The Premier League's top two in this embryonic 2019-20 season go head to head on Saturday as Liverpool host Arsenal.

The two sides took contrasting approaches to the transfer window, with European champions Liverpool largely setting for the same squad again, as Arsenal splashed out on Nicolas Pepe, Kieran Tierney and David Luiz.

But both tactics have been rewarded with early season results, meaning the division's only remaining 100 per cent records are on the line at Anfield.

At least one of those winning starts will end and, with the help of Opta data, we take a look at the intriguing contest ahead.

 

CAN ARSENAL BREACH FORTRESS ANFIELD?

Arsenal will have their work cut out if they are to end a miserable run of six Premier League games without victory at Anfield, a stadium where they have lost 13 times in the competition - second only to Manchester United's Old Trafford.

That stretch of six matches has also seen the Gunners concede at least two goals per game and a concerning 22 in total.

Liverpool are not in the business of dropping points at home and, in fact, they are unbeaten in 41 matches there. Only Chelsea's sensational 86-match streak, that ended in October 2008, can top that.

Far from flat-track bullies, the Reds' form is dominant against the recognised 'top six', too, against whom they are unbeaten in 18 at Anfield, winning 10.

Last season's 5-1 win for Liverpool in this fixture provides a reminder of just how badly things could go wrong for Arsenal.

HEAD TO HEAD: MOHAMED SALAH V NICOLAS PEPE

Mohamed Salah scored in that demolition and will aim to star again on Saturday. In the visiting dressing room, Pepe will hope to echo the Egyptian's impact following a club-record transfer.

Pepe's statistics in his final season with Lille were similarly outstanding to Salah's in the last campaign at Roma that saw him earn the Liverpool move.

Salah had 15 goals and 11 assists for 26 in total or one every 95.6 minutes. Pepe, meanwhile, scored an impressive 22 and also laid on 11, with his 33 goal involvements occurring every 100.8 minutes.

There were comparisons to be drawn between their styles, yet Pepe perhaps surprisingly attempted more dribbles (213 versus 70) and won more fouls (108 versus 26) than Salah, who is renowned in the Premier League for his close control and ability to draw challenges.

Arsenal will hope Pepe can translate his form to English football with the same success.

FORM GUIDE

Liverpool's home record might worry Pepe and Arsenal, but their outstanding form is not confined to Anfield. The Reds are enjoying a club-record Premier League run of victories (11 matches), and another win on Saturday would see them tie their all-time league streak of 12.

Arsenal will surely have to stop Klopp's attack to get a result.

The last time Liverpool dropped points in the Premier League was a goalless draw against Everton in March. The same result against fellow rivals Manchester United a week earlier was the only other time in 32 league games they have failed to score.

Arsenal - on a three-match top-flight winning run - have not won four on the bounce in almost a year, while victory would also see the Gunners triumph in the first three games of a Premier League campaign for the first time since 2004-05, when they were last defending champions.

HISTORY SAYS...

Expect goals! Clashes between Liverpool and Arsenal have had 155 - more than any other Premier League fixture.

While Salah is a threat, Roberto Firmino will hope to be in the mix again, too, as the Brazilian has seven goals in four games in this fixture at Anfield.

Where Liverpool's front men could be backed to fire, though, the same might not be true of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He has scored just three goals in 13 games against 'top six' opposition, compared to 31 in 38 against the rest of the league.

Liverpool will certainly be favourites - unbeaten in eight against Arsenal, their best such run since February 2000 - and Klopp has never lost to the Gunners.

Whatever happens at Headingley and beyond, Marnus Labuschagne will struggle to ever forget his first innings in Ashes cricket.

The Australia batsman made history when becoming the first concussion sub as a replacement for Steve Smith on the final day of the second Test against England at Lord's. After ducking his first delivery from Jofra Archer, the next one struck him flush in the grille – Labuschagne was down (albeit not for long) but, crucially, not out.

Rising to his feet so quickly a boxing referee would barely have started counting to 10, the 25-year-old recovered his senses, survived the oncoming barrage of short stuff and came out the other side with a half-century, a valiant knock in trying circumstances that helped preserve his side's slender 1-0 series lead.

It was not the first time Labuschagne had capitalised on an unexpected chance that came his way, though.

When Shaun Marsh was selected in Australia’s squad for the Cricket World Cup earlier this year, Glamorgan had to find a new overseas player in a hurry.

Mark Wallace, relatively new into his role as director of cricket at the Welsh county, followed up on a tip-off from an old club colleague Down Under to fill the void, taking a "bit of a punt" on Labuschagne, a player with an unspectacular first-class record but a hunger to improve.

"The link between myself and Marnus is that we have played for the same grade club in Brisbane, which is Redlands Tigers, albeit I played 15 years before he did," Wallace explained to Omnisport.

"Our paths never crossed, but when I took on the job [in February] I received a text message from a lad I had played with out there called Blair Copeland who is now a coach. He said, 'if you're looking for an overseas player, there is a lad who plays at the club called Marnus Labuschagne'.  

"I'd heard of Marnus because he had played for Australia by then, but I probably thought this was more like the sort of thing where he [Blair] was one of his mates, so I said thank you and got on with things.

"But when Shaun Marsh was picked for the World Cup, we suddenly needed an overseas player. I went back and had a look at this guy, did a bit of digging around, and the message we kept getting about him was that he was a good player but he was going to be an influence around the dressing room and just wanted to play cricket, wanted to get better at the game, and that was what we were after.

"We wanted a different style of overseas player, someone who was young and hungry. We went for him and it worked out pretty well."

Pretty well is an understatement.

Labuschagne amassed 1,114 runs in 10 first-class games for Glamorgan, hitting five centuries. The first of them arrived on his County Championship debut, Northamptonshire the opponents, while there was a match-saving 182 to deny Sussex down by the seaside at Hove and then hundreds in both innings against Worcestershire towards the end of his stint.

