EPL

Spurs rumbled at Brighton, unwanted landmark for Oxlade-Chamberlain - the Premier League weekend's quirky facts

By Sports Desk February 01, 2021

Tottenham lost another battle on the same day as the Royal Rumble and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain reached a Premier League landmark he will not be boasting about on Sunday.

Leandro Trossard scored the only goal of the game as Brighton and Hove Albion beat Spurs to ease their relegation fears, inflicting what looks like a finishing move on Jose Mourinho's side in the title race.

Oxlade-Chamberlain came off the bench for the 100th time in a top-flight game late in Liverpool's 3-1 victory at West Ham, while leaders Manchester City broke a record on Saturday.

With the help of Opta data, we take a look at some of the quirkiest stats from the Premier League action over the weekend.

 

Trossard wrestles the initiative

Tottenham made the journey to the south coast reeling from a painful midweek defeat to Liverpool in which they lost captain Harry Kane to injury.

Trossard delivered the knockout blow at the Amex Stadium, leaving Mourinho's men 11 points behind leaders City in sixth place.

Spurs fans who follow WWE may have been fearing the worst, as they have lost nine times when playing on the same day as the Royal Rumble was staged - more than any English league club.

Edge and Bianca Belair came out on top in the extravaganza at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida after Spurs were seemingly eliminated from the title race.

Sub century for Ox

Midfielder Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Divock Origi 10 minutes from time in the Reds' victory at previously in-form West Ham.

The former Arsenal man became the 15th player to make 100 top-flight appearances off the bench.

Peter Crouch (158) did so on the most occasions, with Oxlade-Chamberlain's team-mate James Milner (154) second on the list and Jermain Defoe (149) completing the top three.

Happy new year for irrepressible City

City extended their winning streak to 12 matches at the expense of bottom side Sheffield United on Saturday, Gabriel Jesus scoring the only goal of the game.

Pep Guardiola's side will take some stopping in their bid to regain the title, as they lead neighbours Manchester United by three points with a game in hand.

That early strike from Jesus made it nine wins out of nine for City in January, more than any side has achieved in a calendar month since the formation of the Football League in 1888.

Shot-shy Clarets

Chelsea eased to their first win under Thomas Tuchel on Sunday, seeing off Burnley 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.

The Clarets arrived in London on a three-match winning run, including a shock 1-0 triumph at Anfield and a 3-2 thriller against Aston Villa.

Sean Dyche's men barely laid a glove on Chelsea, though, and went the longest any side has gone without an attempt at goal in the Premier League this season.

They looked set to become the first team not to have an attempt in a game since Bournemouth against Manchester City in March 2019 until James Tarkowski's header in stoppage time. Better late than never? Dyche might not see it that way.

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  • The bigger, better Boston Celtics deserve favouritism in 2020 Eastern Conference Finals rematch The bigger, better Boston Celtics deserve favouritism in 2020 Eastern Conference Finals rematch

    Two years after meeting in the 2020 Eastern Conference finals, the Boston Celtics are on a mission to flip the script on the Miami Heat.

    In that 2020 series, which the Heat won 4-2 in 'the bubble' to advance to the NBA Finals, the Celtics were the higher seed, and were playing in their third Eastern Conference Finals in the space of four seasons.

    But in hindsight, it was Miami who were built to win that series, despite it being their first time past the second round since LeBron James carried them to the finals in 2014.

    Jimmy Butler was invigorated in his first year in Miami, in his physical prime at 30 years old and was determined to show he was not at fault for pushing his way out of the Minnesota Timberwolves and being traded from the Philadelphia 76ers in the space of a year.

    He was also supported by Goran Dragic, just two years removed from his lone All-Star appearance, who in the series averaged 20.5 points and 4.7 assists per game in 34 minutes.

    As well as having two strong initiators, the Heat also had a complete mismatch in the form of Bam Adebayo against a Celtics team starting Daniel Theis at center, with no competent back-up. Adebayo averaged 21.8 points while shooting over 60 per cent from the field, with 11 rebounds and five assists per game, and was clearly the most dominant player in the series.

    When taking into account an outlier 37-point showing from Tyler Herro on 14-of-of-21 shooting that single-handedly won Game 4 112-109 for the Heat – making it a 3-1 series lead instead of 2-2 heading back to Boston – it begins to become clear that there was not much the Celtics could do, given their personnel.

