10 Interesting Stats from Premier League Matchday 3

Darren Randolph

3 – Liverpool left-back Joe Gomez has picked up a yellow card in each of his three Premier League games since joining from Championship side Charlton Athletic over the summer where he picked up two yellow cards in 21 league games last season.

4 – Tottenham Hotspur have already dropped four points from winning positions this season.  Mauricio Pochettino’s side took the lead in the 81st minute at Leicester City on Saturday before drawing 1-1.

4 – Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez has been the Premier League top scorer after each of the first three games this season.  The Algerian currently has four goals.

7 – Pedro and César Azpilicueta became the sixth and seventh Spaniards to score for Chelsea in Premier League history (after Asier Del Horno, Fernando Torres, Juan Mata, Diego Costa and Cesc Fàbregas).

8 – Bafétimbi Gomis has eight goals in his last nine Premier League matches for Swansea City.

9 – Manchester City have won nine successive games for the first time in their Premier League history.

9 – Manchester City are the only team to have won their opening three games this season.

20% – There have only been six home wins from the 30 matches to start the 2015-16 season.

20 – Darren Randolph has conceded 20 goals in his last four matches versus Bournemouth.  The West Ham goalkeeper was part of their 3-4 home defeat this weekend having previously lost 8-0 and 4-2 to the Cherries in the Championship with Birmingham City last season.

34% – Liverpool’s 34% possession versus Arsenal on Monday night is the lowest they have recorded in the Premier League under Brendan Rodgers.

10 Interesting Stats from Premier League Matchday 2

Sergio Aguero

2 – Manchester United have had only two shots on target in 180 minutes this season.

2 – Eric Dier has scored Tottenham Hotspur’s opening Premier League goal for each of the past two seasons.

3 – Manchester City matched José Mourinho’s record Premier League defeat on Sunday, following Middlesbrough (Feb 2006) and West Bromwich Albion (May 2015).

5 – Arsenal have won all five fixtures and scored exactly two goals in their last five Premier League matches versus Crystal Palace since the Eagles returned to the Premier League.  The last three have ended 2-1.

20 – Leicester City ended a run of 20 matches without a win in London with a 2-1 victory at West Ham United.

20 – Swansea City have taken more points from Newcastle than they have from any other side during their Premier League run (W6, D2, L1).

20 – Aston Villa have now failed to beat Manchester United in their last 20 attempts at Villa Park following their 1-0 defeat on Friday night.

33 – Manchester United have won more matches versus Aston Villa than any side versus a single opponent in Premier League history.

67% – Two of the three goals Petr Čech has conceded in an Arsenal shirt have come from outside the penalty area.  Only three of the 36 goals the Gunners conceded in the Premier League last season came from 18+ yards.

400 – Jermain Defoe became the 32nd player to reach a landmark 400th Premier League appearance.

10 Interesting Stats from Premier League Matchday 1

Reece Oxford

1 – For the first time the opening goal of a Premier League season was an own goal.  Kyle Walker netted the opener and only game during Tottenham’s 1-0 loss at Manchester United to start the 2015-16 season.

2 – Swansea City were the only visiting team to score two Premier League goals at Stamford Bridge last season.  The Welsh side matched that figure on the opening day of this season.

2 – Petr Čech conceded two goals in his seven Premier League appearances for Chelsea last season (606 minutes) – the Czech Republic international conceded as many on his league debut for Arsenal this weekend.

3 – Everton have now started their last three seasons with a 2-2 draw.  The Toffees twice came from behind to take a point at home to newly-promoted Watford on Saturday.

11 – Alan Pardew has matched the most number of wins in the Premier League by a Crystal Palace manager (11) despite Saturday’s 3-1 win at Norwich being only his 19th match in charge.  He ties Steve Coppell who managed 11 wins from 42 games during the inaugural 1992-93 Premier League season in which the Eagles were relegated.

15 – Jermain Defoe has now scored in 15 different Premier League seasons, totalling 129 goals in the English top flight.