"We weren't surprised because he's a good player – we just didn't know he was that good," Wallace admitted. "We haven't genuinely got a bad word to say about him. He just wanted to talk cricket, be involved in cricket and get better.

"It was a little bit of a punt, but we wanted someone different and all the feedback had been how this was a young, influential guy. He was just desperate to improve and county cricket really suited him.

"He just loved playing – with most overseas [players] the thing that strikes them when they come over is the amount we play, whereas with Marnus he just thought that was brilliant. It gave him the opportunity to play all the time, to practice all the time.

"He got a hundred in his first game and never took his foot off the gas after that."

Labuschagne's county performances boosted his Test prospects, yet he still appeared set for a watching brief during the Ashes. That was until Smith was struck by an Archer bouncer, a blow on the neck that created a ripple effect that seems set to be felt by both sides for the remainder of the series.

It also created a sudden opening in the middle order. Smith's stand-in received an early and emphatic wake-up call yet refused to be counted out of the contest, aided by a slight technical tweak to his game that was honed while playing with Glamorgan.

"He did a few things that I think he had developed from being over here," revealed Wallace.

"Marnus clicked with our coach, Matt Maynard, early on and they worked on something where he would take a step down the wicket, as well as over to the off stump. The aim is to take lbw out [of the equation] and you saw him do it a few times to Chris Woakes.

"It was good to see, because you spot something guys have done with you working then on the bigger stage, which for our young guys means they are thinking, 'crikey, Marnus has been working on something here that has transferred into a higher level'. That's great.

"He's very good at solving problems, too. He's so into the game that he's always trying to learn. He's desperate to do well, although all international cricketers are like that. But he's up for the scrap, up for the fight."

After doing an admirable job as a stand-in last time out, the super sub gets the chance to start in the third Test.

Australia head coach Justin Langer said in the build-up to the game in Leeds that Smith has "unfillable shoes" – he has contributed 32 per cent of his team's runs in the first two Tests (and that is without even making it out to the middle on day five at Lord's) and boasts a mind-bending career average of 63.24 in the longest format.

Wallace acknowledges it is a nigh on impossible for Labuschagne to fill the crate-like space left at number four, but expects him to embrace the challenge: "To put him in the same bracket as Steve Smith is just unfair – he is still a young guy making his way in Test cricket.

"But he will have a chance – and all sport is about to take that chance when you get it. He will be up for it and can probably have a positive effect on the series.

"We'd like to see him do well, albeit from our perspective we want England to win. Marnus getting a hundred and England winning by an innings would be perfect."

Glamorgan are hopeful they get the chance to bring Labuschagne back at some stage in the future – so long as they can afford him.

"We would like him to be part of the club long term – hopefully the price hasn't gone up!" Wallace joked.

"I've been speaking to him since he has been away with Australia and he's still in contact, still wishing us good luck. The day the Australia squad was announced I actually spoke to him in the morning, when he was going to meet Justin Langer to find out if he was in or not, and he was not entirely sure.

"We had a Twenty20 game that night, and he said that if he was not in the squad, could he play that evening. I said yes, because we hadn't cancelled his registration yet, but that just showed how he has that nice, childlike enthusiasm just to play the game."

Labuschagne's enthusiasm for the game was evident at Lord's. So, too, was his determination to seize an opportunity that had unexpectedly come his way. As Glamorgan will testify, he's good at doing that.

The final grand slam tournament of the year is almost here, as the US Open begins at Flushing Meadows on Monday.

Novak Djokovic, the dominant force in men's tennis, will hope to defend his title, while Naomi Osaka is looking to rediscover her best major form at the scene of her first triumph.

Meanwhile, veterans Roger Federer and Serena Williams have records in their sights in New York.

With the help of Opta, we take a look at the key numbers heading into this year's US Open.

 

Men's singles

4 - Djokovic has won four of the past five grand slams – Rafael Nadal claiming the only other title at this year's French Open.

2 - World number one Djokovic is bidding to become just the second man, after Federer (2004 to 2008), to defend his Flushing Meadows title in the 21st century.

35 - The oldest men's US Open champion in the Open Era was Ken Rosewall in 1970 at 35 years, 10 months and 11 days. Federer will be 38 at Flushing Meadows.

5 - Three men have won the tournament a record five times since the sport went professional: Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras and Federer.

8 - Djokovic only has three US Open titles but has played the joint-most finals in the Open Era (eight, along with Ivan Lendl and Sampras).

0 - The US Open is the only one of the four men's grand slams that has not seen a player claim the title without dropping a set in the Open Era.

61 - At least one of Djokovic, Federer or Nadal has made the semi-finals of every major since Wimbledon 2004, a streak of 61 tournaments.

 

Women's singles

3 - Having won back-to-back majors in the shape of last year's US Open and then the Australian Open, Osaka has not been past the third round at her past two grand slams, losing her opener at Wimbledon.

1 - But across the previous 16 grand slams, Osaka is the only female to have won consecutive titles.

33 - Williams, like Federer in the men's tournament, is aiming to become the oldest women's US Open champion of the Open Era at 37. The record belongs to 2015 champion Flavia Pennetta at 33 years, six months and 18 days.

2 - Simona Halep could become the first European since Kim Clijsters (2010 US Open and 2011 Australian Open) to win consecutive grand slams.

24 - Williams has 23 grand slam crowns, the most of the Open Era, and another would see her draw level with all-time record holder Margaret Court.

10 - However, the American has not won any of the past 10 majors - her longest run without victory since 2002.

17 - The women's championship has been won without dropping a set on 17 occasions in the Open Era, most recently by Williams in 2014.

Franck Ribery is to take on a new challenge in Serie A at the age of 36, having agreed a deal to join Fiorentina.

The winger has signed for La Viola on a free transfer after leaving Bayern Munich at the end of last season.

Ribery enjoyed 12 hugely successful years in Munich but is excited by the prospect of playing for "a big team" in "a beautiful city", while others of a similar age elect to wind down their careers on less high-profile shores.

