Willy Boly had an eventful derby and there was a penalty double for Matheus Pereira as West Brom boss Sam Allardyce maintained his unbeaten record against the team he used to support as a boy.

Albion claimed a huge victory in their bid to avoid relegation from the Premier League at Molineux on Saturday, beating bitter rivals Wolves 3-2.

There was no such entertainment at Anfield on Sunday, with a hugely hyped clash between Liverpool and leaders Manchester United ending goalless, while Antonee Robinson's red card was costly as Fulham were beaten by Chelsea.

Ilkay Gundogan matched his best Manchester City goal tally for a season in a 4-0 rout of Crystal Palace, while Tottenham captain Harry Kane made his mark in Yorkshire yet again 

With the help of Opta data, we take a look at some of the quirkiest stats from the top-flight action over the weekend.

 

Boly in thick of the action as Wolves pay the penalty 

West Brom ended an eight-match winless run to claim three precious points against their big rivals Wolves.

Defender Boly became the first Wolves player to concede a penalty, provide an assist and score in a Premier League game since Adlene Guedioura in May 2011 - which was also against West Brom at Molineux.

Baggies midfielder Pereira was on target with two spot-kicks, becoming the fifth player to score a brace of penalties in a top-flight game this season. The last time there were so many penalty doubles was back in the 2010-11 campaign.

Allardyce was a Wolves fan as a youngster, but his allegiances have long gone out of the window, as the Albion head coach has not lost in 12 Premier League games against Wanderers - his longest unbeaten streak against any side.

 

Gun firing on all cylinders

Kevin De Bruyne sparkled once again as in-form City hammered Palace to go second in the table.

The midfield maestro laid on one of two goals for John Stones, taking his tally of assists for City to a landmark 100.

Gundogan is another midfielder who has caught the eye this season and the Germany international was on target with a sublime long-range finish at the Etihad Stadium.

The former Borussia Dortmund playmaker has scored four goals in his past six Premier League games, as many as he could muster in his previous 55 matches in the top flight. His tally of six for the season is the joint-most he has scored for City.

 

Kane comes up smelling of White Roses again

Prolific Spurs skipper Kane led by example yet again in a 3-1 win at bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United.

Kane scored his 19th goal of what is proving to be another outstanding season in Tottenham's first league win at Bramall Lane since 1975, having failed to secure maximum points in their previous seven visits.

England captain Kane has scored in each of his past six Premier League games in Yorkshire, a run that former Leeds United striker Mark Viduka was the last to achieve in 2003.

Leeds will have to be wary of the talismanic striker when Jose Mourinho's men return to the White Rose county for a clash at Elland Road on May 8.

 

Dire States: Rash Robinson costs Fulham

Fulham full-back Robinson was sent off late in the first half of the London derby at Craven Cottage for a rash lunge on Cesar Azpilicueta.

Chelsea had to be patient as they pushed for a winner, but Mason Mount struck to consign Scott Parker's relegation-threatened side to a 1-0 defeat.

Robinson was the eighth player from the United States to be given his marching orders in the Premier League.

The former Wigan Athletic left-back's dismissal also made Fulham the first club to have two players from the USA see red, Carlos Bocanegra being the other.

Harry Kane marvelled over a "truly special" goal from Tanguy Ndombele in a "fantastic" display from Tottenham as they beat Sheffield United 3-1 at Bramall Lane.

Serge Aurier headed Spurs in front in the fifth minute and Kane clinically doubled their lead late in the first half with his 19th goal of the season late in the first half on Sunday – the sixth time he has scored from outside of the area in the league this season.

David McGoldrick appeared to have got the bottom-of-the-table Blades back in it with a header just before the hour mark, but Ndombele nonchalantly beat David Ramsdale with an exquisitely lob as he ran away from goal inside the penalty area three minutes later.

There was no way back for Chris Wilder's side as Spurs moved into fourth place in the Premier League, although Manchester City have the opportunity to move back above them when they take on Crystal Palace later in the day.

Kane hailed Ndombele after the French midfielder scored his third goal of the season – his best tally in a league campaign – in sublime fashion.

The Tottenham talisman told Match of the Day: "It was a fantastic performance from everyone today – started really well, aggressive with our press and were clinical to go 2-0 up. Even in the second half, when they scored, we didn't panic. Tanguy scored a fantastic goal and we saw the game out well, which we haven't done in the past few weeks."

He added: "Tanguy's goal was incredible, the technique he had to flick that ball back over the keeper was truly special.

"There were a couple of chances I could have done better with, the most important thing is winning games. Anyone who can put a good spell together [can stay in the title race], that's why it has been disappointing and frustrating for us dropping points from winning positions."

Spurs, who have dropped 10 points from winning positions this season, have been criticised for seemingly shutting up stop to try and protect slender leads on several occasions, but Kane said boss Jose Mourinho should not take any blame for that.

"It's never been the manager saying that [they should sit back after going in front] it's been us on the pitch having a mentality where we want to drop and hold on to to the win," the England captain said.

"The most important thing is us as players to go and take responsibility, and we did that today."

Harry Kane scored his 19th goal of the season and Tanguy Ndombele struck with a sublime finish as Tottenham beat bottom of the table Sheffield United 3-1 on Sunday.