    Fast-forward a couple of years, 22-year-old Jayson Tatum is now 24 and in the midst of a rapid ascension into the game's best players, 23-year-old Jaylen Brown is now 25 and has developed into a true number-two option, Marcus Smart is now 28 years old and the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and, more importantly, the supporting cast is built for the long-haul.

    Replacing Theis with Al Horford may be the most consequential addition or subtraction on either side, with the potential to nullify the series-altering presence of Adebayo on the inside. Horford will also have help in the form of Robert Williams III – who became one of the best defensive players in the league this season – while Theis remains as a 'break glass in case of emergency' option.

    Adding to the rise of the Celtics has been the emergence of Grant Williams as a reliable two-way player, capable of slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo while hitting over 40 per cent of his threes, as well as the trade to add Derrick White as a second defensively sound 'small' guard next to Smart.

    For a team with a real defensive identity – willing to 'switch' every screen and allow their small guards to take on bigger assignments – being able to replace Kemba Walker with a trustworthy, stout defender completely takes away an avenue of attack for a sharp offensive team like Miami.

    What it also means is that the Celtics will not have to waste any minutes on players who have no business in big playoff series – such as Brad Wanamaker and Semi Ojeleye, who combined for 21.8 minutes per game in the 2020 series.

    A run to the NBA Finals would be fulfilling the promises of Boston's advanced numbers, which after the All-Star break had the Celtics as not just a legitimate title contender, but as the favourite, and a historic team.

    During that stretch, the Celtics were the number one offense – with a gap to the Charlotte Hornets at number two – and the number three defense, with a net-rating of 12.7. The Memphis Grizzlies (7.6) were the only other team with a net-rating above 6.0.

    For the Heat, Dragic has been replaced by Kyle Lowry, who is now 36 years old and recovering from his second hamstring injury of the playoffs, and the veteran presences of Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder have been replaced by a combination of Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and the shell of Victor Oladipo.

    Erik Spoelstra boasts arguably the deepest bench in the entire NBA, but this is playoff basketball, which generally comes down to each side's best seven players, nullifying their advantage on the back-end of their roster.

    The identity of this Miami offense through the playoffs has largely relied on the brilliance of Jimmy Butler, who at 32 years old is putting together the best playoff run of his career, averaging 28.7 points per game on 52.7 per cent shooting, with 7.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.1 steals.

    Miami's second-best scorer this postseason has been Adebayo, way down at 14.6 points per game compared to his 19.1 for the regular season.

    Butler was perfectly matched up against the Philadelphia 76ers, who have no wing defenders capable of matching the Heat star physically – but the Celtics do not have the same problem.

    The Celtics have at least four players – Tatum, Brown, G. Williams and R. Williams – who match up well with Butler, and they showed against the Milwaukee Bucks that they were more than happy to play straight-up defense and force one player to try and beat them with isolations all day.

    If Miami cannot figure out a way to unleash a second scorer in a real way – be it Herro, Adebayo, or even Strus, who averaged 20.5 points in his two matchups against Boston this season – they may be playing straight into the Celtics hands. 

    The one advantage Miami will have is the rest-factor. It will be five days since the Heat's Game 6 win against the 76ers, while the Celtics will only have one true rest day after handling their business in Game 7 on Monday night.

    For the regular season, the Heat won all three of their games with at least three days rest, although the Celtics were the fourth-best team in the NBA coming off one day of rest (28-13, .683 winning percentage).

    If the Heat can take advantage of their fresh legs and win Game 1, anything could happen, but ultimately, just like the Celtics were almost helpless in 2020, the Heat just may not have the horses this time around.

  • Arsenal 'don't deserve Champions League' – Xhaka furious after Newcastle defeat Arsenal 'don't deserve Champions League' – Xhaka furious after Newcastle defeat

    Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka was furious after his side's 2-0 Premier League defeat against Newcastle United, saying Mikel Arteta's team "don't deserve" Champions League qualification after the damaging reverse.

    A Ben White own goal gave the Magpies the lead in a must-win clash for the Gunners, before Bruno Guimaraes sealed Newcastle's victory late on, leaving Arsenal's top-four hopes hanging by a thread.

    Arsenal are now two points behind Tottenham in the standings with one match remaining, where Spurs will need to lose to Norwich City to allow the Gunners a chance to sneak back into the top four, courtesy of their inferior goal difference.

