Gabriel Jesus is setting the standard that is driving Arsenal's early-season charge at the top of the Premier League, and he came up trumps in his first north London derby.

Arsenal's win over Tottenham came in Saturday's early game and was followed by plenty of drama later, as Liverpool were held by Brighton and Hove Albion in a rip-roaring match at Anfield featuring a Leandro Trossard hat-trick.

Newcastle United earned a second win of the season, brushing off Fulham at Craven Cottage, while Graham Potter's Chelsea had substitute Conor Gallagher to thank for their late winner at Crystal Palace.

With goals and drama in abundance, here Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the data.

Arsenal 3-1 Tottenham: Ton up for Kane, but it's Partey time for Arsenal after derby win

Harry Kane became the first Premier League player to reach 100 away goals in the competition, but that was scant consolation for Tottenham after this derby defeat.

Arsenal were able to celebrate a third successive home league win over Spurs – the first time that has happened since 2013 – and they are unbeaten at home in this fixture for 12 games now (W8 D4).

It was a win to savour for Arsenal, with Thomas Partey's opening goal rounding off a 21-pass move, going down as the Gunner's sixth goal since December 26, 2019 to have come from a sequence of 20 or more passes. Only Liverpool and Manchester City have had more in that time. 

Jesus restored the Gunners' lead after Kane's penalty brought Spurs level, with Arsenal's close-season signing from City having managed five goals and three assists already in the Premier League. Only Erling Haaland (12) has had more goal involvements in the early weeks of this season.

It fell to Granit Xhaka to put the seal on the win, after Emerson Royal was sent off. The Arsenal midfielder grabbed his second Premier League goal of the season, with this the first campaign where he has managed more than one league strike since he netted four times in the 2018-19 season.

Liverpool 3-3 Brighton and Hove Albion: Trossard heroics stun Reds

Leandro Trossard became just the third opposing player to score a Premier League hat-trick at Anfield, joining former Coventry City winger Peter Ndlovu and ex-Arsenal forward Andrey Arshavin in that curious club. Arshavin famously hit four in a 4-4 draw in April 2009, the highest-scoring Premier League draw at Liverpool's home ground.

Saturday's feat meant Belgium international Trossard became the first Brighton player to score a Premier League hat-trick, and it left Liverpool four points behind the Seagulls after seven games each, with this game quite the baptism for new boss Roberto De Zerbi.

Liverpool have just two wins from seven games, and they were thankful for Roberto Firmino's sharp finishing as he scored twice, taking his tally for the season to five Premier League goals, all coming at Anfield. He scored five across the 2021-22 season, all away from home.

Mohamed Salah remains stuck on two goals in this campaign but he marked his 200th Premier League appearance with a 50th assist when he set up Firmino to trim Brighton's lead to 2-1 in the first half. Salah becomes just the third African player to reach 50 assists in the competition, after Didier Drogba (55) and Riyad Mahrez (51).

 

Crystal Palace 1-2 Chelsea: Gallagher returns to rock Eagles

Conor Gallagher came off the bench to deliver a 90th-minute knockout blow with Chelsea's winner against the side they loaned him to last season.

It meant Crystal Palace's losing run against Chelsea extended to 10 Premier League matches, and also boosted the Blues' record to nine wins in their last 10 away London derbies against all teams.

New Chelsea boss Graham Potter watched on in his first Premier League game since joining from Brighton, and he saw former Barcelona and Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang mark his league debut for the visitors with a first-half equaliser. Aubameyang also scored in his first game for Arsenal (against Everton in February 2018).

Odsonne Edouard's opener in the seventh minute was the earliest goal Chelsea have conceded in a Premier League away game since January 2021, when Wilfred Ndidi scored for Leicester City in the sixth minute.

Fulham 1-4 Newcastle United: Magpies take flight thanks to Almiron's capital double

Miguel Almiron had been Newcastle's home boy of late, with his last seven Premier League goals coming at St James' Park, so Saturday's double at Craven Cottage bucked a trend.

A fine volley followed by a close-range finish from the Paraguayan helped Newcastle to their joint-biggest victory under Eddie Howe in the Premier League (also 3-0 vs Norwich City in April), and a biggest league win in London since beating Fulham 4-0 in May 2019.

Almiron last scored away from home in the Premier League in another 4-1 win for Newcastle – against Howe's Bournemouth in July 2020.

Fulham were hindered by a red card for Nathaniel Chalobah after seven minutes and 26 seconds, the earliest a player has been sent off for the club in the Premier League since Ian Pearce against Palace in October 2004 (sixth minute).

The final round of Rugby Championship fixtures are upon us and two teams are realistically left standing in the battle to be crowned 2022 champions.

In what has been the most competitive tournament since Argentina joined a decade ago, all four teams have at one point looked good value to finish top.

New Zealand are level with South Africa at the summit, but they have the advantage in terms of the sides' net points difference, which may be used as a deciding factor.

The All Blacks therefore know a bonus-point win over Bledisloe Cup rivals Australia in a repeat of last week's classic will all but land them an eighth title in 10 years.

South Africa play Argentina, the only side entirely out of the running, later on Saturday and will know what they have to do to have a chance – if any – of overtaking New Zealand.

Here, Stats Perform previews the weekend clashes in round six of the championship using Opta data.


NEW ZEALAND v AUSTRALIA

FORM

New Zealand beat Australia 39-37 in last week's thrilling Test in Melbourne through a hugely contentious late try to make it four wins in a row in this fixture – their best such run since winning seven on the bounce between August 2015 and August 2017.

The All Blacks' record on home soil against Australia is even better, having won each of the last 22 Tests in Auckland by an average margin of 18 points per game. The last time Australia got the better of their neighbours in that city was in September 1986.

Australia therefore have a huge task on their hands at Eden Park as they aim to avoid losing three Tests in a row in the Rugby Championship for the first time since September 2013, with this current run following a streak of six wins from their previous seven matches in the competition.

The Wallabies, who need a bonus-point win and would then hope South Africa fail to get the result required against Argentina, will look to exploit any ill-discipline from their rivals. Their goal-kicking accuracy of 92 per cent on place-kicks this year (33/36) is some 11 percentage points higher than any other Tier One nation.

ONES TO WATCH

Will Jordan has made 10 line breaks for New Zealand across 2022, which is the most of any player from a Tier One nation. To put that into some further perspective, it is double the tally of Tom Wright (five), Australia's best performer in that area.

Australia wing Marika Koroibete could hold the key to breaking down the hosts. The 30-year-old has beaten 23 defenders in 2022 – the most of any player from a Tier One nation and two more than New Zealand's best Rieko Ioane.

 

SOUTH AFRICA V ARGENTINA

FORM

Following last week's 36-20 bonus-point triumph in Buenos Aires, South Africa have won their past five Tests against Argentina. However, a win alone may not be enough on Saturday and the Springboks could find themselves going all out for an emphatic victory in pursuit of New Zealand.

The Boks have some much-needed momentum on their side thanks to two wins in a row – matching the number they managed in their previous seven games in the competition – with those victories coming by a margin of exactly 16 points.

Argentina cannot be written off, though, having already defeated New Zealand and Australia during the first half of their championship campaign. Los Pumas have lost back-to-back matches since then, as many as they lost in their six games prior.

Turnovers could be a huge factor in this contest as Argentina and South Africa have won the most of any teams in this year's tournament with 22 apiece, while also making the most and second-most tackles with 706 and 600 respectively.

ONES TO WATCH

Springbok lock Lood de Jager has played a big part for his country this campaign and is second only to Italy's Federico Ruzza for line-outs won among players from Tier One nations in 2022 with 36.

Matias Moroni was among the try scorers for Argentina in last week's loss when finishing off a well-worked set-piece and is among the starters for this latest tussle. He has made dominant contact on seven tackles this year, placing him second only to Italy's Monty Ioane (eight) among elite nations.

Everyone is presumably looking forward to more talk of football "coming home" when the World Cup kicks off in November, with England among the favourites to win the tournament for the first time since 1966.