Jose Mourinho's side were held by Fulham in midweek, but secured all three points at Bramall Lane to go fourth in the Premier League - although Manchester City could go back above them when they face Crystal Palace later on Sunday.

Serge Aurier opened the scoring with an early header and Kane added a second to put Tottenham in command at half-time.

David McGoldrick halved the deficit, but Ndombele scored one of the goals of the season to give the London club breathing space as they extended their unbeaten run to seven games and left the beleaguered Blades on just five points.

Spurs were rewarded for starting so positively when Aurier capitalised on slack defending by nodding in a whipped corner from Son Heung-Min inside five minutes.

Son ought to have doubled their lead when he dinked the ball over Aaron Ramsdale, but struck the outside of the post after being sent clear by Kane.

Kane was causing the Blades all sorts of problems and the captain put Tottenham two up with a clinical finish five minutes before the break, turning sharply as he took a pass from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and beat Ramsdale with a measured right-foot strike from 20 yards out.

Ramsdale denied Kane a second goal when he tipped the striker's rasping long range drive over the crossbar early in the second half.

The Blades were back in it just before the hour mark, with McGoldrick heading home John Fleck's inviting cross, but Ndombele restored Spurs' two-goal advantage with a moment of magic three minutes later.

Steven Bergwijn played a one-two with the French midfielder, picking him out with a clever chipped pass, and Ndombele found the far corner from inside the penalty area with a cheeky flicked lob running away from the goal.

Kane blazed over the bar at the end of a slick Tottenham move in stoppage time, but the victory had long been wrapped up by then.
 

Harry Kane's brilliant header was not enough for Tottenham as Jose Mourinho's side were pegged back to a 1-1 draw by Ivan Cavaleiro's equally fine effort.

Spurs looked set to claim back-to-back Premier League victories for the first time since November thanks to Kane's 25th-minute effort – his 36th league goal against a London rival.

Scott Parker was enraged by the decision to reschedule his team's trip to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium at such short notice, but Fulham stayed in the game and, with Son Heung-min squandering a great chance to wrap things up, got their reward.

Substitute Ademola Lookman proved the difference-maker as he pinged in a cross that was met by the towering Cavaleiro to seal a share of the spoils.

Sergio Reguilon blazed over inside the opening 10 minutes, but Fulham showed plenty of intent and Hugo Lloris had his palms stung by Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa's strike.

Alphonse Areola came to the fore with two superb stops, both from Son, who prodded goalwards from point-blank range before attempting to guide a header into the top-right corner.

Areola was beaten in the 25th minute, though. Where Son went for height, Kane went low, diving to meet Reguilon's exquisite left-wing cross and head in off the post.

Kane was the beneficiary of another terrific cross – this time from Serge Aurier – soon after, but failed to keep his header down.

Tosin Adarabioyo made a fantastic last-ditch tackle to frustrate Moussa Sissoko after the restart, while Areola had to lunge across to keep out Harry Winks' dipping effort.

Son could have wrapped things up with just under 20 minutes remaining, yet hit the base of the right-hand upright, and Spurs were made to pay.

Cavaleiro towered over Eric Dier to meet Lookman's cross and send a powerful header beyond Lloris, rescuing a hard-earned point with Fulham's first shot on target of the half, with Reguilon rightly denied a last-gasp winner by the offside flag.

Sunday's FA Cup encounter between Marine and Tottenham is the kind of clash that really captures the imaginations of supporters, as non-league meets Premier League.

Ordinarily such an occasion would mean a potentially vital cash influx for the smaller side, with match tickets selling out quicker than ever and TV crews descending on a modest ground in their droves.

While it won't be quite the same this time given the coronavirus pandemic, it still promises to be a special day for Marine, who have sold over 5,000 virtual tickets.

Playing in the Northern Premier League Division One North West, the eighth tier of the English football pyramid, Liverpool-based Marine will host a Spurs team that is used to competing in the Champions League.

It represents a whole new kind of challenge for the non-league side, though it is also an opportunity for the unlikeliest of 'giant killings'.

Ahead of the match, we looked at the Opta data behind contests between non-league sides and the titans of the Premier League.

THE SIZE OF THE TASK

'The magic of the cup' is that on a given day, any team could potentially beat any other, and that's surely the attitude Marine will want to take into the weekend.

Though, obviously the reality is rather more stark.

Since the Premier League's inception in 1992, only twice have non-league sides defeated top-tier opposition.

The first was in 2013 in the fourth round, as Luton Town claimed a 1-0 win over Norwich City.

It ended a run of 27 years since top-tier opposition had lost to a non-league side, with Altrincham having eliminated Birmingham City in 1986.

The only other occasion since then occurred in 2017, as Burnley lost 1-0 to Lincoln City, who made it as far as the quarter-finals.

There is also a coincidental link to that Norwich defeat with Sunday's contest – Spurs star Harry Kane was in the Canaries' side that day during an unsuccessful loan period at the start of his career.

Those two wins for non-league teams have come from 52 matches, with 42 unsurprisingly ending in victories for the top-flight sides.

SPURS EYE A HATFUL?

It won't come as a shock to learn there have been plenty of one-sided scorelines between non-league and Premier League sides.

