The final round of Premier League fixtures before the World Cup break produced a huge shock at the Etihad Stadium.

After missing out on England's World Cup squad, Ivan Toney struck twice to give Brentford a sensational 2-1 victory over Manchester City.

That result confirmed Arsenal would be top heading into the World Cup interval, and they increased their lead to five points by cruising past Wolves at Molineux as Martin Odegaard scored both goals in a 2-0 triumph.

Tottenham and Leeds United played out a seven-goal thriller at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with the hosts eventually running out 4-3 winners.

Elsewhere, Chelsea fell to a third straight league defeat as they were beaten 1-0 by in-form Newcastle United.

Here, Stats Perform looks through the best facts of the day.

Manchester City 1-2 Brentford: Toney double stuns Citizens

City had previously been unbeaten for 20 home matches in all competitions since a 3-2 defeat against Spurs in February, winning their last 16 at the Etihad.

But Toney, fresh from his England disappointment, scored his 21st and 22nd Premier League goals to end City's streak in dramatic fashion.

His winner came after 97 minutes and 16 seconds, the latest winning goal scored against City in the Premier League since exact goal times started being recorded in the 2006-07 campaign.

The Bees were made to do a lot of defending to earn the three points, with City's 29 shots their most in a Premier League home game they failed to win since a 2-1 defeat to Leeds United in April 2021.

Phil Foden's equaliser in first-half injury time was his sixth home goal in all competitions, his joint-best return in a Premier League season. Six of his eight goals (75 per cent) this season have come at the Etihad, compared to 43 per cent last term (six of 14).

Wolves 0-2 Arsenal: Odegaard fires Gunners to five-point lead

Odegaard's double puts him up to six Premier League goals this season, the most of any Arsenal player, while only Kevin de Bruyne, James Maddison and Leandro Trossard have been involved in more away goals than the Norway international (five, four goals and one assist).

The three points, combined with City slipping up, gives Arsenal their biggest lead at the top of the Premier League since December 2013.

Mikel Arteta's men are the only team to have scored in every Premier League game this season and they will be top of the league on Christmas day for the first time since the 2007-08 campaign.

Another defeat for Wolves means new boss Julen Lopetegui has much work to do, with the Molineux club bottom at Christmas for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

They are seriously out of form, only winning one of their last 22 Premier League games, failing to score in 11 matches over that run.

Tottenham 4-3 Leeds United: Bentancur strikes twice as Spurs come from behind

Antonio Conte's side completed yet another turnaround to beat Leeds and have now rescued 13 points from losing positions, more than any other team.

Rodrigo Bentancur's late double was the first time he has scored twice in the same game within the main five European leagues, on what was his 164th such appearance.

Spurs were made to do it the hard way, as Rodrigo and Crysencio Summerville became the first pair of team-mates to both score in four straight Premier League games.

But Leeds ultimately succumbed to defeat, their fifth straight league loss against London sides since thumping Chelsea 3-0 in August.

Spurs meanwhile have now scored 31 goals in 15 Premier League games this season, only bettering that tally at this stage of the competition in one season, when they netted 35 in 15 to kick off the 2009-10 campaign.

Newcastle United 1-0 Chelsea: Willock wonder strike downs Blues

Joe Willock scored a superb winner to earn Newcastle a fifth straight Premier League victory for the first time since 2014.

On the flip side, Graham Potter becomes the first Chelsea boss to lose three consecutive league matches since Jose Mourinho in 2015 as his side's poor form continues.

A key reason for the defeat was a dismal attacking display, registering just seven touches in the opposition box, their lowest since January against Manchester City.

The closest Chelsea went to scoring was Conor Gallagher forcing an acrobatic save from Nick Pope. No other goalkeeper has kept more clean sheets in the Premier League this season than Pope, with five of his seven coming at St James' Park.

The three points ensure Newcastle will be in the top three at Christmas for the first time since the 2001-02 campaign, when they were top.

The midpoint of the NFL season is tougher to discern following the move to a 17-game campaign but, with Week 10 off and running, it's fair to say we are into the second half.

It is in these final nine weeks when the games will become increasingly important and the onus will be on the game's best to deliver and make sure their respective teams are in position to reach the postseason.

The performances in this half of the campaign will have a significant influence on the end of year awards and on the identity of players named to the All-Pro team.

But which players are most deserving of the latter honour following the opening half of the season?

Stats Perform dug deep into its advanced metrics to help fill out its All-Pro team at the midway point of the year.

Quarterback: Patrick Mahomes - Kansas City Chiefs

Mahomes is second in the NFL in Efficiency Versus Expected in expected passing situations among quarterbacks. He trails Josh Allen, however, having produced 36 completions of at least 20 yards compared to 30 for Allen. He has also been the more accurate quarterback, posting a well-thrown percentage of 82.7 compared to 82.2 for Allen.

Running Back: Tony Pollard - Dallas Cowboys

Among running backs with at least 50 designed runs, Pollard leads the NFL in yards per carry (6.25), is second in yards after contact per attempt (2.94) and first in yards per carry when there is a disruption by a defender (5.27). Pollard is also sixth in yards before contact per rush (3.46).

Wide Receiver: Tyreek Hill - Miami Dolphins

Hill is third in big-play rate among wide receivers with at least 50 targets. His rate of 39.5 per cent trails only Amari Cooper (40.4) and team-mate Jaylen Waddle (39.7). In terms of registering a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup on a play where he is targeted, he leads all qualifying wideouts with 5.0 burn yards per route and is on pace to finish with over 2,000 receiving yards.

Wide Receiver: Stefon Diggs - Buffalo Bills

Diggs leads the NFL in open percentage against man coverage, winning 74.42 per cent of his matchups and reaffirming his status as one of the NFL's elite route-runners.

Slot Receiver: Justin Jefferson - Minnesota Vikings

No receiver with at least 25 targets from the slot is averaging more burn yards per route (5.0) or burn yards per target (16.32) than Jefferson.

Tight End: Mark Andrews - Baltimore Ravens

When he has been healthy, no tight end has done a better job of creating separation than Andrews, who leads all players at his position (min. 25 targets) in burn rate (78.1 per cent), big play rate (39 per cent) and burn yards per route (3.7).

Left Tackle: Laremy Tunsil - Houston Texans

The Texans' struggles are nothing to do with Tunsil, who leads all linemen with a pass block win rate of 94.64 per cent and all left tackles with a pressure rate allowed of 1.5 per cent.

Left Guard: Landon Dickerson - Philadelphia Eagles

With the Eagles' Jason Kelce succession plan in place at center, Dickerson can focus on playing guard, which he is doing outstandingly. He leads all left guards with a pressure rate of 3.3 per cent and his stunt-adjusted pass block win rate of 88.69 per cent is second among all guards.

Center: Creed Humphrey - Kansas City Chiefs

Humphrey's pass-block win rate of 87.96 per cent is second to Rodney Hudson of the Arizona Cardinals (90). However, Humphrey has played 253 pass block snaps compared to Hudson's 107. Humphrey has a double-team adjusted run-block win rate of 76.36 per cent, Hudson's is just 53.33.

Right Guard: Wyatt Teller - Cleveland Browns

An outstanding run-blocking guard with a win rate of 80 per cent in that area of the game, Teller's pass-block win rate of 90.74 per cent trails just Tunsil among all offensive linemen.

Right Tackle: Tristan Wirfs - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The problems on the Bucs' offensive line are on the interior, not at tackle, where Wirfs has been exemplary. Wirfs has allowed three pressures in 277 pass-blocking snaps and is third in adjusted win rate (90.56 per cent) among linemen behind Tunsil and Teller.

Edge Rusher: Myles Garrett - Cleveland Browns

Garrett's pressure rate of 29.7 per cent is tied for the best among all edge rushers, while his pass-rush win rate is a phenomenal 68.3 per cent. Winning 48 of his 70 rushes, no edge defender can match him for disruption this season.

Interior Defensive Line: Aaron Donald - Los Angeles Rams

The Rams' hopes of retaining the Lombardi Trophy look to be hanging by a thread, but Donald is still Donald and once again playing at a ridiculously high level. Only two players (Derrick Brown and D.J Jones) have a higher run disruption rate among defensive tackles than Donald (40.5 per cent) while Quinnen Williams is the sole interior defensive lineman with a better pressure rate than his 24.2 per cent. No defender, however, can match Donald's remarkable pass-rush win rate of 73.66 per cent.