However, the Three Lions have had a stinker of a Nations League campaign in 2022, having failed to win any of their four games in June.

A 1-0 defeat in Hungary was followed by a draw in Germany thanks to a late Harry Kane penalty, before a dull 0-0 at Molineux against Italy and an abysmal performance in their 4-0 defeat to Hungary at the same venue.

Three months on from that chastening loss in Wolverhampton, manager Gareth Southgate picked his squad for the final two Nations League games against Italy and Germany, and while there was a new face in Brentford striker Ivan Toney, it was otherwise more of the same, with some notable absentees too.

In February, Southgate said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph: "I'm very conscious I've got to get the balance right because ultimately my responsibility is to produce a winning England team.

"I never pick on reputation; form has to come into it. You have to look at the opposition and the type of game you're expecting and select the players best suited to that."

It therefore raised some eyebrows when some players who have subjectively been somewhat out of form in the opening weeks of the season, and who were at the scene of the crime in previous disappointing England results, kept their places ahead of others who have stepped up their game domestically in recent weeks.

Stats Perform has taken a look at some who were perhaps lucky to get another call, and others unfortunate to miss out in the last Three Lions squad before the World Cup.

Who made it?

Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw

It makes sense to pair the two Manchester United defenders, as the reasons why they can consider themselves lucky to keep their international places are essentially the same.

Maguire and Shaw received their fair share of blame for United's poor showings in recent years, and it came to a head in the 4-0 defeat at Brentford in the second game of this season's Premier League campaign, having already lost at home to Brighton and Hove Albion.

New boss Erik ten Hag dropped both after that, and United have won four from four in the league since.

Left-back Shaw has been reduced to occasional substitute appearances after losing his starting spot to young Dutchman Tyrell Malacia, while Maguire has been ousted by France centre-back Raphael Varane.

The only game in the past five Maguire has started was at home to Real Sociedad in the Europa League, which United lost 1-0.

That is not to say the duo are solely responsible for the insipid showings from their team, but it also doesn't feel like purely coincidence Ten Hag's men's results immediately improved without them.

 

Jarrod Bowen

This might be a little harsh as Bowen was being championed by everyone to be included on form last season, which he was, featuring in all four Nations League games in June.

However, having scored 18 goals in 51 games in all competitions last season for West Ham, Bowen has managed just two in 10 this season, both of which have come in the Europa Conference League.

The Hammers have struggled for form this season, sitting in 18th place after seven games, so it would be unfair to blame Bowen, but he also failed to make much of an impact in any of his England appearances.

The door certainly should not be shut on an undoubtedly talented player, but it seems odd to see him back with the national team after a noticeable drop in form at a time when others in his position are excelling.

Jack Grealish

Arguably the player who causes most debate in England, Grealish will always feel too talented to leave out.

Comparisons to Paul Gascoigne seem lazy, but it's hard not to resort to them when you see him at his best, able to turn a game on his own if he finds that spark almost all other players lack.

Grealish had a poor first season at Manchester City, though, recording just 10 goal involvements (six goals, four assists) in 39 games.

He scored and played well in the 3-0 win at Wolves last weekend, but it was his first goal involvement in six appearances this season, and while he is clearly capable of being a key part of Southgate's team on his day, his form arguably does not justify inclusion at the moment.

 

Who missed out?

Ben White

The Arsenal defender is a difficult one to champion, frankly, because it's not clear what position you would be arguing for.

White did not really blow anyone away at centre-back in his first season with the Gunners but has thrived at right-back in Mikel Arteta's system so far this campaign.

If Southgate is to go back to his favoured three-at-the-back formation, White on the right of that would make sense, albeit Kyle Walker probably has the shirt right now.

White is improving all the time, though, and has played a big part in Arsenal winning six of their first seven Premier League games, and his versatility would be a bonus.

James Maddison

Possibly the man most justified in feeling miffed at missing out as, unlike the other three in this list, Maddison is rarely ever seen in an England squad, despite his output at club level.

Although he has been named in squads before, Maddison has just one cap, which came when he played 35 minutes against Montenegro in November 2019.

Like Grealish, Maddison can be seen as enigmatic, but his recent form for Leicester City speaks for itself.

He has been directly involved in 24 Premier League goals since the start of last season (15 goals, nine assists). The only English player with more in this time is Harry Kane (33) having made three more appearances than Maddison (44 to 41).

Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford

As their United team-mates were paired up, it makes sense to do the same here, and because their turn around in form has synced up as the Red Devils have won five of their past six games.

Sancho struggled to make an impact in his first season back in England, with just eight goal involvements (five goals, three assists) in 38 games.

However, this season he already has three goals in eight matches, showing glimpses of his Borussia Dortmund form.

Rashford ended a run of 997 minutes without a goal in all competitions for Manchester United when he scored against Liverpool in August, and netted another two against Arsenal as his scoring touch returned at Old Trafford.

The duo were a part of England's squad that reached the final of Euro 2020, but both also played a part in the penalty shoot-out loss to Italy.

That does not mean they cannot be of use in Qatar, and it would seem foolish of Southgate to ignore players already proven at international level who seem to be peaking at just the right time for a mid-season tournament.

 

Ultimately, as Southgate said, it is his job to build a team he thinks can win games. It is hard to argue with a record that has seen England reach the final four of the 2018 World Cup and the final of Euro 2020.

He also said "form has to come into it" rather than it being the be all and end all.

Rather than "reputation", perhaps Southgate is just picking players he knows, therefore allowing him full awareness of what he is going to get if he selects them. Heading into a World Cup is not really the time to be introducing unknown quantities.

The likes of White and Maddison will be well within their rights to blame the former Middlesbrough boss for them continuing to be relatively unknown to him, though.

It's not often Real Madrid get painted as the good guys, but Sunday's derby clash with Atletico was one of those few occasions.

As Carlo Ancelotti's Los Blancos left the Civitas Metropolitano with a 2-1 win, there was little doubt that they were the better side on the day.

But, strangely for a fixture of such magnitude, the actual football was sadly almost a sideshow as Spanish football's racism problem reared its head once again.

Through no fault of his own, Vinicius Junior had been the chief focus in the build-up after Pedro Bravo, an agent who appears on Spanish football show El Chiringuito, made a racially insensitive comment while on TV.

Referencing Vinicius' harmless tendency to celebrate goals with a little dance, Bravo suggested the Brazilian should "respect your mates and stop playing the monkey", comments that unsurprisingly drew criticism from all over the football world.

It was heart-warming to see how many people rallied around Vinicius in the wake of Bravo's ridiculous outburst. Many of his international team-mates and Brazil great Pele issued messages of support urging him to dance on.

Vinicius himself made a statement vowing to keep dancing, and Arsenal star Gabriel Jesus dedicated a similar celebration to his colleague earlier on Sunday.

That should have been the end of all the pointless debating about whether the celebration is disrespectful or not (it clearly isn't), but unfortunately it wasn't.

As Atletico 'ultras' queued on their way into the stadium before kick-off, offensive chants targeting Vinicius were being sung by hundreds of fans. Not a few, hundreds, and video footage brought the scenes to attention on social media.

What makes those chants even more disappointing is that few would've been hugely surprised. Atletico ultras have a history of disgracing their club. In 2018, 30 of them were apprehended in Bruges for making Nazi gestures, according to Marca; and as recently as April, they were hit with a partial stadium closure in the Champions League due to similar behaviour from fans against Manchester City.

Ultra group Frente Atletico were banned from the club's old stadium the Vicente Calderon in 2014 after clashes with Deportivo La Coruna fans led to the death of 'Jimmy', a member of the latter's Riazor Blues, who was attacked and thrown into the Manzanares river.

Despite that ban, the group's attitudes were never completely banished, and Sunday's pre-match scenes were a grim reminder of Atletico's failure as a club to stamp out far-right ideologies within its fanbase.

Thankfully, though, Vinicius is a brave young man who wasn't about to suppress his personality and mentality to appease some Neanderthals.