West Brom have claimed the biggest win, as they defeated Gateshead 7-0 at this stage of the competition in January 2015 – the Baggies clearly weren't complacent on that occasion.

Manchester United and Arsenal have beaten non-league opposition heavily as well, the Red Devils winning 5-0 against Burton Albion in a 2006 replay, and the Gunners crushed Lincoln by the same score a month after their surprise win over Burnley four years ago.

Spurs' most straightforward win against a non-league side came in 1993, as they eased past Marlow 5-1.

Throughout the club's history, Spurs have met such lowly opposition 26 times in the FA Cup, losing five times.

Could Marine do the unthinkable and make it six? Assuming he features, that would make Kane the first player to lose to non-league opposition on two different occasions with Premier League clubs.

A familiar pairing helped Tottenham return to winning ways in the Premier League this weekend. 

Harry Kane and Son Heung-min were both on target as Jose Mourinho's side ended a four-match winless streak in the competition with a comfortable 3-0 triumph over Leeds United. 

Their rapport has been one of the defining stories of the season but, away from north London, several other games produced some interesting statistics.

With the help of Opta data, we take a look at some of the quirkiest stats from the weekend's action, with Leicester City's win at Newcastle United a source of a couple of fascinating facts.

 

Kane and Son combine again

Harry Kane and Son Heung-min's almost telepathic understanding was on show again in Tottenham's defeat of Leeds.

The South Korea international swept in Kane's pass to become the 18th Spurs player to score 100 goals for the club in all competitions on what was his 253rd appearance.

Kane has now assisted nine goals for Son in the Premier League, while the South Korean has laid on four for the England captain in the 2020-21 season – no two players have linked up more in a single season in the competition.

They have plenty of time left to leapfrog Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, who combined 13 times during Blackburn Rovers' 1994-95 title-winning season. 

Evergreen Vardy keeps on going

Jamie Vardy might be 33 but the Leicester striker is showing no signs of slowing down. 

His assist for James Maddison's opener in the 2-1 win over Newcastle at the weekend means he has been directly involved in 98 Premier League goals since turning 30 (80 goals and 18 assists). 

He leapfrogged Paolo Di Canio to move joint-sixth with Manchester United icon Ryan Giggs in the all-time list for most Premier League goal involvements aged 30-plus. 

He is now within touching distance of Gianfranco Zola (101) and Shearer (102), with Ian Wright in third with 110 involvements. 

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is second with 118, while Teddy Sheringham leads the way with 127 (77 goals and 50 assists).

Tierney waves tartan flag for Gunners

Arsenal do not have a rich lineage of Scottish players during the Premier League era, but left-back Kieran Tierney is doing his best to change that.

The former Celtic man became the first Scottish player to score an away Premier League goal for the Gunners in their thumping of West Brom and the first to do so in the top flight since Charlie Nicholas in March 1986. 

The 23-year-old cut inside from the left flank and curled a brilliant finish beyond Sam Johnstone to open the scoring, before then going on to tee up Alexandre Lacazette's second goal in the rout of Sam Allardyce's woeful Baggies.

Tierney – who has been tipped as a future Arsenal captain by boss Mikel Arteta – only needs one more goal to join Paul Dickov (three) as the Gunners' top-scoring Scottish player in the Premier League.

Carroll ends lengthy wait for Magpies goal

Newcastle tasted defeat against the Foxes but they could at least toast a return to the scoresheet after an almighty break for Andy Carroll. 

Only Wayne Rooney has had a longer gap between Premier League goals for the same club than Carroll, who netted for the first time of his second Magpies spell.

Carroll's goal was his first for Newcastle since he re-joined the club in 2019-20. The former Liverpool and West Ham forward had last netted for the Magpies on Boxing Day 2010, in a 3-1 defeat to Manchester City.

With a gap of 10 years and eight days between his strikes for Newcastle, Carroll is behind only Rooney for the largest stretch of time between two goals for the same club in the Premier League.

Rooney scored on the opening day of the 2017-18 season for Everton, 13 years and 121 days after his last goal for the Toffees in the 2003-04 season.

Frank Lampard's position as Chelsea head coach is under threat, while Tottenham have started talks to extend Harry Kane's deal.

Lampard is under increasing pressure at Stamford Bridge after just one win in their past six Premier League games.

Sunday's 3-1 loss to Manchester City has only put further pressure on the Chelsea boss.

 

TOP STORY – LAMPARD'S POSITION AS CHELSEA BOSS UNDER THREAT

Lampard's job as Chelsea head coach is under serious threat, according to The Athletic.

The report says the Premier League club, who are eighth in the table, have started looking at replacements.

Lampard took charge of Chelsea in July 2019, but they sit seven points behind Liverpool and Manchester United – who have both played one game fewer – despite spending heavily in the close season.

ROUND-UP

- Kane's impressive form for Tottenham has seen him linked with the likes of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. The Independent reports Spurs have started talks with the forward, who has 10 goals and 11 assists in the Premier League this season, over a contract extension, even though his current deal runs until 2024.

- With Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez sidelined with long-term injuries, Liverpool continue to be linked with defenders. But The Athletic reports the Premier League champions are not considering a move for Lille defender Sven Botman.