Interior Defensive Line: Quinnen Williams - New York Jets

The two players closest to Donald's level both reside in New York. Dexter Lawrence of the Giants has a better pass-rush win rate (72.8 per cent) than Williams (70.5 per cent) but Williams has been the slightly superior all-round defender, winning his run defense matchup 62.5 per cent of the time, adjusted for double-teams, compared to 54.67 per cent for Lawrence.

Edge Rusher: Von Miller - Buffalo Bills

Miller has been worth the extremely lofty price of admission for the Bills so far this season, posting a pass-block win rate of 57.33 and winning 62.96 per cent of his run defense matchups.

You may be screaming 'where is Micah Parsons?!' about the absence of the man seen as the Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner. Parsons is fourth in pressure rate among edge rushers (28.3 per cent), but 16 of his pressures have been unblocked, illustrating a role in the Dallas defense in which he often takes advantage of stunts as the looper. 

Athleticism and quickness creates a tougher situation for the linemen who are being gamed, but it also relies on the penetrator half of the stunt to pick two defenders. In other words, he's creating pressure because a different lineman is blowing a hole through the protection, giving Parsons a free rush on the QB.

In terms of traditional pass rushing, Parsons' impact has not quite been significant enough to make the cut.

Linebacker: Fred Warner - San Francisco 49ers

Warner remains the gold standard for coverage linebackers, allowing a combined open percentage across man and zone of just 15.49 that is second only to Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (13.95 per cent). Warner has also displayed improvement as a blitzer in 2022, his pressure rate of 43.8 per cent second among inside linebackers with at least 20 pass rushes.

Linebacker: Demario Davis - New Orleans Saints

At 33, Davis continues to demonstrate impressive longevity. His combined open percentage allowed of 17.64 trails only Warner among linebackers with at least 100 total plays, while he has also won 23.21 per cent of his run defense opportunities, well above the average of 17.72 for the position.

Nickel Cornerback: Bryce Callahan - Los Angeles Chargers

While the Chargers' run defense has continually struggled, their play in the defensive backfield has been impressive, with Callahan a clear standout. He has lost just six of his 74 coverage matchups across man and zone for a combined open percentage of 17.57 that is the best among corners with at least 50 matchups.

Cornerback: Patrick Surtain II - Denver Broncos

In his second year in the NFL, Surtain already has an extremely strong claim for being considered the best corner in the league. He is third in combined open percentage (21) and his burn rate of 28.9 per cent is first among corners with at least 25 targets.

Cornerback: Darius Slay - Philadelphia Eagles

Second behind Callahan for open percentage (20.21), Slay is once again thriving as part of an Eagles defense that is continually taking the ball away. He has eight pass breakups and three interceptions this season to go along with his superb coverage numbers.

Safety: Derwin James - Los Angeles Chargers

The flexibility of James has been critical to the aforementioned success in the secondary for the Chargers. His burn rate allowed of 35.7 per cent is the third-best for his position while James has also proven an asset rushing the passer, registering three sacks.

Safety: Talanoa Hufanga - San Francisco 49ers

You can't watch a 49ers game without Hufanga being compared to Troy Polamalu. He has unquestionably earned such plaudits, though, giving up the second-fewest burn yards per target (5.68) among safeties and recording the best big-play rate (8.0 per cent). With three interceptions, six pass breakups, five tackles for loss, four stuffs and a sack, he is setting the standard for splash plays at safety.

In recent years, the notable absentee at the ATP Finals has been Roger Federer, with his last appearance in the tournament coming in 2019.

The lack of Federer at the showpiece event will be felt even more apparent this year after the Swiss maestro retired from tennis in September, though it is the absence of a player at the other end of his career that is more relevant in Turin.

World number one Carlos Alcaraz had to withdraw from the tournament after suffering an abdominal tear, which means his status at the top of the men's game is in jeopardy.

Rafael Nadal has spoken well of his 19-year-old compatriot in the past, but is not ready to pass the torch just yet, and could even topple Alcaraz from his number one spot.

The 22-time grand slam champion has finished as year-end number one five times previously, most recently in 2019. Should he accomplish the feat again this year it would put him in joint-second for most year-end finishes at the top of the ATP Rankings (since 1973) along with Pete Sampras (six).

In order to do so, Nadal will need to win the tournament, something he has never done before.

However, he comes into his 11th appearance in good form, and has won 32 per cent of his return games in 2022, the highest percentage by any player this year, and has converted 43.8 per cent of his break points in 2022, the third best amongst all players.


Stefanos Tsitsipas, meanwhile, is the other competitor who can knock Alcaraz off top spot, though his task to do so is a little more complicated as he needs to win every match on the way to the title in Turin. 

No player has played more matches in 2022 than Tsitsipas (80), 21 on clay, 11 on grass and 48 on hard courts; he has won 59 of them and lost 21.

Should neither man win at the Pala Alpitour, Alcaraz will breathe a sigh of relief and earn his first year-end number one finish, having taken his place after winning the US Open in September.

Nadal has been drawn into the Green Group with Casper Ruud, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Taylor Fritz, while Tsitsipas will be in the Red Group alongside Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic can equal Federer record

One man surprisingly unable to end the year as number one is Djokovic, despite having done so on more occasions than anyone else in history (seven).

However, the 21-time grand slam champion can still make his mark in Italy.

Djokovic has had an up-and-down year, only playing in two of the four grand slams due to his vaccination status, though he was able to win Wimbledon for the seventh time, beating Nick Kyrgios in the final.

Should the Serbian go all the way and lift what would be his sixth ATP Finals title, he will go level with Federer for most victories since the tournament began in 1970.

Among the eight participating players in this year's tournament, Djokovic has won 87 per cent of his service games in 2022, the best percentage among these players and the sixth overall.

It would be quite the ending to the year for Djokovic, who finds himself in the unusual position of sitting eighth in the world rankings, and at the age of 35, who knows how many more appearances he will make at the event?


Strong field promises fireworks

As is the intent of the format, the ATP Finals should be a tightly-contested few days as the best men's players in the world come together.

Ruud will be looking to add to an already impressive season, having reached two grand slam finals and winning three tour-level titles, while Fritz is aiming to carry on the fine lineage of American players to have won the tournament.

Players from the United States have won the ATP finals 16 times, with Sampras and Ivan Lendl winning five of them each. It is the most by any country and 10 more than next best Switzerland (six, all Federer) and Germany (also six, three wins for Boris Becker, one for Michael Stich and two for last year's champion, Alexander Zverev).

Auger-Aliassime has had a strong end to the year, beating Djokovic at the Laver Cup before winning three titles in as many weeks in Florence, Antwerp and Basel.

Only John Isner (895) has recorded more aces in 2022 than Auger-Aliassime, who has registered 852 in total, averaging 10.9 per match.

"All the players who participate [at the ATP Finals], I have already faced them, I have beaten them," the Canadian recently said. "So for me, there's no reason why I can't show up to this tournament with the aim of winning it."

Medvedev was world number one as recently as September but enters this tournament in fifth, though he did win the Vienna ATP 500 event last month, while his first opponent in Turin, Rublev, enters with a 2022 record of 49-18, looking for his second straight 50-win season.

Whoever comes out on top at this year's ATP Finals, the race for supremacy in 2023 promises to be as delightfully chaotic.

For Newcastle United and Chelsea, their respective outlooks heading into the final fixture before the World Cup couldn't be much more different.

While Eddie Howe's side are enjoying a brilliant season that at this point looks set to end with a European spot at the very least, Chelsea have endured a difficult few weeks and are on the slide.

Essentially, the World Cup break comes at the worst possible moment for Newcastle, but for Chelsea it's perfectly timed as it can potentially act as a circuit-breaker.

Nevertheless, there's still time for Chelsea to improve their collective mood heading into the break – though Saturday's trip to St James' Park is going to be a real test.

Newcastle a different beast

In the world of football, people love to look back for omens. Chelsea and their fans might be able to trick themselves into some confidence if they reflect on the club's record against Newcastle.

The Blues have won three of their past four Premier League away games against the Magpies – if they rack up another, they'll make it three victories in a row at St James' Park for the first time since 1958.

Similarly, Chelsea have won seven of their previous eight league games against Newcastle (L1), including the past four in a row without conceding.