As the pre-game chants foreshadowed, Vinicius' first touch was vociferously jeered by Atletico fans. But the Brazilian amusingly responded with the most extravagant six-yard pass he could think of, dragging the ball back with his right foot before flicking it back down the flank to Ferland Mendy with his left all in one motion. Essentially, it was as close to dancing as he could've got in that moment.

It wasn't long before he was dancing for real, though. Vinicius wasn't even involved in the goal, as Rodrygo produced an emphatic finish from Aurelien Tchouameni's gorgeous pass – the scorer then darted towards the corner flag and began to strut his stuff.

Vinicius was quickly on the scene, gyrating with extra exuberance as Atletico fans threw objects on to the pitch around the celebrating Madrid players, most of whom embraced the former Flamengo talent with greater vigour than they did Rodrygo.

There was no mistaking Vinicius' influence just after the half-hour mark, however. The winger left Marcos Llorente in his dust and darted into the left side of the penalty area before prodding an effort goalwards. It fell kindly to Federico Valverde, who smashed in from close range.

Atletico players dished out rough treatment to Vinicius, perhaps as you might have expected as their biggest attacking threat in the absence of Karim Benzema, though he continued to play his natural game, toying with Llorente on several occasions and even attempting an audacious rainbow flick over Axel Witsel, which certainly angered the home support.

In the end he never quite got the moment of personal jubilation many might've hoped he'd have, with Atletico spending much of the second half on top as they tried to produce a comeback.

But Mario Hermoso's shouldered late goal proved only a consolation as Atletico failed to rise to the occasion, with Madrid holding firm enough to continue the excellent start to their title defence.

The action, and even the result, won't be the post-match focus, however. The vile scenes from earlier in the day will be what this match is remembered for – Atletico's response to that is far more important than how they ultimately react to this defeat.

It's a bit early in the season to call Napoli's trip to Milan a "title clash" given we're only six games in, but for the Partenopei it is clearly an opportunity to make a statement.

Luciano Spalletti, a former Milan coach, has guided Napoli to 14 points from their first six matches, and they sit top of the fledgling table ahead of Atalanta and the Rossoneri on goal difference.

While Milan have already beaten bitter rivals Inter this term, Napoli haven't had the chance for such a signal of intent – at least, not in Serie A.

But neither Spalletti nor Stefano Pioli will be able to rely on their star men in San Siro on Sunday, adding to the unpredictability of a match that promises excitement.

Sorely missed

Rafael Leao and Victor Osimhen will miss this contest due to suspension and injury, respectively. Both absences are bitter blows to not only the teams, but fans tuning in.

Leao has been an especially key figure for Milan over the past year or so. Since the start of last season, he has played in 40 out of a possible 44 matches, with only Alexis Saelemaekers and Sandro Tonali (both 41) appearing more regularly.

Their win percentage with him stands at 70, while they average 2.3 points with Leao on the pitch. Of the four games he has missed, Milan have only won two.

Over the same period, Osimhen has missed 12 league games for Napoli. Their win rate increases from 58.3 per cent to 65.6 per cent when he plays, and their goals average goes up to 2.2 from 1.5 per game. Similarly, he's the only current Napoli player to score 10 or more Serie A goals (16) in that time.

The opportunity is there for others to step up in their absence.

 

At home on the road

As their position at the Serie A summit suggests, Napoli have enjoyed a fine start to the season, and their Champions League demolition of Liverpool made even more people sit up and take note.

Any successful team cannot just rely on a vociferous home support, however, and Napoli have made decent early strides in that regard, amassing seven points from their first three away Serie A games.

If they can avoid defeat on Sunday, they'll be unbeaten after the first four away games in an Italian top-flight season for the third campaign in succession, a feat no team has ever achieved before.

Granted, Milan's recent home form is decent, having won six on the trot in San Siro, which is their best run since 2013 (eight successive wins). But it was Napoli who ended that run, and the Partenopei are also hoping to rack up three consecutive away league victories over Milan for the first time in 43 years.

Party up front, business in the back

Yes, that's not quite how the saying goes, but this altered phrase is more applicable to Napoli. They have been exciting to watch going forward this term, with Osimhen, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Andre-Franck Zambo Aguissa and Piotr Zielinski all catching the eye on the offensive.

But credit where it's due to Spalletti's side when they're not on the attack, as Napoli have been solid defensively.

Stretching back into last season, they have kept six clean sheets in their past nine Serie A games, including three in six this term.

Even when they have conceded, Napoli possess the necessary mentality – and ability – to fight back, with their six points gained from losing positions second only to Milan's seven in 2022-23.

 

Milan unbeaten, Napoli with everything to prove

Milan's title success last season was helped massively by their exceptionally strong end to the campaign.

They finished 2021-22 with six successive wins and went on an undefeated run that stretched back to January 17 when they suffered a shock 2-1 loss at home to Spezia.

Milan have since stretched that unbeaten streak to 22 league games, which is their longest such run since a 27-match undefeated run ended in January 2021.

That form highlights the task that Napoli face on Sunday, though by the same token, being the team to halt such a sequence would surely show Spalletti's team mean business.

With a security detail to rival that of a president, Roger Federer strode along St Mary's Walk and into Court 14, crowds on the concourses urged to clear a path for a man rarely seen in such parts of the All England Club.

This was the king among his people, out in the boondocks by his standards. With a mighty swish of his racket, he might just be able to launch a tennis ball onto Centre Court's roof from down here.

It was day two of the 2015 Wimbledon championships, a warm Tuesday morning, and Federer needed a warm-up before his opening match against Bosnian Damir Dzumhur, a player that later in the day he would trounce for the loss of just seven games. That would of course be a Centre Court assignment. Invariably all of Federer's matches get centre stage.

The tiny Court 14 seats a couple of hundred spectators, maybe a handful more at a push, and whispers had spread to mean many were occupied for what was an unadvertised practice session, a Federer guerrilla gig. The media had been given a little advance notice, and a glimpse of Federer at close quarters is hard to turn down.

There was a hefty hint Federer would be arriving when Stefan Edberg - his coach and childhood idol - showed up several minutes ahead of his charge and began to limber up, while Rob Walker of Wimbledon TV stood patiently with a camera crew and a stack of notes, ready to tell the story of the day Federer played where only mere mortals usually tread.

Suddenly more news crews appeared, a stream of day-trippers strolling past the inconspicuous court became more like a scrum, and out came the camera phones, ball boys and ball girls craning for a view, making sure of a close-up shot. A woman working for IBM grinned ear to ear. And in walked Federer, dressed head to toe in white Nike gear, carrying a couple of Wilson tennis rackets and a cap bearing his RF insignia.

A G4S security man practically bit off his bottom lip while attempting to keep a straight face and simultaneously enforce crowd control as Federer passed by him. Thou shalt not smile.

Applause rang out, fans with cheap-rate ground passes cooed at the sight of the then seven-time champion. Federer acknowledged the swelling crowd.

And for the next half-hour or so he and Edberg gently put in a light session, rallying from the baseline, these great champions going through the motions that on another day might have taken place out of public sight. It amounted to little more than a balm to the ego before lunch.

And this was just another day in the life of Roger Federer, who has now announced his retirement. He has probably forgotten all about it. Some will remember it for the rest of their lives.

 

Edberg takes on a real relevance in the story of Federer's retirement because they spoke together about how to go through the process.

Swedish great Edberg announced his own decision to quit in December 1995, a month before his 30th birthday, and the 1996 season became his farewell tour, feted everywhere he went.

But Edberg struggled with his form in that year of goodbyes and glad-handing, reaching only one final, losing to Boris Becker in the Queen's Club title match, and he ultimately regretted the hoopla that followed him around.

Speaking to The Tennis Podcast in 2020, Edberg explained how he warded Federer off following his example.

"We actually talked a little bit about it and I would not recommend it to anybody actually, even if it's a nice thing to do, because it does put too much pressure on yourself and there would be too many things going on in your mind," Edberg said.

