Take a look at our weekly round-ups showcasing statistical over- and under-performers across England to try and sniff out the value ahead of the weekend’s fixtures.
|Week 1: Nunez, Fernandes, Leno||Week 2: Fulham, Everton, Tottenham||Week 3: Arsenal, Eze and Chilwell|
|Week 4: Fernandez, Everton, Gordon||Week 5: Fernandes, Wolves, Middlesbrough|
It’s not easy to sugar-coat it; Chelsea are nearing crisis mode. We’re less than two months into the season, Chelsea are less than three months into a manager, and the team is about 12 months into an almost-brand-new XI.
But when you take one point from Nottingham Forest at home, Bournemouth away and Aston Villa at home, you can have few complaints when the cracked badges start to appear on the back pages of the newspapers.
There is, however, reason for some optimism.
In terms of goals prevented by opposition keepers, only Everton (+4.4) rank higher than Chelsea (+4.0); they’re third for xGA behind only Manchester City and Arsenal and third for goals conceded behind Manchester City and Liverpool.
Chelsea’s struggles have come in front of goal, failing to score in their last three games and it will likely take time to find some attacking fluidity.
Nicolas Jackson managing to pick up five yellow cards in his first six games almost feels impressive when you consider that two of those cards came in games in which he didn't even commit a foul, but it means he’ll miss Chelsea’s short trip across West London to face Fulham and it could create something of a headache for Mauricio Pochettino.
While Jackson only has one goal to his name, he’s third in the league for xG and ranks first by some distance in xG minus goals and will be missed at Craven Cottage, but Chelsea are performing well in a number of attacking areas and goals should come before long.
|Premier League Rank|
|Touches in Attacking Third||2nd|
|Touches in Penalty Area||2nd|
|Passes into Penalty Area||2nd|
|Passes into Final Third||3rd|
Chelsea O1.5 Goals v Fulham - Evs
It wasn’t going to be easy for any of Liverpool’s new midfielders stepping into a new system that even their new team-mates might not be familiar with. The old guard of Henderson, Fabinho, Milner, Keita, Wijnaldum and Co are long gone, and there will likely be some inconsistency for a little while yet.
But Dominik Szoboszlai has taken to life on Merseyside like a duck to water. He was a superbly creative midfielder for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga, scoring six goals and creating eight in both his two seasons in Germany, earning a move to Anfield.
Despite his impressive performances in a Liverpool shirt, he’s yet to register an assist. This is likely due to him playing a slightly deeper role for the Reds than his did for Leipzig
|Premier League Rank|
|Shot Creating Actions||4th|
|Touches in Middle Third*||4th|
|Progressive Carry Distance*||5th|
|Passes into Attacking Third*||8th|
|Touches in Attacking Third||15th|
*Amongst Premier League midfielders
It won’t surprise anyone to know that Both Teams to Score between Tottenham and Liverpool is the shortest price in the Premier League this weekend at 4/11. Both Tottenham and Liverpool have been scoring goals for fun, and while the Hungarian is yet to get amongst them, he’s quickly established himself as a crucial member of the Reds’ midfield, and he should find himself contributing before long.
Dominik Szobozslai O0.5 Assists v Tottenham - 4/1
Rewind two years; Ipswich are languishing around the relegation zone of League One, now in their third season in England’s third tier; 21 years removed from their last promotion.
Fast forward to the present day and a second consecutive promotion is looking more likely by the week.
2023 has seen Ipswich lose just five games in total, and after finishing second while reaching 98 points last season – a tally bettered by only four League One champions in the last 20 years – they’ve started the new campaign in similar fashion.
The appointment of Kieran McKenna – still the youngest coach in the EFL – is the Tractor Boys’ best hire since George Burley back in 1994.
Town rank first in the Championship for xG, goals scored, shots and shots on target, while Vaclav Hladky ranks first amongst Championship goalkeepers in goals prevented, stepping up in place of the injured Christian Walton, with the Tractor Boys also first for tackles won.
McKenna and Ipswich won plenty of admirers for their possession-heavy style of play in League One last season, but the challenge when stepping up a division is whether or not you can impose yourself against better opposition, and if not, how you can adapt.
McKenna seems happy to maintain his passing philosophy – the third goal against Wolves catches the eye with Jack Taylor scoring a 25-yard screamer, but it came at the end of a move featuring 19 completed passes, against a Premier League side, no less, that started from the back.