But this Newcastle is obviously a rather different proposition. They'll be playing a Premier League game after starting the day in the top three for the first time since November 2011, and it'll be the first time they've faced Chelsea while above them in the table in 12 and a half years.

Newcastle also head into the game knowing a win will see them tally five top-flight triumphs in a row for the first time in eight years. 

Chelsea have the blues

Graham Potter made history after going unbeaten in his first nine games at the Chelsea helm, but since then they've lost three out of four matches.

Wednesday's 2-0 loss to Manchester City in the EFL Cup third round was hardly a major shock, but it'll have done little to improve their state of mind after the team's confidence took a battering – literally and figuratively – in the 4-1 defeat to Potter's former side Brighton and Hove Albion and a 1-0 reverse at home to Arsenal.

The latter two were both in the league and were only separated by a slender Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb, meaning defeat on Saturday would see them lose three top-flight games in a row for the first time since November 2015 when Jose Mourinho was in charge.

Shot-shy Chelsea

Part of Chelsea's problem has been their struggles in front of goal, which perhaps shouldn't be seen as hugely shocking given they let two strikers in Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku leave in pre-season.

Only five clubs have had fewer shots in the Premier League this term than Chelsea (151), with their average of 11.6 shots per game their lowest on record in a single campaign (since 1997-98).

By comparison, their hosts are having no such issues.

Only Liverpool and Manchester City have had more shots than Newcastle (208), with their average of 14.9 attempts per game their highest since 2013-14 (15.2).

Chelsea do at least have two players who've enjoyed facing Newcastle in the past. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been involved in nine goals in as many meetings with them in all competitions, his best return against one team in English football, while Raheem Sterling has recorded six goal involvements in his past six league games against the Magpies.

However, neither could be considered in a rich vein of form – that's certainly not something you could say about Newcastle's Miguel Almiron.

Almiron's on fire

Almiron's turnaround at Newcastle has genuinely been quite heart-warming, particularly against the backdrop of those disparaging comments made by Jack Grealish earlier this year.

The Paraguayan has been utterly lethal for Newcastle this season, and his form received the recognition it deserved on Friday when he was announced as the Premier League's Player of the Month for October.

But his excellence hasn't just been localised to October. Almiron has eight goals in 14 Premier League games this term, just one fewer than he managed in his first 110 in the competition combined.

Clearly, though, he's really found his groove in the past few weeks, as a goal against Chelsea will see him become the first player to net in five successive league games for the club since Joe Willock's remarkable run of seven at the end of the 2020-21 season.

We are somehow already at Week 10 in the NFL season, all wondering where the time actually does go.

Two of the shining lights of the campaign face off in Buffalo as the Bills host the Minnesota Vikings.

History will be made in Munich as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face the Seattle Seahawks in the first-ever regular season NFL game played in Germany, while the San Francisco 49ers will look to continue their return to winning ways against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Stats Perform takes a closer look at the numbers behind some of Sunday's NFL clashes.

Minnesota Vikings (7-1) @ Buffalo Bills (6-2)

The Vikings have played eight games at Highmark Stadium and have held the Bills to 23 points or fewer in each one, which is the longest streak of allowing 23 points or fewer by a visiting team in the stadium's history.

Minnesota have won six straight games, all by eight points or fewer, tied for the second-longest streak of one-possession wins in NFL history, behind a seven-game streak by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020.

T.J. Hockenson boasted nine catches on his Vikings debut last week, tying the Bills' Keith McKeller (October 18, 1987) for the most receptions by a tight end on debut with a team in the Super Bowl era.

The Bills have allowed 21 points or fewer in 12 straight regular-season games, the longest streak in franchise history and the second longest by any NFL team over the last 15 seasons (Baltimore Ravens, 13 straight from 2019-20).

Buffalo are allowing just 4.6 points per game in the second half this year. No NFL team has allowed fewer than 5.0 points per game in the second half over a full season since the Carolina Panthers in 1996 (3.5).

Seattle Seahawks (6-3) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5)

It should be a great experience in Bavaria, but the Bucs are 0-3 in games played outside the United States (all in London), having been outscored 96-51 in those games. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are 2-0 outside the U.S. (one in Toronto, one in London), outscoring their opponents, 77-20.

Pete Carroll is in his 17th season as an NFL head coach and has had at least six wins in each campaign. The only other coach to have six or more wins in each of his first 17 seasons was Don Shula, who did so in all 33 seasons of his career.

Kenneth Walker III is the first NFL rookie to rush for a touchdown and have his team win in each of his first four career starts since Robert Edwards for the New England Patriots in 1998.

Tom Brady has thrown at least 40 passes with no interceptions in seven consecutive starts. No other QB in NFL history has done that in more than four straight starts.

The Bucs have rushed for 75 or fewer yards in eight straight games, the second-longest streak in the Super Bowl wera behind a nine-game streak by the Cardinals from 1991-92.

Los Angeles Chargers (5-3) @ San Francisco 49ers (4-4)

The Chargers are looking to win their sixth-straight game against the 49ers, which would make them the first team to do so since the Seahawks (nine games from 2014 to 2018).

Justin Herbert was not sacked in the Chargers' recent win against the Atlanta Falcons. The Chargers have allowed the fewest sacks in the league this season (10), and have not allowed 10 or fewer sacks through eight games since the 2008 season (also 10).

Through 40 career starts, Herbert has played a part in 90 touchdowns (82 passing, eight rushing). Only Patrick Mahomes (107), Dan Marino (95) and Kurt Warner (91) accounted for more scores in their first 40 starts.

San Francisco's last five games have all been decided by at least 14 points (3-2 record). They have not had six consecutive such games since an eight-game streak in 1999.

Christian McCaffrey threw for, rushed for and caught a touchdown in San Francisco's win over the Rams. He was the first player to do so since the Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson completed the feat in Week 6 of the 2005 season.


The Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6) will need a plan to deal with Chiefs (6-2) QB Mahomes, who attempted 68 passes (completing 43) in last week's win over the Tennessee Titans, both of which set single-game team records. The only player to attempt more passes in a win in the NFL since 1950 was Drew Bledsoe with 70 in Week 11 of the 1994 season.

Former Chief Tyreek Hill has 1104 receiving yards this season for the Miami Dolphins (6-3), the most by any player through his team's first nine games in the Super Bowl era. Prior to this year, there had only been 11 times a Dolphins receiver recorded 1100 yards in an entire season, and Hill will look to add to those against the Cleveland Browns (3-5).

Last week was Cooper Kupp's 20th career game with at least 100 receiving yards and a touchdown, the most in the NFL since he entered the league in 2017. The only other players with more than 15 such games in that span are Davante Adams (19) and Hill (18), and the Los Angeles Rams (3-5) will need their star to step up again against the Arizona Cardinals (3-6).

Aaron Rodgers' passer rating is at 89.0 this season after posting 111.9 in 2021. The decrease of 22.9 is the largest by a Green Bay Packers quarterback (min. five games played) since Bart Starr from 1966 to 1967 (105.0 to 64.4). With a record of 3-6, the Packers will hope he can improve that against the Dallas Cowboys (6-2).

With little over a week to go until the World Cup begins, this weekend represents fantasy football bosses' final chance to rack up points before the festive period. 

The unprecedented timing of the tournament means uncertainty may reign when players return from Qatar, making a trusted fantasy favourite look appealing ahead of the Premier League season's 16th matchday.

With Harry Kane looking to maintain his fine run of form before jetting off to lead the line for England, can you really afford to overlook the Tottenham talisman?

For those seeking players going under the radar, meanwhile, could the improved form of two Midlands teams provide the answer?

Stats Perform is here to help, delving into the Opta numbers to identify four players to provide your fantasy team with the perfect pre-World Cup boost.

Aaron Ramsdale (Wolves v Arsenal)

Arsenal travel to Wolves looking to remain top of the Premier League for Christmas, and the division's joint-best defence (11 goals conceded, alongside Newcastle United) will be expected to shut out a Wolves side with just eight goals to their name this season.

Ramsdale – who has been included in England's squad for the World Cup – has played a key role for Mikel Arteta's side this campaign, keeping six Premier League clean sheets.

No goalkeeper has recorded more top-flight shutouts (six) than Ramsdale this season (joint with Nick Pope and Ederson), and the Gunners' shot-stopper has kept five of those clean sheets on the road.