"So if you're going to announce it, I would do it just before my last tournament or have it in my mind, but not for anybody else to know. It's very tough to handle, but at the same time it was a very memorable year, but I would not recommend it."

Federer only worked in tight tandem with Edberg for two years, but he has so much respect and admiration for the man that such advice was sure to have registered.

And now the 20-time grand slam winner is retiring. Let that sink in.

It will take some getting used to, tennis without Federer. Without his ritual beastings of young upstarts on tour, without his perfect manners, quasi-aristocratic foibles, and those multilingual, exquisitely delivered, post-match news conferences. Without Anna Wintour gazing down adoringly from the Royal Box. Without Mirka.

"I wanted to be a tennis player or a soccer player from a very young age," Federer said at Wimbledon some years ago.

Was there a Wimbledon final that tilted him the way of tennis?

"I think the Becker-Edberg final. I don't remember which year because they played a few times. I was sitting at home in the living room, watching them play, thinking hopefully one day I can be like them, you know," Federer said.

Edberg and Becker met in consecutive Wimbledon finals from 1988 to 1990, the Swede winning the first and last of those matches. Theirs was a great rivalry.

"That's I guess where idols and inspirations are good. They push you forward," Federer said. "Then along the way you joke around and say it's coming closer. When you win a practice match, you just fake like you've just won Wimbledon. All of a sudden it's really happening."

 

It was "really happening" for Federer by the late 1990s, as he won the boys' singles at Wimbledon in 1998, beating Georgia's Irakli Labadze, and barely 12 months later he was a top 100 player on the men's tour.

But he was a firebrand too as a teenager, something he was compelled to explain at Wimbledon in 2001, when the 19-year-old Federer became the centre of attention for the first time after defeating Pete Sampras, champion for the previous four years, in the fourth round.

Federer had been a picture of composure in that match and was asked whether he modelled his approach on ice-cool Pistol Pete.

"Not at all actually. I was throwing around my racket like you probably don't imagine," Federer said. "I was getting kicked out of practice sessions non-stop when I was 16. Now since maybe I think this year, I started just to relax a little bit more on court.

"I'm not smashing as many rackets as before. I realised that the racket throwing didn't help my game because I was always getting very negative."

When Federer got his hands on a grand slam trophy for the first time, it was Wimbledon in 2003 and he was lobbed a prescient question by a reporter who asked whether he might one day emulate seven-time champion Sampras at Wimbledon.

"This is one of his seven, you know. I'm so far away," he said. "I'm just happy to be on the board. If I look at all the players who have won here, a lot have been idols to me. Just to be on the board with (Bjorn) Borg and these people, it's just nice to be a part of history at Wimbledon."

Nevertheless, that was the first of five consecutive Wimbledon triumphs for Federer, matching a Borg record. Around such feats are legends created; because of the vicarious pleasure he provided to so many, crowds will forever flock around Federer, whether on Centre Court, Court 14 or his local food court.

As Federer's slam stack grew, and he nudged nearer Sampras' hauls of seven Wimbledon titles and 14 majors, the American great made his Swiss successor a promise: he would be there when those records began to fall.

When Federer fended off Andy Roddick 16-14 in the fifth set of the 2009 Wimbledon final to go to 15 slams, Sampras indeed was there, albeit he arrived late.

"It was a bit special," Federer said. "When he walked in and I saw him for the first time, I did get more nervous actually. I said hello to him, too, which is unusual. But I thought, I don't want to be rude."

And in 2017, nudging 36, Federer triumphed at Wimbledon for an eighth and final time, beating an injury hampered Marin Cilic.

"Winning eight is not something you can ever aim for, in my opinion," he said afterwards. "If you do, you must have so much talent and parents and the coaches that push you from the age of three on, who think you're like a project," he said. "I was not that kid. I was just really a normal guy growing up in Basel, hoping to make a career on the tennis tour."

At the beginning of 2018, he added a sixth Australian Open title to reach 20 slam crowns, a figure beyond the wildest dream of anyone in men's tennis before the Big Three showed up.

 

The argument rages on about who has been the greatest men's tennis star of all-time, and whether it should be Federer, Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal from this era who is the prime contender for such a nebulous crown.

Federer has a losing head-to-head against both his younger rivals, there is no escaping that fact. He trails Nadal 24-16 and Djokovic 27-23. Both have been whittling away at his records, taking their fair share. Yet Federer still has the most Open Era match wins among men at Wimbledon (105) and the Australian Open (102), the most wins in slams overall by a man (369), and the most grass-court singles titles in ATP tour history (19).

He won 103 tournaments, second only to Jimmy Connors (109). He underwent knee surgery twice in 2020 and returned to seek more silverware, because he believed he could still win, even as his 40th birthday approached.

Federer is the man who recalibrated the levels that players can reach in men's tennis, the game-changing figurehead that Nadal and Djokovic have been chasing from the outset of their own magnificent careers.

Without Federer to aim for, perhaps Nadal and Djokovic would not have scaled such great heights.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps...

What is certain is that the Federer era is ending. And that's the thing about eras, they always end. Sometimes, you've just got to be grateful to have lived through them. Roger that?

Remco Evenepoel rubber-stamped his Vuelta a Espana title on Sunday, safely negotiating the procession into Madrid.

The 22-year-old joins an illustrious list of names from his native Belgium to have won a Grand Tour, albeit his triumph in Spain marks the end of a long drought for the nation.

Evenepoel's success, however, came at the expense of Primoz Roglic's shot at history.

Roglic was hunting an unprecedented fourth straight Vuelta title, and looked set to overtake Evenepoel in the general classification in stage 16, only to suffer a crash 100 metres from the line.

The Slovenian was unable to carry on due to the injuries he sustained and abandoned La Vuelta for the first time in his career. Roglic has had awful luck in recent Grand Tours, having had to abandon three of the last four he has appeared in.

There were 49 withdrawals across this edition of La Vuelta, the highest number since 2013.

But of the riders that did finish, there were plenty of records and statistics to dive into, courtesy of Opta data.

Belgium's long wait is over

Formula One world champion Max Verstappen shrugged off the jeers and boos he received after triumphing at The son of former pro cyclist Patrick Evenepoel, a young Remco actually started his sporting career in football, with one of his old clubs – Dutch giants PSV – among those to offer their congratulations as he became Vuelta champion.

It marks Evenepoel's first Grand Tour crown, in what was his first appearance at La Vuelta. He led the race for a remarkable 16 stages, which is more than any other rider has led it for since two-time champion Chris Froome managed 19 stages in red back in 2017.

Belgium has produced some fantastic riders, not least the great Eddy Merckx, who counts one Vuelta crown among his 11 Grand Tour titles, yet shockingly Evenepoel is the nation's first GT champion since 1978, when Johan de Muynck won the Giro d'Italia.

Evenepoel is the eighth Belgian to win the Vuelta – the first since Freddy Maertens in 1977. Only Spain (32) and France (nine) have produced more Vuelta champions than Belgium (eight).

Out with the old...

Alejandro Valverde won La Vuelta in 2009, but on his farewell appearance at his home Grand Tour, the 42-year-old was never going to compete for top honours.

Instead, this was his goodbye lap, as Valverde completed his 14th Vuelta, matching the record tallies of Federico Etxabe, Chente Garcia Acosta and Inigo Cuesta.

Spain did have a GC contender to cheer on in the form of Movistar's Enric Mas, but after Roglic's crash, he was unable to close the gap on Evenepoel, finishing over two minutes back. No Spaniard has now won it since 2014, which is the longest streak in the race's history without a home champion.

 

Mas has finished second in three of his four Vuelta appearances, and came in ahead of Juan Ayuso, with two Spanish riders finishing in the top three for the first time since 2014, when Valverde joined champion Alberto Contador on the podium.

Ayuso, who contracted COVID-19 early in the race but carried on, is the youngest rider to achieve a podium finish at La Vuelta (19 years and 360 days). Spain's future seems in good hands.