What might be most impressive about Ipswich is how they’ve only had 60% of the ball (their average possession in League One) once this season, but have still found a way to beat sides.
Only 11 team have gone from the third tier to the first tier in two seasons, but the way they’ve started, they may well be number 12.
Ipswich to be Promoted - Evs
Another game, another Erling Haaland goal.
But watch the highlights of Manchester City’s trip to West Ham and you’ll see that Haaland missed an uncharacteristic - unprecedented, even - number of chances.
The Norwegian actually missed five big chances against West Ham, and keep in mind he’d had seven big chances across his first four matches (where he’d scored six goals).
But the performance against West Ham is actually indicative of a slight change in City’s approach. It won’t surprise anyone to discover that Haaland has the most shots and shots on target in the Premier League this season, but the 23-year-old’s numbers are actually increasing after last season’s effort.
In a campaign where he scored four hat-tricks and five braces, Haaland never reached 2.0 xG in a game last season; he’s recorded 2.1 against Sheffield United and 2.5 against West Ham so far this time around. He’s also having more shots, from closer to goal, and more of them are finding the target.
|Shots on Target||1.72||2.65|
|Shots on Target %||45.7%||48.1%|
|Average Shot Distance||12.6 yards||11.5 yards|
All stats per 90
Kevin De Bruyne’s yet to complete a half of football this season and won’t do so for another few months, but City remain a creative juggernaut with seven of their players being credited with an assist in the first five games.
Ilkay Gundogan has been replaced by Mateo Kovacic, but even the Croatian has only started three games. Bernardo Silva has started three, while Jack Grealish and summer signing Jeremy Doku have started two each. No matter what the problem, City seem to have the answer.
Barring serious injury, Haaland will surely win another Golden Boot; he scored 39% of City’s Premier League goals last season and has 50% of them this season.
His maiden campaign in England saw him set a new goalscoring record, and Haaland may already have his sights set on surpassing last season’s 36-goal haul.
Erling Haaland to Score 2 or More v Nottingham Forest – 13/8
Erling Haaland to Score 40 or More Premier League Goals – 3/1
James Maddison may have taken the plaudits in the first few weeks of the season, with Son Heung-min getting his name back in lights with a hat-trick against Burnley; Dejan Kulusevski however is quietly going under the radar.
The Swede looked an excellent signing upon his arrival in North London with 13 goal contributions across his first 18 games, but hit something of a brick wall – like many of his colleagues – last season with Antonio Conte losing his job partway through the campaign.
But Kulusevski once again looks like a crucial part of the Spurs attack and is back to his creative and goalscoring best.
He hasn’t technically recorded an assist yet, despite providing the ball for Pape Matar Sarr’s opener against Manchester United, but does have two goals to his name and is ranking highly in a number of attacking areas.
|Total||Premier League Rank|
|Carries Into Penalty Area||17||2nd|
|Expected Assists – Actual Assists||1.3||3rd|
|Progressive Passes Received||61||4th|
|Touches in Att. Third||170||4th|
|Crosses Into Penalty Area||3||7th|
|Carries Into Att. Third||13||13th|
Spurs are riding the crest of a wave at the moment and just as it appeared the bubble had burst against Sheffield United, two stoppage-time goals extended their winning run.
Arsenal away represents not just their toughest test of the season so far, but one of their biggest tests of the entire season.
There will be an inevitable drop-off at some point – perhaps starting this weekend – but while Tottenham’s good form continues, Kulusevski is likely to be integral to it.
Dejan Kulusevski to Score Anytime v Arsenal – 9/2
Dejan Kulusevski Over 0.5 Assists v Arsenal – 11/2
Admittedly, the result at Villa Park – in particular the nature of it – hurt Crystal Palace hugely, but there’s been a lot to like from the Eagles’ start to the season.
Cheick Doucoure has been joined by Jefferson Lerma providing a really solid midfield duo; Doucoure ranks fifth in the league for tackles and interceptions, sixth for interceptions and fourth for dribblers tackled.
The midfield pairing, protecting a solid back four of Joel Ward, Marc Guehi – who was injured for the trip to Villa Park – Joachim Anderson and Tyrick Mitchell, has seen Palace face just 12 shots on target, though the fact they’ve conceded seven goals may be a slight concern for Roy Hodgson.
