten start

    Dean Smith followed up a win in his first game in charge of the Canaries last weekend with a hard-fought point at home.

    Norwich have now taken seven points from their last three Premier League games (W2 D1), more than they had in their previous 25 in the competition (W1 D3 L21).

    The Canaries have also kept two clean sheets in their last four Premier League home games – as many as in their previous 26 at Carrow Road in the competition.

    It is perhaps no surprise they could not find a way past Wolves, with only Chelsea (five) and Liverpool (four) keeping more away clean sheets in the Premier League this season than Bruno Lage's men (three).

  • Nine players, a goalkeeper outfield, 7-0 down at half-time – Belenenses SAD forfeit farcical Benfica game Nine players, a goalkeeper outfield, 7-0 down at half-time – Belenenses SAD forfeit farcical Benfica game

    Portugal's Primeira Liga was the laughingstock of Europe on Saturday due to the farcical scenes that took place in Benfica's trip to coronavirus-ravaged Belenenses SAD, a game that was ultimately forfeited by the hosts.

    B-SAD, a controversial offshoot of historic club Belenenses, were plunged into crisis this week when 13 of their players tested positive for coronavirus – among them was Cafu Phete, who had recently been in South Africa, where the new Omicron variant of the virus was first detected.

    Despite the depleted nature of their squad, club president Rui Pedro Soares confirmed earlier in the day they had not asked Benfica to postpone the fixture, seemingly to the dismay of players who published coordinated messages to social media as the match kicked off in Oeiras, Lisbon.

    The statement read: "Football only has heart if it is competitive. Football only has heart if it is really sporting. Football only has heart when it is an example of public health. Today, football lost its heart."

    B-SAD started the match with just nine players on the pitch, many of whom were members of their Under-23s side, and that included goalkeeper Joao Monteiro playing in defence.

    Benfica were ahead inside 24 seconds thanks to an own goal by Eduardo Kau; while the visitors did not score again until the 14th minute, the writing was on the wall.

    They were 7-0 up at half-time thanks to a Darwin Nunez hat-trick, Haris Seferovic brace and a solitary Julian Weigl goal.

    "What is this? Am I the only one who doesn't understand why the game hasn't been postponed?" asked former Benfica player Bernardo Silva on Twitter.

    B-SAD did return to the pitch for the second half but with only seven players, and as soon as the game resumed, the hosts put the ball into touch and another player dropped to the turf citing an injury.

    The referee called a halt to the game due to B-SAD running out of players, with teams required to have a minimum of seven on the pitch.

    It has not been confirmed whether Benfica will be awarded just a 3-0 win, as is standard for a forfeiture, or take the full 7-0 scoreline.

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