I’m not sure many would have expected Aston Villa to beat reigning Premier League champions Liverpool on Sunday. Or score seven goals. Or see their new signing Ollie Watkins score a ‘perfect’ first-half hat-trick. But this is a strange time we’re living in and we’ve just got to go with it.
£33m striker Ollie Watkins had a dream performance, becoming the tenth player to score a Premier League hat-trick against Liverpool and the first to do so since Dimitar Berbatov for Manchester United in September 2010.
Liverpool’s implosion at Villa Park saw them gift Watkins the highest quality collection of goalscoring chances against them that Opta have on record (dating back to 2013/14). Overall, the former Brentford forward attempted five shots in the match with a cumulative expected goals (xG) tally of 1.63, overtaking – you guessed it (no you didn’t) – Nathan Aké’s total of 1.49 for Bournemouth in December 2016.
Watkins’ xG tally of 1.63 was just shy of the overall open play xG total from Liverpool’s first three Premier League opponents in 2020/21, with Arsenal, Leeds United and Chelsea racking up goalscoring chances worth 1.72 overall.
Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United have been a great addition to the Premier League so far this season, with some brilliant performances in their four games to date.
On Saturday they drew 1-1 with Manchester City and managed to out-pass Pep Guardiola’s side, holding 52.1% of possession in the match. In fact, they have become just the second side to hold more possession in a Premier League game against both Manchester City and Liverpool (51.2% on matchday one) within a single season since 2016/17, joining Chelsea from 2019/20.
One noticeable aspect of Leeds’ play is their high-risk/high-reward strategy, where they are willing to play passes in deeper positions while enticing the opposition to press them. This has seen them give away a league-high 30 high turnovers so far in 2020/21, defined as the number of times Leeds have lost possession within 40m from their own goal. Seven of these high turnovers have led shots – but they have yet to be punished with an opposition goal in this manner. Something to keep an eye on, going forward.
Højbjerg Pulling Strings For Spurs
Spurs new boy Pierre-Emile Højbjerg put in a fine shift in central midfield against Manchester United, controlling the midfield in their sensational 6-1 victory.
The Dane completed 98 passes during the match, which is a record by an away player at Old Trafford against Manchester United in a Premier League match since Opta have this data (2006/07). One of these passes was a sensational through-ball to assist Spurs’ fifth goal by Serge Aurier.
Højbjerg has completed more than 90 passes in two of his four Premier League appearances for Spurs so far (95 versus Newcastle last weekend) – a tally he never managed to reach in 109 league appearances for former club Southampton.
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