    The Gunners were comprehensively outclassed in the crucial encounter, producing just 0.40 expected goals compared to Newcastle's 1.38, and only controlling 33 per cent of the first-half possession.

    Speaking to Sky Sports after the loss, Xhaka called it a "disaster performance", accusing his team-mates of not following Arteta's gameplan and asserting the team did not deserve European football after producing such a showing.

    "So difficult to find right words after the game," he said. "We came here to show a different game, but from the first minute until the 90th minute we didn't deserve to be on the pitch today.

    "I can't explain why we didn't do what the game-plan was. Not listening to the coach, [it] was a disaster performance.

    "[If you] play like this you don't deserve Champions League, don't even deserve Europa league. Very hard to take it at the moment, I don't know why we are not doing what the coach is asking of us."

    Xhaka went on to declare Arsenal had not shown the necessary fight at St James' Park and his told team-mates that if they didn't "have the balls", they should have stayed at home.

    "I don't know if someone is not ready for this game, stay at home." he added. "Doesn't matter the age. You can be 30, 35, you can be 10, you can be 18 – [if you're] not ready, stay on the bench, stay at home, don't come here. 

    "We need people to have the balls - sorry to say that - to come here to play, because we knew this game is maybe one of the most important games for us.

    "A performance like this… [we cannot] accept it, very very sad for us. Sorry for the people that came over here to support us. I feel sorry for Arsenal supporters, this is the only thing I can say – to say sorry to them."

    Arsenal play Everton at the Emirates Stadium in their final fixture of the Premier League season on Sunday.

  • Chiellini says time is right for Juventus departure, reveals World Cup blow influenced decision Chiellini says time is right for Juventus departure, reveals World Cup blow influenced decision

    Giorgio Chiellini asserted it was the right time to end his Juventus career after making his final home appearance for the club, revealing Italy's failure to reach the Qatar World Cup influenced his decision.

    Chiellini played the first 17 minutes of a Serie A clash with Lazio on Monday, in which Juve threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2.

    First-half goals from Dusan Vlahovic and Alvaro Morata looked set to ensure the Bianconeri marked the Allianz Stadium swansong of Chiellini – and Paulo Dybala – with a win, only for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to equalise with the final kick of the game after Alex Sandro put through his own net.

    The 37-year-old defender, who has won 20 trophies during his incredible career with the Turin giants, has made 392 top-flight appearances for the club, a tally bettered only by Gianluigi Buffon (489) and Alessandro Del Piero (467).

    With Juventus guaranteed to finish fourth in Serie A after enduring a frustrating season, which also saw them lose the Coppa Italia final to Inter, Chiellini said the time had come for the Bianconeri's young players to take centre stage.

    "The decision came in months, weeks, not days," he told Sky Sports Italia. "I have always said that I would like to leave at a high level, and I succeeded. 

    "It was a difficult year, for Juventus and for me, but in the matches I managed, I played at my level. 

    "All this led me to leave now, to leave room for young people. Juve need to restart, and young people have to take responsibility and mature. I helped to clip some people's wings, now it's right for them to fly alone. 

    "I will cheer for them from near or far, and I made this decision with joy and serenity."

    The legendary Chiellini has made 25 appearances for Juventus in all competitions this season, 17 of them starts.

    Chiellini will end his Italy career after facing Argentina at Wembley Stadium on June 1, having won 116 caps to date during a glittering career with the Azzurri.

    Having helped Italy to Euro 2020 glory last year, he revealed March's shock World Cup qualification play-off defeat to North Macedonia had influenced his desire to step away from both Serie A and international football.

    "Of course, I wanted to get to the World Cup. It was the obsession I had after the European Championship," he added. "It is inevitable that I cannot play every match, but I wanted to be part of the national group. 

    "It didn't go the way we wanted, which accelerated my choice. [But] I leave a national team and a Juve in good hands."

    Chiellini is not planning on retiring, however, and has been linked with a potential move to Major League Soccer.

    Although he said he had not yet made a final decision regarding his future, Chiellini hinted that a move abroad would interest him. 

    "I don't know. It has attracted me, but for 10 years, I have to decide at home," he added. 

    "An experience abroad enriches you, I think I need to see a little outside my life and Juve. I have to understand together with the family, I have to take a look outside, also for my future."

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