- Struggling for game time at Tottenham, Dele Alli is linked with a reunion with Mauricio Pochettino at PSG. Foot Mercato reports Pochettino has spoken with Alli, who is open to a move.

- Staying at PSG and Sky Sports reports the Ligue 1 giants are in negotiations with Everton to sign Moise Kean on a permanent deal worth around €34.6million (£31m). Kean has scored nine goals in 16 games in all competitions on loan at PSG.

- Samuel Umtiti's Barcelona future is uncertain. Todofichajes reports Nice have a strong interest in the defender on an initial loan deal.

- Patrick Bamford has scored 10 Premier League goals this season and the Leeds United forward is out of contract next year. The Sun reports Leeds are set to reward the 27-year-old with a lucrative new deal.

Tottenham got their title push back on track with a first win in five outings and Arsenal maintained their recent revival with a third win on the bounce in Saturday's Premier League action.

Harry Kane and Son Heung-min were again among the scorers for Spurs in their victory over Leeds United, while Alexandre Lacazette helped himself to a double in the Gunners' even more straightforward success at West Brom.

Crystal Palace also picked up three valuable points with what is a now-customary victory over doomed Sheffield United, who set an unwanted record with their latest setback, but there was nothing to separate Brighton and Hove Albion and Wolves in the day's other game.

Here is the pick of the Opta facts from Saturday's Premier League fixtures.

Tottenham 3-0 Leeds: Son and Kane combine again in convincing victory

Son scored his 100th goal for Tottenham in all competitions to help his side on their way to a routine victory over Leeds in the early kick-off.

The South Korea international swept in Kane's pass to become the 18th Spurs player to reach the milestone figure on what was his 253rd appearance.

Kane has now assisted 17 goals for Son in all competitions, while the pair have combined 13 times in the Premier League alone in 2020-21 - no two players have linked up more in a single season in the competition.

Prolific striker Kane had earlier given Tottenham the lead and in doing so he became the first player to reach double figures for both goals (10) and assists (11) in Europe's top five leagues this season.

Kane has also now scored against all 30 opponents he has faced in the Premier League - the best 100 per cent record in the competition among players to have faced more than one team.

Toby Alderweireld added a third goal early in the second half and Leeds were unable to respond - the first time they have failed to score in an away league game this term, leaving Aston Villa and Manchester United as the only perfect sides in that regard.

The only blemish for Spurs was the stoppage-time dismissal of Matt Doherty for a second yellow card, meaning they have already had more top-flight red cards in 2021 than they had in the whole of 2020.

Palace 2-0 Sheffield United: Eze does it for Eagles as visitors lose again

Bottom club United have now officially set the record for the longest ever winless run from the start of a Premier League campaign after going down 2-0 to Palace.

The Blades' 17-match winless run to begin a season is the worst in the English top flight since Bolton Wanderers' run of 22 without a victory in 1902-03.

Stretching back into 2019-20, Chris Wilder's men are winless in 20 Premier League games - failing to keep a clean sheet in any of those - making them the fifth side to reach that figure and the first since West Brom between August 2017-January 2018.

Jeffrey Schlupp opened the scoring at Selhurst Park with just 188 seconds on the clock, which was Palace's earliest goal in the division since James McArthur's strike against Everton after 51 seconds in November 2017. 

The versatile wideman hobbled off injured and it was his replacement, Eberechi Eze, who added a second goal with a wonderful solo effort as he became the fourth Palace player to score his first two goals for the club from outside the box - the others being Ricky Newman, Gareth Southgate and Simon Rodger.

United, who saw 16-year-old Antwoine Hackford become their youngest ever Premier League player in the second half, could not find a response as the Eagles kept a first clean sheet in the competition in 16 matches since September.

Brighton 3-3 Wolves: Seagulls battle back after Burn horror shown

Dan Burn endured a first half to forget but Brighton recovered from two goals down to claim a point against Wolves at the Amex Stadium.

The centre-back put into his own net and brought down Adama Traore for a penalty that Ruben Neves converted, having earlier conceded a corner in the build-up to Romain Saiss' opener - the Wolves defender's second goal in three league games, which is as many as he managed in his previous 40.

In doing so, Burn became the first player to score an own goal and give away a penalty in the same Premier League game since Eliaquim Mangala for Man City against Hull City in September 2014.

Brighton refused to roll over and had a lifeline when Neal Maupay converted from the spot 50 seconds after the restart - the earliest penalty scored in the second half of a Premier League game since Opta records began in 2006-07.

Lewis Dunk then nodded in to snatch a draw - the fourth occasion Albion have rescued a point in a Premier League game in which they have been two goals behind.

West Brom 0-4 Arsenal: Lacazette at the double for revived Gunners

Arsenal turned on the style with a runaway victory over a struggling West Brom side as they made it three wins in a row in the Premier League, following a previous run of two victories in 12.

Kieran Tierney scored a sublime opener for the visitors, becoming the first Scottish player to score an away goal for the north London side in the competition since Charlie Nicholas against Ipswich Town in March 1986.

The strike itself was impressive and it came at the end of a 20-pass move that pulled West Brom apart. Indeed, since Mikel Arteta's first game in charge on Boxing Day 2019, the Gunners have scored more goals following a sequence of 20 or more passes (three) than any other Premier League side.