The former Marseille man says he spoke with ex-team-mate Luca Toni before accepting Fiorentina's offer - a wise decision, given Toni is one of only four people to have represented both clubs as player or head coach.

Below, we look at how the others got on...

Stefan Effenberg
Bayern: 1990-92
Fiorentina:1992-94
Bayern (again): 1998-02

Although best known for his success at the heart of the midfield of Bayern - where he won three Bundesligas and the 2001 Champions League among nine trophies in total - Effenberg did spend two years in Tuscany.

Joining at the age of 24 after Lothar Matthaus had returned to Bayern to take his place, Effenberg endured a miserable first season as Fiorentina were relegated from Serie A. He helped them bounce straight back to the top flight as Serie B champions, though, before returning to Germany with Borussia Monchengladbach.

 

Mario Gomez
Bayern: 2009-13
Fiorentina: 2013-16

Gomez won the treble in 2012-13 in his final season with Bayern before heading to Florence, having scored 113 goals in 174 appearances in all competitions and lifted seven trophies.

The striker's time in Italy was unlucky, though, with knee ligament damage restricting him to only 21 starts in Serie A before he was loaned to Besiktas for the 2015-16 campaign. He helped them win the Turkish Super Lig.

 

Franck Ribery
Bayern: 2007-19
Fiorentina: 2019-?

Winning 23 trophies in 12 seasons is remarkable by anyone's standards, and it highlights just how important Ribery has been to Bayern's restoration as the pre-eminent force in German football over the past decade.

The treble of 2012-13 was his crowning achievement and should, arguably, have seen him win the Ballon d'Or. Since then, injuries have begun to take their toll, and it is unclear just how effective the Frenchman will prove to be in Italy.
 

Luca Toni
Fiorentina: 2005-07
Bayern: 2007-10
Fiorentina (again): 2012-13

Toni won the World Cup with Italy midway through an impressive first spell with Fiorentina, prompting Bayern to spend a reported €11.6million to take the striker to Germany.

Three domestic trophies in his first season were followed by a more fallow spell, however, while an Achilles injury and disagreements with coach Louis van Gaal led to his departure in 2010. A return to Fiorentina would come three years later, where he enjoyed a single productive season before heading for Hellas Verona.

 

Giovanni Trapattoni
Bayern: 1994-95
Bayern (again): 1996-98
Fiorentina: 1998-00

For a man who turned out for just two clubs as a player, Trapattoni has certainly enjoyed a nomadic coaching career.

He was twice Bayern boss, winning the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and DFB-Ligapokal in his second spell, before he returned to Italy with Fiorentina. Those two years in Florence ended trophyless, but they were enough to land him the job with the national team.

Sheffield United have started well on their return to the big time, gaining four points from their opening two Premier League games.

The Blades have been to League One and back since they were last in the Premier League in 2007, spending six seasons in the third tier before gaining promotion to the Championship in 2017 under Chris Wilder's stewardship.

Wilder, a Blades fan and former player, has ushered in a new style of play at Bramall Lane, which bore plentiful fruit as his side edged out Yorkshire rivals Leeds United to finish second in the Championship last term.

Over the course of last season, Wilder adopted a 3-5-2 system, encouraging his team to play out from the back and get forward in numbers.

A key feature of United's play their overlapping centre-backs and, using Opta data, we have assessed just how the Blades' system works.

 

Three at the back... with a twist

Wilder's switch to a back three propelled United up the Championship and it is a fascinating, inspired approach.

The Blades' centre-backs are commonly Jack O'Connell, John Egan and Chris Basham, while Phil Jagielka rejoined the club in the off-season and provides an experienced head from the bench if required.

United's defenders are all comfortable with the ball at their feet and, while in possession, the two wider centre-backs – typically O'Connell and Basham – are given license to push on.

That allows the wing-backs to drive further forward, forcing opposing full-backs and wingers to defend, while rival midfielders must also draw wide to cover the advancing centre-backs.

Space is subsequently opened up in the middle of the park, with Oliver Norwood often dropping deep to dictate the play.

John Lundstram – whose goal earned a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday – and John Fleck press high to join the strikers, providing United with six attacking options within their opponents' half.

High risk, high reward

The decision to commit so many players forward does, of course, leave United open on the counter-attack.

However, Wilder's side play with pace and aggression once over the halfway line, a fact reflected by their attempted 12,579 passes in the opposition half over the course of the 2018-19 Championship campaign – the most of any team in the second tier.

Of those attempted passes, 8,720 were successful, while United's players had 1,251 touches in the opposition box, a tally which ranked behind only Leeds and champions Norwich City.

Though United's wing-backs do push further up the field, Wilder's men are not overly reliant on crosses into the area, with their total of 720 coming in as the sixth highest in the Championship last term.

Once United do have the ball in the area, last season's top scorer Billy Sharp is often the player to wrap up the move, though club-record signing Ollie McBurnie may be expected to fill that role this season. 

Basham had 78 touches in the opposition box last season, ranking at 11th in the Championship, while the centre-back also created 29 chances. Only Enda Stevens provided more goalscoring opportunities for United. 

Defensive solidity

Wilder's system may allow United's attacking players to thrive, but it also enables the Blades to remain steady in defence.

Though the centre-backs may get caught out by a pass in behind, the three defenders do remain in their shape while in possession, screening the width of the pitch.

While defending, the wing-backs tuck inside, with Norwood and the two more advanced midfielders dropping back to provide a barrier in front of the back three.

United's lack of pace up top could prove an issue if the Blades are pushed deep into their third, though the arrival of Callum Robinson from Preston North End does mean an out ball is available, while McBurnie or David McGoldrick are capable of holding up the play.

Against stronger teams, Wilder's system may well be found out, but so far United's commitment to their style of play is working out just fine.

England pushed hard to level the series in a rain-affected second Test at Lord's and were given a new lease of life by Jofra Archer.