Carapaz caps personal best, Pedersen a rising star

The red jersey was, of course, not the only one up for grabs. Richard Carapaz and Mads Pedersen both finished with three stage victories to their name.

Carapaz became the first cyclist from the Americas to win the mountain classification since Felix Cardenas of Colombia in 2004, while the INEOS Grenadier rider also marked his best effort at a Grand Tour, surpassing the two stage wins he managed at the 2019 Giro d'Italia.

Vuelta debutant Pedersen, meanwhile, became the first Dane to win the points jersey in any Grand Tour.

It has been a brilliant year for Denmark, with Jonas Vingegaard having claimed the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, and Pedersen is among their best riders. Indeed, the only Dane to have won more stages at La Vuelta than the sprinter is Magnus Cort (six), though the latter has made three appearances in the race.

New York City might not be Iga Swiatek's kind of place, but she has made an exception during this US Open fortnight.

The US Open balls, controversially lighter for the women than the men, might not be up Swiatek's street, but she made an exception for them too.

And if the match-up with Ons Jabeur in the Flushing Meadows final felt almost too close to call – most were forecasting three sets, flip a coin on the winner – well, perhaps Swiatek took exception.

Rising to the occasion of a grand slam final is what exceptional players do, making exceptions in times of need, taking exception to doubters, carrying off titles. If anyone was beginning to doubt Swiatek after her mid-summer dip, this Arthur Ashe Stadium triumph banished the thought she is anything other than exceptional.

At times her play was brilliant, and when her level dropped, as it did in the second set, she was gritty. In the end, she was not as clutch as she might have liked, unable to take a match point at 6-5 on Jabeur's serve and pushed into a tie-break, but a 6-2 7-6 (7-5) victory goes into the record books.

In the end, that's all that counts. Habitual winners find a way, down one path or another.

The second set was a curious confection, both players losing their fluency but fighting hard for every point, tenacity overriding talent at times as the high stakes involved often brought the level down.

Swiatek appeared distracted by a call from the crowd at one stage, that New York bustle again getting in her head.

On the eve of the tournament, Swiatek said of New York: "I wouldn't choose it as a place to live because I'm more of a person that needs a calm place with the proper environment to rest. New York is kind of always alive. That's not for sure my place."

So, Iga, how does New York feel now?

"It's so loud, it's so crazy," she said at Saturday's trophy presentation. "There were so many temptations in the city, so many people I've met who were so inspiring. It's really mind blowing for me and I'm so proud I could handle it mentally."

The 21-year-old has a third grand slam title and a first away from the French Open, where she was champion at the pandemic-delayed slam in October 2020 and again this year.

Swiatek is a Pole on a roll when it comes to the big occasions, having won 20 consecutive sets in finals, all tournaments considered, and remarkably she is the first woman to win two or more slams in a single season since Angelique Kerber in 2016.

These two women will be numbers one and two in the new WTA rankings, and there could be a real rivalry brewing. Or there might just be a slew of these trophies coming Swiatek's way.

She is the first women to win the French Open and the US Open in the same year since Serena Williams in 2013.

If Williams does not play again, as we now expect, then Swiatek will be a very different type of figurehead for the women's game, an introvert who goes about her business quietly, but purposefully.

She becomes just the ninth woman in the Open Era to earn a third singles slam before turning 22, joining an illustrious list also featuring Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Martina Hingis, Monica Seles, Steffi Graf and Chris Evert.

As Jabeur came charging back at Swiatek in the second set, recovering from 3-0 and 4-2 adrift to take it to the tie-break, thoughts turned to what a victory for the Tunisian would have meant.

A tournament that began as the Serena Williams show, a celebration of a player who alongside sister Venus opened the door for so many black players, might have ended with the triumph of an African Arab woman, one whose driving force is to see more players from her continent, and of her ethnicity, make strides in professional tennis.

Jabeur's time will probably come, but this defeat will sting, just as losing to Elena Rybakina in the title match did at Wimbledon two months ago.

"I want to thank the crowd for cheering me on. I really tried, but Iga didn't make it easy for me," Jabeur said. "She deserved to win today. I don't like her very much right now but it's okay."

She vowed to "get that title sometime soon", but with Swiatek around that might be difficult.

Swiatek is the second woman since the slams opened themselves up to professionals in 1968 to win her first six sets in grand slam singles finals. For the record, Lindsay Davenport was the first.

This final came at the end of a tournament that Swiatek entered with low expectations. Defeat to Alize Cornet at Wimbledon halted her 37-match winning run, the longest on the women's tour this century, and it was followed by a string of results that saw Swiatek go no further than the quarter-finals in her next three events.

"Maybe I'm the kind of person who is never going to trust myself," Swiatek said, heading into the final.

She is a different model of champion, perhaps not the kind they are used to or particularly get behind in New York. There is no razzmatazz, no edge: just intense focus.

Swiatek is always doubting, but always looking for ways to improve, and now, when it comes to finals, always getting the job done.

Excitement levels for the 2023 Rugby World Cup have ramped up another notch with Thursday marking exactly one year to go until the tournament gets up and running.

For some teams, the next 12 months will present a chance to continue building momentum ahead of the showpiece event. For others, a year of uncertainty awaits.

While it is still too early to pick out a strong favourite to win the event, a handful of teams – major issues or not – stand out among the top candidates to lift the famous trophy.

Here, Stats Perform looks at how the leading lights are shaping up ahead of the quadrennial world championship in France.
 

SOUTH AFRICA

Where better to start than with the reigning world champions? The Springboks triumphed somewhat against the odds in Japan three years ago, becoming the first team to win the title after losing a match in the pool stage.

Owing to the coronavirus pandemic, South Africa went 20 months between beating England in the 2019 final and cruising to a 40-9 victory over Georgia in July last year, though series victories over the British and Irish Lions, England and Wales have helped get any rustiness out of the system over the past 12 months or so.

The ongoing Rugby Championship is a better litmus test of what to expect in a year's time, and the Boks find themselves third with four matches played, albeit with only a point separating the four sides. Consistency is proving to be a major issue, having strung together successive wins only twice in their past 14 outings, something that must be put right.

 

NEW ZEALAND

Perennial World Cup favourites New Zealand won back-to-back tournaments prior to South Africa's triumph three years ago. If they are to have any chance of wrestling back the Webb Ellis Cup, then a number of issues must be resolved.

The All Blacks opted to put faith in under-fire boss Ian Foster amid a run of desperately disappointing results, which included three successive home Test losses for the first time in their history, with Ireland winning their maiden Test series in the country.

Defeat against Argentina two weeks ago may well have forced New Zealand chiefs to reconsider their options before it is too late, but Foster's side responded with an emphatic 53-3 victory against the same opponents in Hamilton to move top of the Rugby Championship standings and send out a message to their critics.

Back-to-back fixtures with Australia, followed by Tests with Wales, Scotland and England, will provide a better indication of exactly where this New Zealand side are ahead of the World Cup after a turbulent period.


IRELAND

Ideally for Ireland, the World Cup would start this week rather than in a year's time on the back of what has been a stellar period. Andy Farrell's side closed out the momentous series win in New Zealand in July and have won 13 of their past 16 matches.

Despite that consistent run of results, Ireland have gone four years between Six Nations titles, with their solitary loss to France in this year's competition prolonging their wait for silverware.

Ranked at number one in the world a year out from France 2023, Ireland need to fine tune one or two areas and ensure they keep their star players – Johnny Sexton among them – fit and firing.

 

FRANCE

Having lived up to the hype by ending a 12-year wait for Six Nations success, followed up by their recent series win over Japan, France are now under pressure to win the World Cup for the first time in their history on home soil next year.

Les Bleus have won 10 in a row since their most recent defeat, coming at the hands of Australia in July 2021, and will test themselves against Australia and South Africa prior to their Six Nations title defence getting under way in February.

A fit Antoine Dupont remains crucial to any chance France have of ending their World Cup hoodoo following a record three defeats in finals. Beyond wrapping certain players in cotton wool, Fabien Galthie must ensure the hunger remains and that his men can cope with the pressure that comes with being the host nation.