The impressive Bukayo Saka scored the second at the end of another flowing team move - the 22nd league goal he has been involved in since the start of last season (seven goals, 15 assists), which is the second most by a teenager currently playing in the division after Manchester United's Mason Greenwood (25).

West Brom had a goal ruled out for offside and their heads dropped from that point on as Lacazette netted a quickfire brace, taking his tally for the season to five away goals in the Premier League - already his best seasonal tally since joining Arsenal.

It was another damaging defeat for West Brom, who are the first side to lose consecutive Premier League home games by at least four goals since Wigan Athletic in August 2010.

The size of the task at hand for Sam Allardyce has now become even clearer, meanwhile - at no club has he won fewer points (one, level with Crystal Palace) or conceded more goals (13) after his first four Premier League games in charge of a club.

Son Heung-min and Harry Kane are doing "special things" for Tottenham this season, Jose Mourinho said after they inspired Spurs to a 3-0 Premier League win over Leeds United.

Tottenham ended a run of four games without a win in the Premier League in comfortable fashion on Saturday, Son reaching a landmark in the process.

After Kane's penalty put Spurs ahead, Son doubled their advantage with his 100th goal for the club, the England international unsurprisingly the provider.

It marked the 13th time the pair have combined for a goal in the Premier League in 2020-21, tying a record in a single season.

Toby Alderweireld converted Son's corner to make it 3-0 early in the second half as Spurs moved within four points of Liverpool and Manchester United at the top.

Speaking to BT Sport, Mourinho said: "Of course, the understanding is good and against Leeds it was important to have that ability in attack.

"They stay man-to-man so if you stay static you give them an easy job. That movement of Harry Kane and Sonny in the finishing positions fit well.

"I think in the Premier League there are many good players everywhere even in clubs where you don't believe they can have great players.

"But I have to say that Sonny and Harry are doing special things this season."

Between them, Son and Kane have scored 22 of Tottenham's 29 goals in the Premier League this campaign.

Asked if he wants other players to contribute more and take some of the burden off the pair, Mourinho replied: "I want goals coming from other players, I want players to feel they can express themselves in finishing areas.

"We had other players in positions to score, we had players from other positions in finishing points."

Son said of his landmark: "I'm very happy and grateful for my team-mates. I am not doing it alone – I need a lot of help for this big achievement.

"To score 100 goals with one team is a big thing. I'm very proud. Good way to start the new year."

Of his partnership with Kane, he added: "We're working hard and working on it for a long time.

"I am a bit sad I couldn't give an assist to 'H'. He knew I was there. Sometimes it is telepathic, sometimes we talk about it."

Son Heung-min scored his 100th goal for Tottenham in all competitions as he netted against Leeds United, with Harry Kane the provider once again.

The South Korea forward, who moved to north London in 2015, has been in sensational form in 2020-21, and moved onto 99 Spurs goals with a cool finish on the break at Liverpool in December.

Son drew a blank in his next three outings, failing to find the target as Spurs went down 2-0 to Leicester City, before he had a goal disallowed in an EFL Cup win at Stoke City and then only managed one attempt at goal in a 1-1 draw with Wolves on December 27.

However, after Wednesday's scheduled game with Fulham was postponed, his landmark effort came against Leeds on Saturday.

Kane – who has now assisted nine of Son's 12 Premier League goals this term – whipped in a brilliant cross from the right, which his strike partner swept home first time.

Son's strike put Spurs 2-0 up just before half-time, with Kane's penalty having put Jose Mourinho's men ahead.

With 169 goals to his name, Kane is the only Spurs payer to have netted more goals than Son since September 2015.

It was also the 13th time Kane and Son have combined for a goal this season, which is a joint-record in a single Premier League campaign.

Son has scored 65 of his 100 Spurs goals in the Premier League – 35 coming from his right foot, 25 from his left, and the remainder with his head.

The former Bayer Leverkusen forward has also supplemented that tally with a further 33 assists, while he has scored 15 times in the FA Cup and EFL Cup.

Manchester City are reportedly planning a bid for Harry Kane, while United are still interested in Jack Grealish.

City have been linked with numerous forwards amid uncertainty over Sergio Aguero's future.

And it seems the Tottenham star is among their targets.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY PLANNING £88.7M BID FOR KANE

Manchester City are planning an £88.7million offer for Tottenham star Kane ahead of next season, according to Bild.

Kane, 27, is contracted at Spurs, where he continues to star, until 2024.

The England international has scored nine goals in 15 Premier League games this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United remain interested in signing Aston Villa star Grealish, according to the Daily Mail. The midfielder was heavily linked with a move to United in the close season, but ended up staying at Villa, who are in action at Old Trafford on Friday.

- Eric Garcia has seemingly made a decision on his future. The Guardian reports the Manchester City defender has agreed personal terms on a five-year deal with Barcelona. Garcia is contracted at City until the end of the season.

- With Mauricio Pochettino reportedly set to take over at Paris Saint-Germain, Tottenham apparently have worries over Hugo Lloris. The Sun reports Spurs fear the goalkeeper could join former boss Pochettino in Paris and they are eyeing West Brom's Sam Johnstone and Manchester United's Dean Henderson as potential targets.