16 – Reece Oxford became the second-youngest payer to start a Premier League match, aged only 16 years and 236 days.  The West Ham defender-come-midfielder is older than only Everton’s Jose Baxter (16 years, 198 days) to start a Premier League game.

69% – Manchester City saw more possession than any other team on the opening weekend.

86% – Leicester City have won six of their last seven Premier League matches at the King Power Stadium.

Manchester United: Back in the Title Hunt?

Morgan Schneiderlin

After two seasons without a title fight, Manchester United fans are about to head into 2015-16 with more optimism than they ever have since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

Although the Betfair betting markets have United down only as fourth favourites to win the Premier League this season, their activity in the transfer market has them closing the gap on Chelsea.

Louis van Gaal ended last season in good form following a slow start – qualification to this season’s UEFA Champions League meaning everything.

It’s been an exciting couple of days for United fans – the signings of Matteo Darmian (£13m), Bastian Schweinsteiger (£14m) and Morgan Schneiderlin (£25m) all bring real quality to the squad and fill areas where the Red Devils were weak last season.

Darmian is an exciting right-back who offers good support in attack. He will be replacing Antonio Valencia whom was a weak link in defence last season, on top of which his crosses in attacking areas were often wasteful.

Despite being on the sidelines for a lengthy time for each of the past two seasons, Bastian Schweinsteiger remains one of my favourite players in world football. It was 12 months ago today he was lifting the FIFA World Cup, a tournament in which I felt he or Toni Kroos should have been named the best player, over Lionel Messi who was handed the prize.

Schweinsteiger has been dictating games for Bayern Munich in the centre of midfield in both the German Bundesliga and Champions League for numerous years now, and for Germany too. There’s no reason why he won’t do that at Old Trafford, provided he stays healthy.

Morgan Schneiderlin has been one of the top holding midfielders in the Premier League for the past three seasons following Southampton’s promotion to the top flight. Arsène Wenger had been tracking his fellow countryman for more than a year so van Gaal has done a good job to land the 25-year-old.

The French international featured at last summer’s World Cup, offering great protection to the back four of both his national team and Southampton. Michael Carrick was the only player offering that for United last season and in my mind, Schneiderlin is an upgrade on the 33-year-old England international.

Before this trio arrived, United splashed out £25 million on PSV Eindhoven forward Memphis Depay. The young Dutch international was the Eredvisie’s top scorer last season as his side ran away with the title.

Depay offers pace down that left wing and is a good finisher. Does he have the strength to handle the Premier League? That’s what we’re waiting to find out.

Louis van Gaal still has areas to work on. First, the centre of his defence. United relied heavily on outstanding performances from David de Gea last season to keep the goals against tally down. They appear to have failed in luring Mats Hummels and Raphaël Varane to the club this summer, having missed out Thomas Vermaelen and Stefan de Vrij 12 months ago.

Will they land Sergio Ramos or Nicolás Otamendi this time around? They’re in need of a stop star in this position if they want to be in the title race.

Up front is also another area that the Dutch manager may want to add to. Radamel Falcao’s deal was rightfully terminated and Robin van Persie has been sold to Fenerbahçe. The arrivals of two central midfielders though does free up Wayne Rooney to play in attack this season.

With Ángel Di María and Ashley Young as options on the left – does this mean we could also see Memphis Depay playing a central striker role in 2015-16? Or do United have a deal lined up for another striker that we’ve yet to hear about?

The final area in which the United boss is looking at is in goal. He would be mad to keep David de Gea on for a further 12 months. The Spaniard’s head looked turned in the final few games of the season and his performances were not near the high standard he set during the rest of the season.

De Gea’s mind is on Real Madrid, so let him go. He will not be the same goalkeeper at Manchester United as he was last season, whilst he has good value this summer, in comparison to losing him on a free transfer in 12 months’ time.

Manchester United’s betting odds suggest they are fourth favourites for the 2015-16 Premier League. Personally, I think they’re closer to Chelsea than Manchester City right now, but there are still a few areas they need to fill if they want a shot at the trophy.