Lucas Digne (Brighton and Hove Albion v Aston Villa)

Unai Emery made a dream return to the Premier League last week, leading Aston Villa to a 3-1 home win over Manchester United as Digne got on the scoresheet with an expertly taken free-kick.

Since the left-back made his Premier League debut in August 2018, only four players have bettered his tally of three goals from direct free-kicks in the competition – James Ward-Prowse (12), James Maddison (eight), Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kieran Trippier (both four).

During that same span, Liverpool duo Alexander-Arnold (54) and Andrew Robertson (48) are the only two defenders to better his return of 27 Premier League goal involvements.

Defenders with the ability to contribute in attack are like gold dust in fantasy football, and with Digne unlikely to cost the earth, the Villa man could represent a prudent budget pick.

Harvey Barnes (West Ham v Leicester City)

Leicester City continued their upward momentum by beating Everton 2-0 last week, with winger Barnes scoring his fifth league goal of the season to make the points safe late on.

Barnes has now hit the net three times in his last four league appearances and is averaging a goal every 200 minutes this term – his best rate across a single season in the competition.

This calendar year, meanwhile, only Kane (33), Maddison (22), Ivan Toney (21) and Bukayo Saka (19) have bettered Barnes' total of 17 Premier League goal contributions (nine goals, eight assists) among English players, and he may put out-of-sorts West Ham to the sword.

Harry Kane (Tottenham v Leeds United) 

Finally, Tottenham striker Kane is among the favourites to win the Golden Boot at the World Cup, and he should be expected to continue his strong form against Leeds United.

Kane has scored in each of his last six home appearances in the Premier League – the longest such run of his career, and only Erling Haaland (18) has bettered his tally of 11 top-flight goals this term.

The England captain has averaged a goal every 113 minutes of league action this campaign, a rate he has only improved upon in the 2016-17 (87 mins/goal) and 2017-18 (103) seasons, and Leeds look unlikely to keep him quiet after conceding 22 goals in 13 Premier League games.

Every year, a host of NFL players and teams head into seasons looking to prove themselves.

Some fall short, but others rise to the occasion spectacularly.

It is the latter Stats Perform has focused on for this week's edition of fantasy picks, with every selection except for that at tight end for Week 10 looking at players and areas of certain teams that have emphatically answered the bell.

These offensive players and our selection in the defense slot deserve to be taken seriously, and they deserve a place in your fantasy team if you have them rostered or they are somehow available on the waiver wire.

Quarterback – Justin Fields, Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions

After following up impressive games against the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys with a spectacular performance in defeat to the Miami Dolphins last week, it’s time to accept Fields is a starter-level quarterback in fantasy football.

Against Miami, Fields threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another score while adding 178 yards on the ground, that tally the most by a quarterback in a regular-season game since 1940.

The Lions may have only conceded nine points against the Green Bay Packers last week, but they still surrendered 389 net yards, with theirs a defense allowing a league-high 6.39 yards per play. Facing an opponent ill-equipped to stop him on the ground or through the air, Fields will reaffirm his legitimacy as a fantasy quarterback and one of the NFL’s most promising young signal-callers at Ford Field.

Running Back – Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars @ Kansas City Chiefs

Etienne, effectively playing his rookie year having seen his 2021 season lost to injury, is now the undisputed focal point of the Jacksonville run game following the Jaguars' decision to trade James Robinson to the New York Jets.

It is a role in which Etienne has thrived, racking up 100 yards in each of his last three games, across which he has scored four touchdowns.

This week, he faces a Chiefs run defense that has allowed a success rate of 41.5 per cent, the fourth-worst in the NFL.

Jacksonville may eventually be forced to move away from the run game if they fall behind against the Chiefs as most expect, but the numbers suggest Etienne will put up good enough numbers to be worthy of a fantasy start regardless.

Wide Receiver – Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins vs. Cleveland Browns

There was plenty of doubt surrounding a Dolphin offense helmed by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa going into the season. Those concerns have been emphatically allayed, however, with the Miami attack second in the NFL in yards per play through nine weeks of the season.

Waddle and Tyreek Hill have been the primary beneficiaries of the beautiful marriage between Tagovailoa and Dolphins head coach and offensive play-caller Mike McDaniel.

Hill has already surpassed 1,000 yards receiving, and Waddle is rapidly closing in on four figures. He heads into the Dolphins' meeting with the Browns on 812.

Cleveland's defense has been solid against the pass but has allowed 12 big play touchdowns, tied for the third-most in the NFL, with eight of those coming through the air. The Browns are therefore still a defense Waddle and Hill can exploit, with the former joining his three-time first-team All-Pro team-mate as one of the most dynamic deep threats in the NFL.

Tight End – Greg Dulcich, Denver Broncos @ Tennessee Titans

There has been little reason to take the Bronco offense seriously so far this season, but Dulcich's emergence in recent weeks has provided something for Denver to be optimistic about.

He has 12 receptions in his three games so far as a rookie, averaging 15.2 yards per reception and swiftly earning the trust of Russell Wilson 

With 14 targets over the last two games, Dulcich already looks to be an established part of the passing attack, and that is likely to remain the case against a Titans defense in the bottom half of the league in success rate against the pass (41.7 per cent). Dulcich is an intriguing fantasy play this week at a position where it is famously difficult to find consistent contributors outside of the league’s elite.

Defense/Special Teams – Dallas Cowboys @ Green Bay Packers

The Cowboys' high dependence on turnovers last season made their defense a tough one to trust going into the campaign.

However, it has remained one of the best in the NFL and is fourth in the league by success rate (36.1 per cent). Only two defenses have forced more negative plays than Dallas (62), and this week the Cowboys get to face a Packers team in the midst of a five-game losing streak.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has grown increasingly careless with the ball as their woes have continued, and with the Packers dealing with injuries on the offensive line, this is a matchup that looks ripe for Micah Parsons and Co. to dominate and deliver substantial fantasy points.

Nearly a month into the NBA season, Memphis Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane has continued his ascent into one of the best shooters in the sport, and he headlines the early candidates on breakout-watch.

The six-foot-five, third-year product out of TCU was considered a steal by avid college basketball fans when the Grizzlies selected him 30th overall in the draft, as he profiled as an elite shooter and stout defender from day-one.

As a 21-year-old rookie he averaged 9.2 points and 1.7 assists per game while shooting 43.2 per cent from three-point range, starting in 17 of his 68 appearances, before graduating to a full-time starter in his second season.

In his sophomore season, Bane started all 76 of his games and found his footing in the league, raising his averages to 18.2 points and 2.7 assists, and while his three-point attempts went up from 4.0 to 6.9, his percentage also went up from 43.2 to 43.6. Teammate Ja Morant won the league's Most Improved Player, but he gifted the award to Bane (who ultimately returned it).

A player's ability to scale up their volume of shots while maintaining efficiency is a telltale sign of someone ready to assume a larger role (see: Mikal Bridges, De'Andre Hunter), and that has continued in Bane's third season.

His usage rate jumped from a supporting-role-level 15.5 per cent as a rookie, to a main-option-level 22.6 per cent in his second campaign, before ascending to a 26.9 per cent usage this season. 


For reference, that is the 27th-highest figure in the league for players averaging at least 20 minutes per game, putting him ahead of players like C.J. McCollum (26.3) and Anthony Edwards (26.3) and only narrowly behind DeMar DeRozan (27.8).

His three-point attempts have also jumped again from 6.9 to 8.8, and once again, his three-point percentage has inexplicably risen with it, up to a career-high 46.8 per cent. 

It has led to career-highs across the board in points (24.6), rebounds (5.0), assists (4.6) and minutes (32.7). His 4.1 made three-pointers per game is tied with Buddy Hield for second in the league, trailing only Stephen Curry (5.1).

With a two-plus season sample size now under his belt, it is now clear Bane is not just a good shooter, but one of the best in the world. His career three-point figure of 43.7 per cent is the second-highest among all active players, trailing only Seth Curry (43.8 per cent).

It would be disrespectful to the legendary, game-changing Stephen Curry to put anybody in his class as a marksman, but if he were to retire tomorrow, Bane would have an argument to be the game's best shooter.

It had been assumed in Memphis that Jaren Jackson Jr was the long-term running-mate their potential MVP in Morant, but Bane has become undeniable, and it is now easy to envision the Grizzlies treating Bane as the Klay Thompson to Morant's Stephen Curry in their macro team-building vision.