- Yet to play for Arsenal this season, Mesut Ozil's future remains a talking point. Bild reports the playmaker wants to see out his contract, which runs until season's end, with the Premier League outfit.

- Also coming out of contract, Sami Khedira looks set for a Juventus exit. The Daily Mail reports the midfielder is set to hold talks with Everton over a potential move.

- Struggling for game time at Manchester United, Jesse Lingard has had the one-year option on his contract at the club triggered, according to Sky Sports. Lingard's deal now runs until 2022.

Around the globe, nations are welcoming in 2021, bidding goodbye to what has been a tumultuous year.

Much has changed in 2020, and while the coronavirus pandemic continues, football has at least returned, albeit in a vastly different way to what came before.

The Premier League was suspended for three months between March and June, but following a successful Project Restart, 2020-21 is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable campaigns in recent history.

With 2020 coming to an end, and 2021 promising signs of improvement, we use Opta data to review the Premier League year.

PASS MASTERS CITY CONFINE DEFENSIVE CONCERNS TO HISTORY?

Pep Guardiola's swashbuckling Manchester City side of 2017 to 2019 may well be a thing of the past, but so, it seems, are defensive lapses.

While often rampant in attack, City could be got at the back, as Liverpool usually managed to expose in meetings between the two title challengers.

Perhaps with the league all but sewn up in Liverpool's favour by early 2020, however, Guardiola seems to have found the tonic to City's issues in defence.

City have kept 17 clean sheets in 2020, three more than any other side. Seven of those have come this season, while the resurgence of John Stones in recent weeks has been a major success story.

Stones has made six league appearances – all of them starts – and has helped City keep five clean sheets, while forming a fine partnership with Ruben Dias, meaning Aymeric Laporte has found himself out of the side.

City's improved defence has come at something of a cost, with their goal tally falling to 69, six behind Liverpool, who netted 75 times across 2020, and a drop of 26 from their total of 95 in 2019.

However, Guardiola's team still control possession as much as they ever did, making 20,237 successful passes in 2020.

Indeed, holding midfielder Rodri completed the most passes of any player in the Premier League, while his pass completion rate of 92.4 per cent was also the highest of any midfielder.

DYNAMIC PLAYMAKERS TOP THE CHARTS

While James Rodriguez has come into the Premier League and made a strong impact at Everton, creating 25 chances – including three assists – and scoring three times in 10 appearances for Carlo Ancelotti's side, it is the playmakers with more dynamism and tenacity who have impressed the most through 2020.

Kevin De Bruyne – last season's PFA Premier League Player of the Year – was the chief creator.

He was the only player to create more than 100 chances in the Premier League in 2020, while he also led all players in chances created from open play (83). De Bruyne's tally of 15 assists was also more than twice as many as any of his City team-mates.

Another standout is Bruno Fernandes, who has seemingly transformed Manchester United's fortunes since joining in January.

Fernandes was involved in 32 Premier League goals in 29 games in 2020 (18 goals, 14 assists). The 26-year-old is one of two players to have been involved in 30 or more Premier League strikes in a calendar year, after Luis Suarez in 2013.

Topping the chances created charts for this campaign, however, is Jack Grealish. Villa's captain crafted 93 opportunities in total through the year, second only to De Bruyne, and 51 of those have come from 14 appearances this term – an average of 3.64 per game.

Grealish's 10 big chances created is level with Fernandes, while only De Bruyne (11) has made more.

The key attribute which stands Grealish out, however, is his ability to carry the ball. Having amassed 8,634.99 metres, he leads the way in the league, ahead of Harry Maguire (7,462.14m), Adama Traore (6,912.35m) and Andrew Robertson (6,882.03m).

De Bruyne and Fernandes are no strangers to picking up the ball and powering forward, though their chance creation relies more on precise crossing and slick passing.

RUN, FOREST, RUN! THE PREMIER LEAGUE'S MARATHON MEN

It is no surprise to see that Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool top the distance-covered metrics for the year. In total, the Reds ran 3,854.8 metres, 20.1 more than second-placed Sheffield United, albeit Chris Wilder's men will not get much-needed points just because they run more than the opposition.

West Ham (3820.2m), Brighton and Hove Albion (3804.1m) and Chelsea (3722.4m) complete the top five, with Southampton something of a surprise omission, as Ralph Hasenhuttl's side are renowned for their pressing system.

However, Saints captain James Ward-Prowse does lead the way for distance covered, tallying up just under 396km over the course of 3,060 minutes (the equivalent of nine-and-a-half marathons).

As well as being a tireless worker, Ward-Prowse is a set-piece specialist, scoring four free-kick goals.

Indeed, those strikes contributed to Southampton's league-leading tally of 15 goals from outside of the area, with Danny Ings netting five long-range efforts and Stuart Armstrong adding four.

While Grealish has carried the ball further than any other player, Wolves' Traore clocked up the most dribbles, amassing 142 – 46 more than anybody else.

In January, Traore completed 14 dribbles in a game against Watford – the most by a player in a Premier League game since 2003-04, when Opta began recording.

