Jadon Sancho's arrival at Manchester United was initially heralded as something of a game changer for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, their right-wing problems set to be a thing of the past with the England international seemingly guaranteeing goals and creativity. 

But, as it did with most other stories in football, Cristiano Ronaldo's signing took the spotlight away and it seems everyone has been focused on the Portugal talisman. 

That might actually be a helpful thing for Sancho, given his start to life at United has been about as explosive as a candle. He is there, in the background, but unless you look at him it is very easy to forget his existence. 

Sancho thus far appears to have largely escaped full-scale criticism, with Ronaldo's goalscoring return and then United's embarrassing loss to Young Boys somewhat eclipsing the winger's muted introduction. 

That is not to say his ineffectiveness has gone unnoticed, certainly not by supporters. But should they be concerned even this early in his United career? 

'Every player has slow periods'

Digging into Sancho's form after just four Premier League appearances probably seems a little premature. Maybe it is, but his slow start is certainly a talking point from United's perspective. 

There could be any number of reasons for Sancho taking a little longer to get up to speed than hoped, such as a shortened pre-season after Euro 2020, adapting to a new system and team-mates, or even a loss of confidence following his spot-kick woes in the European Championship final. 

But it is worth pointing out Sancho had a similarly tricky start to 2020-21, something his Borussia Dortmund coach at the time partly put down to United's interest. 

"Every player has slow periods. There was a lot of talk about Jadon during the summer – something like that can be a factor," Lucien Favre said in October last year. "No player is consistently in top form for an entire year, that's impossible. You have to accept that." 

Sancho's patchy form continued all the way up to Germany's mid-season break – at that point, he had not scored in 11 Bundesliga games and only laid on three assists. It was a far cry from his breakout season the previous campaign when he netted 17 and set up another 16 – that was the standard he set. 

Though that in itself should have been seen as unmatchable given how much he outperformed his expected goals (xG) and expected assists (xA). In total, he was involved in 14.9 more goals than the average player would have ordinarily expected given the quality of the chances, which was the most across the top five European leagues (Ciro Immobile was second with 13.5). 

It was surely unsustainable form and that was what his struggles in the first half of 2020-21 lent further credence to. But how does his form back then compare to his first steps in the Premier League? 

Lacking cohesion in new surroundings

It must be highlighted again that Sancho's first four Premier League matches represent a small sample size, so you obviously have to be a little cautious when it comes to drawing conclusions – after all, he could potentially score a hat-trick against West Ham and his record of three goals from five games would look pretty handy. 

Nevertheless, Sancho's early-season numbers certainly reflect the idea he is not offering a great deal to United. In fact, in terms of productivity, he's significantly down even on that difficult first few months of 2020-21. 

For starters, he has managed just two shots in 184 minutes on the pitch, which is obviously poor for someone brought in to be an attacking threat, particularly given he averaged 2.4 every 90 minutes pre-Christmas last season. Though there is a positive spin – some players may take hopeful snapshots in an attempt to dig themselves out of a rut, but Sancho at least is not panicking in that sense. 

His stunted productivity does extend to creativity, however. Creating one chance from open play every 90 minutes, he's down on both the pre- (1.6) and post-Christmas (2.5) periods from 2020-21, and the combined quality of the openings he has crafted have not been especially threatening with an average xA of 0.11 per 90 minutes. 

Even when deemed to be struggling last season, Sancho's xA value per key pass was almost three times as high (0.32). Of course, Sancho was in surroundings that were familiar to him and linking with players whose habits and characteristics he was more comfortable with, and there's a lot to be said for the value of cohesion, especially when things aren't going your way. 

That is presumably something Sancho will have to work on even harder at United, given he has limited experience of playing with his new team-mates. 

Lacking confidence, playing it safe

Building a natural familiarity can only be even more of a challenge when you appear devoid of confidence. We can only speculate as to why that may be the case, but it is a reasonable assumption to make that he is lacking in self-belief. 

His ordeal at Euro 2020 – when he played just 96 minutes before being specifically sent on in the last seconds of extra time in the final and missed his spot-kick – and the subsequent racist abuse he suffered on social media must have had an impact on his mental state. It would be shocking if it had not, though who is to say if that is the sole cause? 