Eventually, everybody's bill comes due. 

That is the lesson the Los Angeles Rams are learning in an extremely hard way in the 2022 season.

The price the Rams are paying, one which has them 3-5 and above only the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West, is one they will be happy to pay in the grand scheme of things given they lifted the Lombardi Trophy last season.

But their struggles this season are a consequence of the ultra-aggressive strategy that has seen the Rams consistently part with draft capital to acquire star players.

Now the stars of their top-heavy roster are failing to elevate those around them, and while many may view this pain as tolerable for 2022, there is reason to be concerned about the viability of this team as a long-term contender.

Even in a less than stellar NFC, it is tough to see this version of the Rams recovering to make a run at the postseason, and right now it is just as difficult to envisage a path through which Los Angeles can return to prominence in the years to come.

Stafford slumping under duress

The root of the Rams' problems is on offense. That is not a revelation to anyone who has even briefly watched Sean McVay's group in 2022. The Los Angeles attack poses nothing close to the same threat it presented last season and is one of the worst in the NFL through eight games.

In Sunday's defeat to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team who had lost five of their previous six games, the Rams averaged a pitiful 3.7 yards per play. Their season average of 4.71 puts the Rams last in the NFL, while only the Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans have produced fewer explosive plays of 10 yards or more than Los Angeles (86).

Blame could be laid at the feet of Matthew Stafford, the quarterback the Rams gave up a pair of first-round picks to acquire last offseason and who put them over the top in 2021. His well-thrown percentage of 80 is below the league average of 80.6 for quarterbacks with a minimum of 100 attempts, yet it is actually a stark improvement on his first season with the Rams, when he delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 73.7 per cent of passes.

The number to focus on with Stafford is his air yards per attempt, which has dropped off substantially from 8.62 in 2021 to 6.35 this season. In other words, Stafford's accuracy is up because the degree of difficulty on throws he is attempting is significantly down, and that is a symptom of dreadful pass protection.

Los Angeles' sack rate allowed of 8.7 per cent is the fourth-worst in the NFL, while the time from Stafford's snap to release has dropped from 2.72 seconds in 2021 to 2.54 this campaign, a reflection of the short passing attack the Rams have adopted to prevent their quarterback taking too much damage and how often he has been hurried into getting the ball out.

In the Week 8 loss against the San Francisco 49ers, Stafford averaged 4.71 air yards per attempt, the lowest of any quarterback to attempt multiple passes, with the Rams' attack reduced to one reliant on the screen pass and the occasional deep shot to Cooper Kupp that had no answer when both those options were taken away.

The Rams' lack of a riposte has been jarring to watch this season, and even Kupp has not been as effective as they would hope.

Counterpunches in short supply

Of course, it would be difficult for Kupp not to endure a drop-off after a 2021 season in which he led the NFL in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns.

But the fall, at least by one measure, has been drastic. 

Kupp's burn rate, which measures how often a receiver wins his matchup on a play where he is targeted, is 58.7 per cent, a huge dip from his 2021 rate of 66.5 per cent, which was the ninth-best in the NFL among wideouts with at least 100 targets.

When he does win his coverage matchup, Kupp is at least still consistently creating clear separation. His burn yards per route average of 4.8 is up on his league-leading tally of 4.0 from last season and trails only Tyreek Hill (5.6) for receivers with a minimum of 50 targets.

The problem the Rams have is not necessarily that Kupp is not performing at the level of his 2021 zenith; it is that has no support from his surrounding cast. Down the stretch last year, he had Odell Beckham Jr. to divert coverage away from him. This season, no Rams wideout with at least 10 targets has a burn rate higher than Kupp's, with Allen Robinson (48.8 per cent) among the worst in the league by that measure. At tight end, Tyler Higbee (52.7 per cent) is below the average for his position.

And the lack of non-Kupp difference-makers extends to the run game.

Los Angeles' ground attack largely consists of jet sweeps to Kupp, with carries of any other variety resulting in precious little gain.

The Buccaneers (2.98 yards per carry) are the sole team with a worse rushing average than that of the Rams (3.2), but no offense has a worse ratio of successful runs than that of Los Angeles. McVay's attack has a success rate of just 22.7 per cent on the ground. The team directly above the Rams, the New England Patriots, are a full eight percentage points clear.

The Rams' decision to try to trade running back Cam Akers and then reintegrating him after failing to do so encapsulates their woes on the ground and is emblematic of a season where nothing has gone right for an offense that is fourth-worst in the NFL with an overall success rate of 35.2 per cent.

Any room for optimism comes on the defensive side of the ball.

Time for a Rams reset?

While Stafford and, to a lesser extent, Kupp may be in the midst of down years, the cornerstones the Rams possess on defense are still performing at an extremely high level.

The Los Angeles defense had the Rams in position to get back to winning ways in Tampa, holding the Bucs to six points going into the final quarter, and remains one of the better units in the NFL on that side of the ball.

Allowing 5.29 yards per play, the Rams rank 10th in the NFL by that metric, with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey both continuing to excel.

Donald headed into Week 9 having won 37 of his 50 pass rushes, good for an incredible stunt-adjusted win rate of 73.66 per cent, and his frequent interior pressure forced Tom Brady to get the ball out at an average of 2.21 seconds from snap to release. Only Zach Wilson (2.04) was quicker among QBs with 20 attempts in Week 9.

Ramsey, meanwhile, went into the Bucs game with a combined open percentage allowed across man and zone of 27.66 per cent (the average for cornerbacks is 34 per cent).

But the Rams' defense has a similar issue to that of the offense. Save for emerging linebacker Ernest Jones, this group is short of young impact players who can develop around Donald and Ramsey.

And on the final Tampa Bay drive of the Buccaneers' 16-13 win, a defense that had seen the offense inexplicably give the ball back after running the ball three times and using under a minute of clock with the chance to kill the game with a first down proved powerless to stop Brady authoring another game-winning series.

Brady's decisiveness and quick release rendered Donald a non-factor, and Ramsey found himself similarly helpless and picked on as the Bucs successfully attacked the Rams' soft zone coverage on a drive capped by tight end Cade Otton's decisive score.

Asked if he thought the defense would be back on the field after the Rams stopped the Bucs in the red zone on Tampa's penultimate drive, Ramsey replied: "We should not have been."

Those five words spoke volumes as to what Ramsey thinks of the offense, but the cold hard truth is that – even though the defense is the superior unit – the Rams in their current guise are not doing anything well enough to escape avoidable situations.

And their avenues to get better are not obvious. Their offensive fortunes could be improved by a greater reliance on play-action, which the Rams are utilising just 10.4 per cent of the time (the average is 12.5 per cent) but racking up 11.52 yards per play when they do.

That is unlikely to be a cure-all, though, and any reticence on Stafford's part to turn his back to the defense for a play-fake while playing behind this offensive line would be understandable.

The resources with which they could boost the O-line, their collection of playmakers or the defense in the coming offseason are thin. The Rams have a second and third-round pick this year and four selections across the final two rounds, but asking the front office to unearth instant impact players from those non-premium picks is a tall order for a franchise that has racked up its share of misses with the draft selections it has held on to in recent years.

Projected to be $2million over the cap in 2023, don't expect a free agency splurge from the Rams either.

Given the retirement rumours that have previously swirled around Donald and McVay, this is a situation that would be ripe for a rebuild, were the Rams not locked into Stafford's contract until 2026. Instead, if they cannot produce a second-half surge, it is likely to be more of an attempt at a reset that quickly gets the Rams back in contention.

With the paucity of tools they have to attack that challenge, successfully doing so would be as impressive as the comebacks this star-studded team produced to lift the Lombardi back in February.

The World Cup break may be just around the corner, but there remains plenty of life in the Premier League campaign, as another action-packed Sunday showed.

The day was book-ended by two heavyweight clashes, with Mikel Arteta's Arsenal moving back to the top of the table by beating Chelsea in a tense London derby in the early kick-off.

Later on, Liverpool finally clinched their first away win of the Premier League campaign as Mohamed Salah tormented Tottenham.

Elsewhere, Unai Emery made a memorable start to his Aston Villa reign and Newcastle United went third by tearing Southampton apart on the south coast.

Here, Stats Perform looks through the best facts of the day.