But Australia and their batsman came through a serious examination to keep their 1-0 lead intact going into the third encounter at Headingley.

Following that dramatic draw, Joe Root's men have renewed impetus and Aussie talisman Steve Smith has been ruled out, having been struck by a brute of a bouncer from paceman Archer.

Here, we look at the key Opta numbers heading into what is sure to be another gripping battle.


11 – Of the 20 times batsmen of both teams were struck on the helmet or body at Lord's, Archer was responsible for 11. Only one other such blow came from an England bowler.

8 – Australia are unbeaten in their past eight Tests against England, winning six and drawing two. The last time they put a longer Ashes streak together was 18 matches between 1987 and 1993.

1 – The tourists only need one more victory from the remaining three games to retain the Ashes. They last avoided defeat in a series in England was 2001.

4 – Peter Siddle has seen four catches dropped off his bowling in the series so far – twice as many as any other bowler.

459 – Travis Head has more runs in Test cricket than any other player in 2019, averaging 76.5. England would be well advised to target the stumps as four of his past five dismissals have been lbw.

42 – Stuart Broad has 42 Test wickets at Headingley at an average of 26.8. Three more this week and he will surpass the 44 achieved by Yorkshire great Fred Trueman on his own ground and become the most prolific wicket taker at the Leeds venue in the longest format.

2014 – The last time back-to-back Test matches in England were drawn.

7 – Seven of the past nine Tests at Headingley have been won by the team to lose the toss – a sequence that started with Australia's innings and 80-run triumph in August 2009. That was the fourth time in five visits to Leeds the men in baggy greens have emerged victorious.

2 – England's previous two wins at Headingley, either side of a five-wicket loss to West Indies in 2017, came by an innings.

Steve Smith has been ruled out of the third Ashes Test due to a concussion suffered at Lord's last week.

The Australia batsman was struck on the neck by a fierce bouncer from England debutant Jofra Archer on day four.

Although Smith returned to resume his innings on Saturday, Cricket Australia (CA) announced the 30-year-old would not play any part on the final day of the second Test.

And following that draw, Smith will also now miss the third Test at Headingley.

Before his absence was confirmed, Omnisport spoke to expert Dr Sam Barke, medical director of Return2Play, about Smith's concussion, the delayed symptoms and the protocol for returning to action.

 

CA said Smith "passed the CogSport and SCAT5 assessments" when he came off the pitch at Lord's, so why was the concussion not spotted then?

The key to those tests is there is not really a pass-fail situation, it's just evidence building. Along with how the player is responding, how they're feeling and their symptoms, we do these tests to gather as much evidence as possible to try and work out whether the concussion has happened.

Unfortunately, there is not a 100 per cent test at the moment for concussion. It's adding all those pieces of evidence together to try and be as sure as we can.

Not infrequently we end up with situations like we had with Steve Smith where all the evidence from those tests has said, 'No, we don't think a concussion has happened'. Then further down the line symptoms start to come on.

It was later revealed that Smith suffered a "delayed concussion response" – what is that?

The concussion itself hasn't been delayed. He had concussion from moment one. It's that he wasn't showing any signs or symptoms that concern that until now.

In my experience, the vast majority of time players do have some symptoms at the immediate point of injury and then they go away very, very quickly. It may have been by the time they got out there he was feeling absolutely fine.

So it looks like the Australia medical staff followed all the procedures correctly?

We reckon that probably about 10-to-20 per cent of concussions have that delay in onset.

As an outsider, it looks like everything's been done correctly and the right decisions have been made at every point, and he unfortunately fits into that small category of players that look fine at the time and then go on to develop symptoms further down the line.

The third Test begins on Thursday and, per CA's concussion policy, Smith must not play or train until at least 24 hours after he has been cleared by the doctor. What is the process for a player returning to their sport and why do medics have to be careful?

You shouldn't be doing any activity until your symptoms have settled. In professional rugby they say you have to be 24 hours symptom-free before you start doing any sort of exercise. The theory is most people start to feel well when they do absolutely nothing and we want to see whether any symptoms come back with exertion and mental strain, so you gradually start to introduce exercise.

The big thing about concussion and the way you manage it, is the risk comes from further injury, not the initial injury. The risks from a one-off knock that's treated well are almost non-existent, but while the brain's still recovering, if it takes further knocks, that's when risks happen.

Australia were dealt a huge Ashes blow on Tuesday when Steve Smith was ruled out of the third Test at Headingley.

Smith has been in quite incredible form in England, with knocks of 144 and 142 at Edgbaston as the tourists took a 1-0 lead, before following up with 92 at Lord's.

But with Smith suffering a concussion at the Home of Cricket, Australia could only battle bravely to a draw and the series remains tantalisingly in the balance.

Smith is not fit to feature in Leeds and England will understandably be eager to take on a batting order missing its brightest star.

Who could step up for Australia and prove they are not a one-man show? We take a look.

 

DAVID WARNER

Warner, like Smith, is playing Test cricket for the first time since a 12-month ban for his involvement in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year.

But unlike Smith, the former vice-captain has performed dismally, failing to rediscover the form that made him one of the world's best openers.

The 32-year-old has a career Test average of 46.9, but he has yet to manage double-figures across four innings in this series.

Hugely underwhelming efforts of two, eight, three and five have seen him depart three times to Stuart Broad, before Jofra Archer got him on day five at Lord's.

Without the security of Smith at number four, Warner simply must be better.

 

CAMERON BANCROFT

It says much for Smith's sensational form that Australia lead the series, away from home, despite neither of their openers firing.

Warner has been dismal with the bat, but Bancroft - another back in the Test fold following suspension - has fared little better.

Bancroft has a far more modest reputation than Warner, but he has the talent to perform at a far higher level than he has shown in the past two matches.

The 26-year-old was in excellent form for Durham while his team-mates were in Cricket World Cup action, yet that has not translated to the Test scene.