What we can say is that Sancho's apparent dip in confidence seems to have manifested in a greater reluctance to take players on. He almost looks sheepish when faced up by defenders – it should be the other way round – and as such he is attempting significantly fewer dribbles. 

He tried to beat his man 5.7 times per 90 minutes in the first part of 2020-21, and that rose to 6.9 after the mid-season break – he is attempting 3.9 dribbles and completing 1.5 each game in the Premier League for United. 

He is touching the ball far less often (64.1 touches per 90 minutes compared to 84.8 in the first half of last season), though 64 touches hardly suggests he is being ignored by team-mates. 

But there is always a chance that United players may end up looking to others if Sancho is not deemed enough of a threat – after all, his average of 4.9 shot-ending sequence involvements per game is 1.6 fewer than he managed across all of last season. 

This in itself is interesting because it suggests that, although Sancho was not as much of a creator or finisher in the first part of 2020-21, his influence in the build-up remained constant over the two periods of the campaign. 

Linked to that is the frequency with which he played passes (including crosses) into the box, averaging 9.4 each game pre-Christmas and 9.5 after the mid-season break. But during these early weeks with United, he is producing just 3.4 such passes every 90 minutes. 

Obviously, Sancho's reasoning for this could quite possibly be that he has not seen team-mates in enough space, given most teams United face will have fairly packed defences. But fans would argue he is the sort of player who should be unlocking deep backlines either through his creativity or ability on the ball, and so far he has largely been unable to. 

Nevertheless, it is still far too early for anyone to start suggesting Sancho is enduring something of a crisis. He should be afforded patience and time to build meaningful on-pitch relationships with others in the United squad. 

But when it comes to attaining some confidence, Sancho might just need to take the odd leap of faith – he is playing it safe and that is not what United bought him for. 

West Ham United manager David Moyes is not getting carried away despite his side becoming the first side in 14 group stage matches to win away to Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa League.

The Hammers won 2-0 over the Croatian champions on Thursday after goals from Michail Antonio and Declan Rice, marking the club's return to Europe for the first time since 2016.

The victory comes on the back of an unbeaten start to the Premier League season for Moyes' side, who are eighth with eight points from four games.

"Coming away from home in Europe to Zagreb, which we probably see as being one of the hardest away trips, you have to say that it's a great job for the first time in a while that we've been [on this stage] and the players have done really well," Moyes said.

"Let's not get carried away, we've played one game in the group and there will be some really big sides that come into this competition once we get after Christmas time.

"That's why I keep using the term in my interviews: 'Let's see if we can have European football after Christmas'. That's what we want to do.

"We need to manage the group. Tonight we tried to manage a few of the players, and give a few opportunities as well to get players in the side and get them match fit to play.

"I thought all the players did a really good job tonight."

Moyes had special praise for Antonio, who has started the season in strong form, netting four league goals along with his Europa strike.

"Michail showed his qualities to get on the end of the chance for his goal and I was really pleased with him tonight," he said.

"You want varied goals, and he picks up on a bad back pass and it's his speed which can get him there. It was a really good goal and his play generally tonight was good.

"I like how he played and lots of the things he done, we just missed making more opportunities and we should have."

The Hammers take on Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday, although Antonio will miss due to suspension.

Michail Antonio and Declan Rice struck in each half to secure a 2-0 win for West Ham against Dinamo Zagreb in Thursday's Europa League opener.

Antonio opened the scoring as he capitalised on Kevin Theophile-Catherine's poor pass to finish into an empty net, before Rice doubled the lead five minutes after the break.

Luka Ivanusec almost beat Lukasz Fabianksi, who did not make a save all game, but that was Dinamo's only opportunity as West Ham secured their first win in European competition since 1999 to top Group H.

In contrast, Dinamo will be disappointed with their efforts at the Maksimir Stadium as their 13-match undefeated run in the group stage of the competition ended abruptly.

The visitors boasted almost 70 per cent possession inside the opening 15 minutes but, barring a barrage of corners, Aaron Cresswell's inaccurate long-range effort was their only half-chance.