ENGLAND

If results in both hemispheres over the past few months have taught us anything, it is that any of the major rugby nations can beat any other on their day. Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Argentina have each produced some big victories, for example, while Australia as ever will fancy themselves on the biggest stage of them all.

The same is very much true of England, who earned an impressive series win Down Under to silence Eddie Jones' growing list of critics following yet another underwhelming Six Nations campaign.

And therein lies the problem for England. Jones has constantly said hitting form in time for the World Cup is all that matters, and the Red Rose simply cannot afford for one of their off days to come in a knockout match. 

As runners-up last time around, and as one of only four teams to have ever lifted the trophy, this will be another win-or-bust tournament for England in what will be Jones' final bow before being replaced.

Serena Williams' long and illustrious tennis career looks to have drawn to a close after the American lost to Ajla Tomljanovic at the US Open on Friday. 

Following a long piece in Vogue last month, Williams wrote of her plan to "move in a different direction" after "these next few weeks", suggesting the tournament at Flushing Meadows would be her last outing.

Thanks to her success and brilliance on the court, Williams has become synonymous with tennis and is regarded by many as the greatest the women's sport has ever seen.

At the age of 40, Williams has persisted with tennis far longer than most do, and that is testament to her quality and enduring desire for success.

Though Williams left a glimmer of a chance that she may yet play again, joking that she "always did love Australia", she may well have taken to the court for the last time. Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the key facts, stats and figures of her career; in other words, Serena's remarkable legacy.

Twenty-three… and done?

Of course, the headline fact for Williams' career is her grand slam titles count.

She has won 23, which is more than anyone else in the Open era.

But she still had one target left: matching Margaret Court. The Australian's 24 grand slam successes include nine won before the Open era began in 1968, though her overall total has been the benchmark ever since she claimed her final crown at the US Open in 1975.

Clearly, victory for Williams at Flushing Meadows would have been the perfect farewell, but it was not to be. Will that near-miss encourage her to take one more shot in Court's homeland next year?

 

The finals hurdle

Had Williams managed to reach the championship match in Queens, she would have equalled another record.

She headed into the US Open having played in 33 grand slam finals, one more than Martina Navratilova.

But Chris Evert (34) sits out in front, and that record is now set to remain hers for many, many years.

Top of the pile

It's been a while now since Williams was last the highest-ranked player in the world, but in a way that only further highlights how remarkable her career has been.

She's spent 319 weeks ranked as world number one, which is behind only Steffi Graf (377) and Navratilova (332).

While many might have expected Williams to have been top of the pile for even longer, it's worth remembering how she's spent time out due to injuries and pregnancy, with her general involvement in top-level tennis decreasing after 2014 when she played 16 tournaments – in 2016 that halved to eight, and during no year since has she played in more.

Additionally, some will also be surprised to learn she actually only finished the year as the top-ranked female player five times. Nevertheless, that's still third to only Graf (eight) and Navratilova (seven).

Go hard or go home

Such has been Williams' quality, she was always considered a threat regardless of the surface – she's won each grand slam at least three times.

But there's no denying she was at her most lethal on hard courts.

She has won 48 WTA Tour-level titles on hard courts, which is 11 more than anyone else (Graf) in the Open era.

Those 48 come from a grand total of 73 across all surfaces, leaving her ranked fifth behind Navratilova (167), Evert (157), Graf (107) and Court (92).

 

Surface to say…

Williams' comfort on hard courts goes even further than that.

She's won 541 matches on the surface, making her one of just two female players to surpass 500 victories on one specific ground type.

Navratilova (600 on carpet) is the only other player to achieve the feat, with Serena's sister Venus (498 on hard) the closest to the 23-time grand slam champion.

The grass is greener

Despite that unrivalled excellence, hard courts may not be the surface many feel to be most synonymous with Williams, however.

Wimbledon is the tournament that would appear to be her favourite.

She's reached the final at SW19 11 times. Only Navratilova can better that record for the most finals at one tournament – though it's worth saying she contested the WTA Finals and Chicago 14 times each, Eastbourne 13 times and 12 at Wimbledon.

Serena Williams' long and illustrious tennis career looks to have drawn to a close after the American lost to Ajla Tomljanovic at the US Open on Friday. 

Following a long piece in Vogue last month, Williams wrote of her plan to "move in a different direction" after "these next few weeks", suggesting the tournament at Flushing Meadows would be her last outing.

Thanks to her success and brilliance on the court, Williams has become synonymous with tennis and is regarded by many as the greatest the women's sport has ever seen.

At the age of 40, Williams has persisted with tennis far longer than most do, and that is testament to her quality and enduring desire for success.

Though Williams left a glimmer of a chance that she may yet play again, joking that she "always did love Australia", she may well have taken to the court for the last time. Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the key facts, stats and figures of her career; in other words, Serena's remarkable legacy.

Twenty-three… and done?

Of course, the headline fact for Williams' career is her grand slam titles count.

She has won 23, which is more than anyone else in the Open era.

But she still had one target left: matching Margaret Court. The Australian's 24 grand slam successes include nine won before the Open era began in 1968, though her overall total has been the benchmark ever since she claimed her final crown at the US Open in 1975.

Clearly, victory for Williams at Flushing Meadows would have been the perfect farewell, but it was not to be. Will that near-miss encourage her to take one more shot in Court's homeland next year?

 

The finals hurdle

Had Williams managed to reach the championship match in Queens, she would have equalled another record.

She headed into the US Open having played in 33 grand slam finals, one more than Martina Navratilova.

But Chris Evert (34) sits out in front, and that record is now set to remain hers for many, many years.

Top of the pile

It's been a while now since Williams was last the highest-ranked player in the world, but in a way that only further highlights how remarkable her career has been.

She's spent 319 weeks ranked as world number one, which is behind only Steffi Graf (377) and Navratilova (332).

While many might have expected Williams to have been top of the pile for even longer, it's worth remembering how she's spent time out due to injuries and pregnancy, with her general involvement in top-level tennis decreasing after 2014 when she played 16 tournaments – in 2016 that halved to eight, and during no year since has she played in more.

Additionally, some will also be surprised to learn she actually only finished the year as the top-ranked female player five times. Nevertheless, that's still third to only Graf (eight) and Navratilova (seven).

Go hard or go home

Such has been Williams' quality, she was always considered a threat regardless of the surface – she's won each grand slam at least three times.

But there's no denying she was at her most lethal on hard courts.

She has won 48 WTA Tour-level titles on hard courts, which is 11 more than anyone else (Graf) in the Open era.

Those 48 come from a grand total of 73 across all surfaces, leaving her ranked fifth behind Navratilova (167), Evert (157), Graf (107) and Court (92).

 

Surface to say…

Williams' comfort on hard courts goes even further than that.

She's won 541 matches on the surface, making her one of just two female players to surpass 500 victories on one specific ground type.

Navratilova (600 on carpet) is the only other player to achieve the feat, with Serena's sister Venus (498 on hard) the closest to the 23-time grand slam champion.

The grass is greener

Despite that unrivalled excellence, hard courts may not be the surface many feel to be most synonymous with Williams, however.

Wimbledon is the tournament that would appear to be her favourite.

She's reached the final at SW19 11 times. Only Navratilova can better that record for the most finals at one tournament – though it's worth saying she contested the WTA Finals and Chicago 14 times each, Eastbourne 13 times and 12 at Wimbledon.

Sunday's Premier League clash at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Arsenal is a fixture that in years gone by would have had significant ramifications in the title race.

United and Arsenal spent the best part of the noughties fighting it out for honours in the prime years of Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. It was box office stuff.

That pair of legends have since left their posts and both clubs have stuttered as a result, with title glory now beyond the realm of expectation as the sides instead focus on achieving a top-four finish and Champions League football.

In the 2022-23 season, neither will be in Europe's elite competition, with Arsenal in the midst of a five-year Champions League drought and United finishing sixth last term – the fifth time in nine seasons outside of the top four.