It’s provided a robustness that’s allowed Eberechi Eze more creative freedom as a regular number 10 and it’s a role he’s thriving in. Eze ranks fifth in the league for shot-creating actions, sixth for touches in the final third, first for successful take-ons, sixth for carries into the final third and sixth for carries into the penalty area.
And as a team, Palace are looking like a more cohesive attacking unit, with only Brighton, Tottenham and Manchester City recording more shots on target this season.
Michael Olise remains a long-term absentee and Hodgson will be keen to have Lerma and Guehi fit again as soon as possible. There may be question marks over squad depth, but if they can avoid a significant injury crisis, it’s hard to see Palace being anywhere near the relegation zone this season.
Crystal Palace to finish in top half – 3/1
Crystal Palace to beat Fulham – 5/6
A couple of weeks ago, we pointed out that Anthony Gordon had been fouled the joint-most times in the Premier League with full-backs having a torrid time against the former Evertonian, with James Milner likely to be the next in line – Milner didn’t enter the pitch until the 81st minute but it didn’t take long for him to find his way into the referee’s book with a foul on the Newcastle winger.
The week before, we looked into Eberechi Eze’s more attacking role at Crystal Palace and he found the net in the Eagles’ 3-2 win.
With the international break calling a temporary halt to proceedings, we’ve taken an early look at the numbers from the Premier League and Championship.
When adding everybody’s xG and xA from the Premier League so far this season and subtracting from their actual goals and assists, only Bruno Fernandes, Enzo Fernandez, Nicolas Jackson and Abdoulaye Doucoure have posted 2.0 or higher and all four could be decent bets to find themselves amongst the goals and assists in the coming weeks.
But it’s the Manchester United skipper who ranks top of the league with 2.56. He does have a goal and an assist to his name this season; a respectable return from four games, but as with last season, it should be more.
As we mentioned in the first Stats Zone of the season, Fernandes wasn’t just top of the Premier League last season for expected assists, but top of Europe’s top five leagues and he's picked up where he left off.
We only caught a glimpse of Rasmus Hojlund after coming off the bench at the Emirates, and while we still don’t know how reliable a goalscorer he’ll be for United, the Dane certainly offers a substantial physical presence.
He contributed more in his 23 minutes than we saw in the previous 67 from Anthony Martial, and it should make United a more cogent attacking unit. The Dane is also strong in the air, and he could prove a perfect target for Fernandes’s crosses from the right half space.
Fernandes ranks sixth in the league for shot-creating actions, fifth for touches in the attacking third, fifth for progressive passes amongst midfielders and first for xA and it shouldn’t be much longer before his creative efforts bear fruit.
Bruno Fernandes O0.5 Assists v Brighton - 11/4
The international break will come to an end with Wolves playing host to Liverpool on Saturday afternoon. With all the turmoil over the summer, it became harder and harder to make a case for Wolves staying up and Gary O’Neil’s men were the best-backed side for relegation heading into the new campaign.
But the signs at Molineux have been positive. Wolves weren’t just unlucky to lose at Old Trafford, they were very hard done by not to win. They had 23 shots against Manchester United – a figure they only matched once last season (their 4-2 loss at home to Leeds) – with six shots on target.
Ironically enough, it was arguably their worst performance of the season against Everton when Wolves secured their only win of the season.
It wasn’t the easiest start to the campaign with three away trips and their only home fixture being against Brighton, where they somewhat naively took the game to the visitors only to find themselves picked off on the break.
They now have another of the Premier League big boys but will be backed by a raucous home crowd, and O’Neil must look at this as an opportunity to attack Liverpool.
The Reds haven’t quite got out of second gear this season and weren’t helped by Virgil van Dijk’s response to his dismissal at Newcastle, earning him an extra game’s suspension that will see him sit out of Saturday’s clash, with Ibrahima Konate still injured.
Wataru Endo was signed to give Liverpool’s midfield more robustness, but Curtis Jones was selected for Aston Villa and it may be that Endo is used more in games where Liverpool won’t have as much of the ball. Assuming Jurgen Klopp selects a similar XI against Wolves, it should make them more dangerous in possession, but more vulnerable out of it.
|Progressive Passes||147 (9th)||141 (10th)|
|Key Passes||49 (7th)||45 (10th)|
|Passes into Attacking Third||102 (13th)||101 (14th)|
|Touches in Attacking Third||582 (9th)||569 (10th)|
|Passes into Penalty Area||36 (10th)||33 (12th)|
|Touches in Penalty Area||103 (10th)||110 (8th)|
It’s still very early days and it’s hard to read too much into what we’ve seen so far, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism that Wolves can get a result on Saturday.