However, Antonio made West Ham's dominance pay as he profited from Theophile-Catherine's concentration lapse to round Dominik Livakovic and score the Hammers' first goal in Europe since 1999.

Ryan Fredericks was then denied by the Dinamo goalkeeper's feet before Nikola Vlasic fired narrowly wide on the stroke of half-time.

Dinamo looked to respond immediately in the second half, with Bruno Petkovic blasting narrowly wide but it was Rice who added a second, driving forward before powering a left-footed strike through the legs of Livakovic.

Ivanusec tried to pull one back, dancing around Kurt Zouma prior to curling towards the bottom-right corner, only to see his effort trickle wide as Fabianski passed the hour-mark without making a save.

With David Moyes' men dominant, Pablo Fornals looked for a third with a low attempt but found Livakovic's hands as the visitors cruised to a memorable return to European football.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appreciates the expectations on his Manchester United side are high as they return to Premier League action against West Ham.

United are unbeaten in 28 away top-flight games – the longest run in English league history – conceding just 19 goals in the process.

They have also won their last two meetings with Sunday's opponents as they go in search of a third consecutive win against West Ham for the first time since 2014.

However, following a surprise 2-1 Champions League loss to Young Boys on Tuesday, Solskjaer acknowledged his side need to respond on Sunday.

"They’re focused of course, a little bit disappointed but not too downbeat. We know it's a setback and we have to do better, and we've got five games to get the 10 to 12 points we need," Solskjaer told reporters.

"[It's] not the start we wanted but we're a good team that can bounce back again and the group is very good."

Asked whether the media's reaction post-match surprised him, Solskjaer responded: "No, it doesn't surprise me. I've got my job and we do our job, you tend to in the media get judged by behaviours and outcomes rather than intentions.

"It's black and white. But we go into the game with good intentions, we make changes with good intentions, go into a tackle and make a pass with good intentions.

"The outcome always decides which headline we'll see and very, very rarely is the game fantastic or really, really bad, it just hovers about good or not good enough.

"We know the expectations are high and we expect more of ourselves as well, the performance wasn't up to our standard."

Questions piled on regarding Solskjaer's capabilities following the surrender of a one-goal lead against Young Boys, with the removal of Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo being key issues for some.

But Solskjaer evaded questions over his management style or philosophy, instead insisting the desire of the United team could prove the difference between winning and losing this term.

"I don't sit here and claim and talk... football is a simple game and it's about making good decisions and being in a team," he continued.

"Sometimes we look too much into all the intricacies – it's passion, it's desire, who wants to win the ball? Which one of the strikers has the desire to get on the end of crosses?

"You can talk about all sorts, it looks nice on paper. But when you go out on that pitch, it's who wants to win, that’s one of the big things. You want winners and I think I'm getting there with my team, team players."

The United head coach is also hoping to have Edinson Cavani back from injury soon, with the Uruguay striker's only involvement for the Red Devils this season coming in a 37-minute cameo against Wolves at the end of August.

Since then, he has struggled with fitness issues, but Solskjaer is confident the former Paris Saint-Germain star can be involved again from next week.

"Edinson [Cavani] hopefully will start training with us after the weekend, maybe Monday, so maybe involved on Wednesday," he added.

"He had a fantastic season last season, the impact he made when he got his fitness… He struggled with niggly injuries early on.

"We feel that to get the best out of him this season we need to get him 100 per cent fit and not rush him. We’ve got a strong squad that will cope with having to let players heal and not risk any further injuries.

"I see Edinson having a massive impact, he's that type of personality and player. He can't wait to play and he's working really hard to get back on the pitch."

Bernd Leno's future at Emirates Stadium is up in the air.

Aaron Ramsdale's arrival, on a deal that could reach a reported £30million, put Leno's first-choice position in jeopardy.

The 29-year-old German joined Arsenal in 2018 and has been number one since.

TOP STORY - ARSENAL CONSIDERS LENO SALE

Arsenal are contemplating selling German goalkeeper Leno next year following Ramsdale's arrival, claims the Daily Mail.