Tottenham 1-2 Liverpool: Salah ends Red's dismal away run

Liverpool had failed to win an away Premier League game this season (D2 L3), and needed a result as the prospect of slipping 13 points behind Spurs loomed.

Jurgen Klopp's side may have struggled, but Salah's recent form has been imperious, and he handed the visitors a strong start by drilling home an 11th-minute opener.

Salah then capitalised on Eric Dier's error to double Liverpool's lead, and he has now contributed to 19 goals in 20 games for Liverpool this season (14 goals, five assists). Only last season (28) has the Egyptian recorded more goal involvements in his first 20 appearances of a campaign for the Reds.

Meanwhile, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is the 24th different away venue Salah has scored at for Liverpool in the Premier League – only Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen (both 25) have bettered that tally for the Reds.

Harry Kane ensured a nervy finish when he became the first Spurs player to score in six consecutive home Premier League appearances after the break, but Liverpool held firm to claim a huge win. 

Chelsea 0-1 Arsenal: Gabriel earns Gunners another statement win

Sunday's first game saw Arsenal return to the summit with a 1-0 victory against Chelsea, becoming the first team to win 10 away games against the Blues in the competition, and just the second to win on three successive trips to Stamford Bridge (after Blackburn Rovers from 1993-94 to 1995-96).

Gabriel Magalhaes got a touch on Bukayo Saka's corner to decide a hard-fought game – all nine of his league goals for Arsenal have come from corners, and no Premier League player has scored more goals from such situations since he arrived in the division in 2020.

Chelsea looked disjointed throughout, managing just five shots as they slipped to back-to-back Premier League defeats for the first time since December 2020 (under Frank Lampard).

Arsenal, however, look like the real deal. Having beaten Tottenham and Liverpool last month, the Gunners have won three consecutive league games against 'big six' opponents for the first time since April 2012. 

It was a miserable reunion with his former side for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who had just eight touches before being taken off by Graham Potter just after the hour.

Aston Villa 3-1 Manchester United: Emery makes flying start

At Villa Park, all eyes were on Emery as the Spaniard made his Premier League return just under three years after being sacked by Arsenal, and he could hardly have wished for a better start.

Leon Bailey and Lucas Digne put Villa 2-0 up within 11 minutes – the earliest point at which United have trailed by two goals in a Premier League game since October 2018 against Newcastle (10th minute).

Jacob Ramsey's own goal dragged United back into contention before he atoned by making the points safe for Villa, ensuring Emery became just the fourth coach to win his first Premier League game in charge of a team when facing the Red Devils.

On an eventful day for Ramsey, he became the fourth player in Premier League history to record a goal, an assist and an own goal in the same game, after Kevin Davies, Wayne Rooney and Gareth Bale.

United have now lost nine away league games in 2022 – their most in a calendar year since 1989 (12).

Southampton 1-4 Newcastle United: Miggy on the mark again as Magpies cruise

Eddie Howe's Newcastle have arguably been the story of the Premier League season to date, and they continued their stunning form by thrashing Southampton 4-1 at St Mary's.

Newcastle have now scored four or more goals four times in their last seven Premier League games, as often as they did in their previous 226 outings in the competition.

Miguel Almiron opened the scoring, becoming the eighth different player to net in four consecutive Premier League matches for Newcastle, and only the second non-Englishman to do so after Papiss Cisse.

Chris Wood and Joe Willock also got on the scoresheet before Bruno Guimaraes bent a 25-yard effort into the bottom-right corner, scoring his eighth goal in 28 league games for the Magpies, having netted just three times in 56 Ligue 1 outings for former club Lyon.

The result piled more pressure on Ralph Hasenhuttl, with Southampton now winless in their last 14 Premier League games against teams starting the day inside the top four (D5 L9).

Such is the instantaneous nature of social media that one miss, one innocuous incident can see a player written off as a "fraud" or "finished".

It's up to every one of us how much importance we tie to those individual comments. Maybe they're jokes, maybe they're serious. But when you see thousands of likes or retweets on them, you get a picture of how widespread these quick judgements are, and in that sense it doesn't really matter if they were in jest or not.

This isn't to say we didn't use to be like this, the difference is now many of us have at our fingertips an outlet that reaches thousands of people within seconds.

Darwin Nunez came in for such treatment in pre-season. During a meaningless friendly against Manchester United, the Uruguayan missed a big chance and quickly became the target of ridicule on social media.

Granted, he had recently been signed for a lot of money, but the hysteria – given the game had nothing riding on it – was remarkable. For what it's worth, he scored four in one match nine days later.

Since then, a lot of column inches have been dedicated to Nunez, which is a bit fairer now the season's in full flow.

One thing many agree about is how the striker appears to be one of the most chaotic footballers in existence, but this shouldn't cloud what he's doing well. He's raw, but if you scrape away the surface, the signs for Nunez and Liverpool are very promising.

Untapped potential

Jurgen Klopp hit the nail on the head last week when talking about Nunez's potential. In his eyes, the 23-year-old potentially has an "incredible" ceiling, but he acknowledged there was still so much work for the striker to put in that it was unclear how good he'll eventually become.

"Nobody knows, he doesn't know. Nobody knows, there is a lot [of potential] and it is so exciting, but he has to stay fit, he has to be available all the time," Klopp said. "That's all important in the life of a professional football player. We have to work on all different areas. Then, the potential is incredible. It's not only speed, the attitude is really good, he is a real worker.

"Again, I tell you – and I know there are some people out there who think, 'Technically, not sure, first touch...' – it is incredible. That he doesn't bring it on the pitch all the time, the first touch might be here or there sometimes, is nothing to do with technique, it is just a bit too late, awareness, orientation and all these kind of things, but it is all possible to develop and to learn. That's where we are at, it's really exciting, but where it can go, I have no idea."

There was always going to be scrutiny for Nunez because of the transfer fee, but would there have been as much were it not for Erling Haaland's ridiculous start? Probably not, as they were brought in around the same time and both considered by many as the so-called final pieces of the puzzle for their respective teams.

As the past few months have shown, Haaland is a phenomenon, that's not up for debate. But Nunez taking a little more time to truly settle doesn't make him any less promising than he was deemed at Benfica.

In fact, you could argue his output has exceeded expectations at this point.

Darwin's evolution

"His numbers are incredible, to be absolutely honest," Klopp also said of Nunez last week. "If you speak about xGs [expected goals], I am pretty sure his xGs are pretty high as well. He had a few chances which he missed, but he scored as well. He is involved in a lot of finishing moments, a lot of things."

Klopp is correct here – the data firmly backs him up. While Nunez's tally of three Premier League goals doesn't sound much, we shouldn't forget he's already served a three-match ban for getting sent off against Crystal Palace. His record of 0.6 goals every 90 minutes is bettered by only seven players.

With that in mind, Nunez's 432 Premier League minutes is fairly low, but he's managed to pack a lot of action into that limited period – hence the "chaotic" appraisal earlier.

He ranks inside the top 10 for goal involvements per 90 minutes (0.8) and minutes per goal (144), but it's in the shooting metrics where Nunez's productivity really shines through.

No one is registering more attempts on a per-90-minute basis than Nunez (6.7), while only Haaland (2.6) is getting more shots on target than the Uruguay forward (2.5) each game.

But perhaps crucially, and back to Klopp's point, his non-penalty xG (per 90) is 0.76, only fractionally behind Haaland's league-best 0.81.

Of course, the issue here is Nunez isn't finishing as many chances as the average player would be expected to given the quality of the openings, while Haaland has been exceptionally ruthless with his opportunities.

But it would be more concerning if he wasn't getting chances at all.

Nunez's struggles could be explained by any number of factors such as confidence, adaptation, the roles he's being asked to play, maybe even a desperate need to impress, and that might explain some of his more erratic decision-making.

But the expectation is that with time and composure Nunez's figures will eventually level up with his xG. On the evidence of his attributes until now, when they do, Liverpool will have an exceptional striker on their hands.

Even the most ardent Arsenal supporter would struggle to convince you they could have envisaged their team making such a brilliant start to the season.

The idea of the Gunners being title challengers in the context of a disappointing end to the previous campaign, in which they were pipped for fourth by fierce rivals Tottenham having looked certainties for Champions League qualification, was pretty fanciful – even accounting for the shrewd signings of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko from rivals Manchester City.

And yet, here we are – just two Premier League games to play before the top flight signs off for the World Cup break and Arsenal lead the way by two points from City having lost only once in 12 league outings.