Wolves or Draw v Liverpool – 13/8
Wolves O1.5 Goals v Liverpool – 12/5
It’s safe to say after the highs of last season and all the optimism going into the new campaign, few would have expected Middlesbrough to go into the international break with one point from five.
A place in the top six was tipped by many after the turnaround in fortunes following Michael Carrick’s appointment at the club a year ago, but Boro are rock bottom without a win.
There have, however, been positives to take outside of the results for the Teesiders.
Middlesbrough have the third best xG in the division and the joint-second best xGA, tied with table-topping Preston, and while the 39 goals scored by Chuba Akpom and Cameron Archer last season are clearly being felt, the performances aren’t matching the results.
They’ve also had bad luck between the sticks at both ends of the pitch. Seny Dieng hasn’t got off to the best start at the Riverside, preventing the fewest goals in the division (-4.1), and at the other end, Boro have been running into goalkeepers in inspired form with opposition goalkeepers preventing the most goals in the division (+5.7, ahead of Leeds United (+2.2) and Cardiff City (+1.4)).
Huddersfield’s Lee Nicholls and QPR’s Asmir Begovic both produced a number of important saves to keep last season’s play-off semi-finalists winless.
In Carrick’s first managerial job we’ve seen a possession-heavy, attacking brand of football, and despite the change in personnel, that’s remained in place this term.
|Touches in Attacking Third||2nd|
|Passes into Attacking Third||3rd|
|Passes into Penalty Area||4th|
If the first few weeks of the season tell us anything, it’s that the losses of Akpom and Archer will be the primary factor in Boro not making the play-offs, but the picture isn’t quite as bleak as it seems, and those wins should be right around the corner.
Middlesbrough to beat Blackburn – 17/10
Last week we referred to Ben Chilwell’s more attacking role in Chelsea’s new setup likely leading to more opportunities to score goals and make assists. But for his inexplicable decision to square the ball when stood in front of Luton keeper Thomas Kaminski he’d have likely got off the mark for the season.
Another Blues player enjoying more creative freedom is Enzo Fernandez. It was hard to properly gauge anybody in the mess of last season, but the Argentinian is starting to look more like the £106m player Chelsea signed.
A glance at the table below shows just how more positive Fernandez has been, posting significantly better numbers in several areas.
|Per 90 stats||2022/23||2023/24|
|Progressive Passes Received||1.05||4.67|
|Penalty Area Passes||1.45||4.0|
|Shot Creating Actions||3.43||6.33|
Fernandez also compares favourably to the rest of the league. The 22-year-old ranks first amongst outfield players for long passes completed, passes into the final third and progressive passes. He’s also second for passes into the area and 13th for key passes.
Raheem Sterling now looks at home at Stamford Bridge, and Nicolas Jackson is sure to improve after what’s been a promising start in a Chelsea shirt, providing two excellent outlets for Fernandez.
It will likely take time for the World Cup winner to adjust to a new system and an entirely new midfield, but the arrival of Moises Caicedo – and the injury to Carney Chukwuemeka – has given Fernandez more licence to roam, and he seems to be relishing in it.
Fernandez has enjoyed an excellent start to the season, and while he doesn’t have any assists yet, that’s sure to change sooner rather than later.
Enzo Fernandez O0.5 Assists v Nottingham Forest – 10/3
Let’s be straight: Everton’s start to the season has been about as bad as it could've possibly been. They’ve played three, lost three, conceded six and scored none. To make matters worse, they’ve lost at home to Fulham and Wolves, conceding winners in the 73rd and 87th minute as added gut punch.
After the last few years at Goodison, it might be hard for the Gwladys Street faithful to find any reason for optimism, but there have been some signs that it’s not been that bad.
Prior to Fulham’s goal, the xG score on the opening weekend was 2.4-0.3, and prior to Wolves’ goal, the xG score was 1.3-0.6.
Everton were on top in both games, and but for wasteful finishing, the Toffees could well be on six points and the picture suddenly looks very different.
Contrary to what you might expect of a Sean Dyche team, Everton have offered a real threat going forward so far this term. Last season they averaged 121 touches in the final third per game, and that’s up to 154 this season; good enough to sit eighth in the table, above the likes of Liverpool, Newcastle and Aston Villa (who have, it should be said, had tougher fixtures).
