EPL

Saints finally get a Valentine's card, Kane thinking outside of the box – the Premier League weekend's quirky facts

By Sports Desk February 15, 2021

Premier League action coincided with Valentine's Day this weekend and Southampton ended a long drought of a particular kind on the most romantic day of the year.

There was also an impressive scoring feat for an Arsenal striker to enjoy on February 14, as the Gunners sent the White Roses of Leeds United back to Yorkshire with their tails between their legs.

A Valentine's Day chocolate variety set was the only box Harry Kane got near this weekend after a tricky time of it against Pep Guardiola's Manchester City, as Ilkay Gundogan continued his remarkable run.

All the above feature in our quirky facts from the weekend's top-flight action!

SAINTS' VALENTINE'S CARD AND AUBA'S RETURN TO FORM

It's usually nice to receive a card or two on Valentine's Day – the only exceptions are if they're tokens of sympathy from your mother, or handed out to you by a referee.

Until this year, Southampton were the only Premier League side to play a match on Valentine's Day and not receive a card, but that changed when Graham Scott booked Oriol Romeu in Saints' 2-1 defeat to Wolves. Coincidentally, that was the Spaniard's 51st Premier League yellow card since the start of 2015-16, 11 more than any player.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a rather more enjoyable Valentine's Day, however, as the Arsenal man scored his first Premier League hat-trick in their 4-2 defeat of Leeds United.

He joined Michael Owen and Matt Le Kissier, sorry, Le Tissier as the only players to net trebles in the Premier league on Valentine's Day.

GUNDOGAN GUNNING FOR GOALS

To say anyone predicted Ilkay Gundogan establishing himself as one of the Premier League's deadliest marksman would be a heinous lie… Yet, here we are – he is.

In fact, the German's form isn't bettered by anyone else across Europe's top five leagues in 2021, as his brace against Tottenham took him to nine goals since the turn of the year.

Andre Silva of Eintracht Frankfurt is the only player to match that haul across the same period, but his conversion rate is nothing compared to Gundogan's.

The City star, who has been playing a more advanced role lately, has converted 47.4 per cent of his shots since January 1 – among players to have scored at least five times this year, that is the fifth highest. It is a better record than those of Robert Lewandowski, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.

Given the rate he's going at, Gundogan may now have an eye on the all-time record for German players in a single Premier League season – Jurgen Klinsmann (20) and Uwe Rosler (15, both in 1994-95) are the only ones to score more than 11.

KANE FORCED TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

It was another miserable outing for Tottenham at the weekend as their 3-0 loss at City consigned them to a fourth defeat in five Premier League games, as many as they had suffered in their previous 28.

Harry Kane endured a particularly frustrating day, as he was starved of service and found himself roaming as a result, hardly conducive to getting opportunities in the danger area.

In fact, he failed to touch the ball once inside the penalty area, which is practically unheard of for Kane.

It was only the fourth occasion of Kane failing to touch the ball in the box in a league game he started.

SAKA'S TEENAGE KICKS

Bukayo Saka has been a standout performer for Arsenal for quite a while, not just this season. However, in 2020-21 he has arguably taken his influence up a level.

He was a livewire against Leeds at the weekend, winning Arsenal's first-half penalty shortly after he was perhaps cruelly denied another by the VAR.

His performance further highlighted how much influence he has despite not turning 20 for more than six months – he is the youngest player in the Premier League this term to score five goals, be involved in at least seven goals, create 25 chances and complete 30 dribbles.

There has been plenty of talk recently about whether he will get himself into the England squad for the delayed Euro 2020 later this year – at the moment, you'd have to say he'd be unlucky to miss out.

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    Xavi hailed Barcelona for saving a season that "could have been worse" but wants improvements next term from the Blaugrana, who Ousmane Dembele could play his last game for on Sunday.

    Blaugrana great Xavi was appointed in November as the successor to Ronald Koeman, with Barca languishing in ninth in LaLiga after an underwhelming start to their 2021-22 campaign.

    However, Xavi has reinvigorated Barca as the Catalan giants have climbed up to second in the league, albeit 13 points behind champions Real Madrid with one game left to play.

    Barca conclude their campaign at home to Villarreal, and with second place already secured Xavi praised the recovery his side has made, but urged them to improve to compete with Madrid next season.

    "We have saved a situation that could have been worse," he told reporters at a pre-match news conference on Saturday. "We have gone from less to more. We have competed but it has not given us any reward. We have to win titles. 

    "I don't give myself a grade because whatever is said will be criticised. We have improved a lot. I am the first to demand more from myself. From now on, we will look to improve further.

    "We have to improve in every way – psychologically, physically, which we have already improved, and reinforce the squad with two players per position. And also tactically, so everyone understands our ideas."

    The game against Villarreal could prove to be Dembele's last at Camp Nou as contract negotiations remain ongoing.

    Bayern Munich and Chelsea are reported to be keen on the World Cup-winning winger, whose 11 LaLiga assists in 2022 is more than any other player has registered across Europe's top five leagues.

    Blaugrana president Joan Laporta has reiterated his desire to keep the France international at Barca, and Xavi hailed Dembele for his efforts in the second half of the season.

    "It could be the last. You have to be optimistic. He has played excellent games and when he has not been involved we have noticed," he said of the former Borussia Dortmund player.

    Barca have won their last five games against Villarreal in LaLiga, and could register six wins in a row against them for the first time in the competition.

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    "The result will be important. I would like to see a team with good feelings, bravery and finish with the best feelings," he continued.

    "Villarreal is the best team we have faced. They have a lot at stake, and are a difficult opponent. You have to have a personality that the fans come to enjoy. There will be chances and it will be a good show."

    Barca have confirmed Ronald Araujo will return to the squad after recovering from a head injury that caused him to spend a night in hospital following the game against Celta Vigo on May 10.

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    "In the end it takes time and also it changes perspective if something like that happens and how my family reacts.

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