Knocks of 13 and 16 at Lord's were poor and yet considerable improvements on eight and seven at Edgbaston.

 

TIM PAINE

Paine might be the captain in name, but his leadership qualities have been questioned with Smith, the former skipper, back in the mix.

However, with Smith out, Paine must step up in more ways than one. Leading by example with the bat would certainly be a good start.

While Smith has been smashing centuries, Paine has mustered just 66 in total across four knocks.

His poorest total of all so far (four in the second innings at Lord's) came when Australia needed their captain most, digging in to reach the end of the day - even if Joe Denly took a remarkable catch.

There will be more pressure in the third Test, where England will have their tails up, and Paine must step up this time.

 

SOMEONE ELSE...

It was Smith's direct replacement Marnus Labuschagne, the concussion substitute, who stepped up in his absence at Lord's, contributing a vital 100-ball 59.

Labuschagne will surely get the opportunity to impress again in Leeds, but Australia really should have enough batting talent in their ranks without needing to call on a deputy.

Usman Khawaja (career average 41.4) has made 13, 40, 36 and two. Travis Head (49.9) has been slightly better with 35, 51, seven and a brave unbeaten 42. Both could improve.

Matthew Wade's series has been ludicrously inconsistent: one, 110, six and one. More single-figures will be damaging next time out.

There are plenty of men capable of stepping into the void, but that might be easier said than done when Smith is gone and Jofra Archer is hitting his stride.

Manchester United were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at Wolves after Paul Pogba had a second-half penalty saved by Rui Patricio at Molineux.

Ruben Neves' sublime 55th-minute strike cancelled out Anthony Martial's opener but Pogba had a golden chance to take the points when he was brought down by Conor Coady.

At that point, confusion reigned. Marcus Rashford, who rifled in from the spot during last weekend's 4-0 win over Chelsea, willingly gave up the ball to Pogba after a short conversation.

"This is a Manchester United penalty, not a tombola!" club great Gary Neville shrieked while reviewing the incident on Sky Sports. "Something's not right!"

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer explained afterwards that both Rashford and Pogba were designated takers but, as the numbers show, United's chances of victory took a dive the moment their record signing grasped the nettle.

Pogba's penalty conversion percentage of 63.6 is the sixth lowest in Premier League history out of players to have taken 10 or more.

Only Juan Pablo Angel, Riyad Mahrez, Steed Malbranque, Dwight Yorke and Kevin Phillips have fared worse than the France international's seven out of 11.

Although he boasts two from two in the Champions League, Pogba's four Premier League misses since the start of last season is the most of any player in the competition.

By contrast, Rashford has scored every penalty he has stepped up to take in his junior and senior career.

The England international converted against the Netherlands in the Nations League finals in June before succeeding in a third-place match shoot-out versus Switzerland. Those exploits are sandwiched by nerveless efforts for the Red Devils against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

Rashford previously scored two penalties for United in the UEFA Youth League and one for England Under-21s.

Martial scored his 50th goal in United colours on Monday and four of those have come from the penalty spot.

In fact, Pogba's compatriot has only missed once for the club from 12 yards, during a 2-0 Champions League win over Benfica in October 2017.

The evidence suggests it is time for United's midfield superstar to pass on the responsibility for good.

As Jofra Archer proved in the second Ashes Test, pace changes everything.

Senses are sharper, adrenaline pumps and numerous elements thought to be under control escape it.

Monday's Premier League showdown between Wolves and Manchester United at Molineux – which ended with the spoils fairly shared in a 1-1 draw – was similarly a contest at its best when clattering along without a thought for the consequences.

Only with a full pre-season under his belt can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer truly be considered at the United wheel. And his is a team built for speed.

As in their 4-0 thumping of Chelsea on the opening weekend, plenty of United's early work was scruffy and without structure – they completed only 70.7 per cent of their first-half passes – but they have a forward line to frighten.

Jet-heeled winger Daniel James might have put his standout asset to better use had he spent more of the opening 45 minutes upright. A booking for simulation was deserved, welcomed with delight by the Molineux faithful and a grounding moment for a young talent on the crest of a wave.

Similar enthusiasm once surrounded Anthony Martial, like James a goalscorer from the bench on his Old Trafford debut. Here he became the first player to score 50 goals in a United shirt untouched by the hand of Alex Ferguson since the great man left the building.

The road from his 2015 roof-raiser versus Liverpool to this point has been a bumpy one, but there was a delightful smoothness in the slick interchange between Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford that allowed Martial to rifle an unstoppable strike past Rui Patricio. If ever there was a shot to make up for neither side managing an attempt in the first 26 minutes, it was this.

Solskjaer's front four in fast-forward caused Wolves plenty of problems, not least pushing them too deep to effectively launch their trademark counter-attacking raids. The sight of centre-forward Raul Jimenez turning to attack on the left wing, midway inside his own half, was a forlorn one.

Nuno Espirito Santo plotted success last season on the basis of polished and precise work in the transitions, but with calculation failing he opted for chaos. He brought on Adama Traore.

Blessed with the frame of a Greco-Roman wrestler and the pace of a 100 metre sprinter, Wolves' unusual Olympian composite barrelled rapidly about the place and put United – especially left-back Luke Shaw, who must have felt like he was marking an articulated lorry with dodgy breaks – on their heels.

Eschewing a run into space down the flank, Traore darted into traffic in the 53rd minute, smashing through Scott McTominay. Harry Maguire's finger wagging when his foul ended the assault made it look as if he just found the whole thing a bit silly.

It was, although United never truly cleared their lines from that attack and a dash of their old panache meant an exquisite equaliser for Wolves.

Ruben Neves felt the pain of pace a few moments earlier when he was booked for felling James. Yet he brought the ball and time under his spell when he collected Joao Moutinho's neatly worked corner. United defenders charged towards and past the delicious curler that thumped David De Gea's crossbar on the way in

Paul Pogba, once again influential on the other side of his close-season discontent, was inspired to bring his poise to the party – gliding into the Wolves area with intent. It all happened too quickly for Conor Coady. The Wolves captain had his hands in the air to protest against the foul before he made it.