Only Brighton, Manchester City and Newcastle have had more shots on target than Everton, and their goals to xG differential has them bottom of the table, suggesting the tide will turn before long.
Of course, there are mitigating factors to consider behind Everton's lack of goals and it can’t simply be assumed that the Toffees will start scoring just because they’re creating chances. Neal Maupay has consistently under-performed his xG, Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s fitness can’t be relied upon, and Arnaut Danjuma hardly has a bank of top-level goals to call upon.
It’s led to the signing of Beto from Udinese, who has reached double figures in Serie A in each of the last two seasons, with a decent return of 0.46 and 0.42 goals per 90, similar to the rate achieved last season by Cody Gakpo and Ollie Watkins.
He’s chalked up at Evs to score 10 or more this season, and if he can hit the ground running, Everton’s relegation fears may be allayed.
Everton can’t be talking about ifs and buts come May, however, and they can’t keep losing to teams they need to finish below them at the end of the season, and it feels like their trip to Sheffield United on Saturday is already a must-win.
Everton to beat Sheffield United – 7/5
Everton to score O2.5 goals v Sheffield United – 11/2
The arrival of £40m Harvey Barnes could’ve given Eddie Howe the permanent left-winger he was missing last season after a number of players were utilised in the role.
But the performances of Anthony Gordon so far this season – himself a £50m January signing – have rendered the ex-Evertonian virtually undroppable.
Matty Cash had no answer to Gordon on the opening weekend and picked up a booking for fouling the 22-year-old, while Trent Alexander-Arnold narrowly escaped a second yellow for pulling Gordon down on the break on Sunday.
Brighton’s defeat to West Ham on Saturday was a big surprise, and it perhaps exposed a flaw in Roberto De Zerbi’s system. There remains a Moises Caicedo-shaped hole in the Seagulls’ midfield, and West Ham looked dangerous on the break.
Against Wolves, Brighton had 53% of possession and won 4-1. Against West Ham, they had 78% of possession and lost 3-1.
Howe should feel comfortable letting the hosts have more of the ball on Sunday, relying on counter attacks, and James Milner - 38 years old in the new year - is unlikely to be relishing a contest with Gordon, who’s already been fouled 10 times this season (joint-most in the league with Jordan Ayew).
Milner, playing as a right-back at Brighton, has been on the pitch for 78, 56 and 71 minutes in his three starts this season which will need to be factored in if betting on the former Newcastle man, but don’t be surprised to see Howe look to use Gordon as a focal point on Saturday evening.
James Milner to be booked v Newcastle – 3/1
James Milner Over 2.5 tackles v Newcastle – 11/10
The hiding that has long been on the cards finally arrived at Craven Cottage on Saturday as Brentford put three past the hapless Cottagers.
It’s been well documented how fortunate Fulham were throughout much of last season and it appears that luck might have finally run out. Aleksandar Mitrovic has departed the club, leaving them with a 32-year-old Raul Jimenez, who hasn’t looked the same player since his head injury, leading the line.
Having scored 30 goals across two Premier League seasons, Jimenez now has just six in his last 43 games, and without Mitrovic last season, Fulham picked up just 1.14 points per game. Not quite relegation form, but when that luck starts to turn…
Fulham were dismal against Brentford, offering virtually nothing throughout the game. The red card after the hour didn’t help matters, but the hosts were never getting anything from that game.
A trip to the Emirates is probably the last thing Marco Silva needs, even if he can treat it as something of a free hit.
Though Nottingham Forest had their moments on the opening weekend, the Gunners controlled the game, and but for the red card at Selhurst Park, Arsenal would likely have won by more.
There was something of an unknown to Arsenal coming into the new season, moving away from the 4-2-3-1 that served them so well last term, to a more adventurous setup with Martin Odegaard supported by Kai Havertz.
But there’s been little adjustment period, and it’s hard to see the Gunners not improving significantly on their two goals so far this season on Saturday.
Arsenal -2 Handicap Result – 8/5
Arsenal Over 4.5 Goals v Fulham – 11/2
After an Achilles’ injury kept him out of much of 2021/22, we were treated to only glimpses of Eberechi Eze at the back end of the season.
Much was expected of the fit-again Eze in 2022/23, with the Englishman finishing the season on 10 goals, six of which came in the final 10 games of the campaign under Roy Hodgson.