Lovers of caveats will of course point out the blindingly obvious…we're still only in November. And indeed Arsenal do have questions to answer. Is their squad deep enough to take City all the way? Are they strong enough defensively to remain contenders?

But their success so far has been built on two longer term squad members, namely in the form of local favourite Bukayo Saka and the Brazilian flair of Gabriel Martinelli and they perhaps hold the key to sustaining their present position.

Their roles in this Arsenal team have been increasingly important with Arteta having to shuffle his pack following the exits of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in January and June respectively.

The addition of Jesus has added significant star quality of course, but there is little doubt Saka and Martinelli have stepped up a gear so far this term.

Martinelli making his mark

In the North Bank at Emirates Stadium in August, Arsenal fans' chants were predominantly directed towards Hale End graduates Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.

But Smith Rowe's rise to first-team star has been tempered a little this term due to injuries, and Martinelli has grasped his opportunity at consistent playing time.

While the Brazilian made 29 Premier League appearances last season, he only completed 90 minutes on nine occasions and was subbed off in 11 of his 21 starts and received a red card against Wolves in February.

This season, Martinelli has started all 12 of Arsenal's league matches and has played the entirety of the game on eight occasions.

That has resulted in a significant improvement in front of goal, with Martinelli netting five times in 12 matches and sitting just one shy of the six-goal tally he achieved last term, adding two assists to boot.

Martinelli's involvement is up there with the best in the Premier League, standing eighth overall for the most involvements in attacking sequences (67) and ranking second in that regard for Arsenal, behind only Jesus (90).

Saka coming of age

On the opposing side, Arsenal continue to deploy Saka to expert effect, with the England international now in his fourth year as a regular fixture within the Gunners' ranks and showing real maturity at the age of 21.

While appearances have been plentiful, it has taken time for Saka to be integrated fully into his natural role after first making a breakthrough filling in at left-back, then featuring on the left-side of the attack.

Now in his favoured role on the right, Saka has shown his consistency with nine goal involvements in 12 matches (four goals, five assists). Only once in the past nine matches has Saka not registered a goal or an assist in the Premier League.

Managing Saka will be Arteta's biggest challenge given the amount of football he has played in the past four years and it is something that is clearly being considered, with Saka subbed off in seven of his 12 appearances this term.

Eyes will be cast towards the World Cup and Saka's important role for Gareth Southgate's side, which Arsenal fans may not find comfortable to watch given the injury risk to their star man – something that highlights the Gunners' need for depth beyond their first XI.

More to come

Settling into the side alongside Jesus, Arsenal's fluid front-three is one that is attracting envy across the Premier League and, worryingly for their opponents, the Gunners trio are still not at the peak of their powers.

For all their brilliance, neither Saka or Martinelli have quite managed to craft a deadly relationship with Jesus just yet – with Saka and Jesus yet to combine for an assist this season, while Jesus has laid on one for Martinelli.

In comparison, Martinelli has assisted Saka once, with two assists in the opposing direction. Last season, the pair did not combine for an assist.

The chances have been there, with Martinelli and Jesus combining for nine opportunities, while Saka and the Brazilian have combined for five. Improving those numbers will increase the chances of the assist tally also trending upwards.

The performances of Martin Odegaard, Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey have had a major influence on the attack, but if Saka and Martinelli can continue to improve their own output then Arsenal can continue to provide the role of unlikely challengers and, who knows, perhaps even end a wait for title glory that stretches back to 2004.

Massimiliano Allegri will expect Juventus to take the "anger" of their Champions League failure on Inter when they do battle in the Derby d'Italia on Sunday.

A 2-1 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday made it five defeats from six Group H games for Juve, but they will move into the Europa League after finishing in third place.

Allegri stated he expects his players to use the fury of falling short in the Champions League as fuel for the remainder of the season, and a victory at the Allianz Stadium would move them above Inter.

The sixth-placed Nerazzurri, who head into the weekend two points better off than Juve, had already qualified for the Champions League before they were beaten 2-0 at Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

Stats Perform picks out the standout Opta data to preview a showdown between two heavyweights of Italian football in Turin.

An upturn in Serie A fortunes for Juve

While Juve suffered another European loss in midweek, they have won three consecutive Serie A games without conceding a goal.

The last time they had four clean sheets in a row in the competition was in December 2018, when they won six matches in a row without conceding.

Allegri was also boosted by the return of long-term absentee Federico Chiesa from a knee injury as a substitute against PSG, a timely lift after it was revealed Paul Pogba will miss the World Cup. It remains to seen when Pogba will return.


Inter eyeing Derby d'Italia repeat

The Nerazzurri had won four consecutive games and gone seven without defeat before they came unstuck at Bayern.

Inter won three and drew one of four meetings between these two sides last season, beating the Bianconeri 1-0 away from home in Serie A in April.

They could win two Serie A meetings in a row against Juve for the first time since Alberto Zaccheroni was in charge in 2003-04, while the last time they won two such games in a single calendar year was back in 1987.

Juve building on strong foundations, youngsters doing their bit

While Juve have not started the season in the manner they would have liked, they have an excellent defensive record in Serie A.

In the top 10 European leagues this season, only Barcelona (four goals in 12 matches) and Benfica (five in 11) have conceded fewer goals than the seven Juve have shipped in 12 matches in the Italian top flight.

They also have the most players born since 2000 to be involved in at least one goal in Serie A this season with a total of five, with Dusan Vlahovic (seven), Moise Kean (one), Nicolo Fagioli (one), Fabio Miretti (one) and Samuel Iling-Junior (one) making their mark.


Inzaghi the scourge of Bianconeri

Inter's Simone Inzaghi has beaten Juventus seven times in 18 meetings in his coaching career, drawing twice. 

He has defeated the Bianconeri more times than any other coach since he took his first job in April 2016.

Inzaghi could become the second Inter coach to win two Serie A away matches against Juventus, after Helenio Herrera (three, between 1961 and 1965).

The 2022 trade deadline day proved a historic one for the NFL.

Teams struck 10 deals on Tuesday prior to the 16:00 EST deadline, with a total of 12 players traded, the most ever on deadline day.

None were of the level of the San Francisco 49ers' blockbuster trade for Christian McCaffrey on October 20.

However, there were still several deals that will have significant short and long-term impacts for some of the franchises involved.

So what can we glean from the hive of activity at the deadline? Stats Perform dug into the advanced data around the trades to answer that question.

Dolphins crank up pressure on opponents, and Tua

The Miami Dolphins made the headline move of trade deadline day, sending a package that included the 2023 first-round pick they acquired from the 49ers to the Denver Broncos for edge rusher Bradley Chubb.

It is a move aimed at improving the Dolphin defense's ability to better complement an offense that fired on all cylinders in their Week 8 win over the Detroit Lions.

Miami recovered from 14 points down to beat the lowly Lions 31-27, Tua Tagovailoa producing five passing plays of at least 20 yards in a single game for the third time this season.

Yet the Dolphins might not have needed such heroics from their quarterback had the defense been better equipped to keep the Lions at bay in the first two quarters.

The Dolphins are allowing successful plays on 47.7 per cent of passing downs, well above the league average of 41.1, and have tallied just 14 sacks for negative yardage this season, tied for 20th in the NFL.

Chubb's arrival brings the Dolphins a high-ceiling pass rusher who already has 5.5 sacks, eight quarterback hits, four tackles for loss and two forced fumbles in 2022.

His 32 pressures are more than every other Dolphins defender save for Jaelan Phillips, who has racked up 41, the fourth-most in the NFL, in a strong second season.

The hope will be that pairing Phillips and Chubb will greatly improve the defense's capacity to create negative plays and remove some of the onus from a high-powered offense.

That offense has a new name in the backfield for the second half of the season. The Dolphins traded running back Chase Edmonds to the Broncos, before sending a fifth-round pick to the 49ers for Jeff Wilson Jr, who reunites with former team-mate Raheem Mostert in Miami.

Wilson's departure was always a possibility after the 49ers struck their blockbuster trade for McCaffrey, but he should prove an excellent complement to Mostert.

He can excel at both zone and gap-scheme runs and has proven effective at picking up yards with less than ideal blocking. Among backs with at least 50 carries, Wilson is 11th with 3.37 yards per rush on runs where there is a disruption by a defender.