 

BRUNO AND VARDY'S PENALTY PARTY

A total of 112 penalties were awarded in 2020 – 13 of these went to Leicester City, while 10 went the way of United, Chelsea and City respectively.

Fernandes converted eight times from the spot, while Leicester's Jamie Vardy scored seven, one ahead of Liverpool's Mohamed Salah.

West Brom are the only team to have not been awarded a Premier League spot-kick, with Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Burnley – much to Sean Dyche's chagrin – winning two each.

While Leicester won the most fouls inside the area, it was Grealish who was felled the most in general, averaging at least one foul in all 32 of his appearances.

 

SUPER STRIKERS

Rounding off our review are the Premier League's leading marksmen. Salah (23) and Fernandes (18) headline the scoring charts.

Salah's 23 strikes came from 33 appearances, while Fernandes made four fewer, though more of his goals did come from penalties.

The evergreen Vardy, with 17 goals, is next on the list, tied with Tottenham star Son Heung-min, who was involved in 18 open play sequences ending in goals, more than any other player.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin has enjoyed a brilliant run since Ancelotti took charge of Everton, scoring 16 times in 2020 – with 11 coming this season.

Calvert-Lewin had 93 attempts in total, which ranks second in the league, though it is 31 fewer than Salah managed, and his strikes, along with telling contributions from Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino and the creative forces of Robertson (12 assists) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (seven assists), helped Liverpool to their first-ever Premier League title.

Harry Kane's seemingly telepathic partnership with Son has proved fruitful for Spurs, and the England skipper scored 16 times across the year from 25 appearances, recording 10 assists.

Inter striker Romelu Lukaku has credited Jose Mourinho with turning him into more of a team player and sees similarities with Harry Kane's development at Tottenham.

Lukaku has been in fine form since joining Inter from Manchester United in August 2019, scoring 34 goals in 49 Serie A appearances.

That is a tally bettered only by Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo (43 goals in 43 games) and Lazio star Ciro Immobile (45 in 49) over the same period.

The 27-year-old's return of one Serie A goal every 116 minutes for Inter compares favourably to his one goal every 179 minutes for United across two Premier League seasons (28 goals in 66 matches).

But Lukaku is grateful to have worked under Mourinho at Old Trafford, with the Portuguese now getting the best out of Spurs talisman Kane, who has nine goals and 10 assists in 15 league games this term.

"Mourinho taught me to work better with the collective, both in terms of pressing and to position me better on the field," he told Sport/Voetbalmagazine. 

"Just look at what he's doing with Harry Kane now."

Lukaku was not in the final running for The Best FIFA Men's Player award this year, which was won by Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski.

But with 15 goals in 18 appearances in all competitions for Inter this campaign, the Belgium international feels he is certainly among the top five best strikers in the world.

"Now? In the past five months, yes," he said. "I don't want to rank that from one to five, but I'm a part of it right now."

Lukaku is now playing under Antonio Conte and is often partnered with Lautaro Martinez in attack for an Inter side one point off top spot in Serie A.

Inter scored 108 goals in all competitions in 2020 - their joint-most in a single calendar year since 1929-30 - while their 34 goals in 14 Serie A games this season are their most at this stage of a campaign since netting the same number in 1960-61.

Lukaku and Martinez have combined for 17 of those league goals in 2020-21, and the former United man was always confident he could strike up a strong partnership with the Argentina international.

"Before I arrived here, I watched some Inter matches and sometimes saw Lautaro only in the front," he said. 

"I immediately felt it could click if they put us in the rush together. Sometimes it's his day, other times it's mine. If you accept that, everything will be fine."

Lukaku added: "I used to find myself most dangerous when I was facing the target. I am fast, can eliminate my direct opponent with a dribble, or swerve to the left but also to the right. 

"That was my game in the past, also because I was often in teams that bet on the counter-attack. But the national team has obliged me to adjust my playing style.

"With Belgium, we quickly became the team with the most ball possession that got the least space. Roberto Martinez did everything he could to make me feel more comfortable with my back to goal, both with the national team and Everton back then. 

"At the age of 20, I still had a lot to learn, but I soon realised that if I would train on that aspect, I could do what I wanted in a match."

Jose Mourinho is concerned by Tottenham's inability to see games out after they once again lost points in the latter stages of a Premier League match following their 1-1 draw with Wolves.

Spurs were 1-0 up at Wolves on Sunday inside the first minute thanks to Tanguy Ndombele, but they only managed to muster another two shots on target for the remainder of the match, the last one coming in the 21st minute.

Highlighting Spurs' lack of attacking threat was the fact Son Heung-min and Harry Kane only managed one shot each against Wolves.

Wolves came on stronger in the second half and eventually levelled late on through Romain Saiss' glancing header at a corner.

It meant Spurs have dropped nine points with goals conceded in the final 10 minutes of matches this term, more than any other Premier League team.

While Mourinho accepted that was a concern, the head coach feels it is more worrying that Spurs are failing to kill teams off with their winless run now four in the league - they scored first in three of those games.

"Of course it is a concern, but I repeat, it's more a concern the fact we score early goals and we don't kill matches," Mourinho told reporters.

"Of course, against Liverpool it was about the post not wanting us to win the match and it's not expected to go to Liverpool to have five, six or seven chances and score one, two, three or four goals.