The departure of Wilfried Zaha – and the arrival of Jefferson Lerma – has prompted something of a reshuffle. While Eze is versatile enough to play as a #10, on the wing, or in a deeper midfield role, the 25-year-old looks set to play in a more advanced position this season.
The signing of Lerma from Bournemouth looks to be a real coup, providing a sturdy base in midfield to allow Eze the freedom to take on a more creative role and it’s one in which he’s flourishing.
In the opening game against Sheffield United, Eze recorded 76 touches – more than his highest from last season (72), and considerably higher than his average per 90 of 51.7.
He also received 12 progressive passes (essentially a pass that moves the ball 10 yards closer to the opposition goal), a tally he bettered only once last season, at home to Nottingham Forest.
He had eight touches in the opposition box and had 42 touches in the attacking third, both better than last season’s best, as well as eight key passes and eight shots (both a league high on the opening weekend and better than any total from last season).
Admittedly, he cut a more peripheral figure against Arsenal with Palace seeing much less of the ball, even with the Gunners playing the last 25 minutes with 10 men, but there’ll be easier propositions than last season’s title challengers to come, and what was evidently clear against Sheffield United is that Eze is going to be pivotal to Crystal Palace’s ambitions this season.
Eberechi Eze Over 0.5 Assists v Brentford – 5/1
Eberechi Eze Over 2.5 Shots v Brentford – 1/1
Eberechi Eze Over 0.5 Shots on Target v Brentford – 4/6
Eberechi Eze To Score Anytime v Brentford – 15/4
Eberechi Eze To Score from Outside the Box – Bet Boost >> 25/1
It’s tough to get a proper reading on Chelsea and it likely will be for a few weeks. Aside from the fact that the starting XI is almost unrecognisable from two years ago, they’re onto another new manager in Mauricio Pochettino.
Liverpool started the game well at Stamford Bridge on the opening weekend, but Chelsea grew into the contest and were much the better side in the second half, perhaps unlucky not to win.
It was a similar story on Sunday, with Enzo Fernandez’s missed penalty preventing Chelsea going ahead and ultimately leading to a 3-1 defeat.
There will be inconsistency at Stamford Bridge for a while, but Ben Chilwell seems to be relishing his role in Pochettino’s system.
Playing a back three allows Chilwell to roam upfield playing more as a left-winger than a left-back, occupying a higher average position than supposed centre-forward Nicolas Jackson in each of Chelsea’s first two games.
But for a matter of inches, Chilwell would already have a goal to his name against Liverpool as well as an assist.
With no disrespect intended to Chelsea’s opponents on Friday night, Luton may offer little resistance in what could look like a training exercise at times.
These games often rely on wide men to stretch a stubborn, compact defence, and Chilwell may well add to his opening day assist.
Ben Chilwell to Score Anytime v Luton – 11/2
Ben Chilwell Over 0.5 Assists v Luton – 9/4
Defying the xG Gods to finish 10th in last season’s Premier League, Fulham looked to be up against it somewhat coming into the new campaign.
At one end of the pitch is Bernd Leno, who is tasked with replicating his performances that saw him prevent the second most goals in the league in 2022/23, and at the other end is Aleksandar Mitrovic who wants to leave the club.
On top of that, Joao Palhinha is out injured and it’s left a gaping hole in the middle of Fulham’s midfield, with Sasa Lukic temporarily tasked with filling it.
For the first hour on Saturday at Goodison Park, Everton dominated proceedings and must have wondered how they weren’t two or three up.
While the three points were big for Fulham, the fact they conceded 2.7xG to Everton, a figure the Toffees bettered just once in the entirety of last season, has to be a concern.
A short trip across West London is next for Fulham as they take on Brentford who looked potent in attack despite Ivan Toney’s absence, and they should feel confident of succeeding where Everton failed in breaching the Fulham defence.
There’s no question that Saturday was a big opportunity missed for Everton. Three points dropped at home to potential relegation rivals is no way to start a campaign, but Sean Dyche has to be impressed with his team’s performance.
When hiring Dyche partway through last season, we knew Everton would become more defensively robust, but questions have remained over their attacking potency.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s goal output has dropped from 13 and 16 goals to five and two, with Neal Maupay being picked to start against Fulham, suffering from the same profligacy that’s plagued him for years.
Over the last five seasons, Maupay has scored 52 goals from an xG of 67.6, and after so long you have to accept that his finishing simply isn’t up to the standard of his peers.