Ramsdale was selected ahead of Leno in Arsenal's 1-0 win over Norwich City on Saturday after the German had an indifferent start to the season

The report claims there is little chance Arsenal will sell Leno in January but that the Gunners signed Ramsdale believing he may usurp the German by the end of the 2021-22 season.

 

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- As Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid circle, Paul Pogba is leaning towards extending his stay with Manchester United claims The Athletic. The report cites Cristiano Ronaldo's impact at United on Pogba's thinking.

- West Ham United have placed a £100 million price tag on in-demand Declan Rice with  Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City all jostling for his signature according to Football.London.

- French midfielder Thomas Lemar is expendable following Antoine Griezmann's arrival and could be sold by Spanish champions Atletico Madrid claims Todo Fichajes. Atletico wants to raise transfer funds to bolster their squad.

- Football Insider claims that Bayern Munich are already working on signing Chelsea's German striker Timo Werner next year, with a January move not ruled out.

- Chelsea will open talks with England international midfielder Mason Mount on a new long-term deal according to 90min.

- Arsenal target Houssem Aouar will not leave Olympique Lyon mid-season reports Todo Fichajes.

Borussia Dortmund teenager Jude Bellingham is attracting plenty of interest.

The 18-year-old England international's price is valued at around £80 million (€94m).

Bellingham made 46 appearances for Dortmund last season and already has eight England caps.

 

TOP STORY – CITY PLACE BELLINGHAM ON WISH LIST

Manchester City have turned their attention to Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham, claims the Daily Star.

City have placed the 18-year-old England international on their wish list, as they look for a long-term replacement for veteran Fernandinho.

Pep Guardiola's side will join the queue alongside Liverpool, Chelsea and Bayern Munich.

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- Dortmund's Erling Haaland will not rush into a decision on his club future when a release clause of approximately £70m (€81m) takes effect in 2022 amid interest from Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City,  claims 90min.

- Man City will rival Manchester United and look to complete a deal for West Ham midfielder Declan Rice in 2022, reports The Sun. Rice is valued at £100m by the Hammers.

- The Daily Mail claims Alexandre Lacazette's future at Arsenal is in some doubt after the club reportedly tried to replace him during the recent transfer window.

- Free agent Dani Alves has been heavily linked with a move to Argentine giants Boca Juniors,  according to Marca.

- Barcelona have already tabled a contract extension offer to 18-year-old talent Ansu Fati,  reports Mundo Deportivo.

Real Madrid are desperate to bolster their attack.

Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland are both on the list.

But, if their efforts to sign Haaland are unsuccessful, Robert Lewandowski could reportedly be targeted.

 

TOP STORY – LEWANDOWSKI TO MADRID?

Real Madrid will turn to Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski if they are unable to sign Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, according to Diario AS.

Madrid are reportedly determined to sign in-demand star Haaland, who has also been linked with Manchester City, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Liverpool, Barcelona and Bayern.

But Lewandowski has emerged as an alternative for Madrid should they miss out on Haaland.

Madrid are also eyeing PSG star Kylian Mbappe on a free transfer.

 

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- Calciomercato reports Juventus are considering a move for Barca forward Ousmane Dembele. The France international has been linked with United and Liverpool, while he is yet to agree terms over a new deal at Camp Nou.

City are interested in Milan full-back Theo Hernandez, claims the Manchester Evening News. The Frenchman has flourished at San Siro, also attracting the attention of PSG.

- The Manchester Evening News says United have earmarked West Ham star Declan Rice as their principal midfield target at the end of the season.

Real Madrid have not given up on their hopes of adding Kylian Mbappe. 

He will be a top priority for Carlo Ancelotti following the 2021-22 season.

But could Los Blancos add two stars for the price of one? 

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID EYE MBAPPE-HAALAND PAIRING

Real Madrid will be the favourites to land Kylian Mbappe following the season if he does not reach a new deal with Paris Saint-Germain, but they will not be content adding only him. 

According to Marca, Erling Haaland is also a prime target at the Santiago Bernabeu and Madrid could pursue both players. 

Mbappe would be available on a free and Haaland could be had from Borussia Dortmund via his €75million release clause. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Declan Rice expects to leave West Ham after the season, according to 90min, which reports he has asked the club to include a release clause in any new contract offer the Hammers might make. 