5 Reasons Why Barcelona Will Thrash Juventus

Luis Suarez + Neymar + Lionel Messi

Barcelona meet Juventus in the UEFA Champions League final at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin this evening.

The winners of this evening’s game will be treble winners after both won their domestic leagues and cups.

It is the Spanish side who are undoubtedly the favourites to bring the trophy home for a fourth time over the past 10 years and here are 5 reasons why I believe Barcelona will thrash Juventus:

1. The Front Three

The reason I backed Barcelona to win this tournament at the start of the year was because I was expecting Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar to kick in and start to obliterate opponents.  They already had the talented midfield to supply them and individually they were exceptional talents.

Since then, the front three have become arguably the best front three in the history of football.  Barely any defence has been able to handle them since the turn of the year and they are in full flow heading into the final.  Lionel Messi is back to his best, Neymar is playing as well as he ever has at Barcelona and regular readers of my blog, dating back as far as 2010 will know I’m a big fan of Luis Suárez.  All of them score and create goals.

Juventus will not be able to cope with them.  They are not used to playing anything as close to this in Italy and one must admit Real Madrid were far short of their best in the semi-finals regardless of how well the Italian side played.  Barcelona are better than Real Madrid.

2. Giorgio Chiellini

A massive blow to Juventus is that their star centre-back is out injured.  Whilst his likely replacement Andrea Barzagli is a top defender himself, it’s going to disrupt the defence no matter what.  Even with Giorgio Chiellini available it would have been difficult enough, if not near-impossible to shut out this Barcelona side anyway.

3. Constant Pressure

Expecting Barcelona to dominate possession and territory as any football fan is likely to be thinking.  It’s all well and good Juventus sitting back to defend as well as Italians have done over the years, but ultimately they’re very likely to make one mistake, leave one player open and they find themselves behind.  Even if they’re to get in at half-time level, they will be gassing later in the second half for all the chasing they’ve done.

Lionel Messi showed at 0-0 in the first leg of Barcelona’s semi-final versus Bayern Munich what he’s capable of when he produced the opening goal almost out of nothing.  Barcelona have three forwards capable of doing that and when they’re constantly in and around your penalty area with the ball, the inevitable is bound to happen…

4. Form

Barcelona have obliterated Europe this season.  They won five of their six group stage matches, beat the defending Premier League champions 3-1 on aggregate (should really have been a lot more but for a top performance from goalkeeper Joe Hart in the second leg), French Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain 5-1 in the quarter-finals and German Bundesliga runaway champions Bayern Munich 5-3 on aggregate (at one stage it was 5-1 before the Spanish side took their foot off the pedal).

Sure, Juventus can say they’ve had some very respectable results – 5-1 versus midtable Borussia Dortmund in the second round, 1-0 versus AS Monaco in the quarter-finals and 3-2 over Real Madrid in the semis.  I’m calling it now – this Barcelona team is the greatest I’ve ever seen in my life – better than the Pep Guardiola era.  The Italian side won’t know what’s hit them at 19.45 when they kick off.

5. Tactics

Max Allergri likes to play a 4-4-2 formation – either he’s going to be brave and stick with two up front versus Barcelona or he’s going to play a more defensive formation in which the team aren’t going to be so experienced with.  His formation is also narrow in midfield which defensively means Messi and Neymar can go one-on-one with the full-backs and even have their own full-backs for overlapping runs – both Dani Alves and Jordi Alba are as defining attack-minded full-backs as you’ll find.

In attack, Juventus will be relying on Álvaro Morata and Carlos Tevez pulling out wide to offer them width going forward as well as Patrice Evra and Stephan Lichtsteiner pushing forward from full-back too.  This of course could leave the Serie A champions exposed on the counter-attack and with the pace Barcelona have they can be dangerous breaking into space.

I am full expecting Barcelona to win this final by at least two goals, after dominating possession and territory.