Mikel Arteta and Erik ten Hag are the men tasked with improving upon that record at their respective clubs, the Gunners having stood firm despite struggles at the start of last season and United turning to the former Ajax boss ahead of the new campaign.

In modern football, unlike in the eras of Ferguson and Wenger, it is not just the management who have a direct influence in proceedings, with executives in the club's hierarchy having a major say on transfer market activity.

Both clubs fell into disarray in the market after the departures of their long-serving managers, Arsenal making expensive mistakes in Nicolas Pepe and United spending close to a billion on an array of recruits in the post-Ferguson era.

Under the watch of Edu, Arsenal now appear to be moving forward with a clear plan alongside Arteta, demonstrating a ruthlessness in the past few years to oust numerous high-earning players from the squad – creating room for recruits like Gabriel Jesus.

In the three seasons since Edu has been in charge of transfer activity, following the departure of Raul Sanllehi, the Gunners have allowed the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil, Willian and Shkodran Mustafi to leave the club by cancelling their contracts.

In the wake of those bold decisions, Arsenal have not readily sought like-for-like replacements, instead freeing up room in what was viewed as a bloated wage bill. 

Alongside this, Arsenal have made a conservative effort in the transfer market to create a squad that can be a success for years to come, particularly in the last two seasons.

Since the 2021-22 campaign, Arsenal's only recruit above the age of 25 is the capture of goalkeeper Matt Turner in the current window – a player who stands as the understudy to first-choice stopper Aaron Ramsdale and a replacement for Bernd Leno, who joined Fulham.

Edu appears to have learnt lessons from 2020-21, his first season at the helm, where five of six recruits were above the age of 25 – Thomas Partey, Pablo Mari, Alex Runarsson, Willian and Cedric Soares.

At United, the overall look of the recruitment drive paints a vastly different picture. In the past two seasons, five of nine recruits fall into the 25 or over category; Raphael Varane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Tom Heaton, Casemiro and Christian Eriksen. In the season prior, Alex Telles and Edinson Cavani fall into that category.

It is also worth identifying the sums paid for players of this ilk, with Arsenal's deal for Turner reportedly worth up to £7.5m if add-ons are met, a figure that is dwarfed by United's reported spending.

Since the 2021-22 transfer window, United have reportedly splashed over £100m on the deals to land Varane, Ronaldo and Casemiro – with add-ons in those deals potentially seeing a further rise in costs.

While Ronaldo was able to repay his fee with 18 Premier League goals last term, he has pushed for an exit in the current window due to a desire to play in the Champions League, but, in the case of Varane, United splashed further money on Lisandro Martinez despite already having Varane and Harry Maguire in the squad.

United's questionable approach in the market has also come under scrutiny amid deals that were reportedly eyed but not completed, including apparent intentions to sign Marko Arnautovic and Adrien Rabiot in the current window, then setting sights on Ajax's Antony and concluding a whopping £86m deal.

Time will tell whether Arsenal's approach is successful but the club appear to have all their major pieces moving in the right direction, while at United it is a difficult task to put your finger on exactly what the plan is.

Sunday's result may provide bragging rights for the winning team but in the long-term battle, there appears to only be one winner.

All eyes turn to one of the biggest derbies in world football this weekend, as Milan and Inter battle it out at the San Siro.

The two arch-rivals went toe-to-toe in the hunt for the Serie A title last season, with Milan emerging victorious on the final day to clinch the league crown for the first time since 2011.

Stefano Pioli's side have begun their title defence with an unbeaten start to the campaign, securing two wins and two draws, while Inter have won three of four, losing to Lazio last Friday.

Still early in the season, a single point separates the two and bragging rights are on the cards on Saturday, though neither side has a particularly good record against one another in recent years.

Milan seek to end poor derby return

A 2-1 victory over Inter in February, where Olivier Giroud netted a brace, puts Milan in hunt of consecutive league wins against Inter for the first time since 2011 – which were the first two league derbies played under Massimiliano Allegri.

While they were victorious in that particular clash, the two Coppa Italia semi-final ties in March and April saw Milan unable to score in either tie, meaning they could go three consecutive derbies without scoring for the first time since 1980.

Milan's last win as the designated host at San Siro against Inter came in Serie A back in January 2016, with Inter winning three and drawing three against the Rossoneri since then.

 

Inzaghi's unwanted record

Simone Inzaghi has only won one point in his first two derbies in Serie A since joining the Nerazzurri and is seeking a win to prevent an unwanted record, as failure to do so would see him become the first Inter coach not to win any of his first three matches against Milan in the top-flight since Osvaldo Bagnoli in 1993 (D2 L1).

In order to secure victory, Inter could turn to Joaquin Correa who has scored four goals in Serie A against Milan, more than any other side. The Argentine has also scored four goals in his last five appearances in the competition, having gone goalless in his previous 18.

Either way, there should be goals and a victor as Inter are the only team, excluding relegated and promoted sides, not to draw a Serie A match since last April.

During that sequence, Inter have 11 wins, at least three more than any other team, and two losses – one of which was the 3-1 defeat to Lazio last Friday.

 

Leao vs Lautaro

Having fended off transfer interest from Chelsea, Rafael Leao is set to make his 100th Serie A appearance in Saturday's game and the Brazilian's record sees him stand as one of the finest young players in the division.

Among players born since 1999, Leao has provided 16 Serie A assists, more than anyone else, and has scored 24 goals – putting him behind only Juventus' Dusan Vlahovic (55) and Inter's Andrea Pinamonti (25), who is on loan at Sassuolo.

With Romelu Lukaku absent through injury, Inter will turn to Lautaro Martinez to find the difference and the Argentine enters the tie in a fine vein of form.

Martinez has been involved in a goal in each of his first four appearances this season (three goals, one assist), only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (2007-08) and Nicolo Barella (2021-22) have had a hand in a goal in their first Serie A appearances in a second for Inter since 2004-05, when Opta started collecting assist data.

 

Pioli's perfect return

Though Milan's recent record against Inter does not make for pretty reading, their overall record heading into Saturday's derby is encouraging as they have won five consecutive home matches in Serie A.

A sixth in a row with victory against Inter would see Milan hit that tally for the first time since August 2014, under Clarence Seedorf and Filippo Inzaghi.

Milan's defence is also looking strong, having kept a clean sheet in their last two Serie A matches. A third this weekend would see Milan secure three clean sheets in the first five top-flight seasonal games in three campaigns in a row for the third time in their history (after 1952-23, 1953-54, 1954-55 and 1978-79, 1979-1980 and 1981-1982).

It has been a record-breaking transfer window across Europe, and one that has thrown up more than a surprise or two on the continent with numerous big-name players making fresh starts.

While the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Sadio Mane, Erling Haaland and Gabriel Jesus have all made fast starts to life at their new clubs, for others their futures remain unclear heading into the final day of the window.

As any football supporter will know, some of the biggest deals can often be left to deadline day – and occasionally even after the cut-off point, as long as an agreement has been reached and ratified with the relevant authorities.

With less than 24 hours of the window to run across each of Europe's top five leagues, Stats Perform looks at the names that could yet be on the move on Thursday.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)

It has been quite the transfer window for Manchester United forward Ronaldo. Having only returned to Old Trafford last year, the Portugal international is reported to have informed the club of his desire to leave in early July, coinciding with the arrival of new head coach Erik ten Hag.

Ten Hag has repeatedly stated Ronaldo remains part of his plans, but the 37-year-old's lack of playing time this season suggests otherwise – albeit not helped by a disrupted pre-season owing to family reasons.

Ronaldo proved last season he is still capable of doing a job at the highest level, though finding a club willing to pay his huge wages – on top of paying a fee to United – is a different matter. Rumoured interest from Bayern Munich, Chelsea and even Sporting CP came to little, though talk of a surprise switch to Napoli persists.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Barcelona)

Just six months on from arriving at Barcelona as a free agent following a tumultuous end to his time with Arsenal, Aubameyang may well be on his way back to English football with Chelsea.