Nevertheless, Aston Villa were left reeling from their hammering at St James’ Park and suffered what may well be a season-ending injury to Tyrone Mings.
Unai Emery had Diego Carlos and Pau Torres waiting in the wings, and has enough numbers and tactical nous to switch from a flat back four to a more unorthodox three at the back, but it could prove to be their undoing, certainly early in the season, and Dyche will be keen to exploit any vulnerability.
Shifting from Jose Mourinho to Nuno Espirito Santo to Antonio Conte to Ryan Mason and then to Ange Postecoglou was always likely to bring a testing transition period, and losing Harry Kane makes matters much worse.
But if you can be sure of one thing this season with Tottenham, it’s that they’ll be fun to watch.
But the signs were promising for Tottenham in West London on Saturday. Despite conceding 2.2xG, Tottenham still looked a potent attacking force, seeing plenty of the ball in the final third.
In their 38 Premier League games last season, their top three games for touches in the final third were Bournemouth at home (203), Liverpool at home (205) and Bournemouth away (302). Against Brentford, they registered 345; more than double their ninth highest total from 2022/23.
They’ll also have been encouraged by their next opponents’ shaky display at Old Trafford. Manchester United looked hugely vulnerable in transition with Wolves threatening to score every time they got the ball.
There are questions over Richarlison’s suitability as Tottenham’s primary goal threat, but James Maddison certainly looks the part, with Yves Bissouma also impressing.
We don’t know exactly what we’ll get from Tottenham, but goals seem assured.
While he was the source of much mirth throughout his maiden campaign in England, there was lots to like about Darwin Nunez.
Cynics point to him missing chances – he missed the third most big chances in the league last season, though he finished behind Erling Haaland and Marcus Rashford on that front.
Most managers will tell you that missing big chances isn’t an issue; not getting chances in the first place is.
A slight concern is in Nunez losing his place towards the end of the season as Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota returned to fitness, but if Nunez gets minutes, he’ll get chances.
Last season, he ranked fourth* in the league for xG/90 at 0.64, higher than Mohamed Salah, Gabriel Jesus and even Harry Kane.
You may recall Luis Suarez’s first full season at Liverpool, where he scored 11 goals, before exploding the season after with 23, and 31 the year after that.
While Nunez isn’t at the level his compatriot was, he can be expected to find that net more than the 12 times he managed last season.
Marcus Rashford grabbed the headlines for Manchester United last season, with the likes of Casemiro and Lisandro Martinez making them a sturdier outfit, but it was Bruno Fernandes providing the Red Devils’ creative spark.
The Portuguese finished a criminally low ninth in the Premier League assists charts last season – level with Erling Haaland on eight, though he can thank his team-mates’ profligacy for that.
Five players registered more than 10 xA in the Premier League last season. Four of them were Pascal Gross (10.9), Trent Alexander-Arnold (11.5), Kieran Trippier (12.4) and Kevin De Bruyne (13.7).
Fernandes was miles above them all with 16.7 xA.
For context, across the rest of the big five European leagues, Antoine Griezmann topped the charts in La Liga with 13.9, the electric Kvarat Kvaraskhelia led the way in Serie A with 7.7, while Bayern’s Jonas Hoffman was the only player in the Bundesliga to reach double figures with 11.1, and Lionel Messi, as expected, was top in Ligue 1 with 13.4.
United’s problem was that Rashford was solely tasked with scoring the goals, as Jadon Sancho, Anthony Martial and Antony chipped in with an underwhelming 16 goals between them.
Rasmus Hojlund isn't ready to feature yet, so Fernandes may still be missing an outlet, but assists should certainly come the Portuguese's way sooner rather than later.
Newly promoted Fulham were widely fancied to go straight back down last season, continuing their yo-yoing between Championship and Premier League.
They proved their critics wrong by not only avoiding the drop, but finishing in the top half – above rivals Chelsea no less.
Though their successes flew in the face of the xG gods, and that was partly down to the inspired performances of Bernd Leno.
Liverpool’s Alisson shone last season, topping the goals prevented charts with 10.1 with Leno second on 9.0 – a huge leap from his previous campaigns.
In third were Kepa Arrizabalaga and David Raya on 5.0 each, highlighting just how good Leno was last season.
It will be a tough ask for the German to repeat his heroics over another campaign, and don’t be surprised to see him digging the ball out of the net once or twice against Everton on the opening day.
*minimum 10 starts