And so Pogba stood and waited, sizing up Patricio. A conventional run-up and a firm hit later, the Portugal international guessed correctly.

Red and gold shirts dashed manically after the loose ball. It would have jarred had this game been decided by a moment immediately after everyone stood still.

Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic lead the names nominated for FIFA's Puskas Award, given to the scorer of the best goal of the season.

A panel of FIFA and external football experts selected 10 goals to put to a public vote, with the efforts ranging from the sublime to the outrageous.

Barcelona icon Messi is nominated for the fourth time in five years, while three female players are included after there were none up for the award last year.

All goals selected for consideration were scored between July 16, 2018 and July 19, 2019, and we have the low down on each one, with voting open until September 2…

 

Matheus Cunha (RB Leipzig) v Bayern Leverkusen – April 6, 2019

Brazilian midfield Cunha dazzled the Leverkusen defence in April's 4-2 win as he latched on to a pass in from the left, beat a defender with a pirouette and then found the net with a sumptuous chip.

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy) v Toronto – September 15, 2018

Ibrahimovic has always been synonymous with the extravagant. His goal in last year's 5-3 defeat to Toronto is up there with his best. The Swedish forward got on the end of Jonathan dos Santos' lofted throughball and, despite initially looking set to take it down on his chest, he spun and guided the ball into the net acrobatically. His penchant for martial arts was immediately noticeable from the finish.

 

Lionel Messi (Barcelona) v Real Betis – March 17, 2019

We have become so accustomed to Messi's brilliance that he makes the extraordinary seem normal, but his hat-trick clincher in March's 4-1 win at Betis was pure genius. After receiving a cut-back from Ivan Rakitic, he caressed a first-time chipped effort over Pau Lopez and in off the crossbar from about 18 yards when shooting through a crowded penalty area looked an impossibility.

 

Ajara Nchout (Cameroon Women) v New Zealand Women – June 20, 2019

Arguably the standout goal of the Women's World Cup was also a vital winner. With Cameroon being held to a 1-1 draw, Nchout – who also got her team's first – embarked on a mazy run, beating her marker twice with sharp turns before guiding a composed finish in to seal a late 2-1 win and book their place in the knockout phase of the competition.

 

Fabio Quagliarella (Sampdoria) v Napoli – September 2, 2018

Quagliarella went on to have the best season of his career at the ripe old age of 36 last term, scoring 26 times. We should have seen the early signs, as his first of the campaign was a truly special effort. Against his former club Napoli, Quagliarella met Bartosz Bereszynski's right-wing cross with an airborne back-heeled effort from 12 yards that left the goalkeeper helpless.

 

Juan Fernando Quintero (River Plate) v Racing Club – February 10, 2019

A former so-called 'wonderkid' who went off the boil before enjoying a resurgence, Quintero has had a fine couple of years. A playmaker with an eye for the spectacular, his free-kick against Racing in the 2-0 Superliga win in February was quintessential Quintero – from about 35 yards out on the right flank, his left-footed strike bent inside the top-right corner in a remarkable display of accuracy.

 

Amy Rodriguez (Utah Royals) v Sky Blue FC – June 16, 2019

After picking up possession inside her own half, Rodriguez cleverly side-stepped a defender and burst into the attack. She got to the final third and, sensing little support, let fly with a left-footed screamer that nestled in the top-right corner.

Billie Simpson (Cliftonville Ladies) v Sion Swift Ladies – August 9, 2018

A truly ridiculous goal. Straight from the opposing goal-kick, Simpson volleyed it right back in the opposite direction, catching it perfectly with a ferocious volley that caught the goalkeeper completely off guard.

 

Daniel Zsori (Debrecen) v Ferencvaros – February 16, 2019

Eighteen-year-old Zsori announced himself to Hungarian football in astonishing fashion in February. On his league debut, the attacker met a cross from deep with an overhead-kick just inside the area, picking out the top-far corner in stoppage time to secure a 2-1.

Three months on from Rafinha's emotional farewell, there is a Brazilian back at Bayern Munich.

Thiago Alcantara, a Spain international born to Brazilian parents, had been the club's lone ongoing link to the country until Philippe Coutinho formally arrived from Barcelona on Monday.

The Vasco de Gama product has a lot to live up to Allianz Arena, where many of his compatriots have shone in the past.

An option for Bayern to buy the attacking midfielder on a permanent basis hints at a bright future in Bavaria, but can he emulate the likes of these former favourites?

 

Giovane Elber

The only non-European member of the club's hall of fame was a human highlight reel throughout his six excellent seasons.

Signed from Stuttgart in 1997, the 'Samba Striker' wrote his name into the annals by forging an entertaining and prolific partnership with target man Carsten Jancker.

Elber scored the bulk of goals - 140 of them in all competitions - to help deliver four Bundesliga titles, three DFB-Pokal triumphs and a Champions League crown in 2001.

The fringe Selecao forward signed off with a league-high 21 goals in his final season in Germany before joining Lyon in 2003.

 

Ze Roberto

Versatile, reliable, valuable.

Ze Roberto favoured function over flair as he rivalled Elber's longevity in Bavaria and won as many Bundesliga titles.

Three were secured in the four years after his switch from Bayer Leverkusen, but a change in direction under Felix Magath led to a divorce between player and club.

Magath soon made way and Ze Roberto returned from South America on a two-season loan deal that showcased his development into an intelligent, crafty, goal-scoring central midfielder.

 

Paulo Sergio

Elber's success prompted the German giants to invest in another Brazilian attacker and together they exacted European revenge on Manchester United.

In the second of his three seasons at Bayern, striker Sergio netted a vital late winner in a 1-0 first-leg triumph at Old Trafford in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2001.