"In this match, or against [Crystal] Palace for example, are matches where by scoring an early goal you must have a go and it's simple as that.

"Even defending very well, which we do as a team, that is not enough. It could be enough if we defend that last corner, we win 1-0 and maybe now you are asking me different questions.

"But my feeling would be exactly the same, scoring in the first minute we had 89 minutes to score more goals and we didn't."

That was also the latest in a series of goals conceded at set-pieces, but again Mourinho felt the bigger issue was failing to add to Ndombele's early strike.

"Of course, we can go back to a corner, we can say that in Liverpool we should win and we lost with a corner," Mourinho continued. "We can say here we should win and we drew with a corner.

"You can say that against Crystal Palace we should win and drew with a lateral free-kick.

"I don't think it's very obvious just to look in that direction and not to go in other directions. The other direction for me is, you score a goal in the first minute and you have 89 minutes to score more goals and we didn't."

Spurs' slump has seen them go from looking like Liverpool's likeliest title challengers to dropping right out of the top four, while Manchester City and Aston Villa in the places directly below have played fewer games.

Christmas Day is a chance to ungracefully stuff our faces with turkey and all the trimmings, but top-flight footballers in England have to show some restraint. 

That is because Boxing Day football is a festive tradition, one where supporters can watch games with tighter-than-normal belt buckles. 

Of course, the coronavirus pandemic means it will be a little different this year, as the majority of supporters will be viewing the action while at home. 

However, one of the historically more exciting dates on the calendar is sure to entertain still. So, ahead of the 2020 games, take look at some of the best Boxing Day Opta facts from previous years.


NO FOWL PLAY FROM ROBBIE

Fowl – whether turkey, duck, pheasant or possibly even partridge – is a fixture for most dinner tables up and down the United Kingdom on Christmas Day, so perhaps it's rather apt that Robbie Fowl-er (we couldn't resist...) has the best record in terms of Premier League goals on December 26. 

The Liverpool legend has netted nine times on Boxing Day, one more than Newcastle United great Alan Shearer, ex-Tottenham striker Robbie Keane and current Spurs star Harry Kane – who is the highest scorer among active Premier League players on this day. 

Thierry Henry (seven) and Jermain Defoe (six) have also produced plenty of festive cheers in the past.


PUT ON YOUR CHRISTMAS HAT…TRICKS

Some players just love producing crackers at Christmas. 

The aforementioned Fowler is among those to have scored a hat-trick on Boxing Day, doing so for Leeds United against Bolton Wanderers back in 2001. 

Henry (2000 for Arsenal), Kevin Phillips (2000 for Sunderland), Dimitar Berbatov (2011 for Manchester United), Gareth Bale (2012 for Spurs) and Harry Kane (2017 for Spurs) have also taken home belated presents in the form of a match ball.


A DEVIL ON TOP OF THE TREE?!

It is custom to place an angel, or perhaps a star, on the Christmas tree. However, in terms of the Premier League Boxing Day table, there is a team of devils - Red Devils no less – in Manchester United (yes, a tenuous joke, but by this stage is there any point in apologising?) who sit firmly on top. 

When looking at teams to have played at least 10 Boxing Day fixtures in the Premier League, United have the highest win rate, a rather impressive 81 per cent (66 points). 

Liverpool (63 per cent), Arsenal (59 per cent), Tottenham (58 per cent), Manchester City (53 per cent) and Chelsea (46 per cent) all unsurprisingly feature highly.  

West Brom, at eight per cent, have won just once in 12 Boxing Day fixtures in the Premier League, while Leicester City (14 per cent) and Fulham (15 per cent) have also struggled on the date.


BARRY A FESTIVE FIXTURE

For almost two full decades, Gareth Barry just loved getting his 'clause' into a festive fixture (clause, not claws... get it?) 

The former Aston Villa, Manchester City, Everton and West Brom midfielder has played on Boxing Day in the Premier League on a whopping 18 occasions. 

Chelsea boss and Blues legend Frank Lampard is not far behind on 17, with Ryan Giggs, Steven Gerrard, Aaron Hughes, Sol Campbell, Michael Carrick and James Milner all on 14 - the latter of course still going strong with champions Liverpool.


FIVE GOAL-D RINGS

The pun to headline this section is punishment enough, so we'll spare you a gag straight out of a Christmas cracker this time around. 

There have been seven occasions when a team has won by five goals on Boxing Day, which is the biggest margin of victory on the date. 

Liverpool have done so twice (5-0 versus West Brom in 2004, then again when facing Swansea City in 2017), while Everton, West Ham, Manchester United and Spurs have also triumphed by the same scoreline. 

In 2000, Arsenal actually went one better than scoring five, though they also conceded during a 6-1 rout of Leicester.


NOT THE CARDS YOU WANT TO RECEIVE…

Sending Christmas cards, complete with the sort of witty wisecracks we have provided throughout this Christmas treat, is a long-running staple of the festive period. 

But receiving a card on Boxing Day is not always what you want for your team right? 

Aston Villa, Chelsea, Newcastle United, Stoke City and Wimbledon have all had three players dismissed in games staged on December 26.

Page 1 of 15
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.