The Gabon international has slipped down the pecking order at Camp Nou following the arrival of Lewandowski and Barca could do with freeing up some funds, with Aubameyang one of a few players still in place that were expected to depart.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel previously worked with Aubameyang at Borussia Dortmund and recently said he feels like the striker is still one of his players. Having scored 68 goals in 128 Premier League games for Arsenal, Aubameyang already has proven pedigree in the division.

Anthony Gordon (Everton)

Given Chelsea's slow start to the 2022-23 season, it is perhaps no surprise that they are being linked with numerous names ahead of Thursday's deadline. Everton winger Gordon is high on the Blues' list of targets, with a couple of bids already reported to have been knocked back.

Everton boss and Chelsea legend Frank Lampard stressed once again on Tuesday that Gordon is not for sale, but one final push from the London club – and a word or two from Gordon, should that be what he wants – may well tempt the Toffees into a sale.

While the sums of money being discussed for a player with just 35 league starts to his name may be extortionate, Chelsea have clearly identified Gordon as a vital piece of their jigsaw and do not appear ready to give up on him without a fight.

 

Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)

De Jong's name dominated the gossip columns for a large period of the transfer window, though things have gone a little quieter on that front after Manchester United instead moved for Casemiro.

That is not to say a move has been entirely ruled out, however, particularly when taking Barca's rather desperate financial situation into account. 

With Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain having also been linked with De Jong at various points, the Netherlands international may just have a big decision to make in the next 24 hours or so.

Pedro Neto (Wolves)

Jurgen Klopp has made no secret of his desire to bring another midfielder to Liverpool before the window closes due to Thiago Alcantara, Curtis Jones, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all nursing injuries.

The club do not want to bring in a player for the sake of it, however, limiting themselves to just a few targets. RB Leipzig's Konrad Laimer and Inter's Nicolo Barella had been among those linked, but moves for both are said to have been ruled out.

Brighton and Hove Albion's Moises Caicedo and Neto of Wolves, the latter of whom is also supposedly on Arsenal's radar, are two other candidates to come in on deadline day. Time, though, is not on Liverpool's side.

Youri Tielemans (Leicester City)

Perhaps Liverpool would be wiser to move for Leicester midfielder Youri Tielemans, who could be available for as little as £25million if certain reports are to be believed.

Arsenal, too, could do with some further midfield competition and are known to have shown an interest in the talented Belgium international in the past.

Tielemans, capable of operating as a deep-lying midfielder or higher up the pitch, is due to become a free agent at the end of the campaign, meaning Leicester's hand is being forced somewhat.

Sergino Dest (Barcelona)

Them again! Despite their well-publicised financial issues, Barcelona have still managed to substantially strengthen their squad this window, and there could still be another arrival at Camp Nou.

An agreement is said to be in place to sign left-back Marcos Alonso from Chelsea, while Juan Foyth had been strongly linked prior to sustaining an injury for Villarreal. However, a move for either player is likely dependent on freeing up some cash first.

The departure of one of aforementioned duo Aubameyang or De Jong would help in that regard, as would exits for fringe players Martin Braithwaite, Miralem Pjanic and Ez Abde. At this stage, it appears Dest is the closest of Barca's first-teamers to leaving, with Milan his most likely destination.

Jordan. Ali. Woods. Williams. That's it, that's the company.

Serena Williams is about to draw the curtain on one of the great sporting careers.

A brilliant black sports star excelling on a global stage, she has shifted and shaped opinions over the past 25 years.

Her life has been touched by tragedy as well as great joy, and she has just about lived to tell the tale.

As she prepares for her final US Open, Stats Perform looks back at the obstacles that have been put in front of the 23-time grand slam champion. 

Racism since her early days

After learning the game in Compton, Williams and sister Venus endured plenty of outrageous treatment before a notorious incident in 2001 at Indian Wells.

Russian Elena Dementieva reacted to a quarter-final defeat to Venus by saying the semi-final between the sisters would be determined by their father, Richard. That baseless allegation of manipulation was followed by an injured Venus withdrawing from the match against Serena shortly before its start time.

Serena met Kim Clijsters in the final, and there were grim jeers for Venus and Richard when both took their grandstand seats. They and Serena copped brutal treatment from spectators, with Richard stating he was racially abused.

Serena beat Clijsters but did not play at Indian Wells again until 2015, recalling her memories of 2001 in an article for Time, explaining it had "haunted" the family, particularly her father.

She wrote: "He dedicated his whole life to prepping us for this incredible journey, and there he had to sit and watch his daughter being taunted, sparking cold memories of his experiences growing up in the South."

Williams told Sirius XM in February 2021: "I had to make people realise that it's okay to be black and to play tennis."

Sexism never far away

Williams considered causing a scene at Wimbledon in 2011 after being sent out to the distant Court Two to play a second-round match.

It seemed a bizarre move – probably just ignorant – to put the defending women's champion anywhere but Centre or Court One, and while she was reluctant to fully vent her frustration, it was obvious enough.

Seemingly pointing a finger at those in power, Williams said: "They're not going to change."

An angry Williams accused chair umpire Carlos Ramos of sexism in a stormy 2018 US Open final, when she lost to Naomi Osaka.

Williams was warned for receiving coaching on court, which she denied, then penalised a point for racket abuse, before being docked a game after accusing Ramos of being "a thief".

"I'm here fighting for women's rights and for women's equality and for all kinds of stuff," Williams said afterwards. "For me to say 'thief' and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He's never taken a game from a man because they said 'thief'."

Williams was fined $17,000 by tournament chiefs but backed by the WTA, which runs the women's tour outside the slams.

Perilous childbirth

In February 2018, Williams wrote an article for CNN that began with the line: "I almost died after giving birth to my daughter, Olympia."

She wrote of having had "a pretty easy pregnancy" and a routine C-section in August 2017, only for that to be followed by a pulmonary embolism and "a slew of health complications" she was "lucky to have survived", including a large hematoma in her abdomen. Her first six weeks as a mother were spent in bed.

Sister's death

It was September 2003, shortly after Williams underwent knee surgery that forced her out of the US Open, that her sister Yetunde Price was shot and killed in Compton.

Price was 31, with a local gangster sentenced to 15 years for voluntary manslaughter.

Williams addressed court after the April 2006 sentencing of Price's killer, saying she had "wanted to let you know that this was unfair to our family, and our family has always been positive and we always try to help people".

In 2018, Williams was trounced 6-1 6-0 by British player Johanna Konta at the Silicon Valley Classic. She came onto court moments after learning the man who shot her sister dead had been freed from prison, and later told Time: "I couldn't shake it out of my mind."

Walking on broken glass

It's an idiom, and an Annie Lennox song, but walking on broken glass was almost the moment that ended Williams' career.

It could have been a case of unlucky 13 for Williams in July 2010 when within days of winning her 13th grand slam title she suffered a foot injury, and later revealed it had been caused by stepping on glass while leaving a Munich restaurant.

She told USA Today: "I was standing, recovering, thinking I got a little cut and telling my nephew, who was with us, to be careful. Then my practice partner put a cellphone down to the floor so we could see, and there was a huge puddle of blood. I said, 'OMG, I don't think this is good'."

She needed both feet stitching up and underwent surgery to fix a drooping big toe, missing almost a full year on tour. Early in 2011 she underwent treatment for a pulmonary embolism and blood clot in her lungs, after checks were carried out during her recovery.

Chasing Court

Margaret Court has been the figure Williams has chased but looks destined to fall short of, with the Australian set to remain tantalisingly out of reach.

Four final losses for Williams since landing her 23rd major have been increasingly agonising, and it has been clear that her primary motivation for playing on all this time has been to surpass Court.

Court's controversial views on the LGBTQ community have upset many in tennis. Williams, however, just wanted to finish top of the pile, regardless of who was presently leading the way in the grand slam race.

Barring a sporting near-miracle over the US Open fortnight, she will remain second in that race, albeit the grand slam leader in the Open Era – winner of the most titles since the majors embraced professionalism in 1968.

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