Elber then found the net in a 2-1 victory in the return encounter to help confirm the club's progression en route to continental glory.

Though the goals dried up after a fine first season, former Roma man Sergio continued to trouble United as he put another past Alex Ferguson's men less than a year on from their previous meeting.

Lucio

Like Sergio and Ze Roberto before him, Lucio cut his teeth in the Bundesliga at Bayern's rivals Leverkusen.

The elegant centre-back traded up in 2004 and stayed for five years, winning three domestic doubles in that time.

Lucio attracted as much acclaim for his ability to carry the ball forward as his faultless defending and scored seven goals in 144 top-flight appearances during his stay.

Spells at Inter, Juventus and Sao Paulo followed for the 2002 World Cup winner, who continues to play in his homeland aged 41.

 

Dante

Schooled in the same ball-playing style as Lucio, defender Dante squeezed an incredible amount of silverware into three seasons under Jupp Heynckes and Pep Guardiola.

The left-footer won the treble in his first campaign at the club and barely veered from that level, lifting the Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup to go with another two Bundesliga titles.

A cult figure wherever he goes, the afroed ex-Borussia Monchengladbach player left Bayern with a full trophy cabinet when he moved to Wolfsburg in 2015.

 

Rafinha

"He was always there when the team needed him," Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said as Rafinha said goodbye to the club in May.

At right-back or left, as Philipp Lahm's understudy or Joshua Kimmich's mentor, Rafinha found ways to make himself useful.

He might only have won four caps for Brazil but the diminutive and adaptable defender was a big contributor at club level, making 266 appearances during a Bayern career spanning eight seasons.

Seven successive titles cemented a rich legacy.

Philippe Coutinho's loan move to Bayern Munich is complete and so begins the club's season-long assessment of whether to activate their option to buy him on a permanent basis.

The former Liverpool star has suffered a loss of form since making a big-money move to Barcelona in 2018 and will now have the chance to reinvent himself in the Bundesliga.

While Bayern have chased Leroy Sane throughout the transfer window, it appears Coutinho and Ivan Perisic - signed on loan from Inter - will be the players tasked with replacing Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

Niko Kovac must also fill the creative void left by James Rodriguez's return to Real Madrid and Coutinho, who is accustomed to playing centrally, could be anointed chief playmaker.

Here, we use Opta data to assess the merits of such a move, comparing the strengths and weaknesses of his game in comparison James.

 

Direct and dangerous

Shedding the more pedestrian James and deploying Coutinho in his place should give Bayern a greater degree of dynamism going forward.

The Brazilian causes problems with his willingness and ability to beat defenders, traits not exhibited quite so regularly by James.

Over the past two seasons, Coutinho attempted an average of 2.4 more dribbles per match and completed them with a success rate of 58.1 per cent.

James trusts less in his ability to go beyond markers, a dribble success rate of 44.2 per cent explaining his hesitance.

Yet, as the silky former Real Madrid man showcased at the Allianz Arena, his skills in other departments are sharper than most.

 

Bayern to get creative with solution to missing assists

James tallied 67 appearances across all competitions in his two seasons with Bayern.

Coutinho, in the same period, featured in 96 matches for Liverpool and Barcelona, clocking up over 2,000 more on-field minutes.

Despite the huge discrepancy, the pair each recorded 19 assists.

James, with his 89.2 per cent passing accuracy, created 3.5 chances per 90 minutes, during which he averaged 95 touches.

He outperformed Coutinho in both departments, the former Anfield favourite averaging 2.1 chances created from 82 touches per game.

Perisic will help bridge the gap, but it seems Robert Lewandowski might have to make peace with a less consistent supply line this season.

 

New firepower in front of goal

Where the champions can reasonably expect clear return on their investment is in goals scored.

Despite well-documented difficulties, Coutinho still did his part at Barca by notching 13 times in LaLiga. Those goals contributed to a solid combined two-season tally of 33, averaging out at 0.5 per 90 minutes.

James, the Golden Boot winner at the 2014 World Cup, managed seven in each of his Bundesliga campaigns.

He struck a total of 15 times in all for Bayern, having averaged 2.3 shots and 3.5 touches in the opposition box per match.

Coutinho's role is still to be determined and how his team-mates receive him remains to be seen, but an average of 3.3 shots and 4.6 touches in the opposition box over the course of 90 minutes portrays a player who will actively seek out his own opportunities.

Philippe Coutinho has endured a difficult spell at Barcelona, but now the Brazil playmaker has the chance to reignite his career at Bayern Munich.

Bayern and Barca representatives confirmed on Friday that a deal had been agreed for Coutinho to join the Bundesliga champions on a season-long loan deal and the move was officially completed on Monday.

There is also an option for Bayern to buy the former Liverpool star outright for €120million at the end of the loan.

While some Bayern fans were underwhelmed with the signing of Ivan Perisic as an alternative to Leroy Sane - whose anterior cruciate ligament injury has ended the chances of an imminent move for the Manchester City winger - Coutinho's arrival will surely soften the blow should the 27-year-old recapture his Liverpool form.

Below, we analyse how Bayern could line up in 2019-20.
 

4-2-3-1: Manuel Neuer; Joshua Kimmich, Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez, David Alaba; Corentin Tolisso, Thiago Alcantara; Serge Gnabry, Philippe Coutinho, Kingsley Coman; Robert Lewandowski.

Coutinho's ability to not only thread sublime throughballs behind the lines, but also unleash wicked shots from range, makes him the perfect fit to play behind Lewandowski.

Niko Kovac is blessed with two rapid wingers in the form of Gnabry and Coman, who will be able to stretch the opposition and open up space for Coutinho to exploit in the centre.

While Thiago can sit as a deep-lying playmaker, Corentin Tolisso has the energy to get up in support of the front line, which would also enable Coutinho to drop back into midfield and use his dribbling skills to drive upfield.