With a strengthened pass rush and an apparent upgrade in the backfield, Tagovailoa's support system looks to be improved following the trade deadline, but that will only heighten the scrutiny on him if he cannot turn a 5-3 start into a playoff berth.

Lions have long way to go

If their 1-6 record didn't already make it obvious, Detroit's decision to trade tight end T.J. Hockenson to NFC North rivals the Minnesota Vikings hammered home the point that the Lions still have a lot of rebuilding to do.

Detroit received a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-rounder in exchange for Hockenson, a 2023 fourth-round pick and a conditional 2024 fourth-rounder.

It is a move that sees them part with a tight end that was a Pro Bowler as recently as 2020 and who has been an efficient receiver in 2022.

Hockenson is averaging 15.2 yards per reception, the most among tight ends, with Detroit's willingness to part with him reflective of how much they value acquiring draft capital for a team that appears further away from competing than many thought heading into the season.

While the struggles on the field may put them in position to land their quarterback of the future, the Lions are clearly in need of more resources to improve a defense that has allowed a play success rate of 46.1 per cent, the second worst in the NFL, and continues to struggle to create pressure or cover in the secondary.

The beneficiaries of the Lions' need to amass picks are the 6-1 Vikings, who can work in Hockenson as a replacement for Irv Smith Jr. after he was lost for eight to 10 weeks with an ankle injury.

It was not clear in which direction the Vikings were headed after a sea change in the front office and at head coach after missing the playoffs last season, but the Lions were thought to be on an upward trajectory following an impressive offseason.

That assessment has proven misguided, with these two teams' divergent paths enabling the Vikings to enjoy the advantages of having another offensive weapon as the Lions are left wondering how long it will take for them to be in a position to be buyers at the deadline.

Chicago has faith in Fields

The Chicago Bears were also a seller, sending linebacker Roquan Smith to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday having also dealt pass rusher Robert Quinn to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Unlike the Lions, however, the Bears were in the business of adding to their roster, striking a deal that serves as an illustration of their belief in second-year quarterback Justin Fields.

After receiving a second and a fifth-round pick for Smith, the Bears parted with a second to acquire wide receiver Chase Claypool from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Claypool's worth was clearly not depreciated by a downturn in his production in terms of scoring from his rookie year. He scored 11 touchdowns (nine receiving, two rushing) in 2020 but has just three from scrimmage since.

Yet Claypool has excelled at winning his matchups with covering defenders this season, with his open percentage against man coverage of 42.42 prior well above the average for wide receivers of 36.32.

That points to the problem in recent years being the Steelers' offense, which has struggled to target him downfield amid its deficiencies at the quarterback position. Claypool's average depth of target of 9.8 yards this season is below the league average of 10.4.

But a partnership with Fields, who has been starved of receiving talent in Chicago, could be one that gets Claypool back on his previous trajectory.

Last week against the Dallas Cowboys, Fields was accurate on 90.9 per cent of his throws while averaging 9.5 air yards per attempt. His season-long average of 9.64 is fourth among quarterbacks with at least 100 passes this season.

If Fields sustains that downfield accuracy, it could see Claypool re-emerge as the deep ball-winner he was in his rookie season.

Though they have traded other assets for picks, the Bears feel Fields has shown enough to be worthy of their faith he can blossom into Chicago's franchise quarterback and are backing him to revitalise Claypool while inspiring further strides for an offense that has made definitive progress in recent games.

After a busy NFL trade deadline, the focus is back on the field this weekend.

Josh Allen faces Zach Wilson as the New York Jets confront a major test of their defense against the soaraway Buffalo Bills, while the Los Angeles Rams will look to keep up their remarkable record against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Could Derrick Henry have another monumental game in him after last week's big effort, and after he dispelled worries about a foot problem?

Stats Perform has taken a look at the numbers ahead of Sunday's games, beginning with the travails of the Brady bunch.

Los Angeles Rams (3-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5)

The Buccaneers are on the slide, and the Rams are just about the nightmare opponents this weekend, judging by recent games between the teams.

Including Los Angeles' win in last season's Divisional Round, the Rams are 9-1 in their last 10 games against the Bucs, and that includes a 5-0 streak in Tampa.

This game is big for both, and for the Bucs it offers a chance to halt a losing sequence of three. They were beaten 27-22 by the Baltimore last week and are on their longest single-season losing run since a dismal four-game run in the 2019 season.

It remains to be seen whether Tom Brady can get them out of this mess. Brady threw for 325 yards and zero interceptions in last week's loss to Baltimore. Across his stellar career, he is 54-7 when throwing 300 yards and no interceptions, but this season he is 1-2 in such games.

Brady might fancy the job against a Rams team who have scored 14 or fewer points and lost by double-digits four times already this season, including last time out in a 31-14 home loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Rival quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 187 yards last week on 33 attempts. His team are 2-9 in games where Stafford has thrown the ball at least 30 times and finished with fewer than 200 passing yards.

Buffalo Bills (6-1) at New York Jets (5-3)

The Buffalo Bills are 6-1 for the first time since 1993, the season they last made it through to the Super Bowl. This weekend they go after a fifth win in a row after getting the better of the Green Bay Packers last time out.

What's more, they have strung together a four-game winning streak in road games against the Jets, second only in franchise history to a seven-game streak from 1987 to 1993.

The Bills have outscored this season's opponents by 105 points (203-98) so far, the widest differential in the NFL.

Bills quarterback Josh Allen has urged the Jets to show patience with his struggling counterpart Zach Wilson, who has completed just 54.9 per cent of passes this season, the second-worst rate in the NFL heading into Week 9. Wilson has thrown for 1,048 yards across five games, with three touchdowns and five interceptions, compared to Allen's 2,198 yards for 19 TDs and six interceptions from seven games.

Stefon Diggs has at least 100 yards and a receiving touchdown in three straight games, the longest streak of the Bills wide receiver's career and tied for the longest streak in team history with Elbert Dubenion (1964). The last NFL player with a longer streak was Adam Thielen in 2018 (five). How Diggs fares against Jets rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner will be a factor.

The Jets have already topped last season's four wins, but they are 8-30 against divisional opponents since 2016, the worst record in the NFL.

Tennessee Titans (5-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-2)

What does Titans running back Henry have in store for an encore? Henry last week recorded his sixth career 200-yard rushing game, with 219 yards and two touchdowns against the Texans, tying Adrian Peterson and O.J. Simpson for the most all-time. All other active players have combined for just four such games.

The Chiefs will be wary of that threat, and will look to their own WR, JuJu Smith-Schuster, to make his own impact. After failing to reach 90 yards or find the endzone in his first five games this season, Smith-Schuster now has back-to-back games with at least 100 yards and a touchdown. He had not had such a game since Week 8, 2019 and now has eight such games in his career.

The Titans have won four straight regular season matchups with the Chiefs but lost in the 2020 AFC Championship Game in Kansas City.

Their respective 5-2 records this season disguise the fact each of those wins has been relatively close. The Titans and Vikings have only won by single digits this season. Only five teams in NFL history have seen such a streak reach six games – the 2020 Chiefs, 1997 Vikings, 1994 Giants, 1988 Saints and 1986 Giants. Of those, only the Chiefs' streak reached seven.


The Miami Dolphins (5-3) will be looking for a fourth consecutive road win against the Chicago Bears (3-5), which would make the Dolphins the first AFC team since the conference came into being in 1970 to have such a streak in Chicago. Miami's Tyreek Hill has gone 52 consecutive receptions without a receiving touchdown. That accounts for the longest streak of his career, nearly doubling his previous career-long streak (27, twice).

Memories of a record-setting 2014 game between the Carolina Panthers and the Bengals will be stoked when the teams meet in Cincinnati on Sunday. The last time these teams met at the home of the Bengals it finished in a 37-37 tie, and entering Week 9 in 2022 that remains the highest-scoring tie in an NFL game since the NFL and AFL merged in 1970.

The New England Patriots are 4-4 for the fifth time in the Bill Belichick era (since 2000) as they approach a home game against the Indianapolis Colts (3-4-1). The other four times the Patriots started 4-4 under Belichick, they made the playoffs three times (2001, 2005, 2021) and missed the playoffs once (2002). Between the regular season and playoffs, Belichick owns an 18-9 career record against the Colts, with only Don Shula (36 wins as coach of the Dolphins from 1970 to 1995) having achieved more such wins.

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