4-3-3: Manuel Neuer; Joshua Kimmich, Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez, David Alaba; Thiago Alcantara, Javi Martinez, Philippe Coutinho; Serge Gnabry, Robert Lewandowski, Ivan Perisic.

Potentially a system that would be suitable for big European nights, Bayern could deploy Coutinho in a central midfield three.

Javi Martinez would come in as the holding midfielder, with Thiago able to keep things ticking over alongside the former Athletic Bilbao man.

Coutinho would be given freedom, able to drift wide and link up with the advancing full-backs, or burst forward in possession through the centre.

Brazil coach Tite often plays Coutinho in a similar role for the national team.

 

3-4-1-2: Manuel Neuer; Benjamin Pavard, Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez; Joshua Kimmich, Corentin Tolisso, Thiago Alcantara, David Alaba; Philippe Coutinho; Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski.

Hernandez came in as Bayern's record signing from Atletico Madrid, but he is not the only defender to have joined the Bundesliga giants, with fellow World Cup winner Pavard having also arrived.

Hernandez may be likely to start more games, but Pavard's introduction could also lead to Bayern deploying a back three, with Coutinho utilised in a playmaking role behind a front two - in this case, Lewandowski and Muller.

One concern with this line-up could be a lack of pace, though Kovac would have the option to introduce Coman, Gnabry or Perisic from the bench if required, with Muller and Lewandowski likely to thrive off Coutinho's creativity.

 

4-2-3-1: Manuel Neuer; Joshua Kimmich, Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez, David Alaba; Corentin Tolisso; Thiago Alcantara; Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller, Philippe Coutinho; Robert Lewandowski.

Coutinho was often forced to play wide at Barca, though that was in more of a front three or a 4-4-2.

At Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp regularly deployed Coutinho on the left flank, with the Brazilian encouraged to drift infield and link the play or get off a deadly shot.

Kovac could use his new signing in a similar way, allowing Coutinho to cut inside and switch the play to Gnabry on the opposite flank, while there would also be room for Muller to play as a second striker.

Steve Smith's availability for the third Ashes Test is in doubt due to the concussion the Australia batsman suffered at Lord's.

England paceman Jofra Archer's vicious bouncer struck the former Australia captain on the neck.

Although Smith returned to resume his innings on Saturday, Cricket Australia (CA) announced the 30-year-old would not play any part on the final day of the second Test, when his team batted out a draw.

To understand why Smith's concussion may not have been spotted during initial assessments, Omnisport spoke to expert Dr Sam Barke, medical director of Return2Play, about the protocol and the measures typically taken.

 

Australia team doctor Richard Saw asked Smith a series of questions on the field including, "Where are we playing?" and "Who bowled the previous over?" What can the medical staff ascertain from this?

In the immediate aftermath you want to know how the player's feeling and then look at their orientation and memory, so asking those simple questions is just to see if they are responding correctly.

The doctor and physio will know the player and they can try and work out whether the player's responding correctly in a structured way.

CA said Smith "passed the CogSport and SCAT5 assessments" when he came off the pitch, so why was the concussion not spotted then?

The key to those tests is there is not really a pass-fail situation, it's just evidence building. Along with how the player is responding, how they're feeling and their symptoms, we do these tests to gather as much evidence as possible to try and work out whether the concussion has happened.

Unfortunately, there is not a 100 per cent test at the moment for concussion. It's adding all those pieces of evidence together to try and be as sure as we can.

Not infrequently we end up with situations like we had with Steve Smith where all the evidence from those tests has said, 'No, we don't think a concussion has happened'. Then further down the line symptoms start to come on.

Smith returned, misjudged a delivery and was given out lbw – later reviewing that decision when it clearly appeared he was out. Some people have said it was obvious from those acts that he was concussed - do you agree?

Being struck by a ball at that speed is quite a shocking incident that's going to be quite painful. Often people say, 'He clearly didn't look right'. But if you're in pain and you've had a shocking incident, you're not going to look right anyway.

That's not necessarily the same as concussion.

It was revealed today that Smith suffered a "delayed concussion response" – what is that?

The concussion itself hasn't been delayed. He had concussion from moment one. It's that he wasn't showing any signs or symptoms that concern that until now.

In my experience, the vast majority of time players do have some symptoms at the immediate point of injury and then they go away very, very quickly. It may have been by the time they got out there he was feeling absolutely fine.

So it looks like the Australia medical staff actually followed all the procedures correctly?

We reckon that probably about 10-to-20 per cent of concussions have that delay in onset.

As an outsider, it looks like everything's been done correctly and the right decisions have been made at every point, and he unfortunately fits into that small category of players that look fine at the time and then go on to develop symptoms further down the line.

CA said Smith is a "serious doubt" for the third Test, which begins on Thursday, and that per its concussion policy, he must not play or train until at least 24 hours after he has been cleared by the doctor. What is the process for a player returning to their sport and why do medics have to be careful?

You shouldn't be doing any activity until your symptoms have settled. In professional rugby they say you have to be 24 hours symptom-free before you start doing any sort of exercise. The theory is most people start to feel well when they do absolutely nothing and we want to see whether any symptoms come back with exertion and mental strain, so you gradually start to introduce exercise.

The big thing about concussion and the way you manage it, is the risk comes from further injury, not the initial injury. The risks from a one-off knock that's treated well are almost non-existent, but while the brain's still recovering, if it takes further knocks, that's when risks happen.

In the NFL, independent doctors are used to assess whether players have suffered a concussion. Do you think cricket should adopt a similar policy?

There's pros and cons to the argument. There are benefits of the medical staff knowing the players and being able to tell whether they are behaving differently. Independent doctors wouldn't know those nuances.

The vast majority of doctors make their calls that are in the best interests of an individual player rather than the team. They're more likely to be cautious than they ever have been.

I'm sure the team doctors are trying to make the right decision for the player and I doubt an independent doctor would have made a different decision in this case. The protocols seemed to have been followed correctly.

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