- Juventus declined the opportunity to sign Edinson Cavani from Manchester United after Cristiano Ronaldo's move in the other direction, the Mirror reports. 

- Former Tottenham right-back Serge Aurier prefers to remain in the Premier League and could end up at Arsenal, according to Sky Sports. The Ivory Coast international and Spurs terminated his contract by mutual consent this week. 

- Nicolas Nkoulou could be an option for Lazio if they cannot sign David Luiz, reports Calciomercato. 

Antoine Griezmann and Saul Niguez were the big names to move late on deadline day, with Atletico Madrid having a busy night.

Griezmann's move to his former club completed a day of outgoings for Barcelona, who sold Emerson Royal and Ilaix Moriba, as well as loaning out Ray Minaj.

Ronald Koeman's Barca did get one player in, however, who will seemingly replace Griezmann in attack.

Barca's LaLiga rivals Real Madrid did not manage to get a mega deal for Kylian Mbappe over the line, despite a reported bid of €200m having been lodged on Tuesday, though Los Blancos did sign Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga.

Cristiano Ronaldo's move back to Manchester United was confirmed early on, but there was plenty of late action in England, too.

 

Another returning king as Chelsea call on Saul

Romelu Lukaku back to Chelsea. Ronaldo back to United. Now, Griezmann has made a return to one of his former clubs, with the 30-year-old re-joining LaLiga champions Atleti on a season-long loan.

There is an option to make the deal permanent for €40million – just the €80million less than Barca paid for the France forward in 2019.

Replacing Griezmann at Barca is Luuk de Jong, with Koeman turning to his compatriot from Sevilla. Messi to De Jong... not quite the end to the window Barca fans would have had in mind.

Saul, meanwhile, is leaving LaLiga. He has joined Chelsea on a loan deal from Atleti, with an option to buy for a reported £30m.

 

No Madrid move for Mbappe... yet

A third Madrid bid for Mbappe was reportedly lodged, and ignored, on Tuesday, as Florentino Perez's obsessive hunt of the Paris Saint-Germain star proved fruitless.

However, Mbappe is out of contract next year, so he may well be a Galactico soon enough.

One player who will be playing in the famous all-white strip this season is teenage midfielder Camavinga, who has joined from Rennes.

As well as keeping Mbappe, PSG added to their squad, completing a stellar transfer window by signing Sporting CP left-back Nuno Mendes to fill what has proved a problem position. Pablo Sarabia went the other way.

In Italy, Milan marked a quiet end to the window overall by confirming the signings of Yacine Adli and Messias Junior.

Inter already had their business done, while Juventus confirmed Moise Kean's return on Tuesday morning. The Bianconeri also signed Mohamed Ihattaren, who was then loaned to Sampdoria.

Ronaldo headlines Premier League moves

The early confirmation of Ronaldo's move back to United being complete was the biggest story of the day in England's top flight. It also paved the way for the Red Devils to sell Daniel James, who moved to Leeds United.

Arsenal blocked Everton's attempts to sign Ainsley Maitland-Niles, though Hector Bellerin did leave the Gunners to head to Real Betis on loan. Mikel Arteta's Gunners completed their record-breaking transfer window (in terms of overall spend) with the acquisition of Japan defender Takehiro Tomiyasu from Bologna. Earlier in the day, Arsenal loaned out Reiss Nelson and Alex Runarsson.

Their north London rivals Tottenham completed the signing of Emerson from Barca, with Serge Aurier's time at Spurs subsequently being brought to an end by the mutual termination of his contract.

Everton's hunt for a right-back was to no avail. The Toffees did bring in Salomon Rondon on a free transfer, handing the forward a two-year deal with an option for a third. James Rodriguez was involved in a mooted part-exchange deal with Porto for Luis Diaz, but the Colombian star is staying put.

Manchester City rounded off their dealings by sending out seven players on loan. Among them was Patrick Roberts, who was one of three players to join Ligue 1 club Troyes.

Wolves were unable to complete deals for Kieffer Moore or Boubacar Kamara. A late offer from Spurs for Adama Traore was reportedly rejected.

Czech Republic midfielder Alex Kral joined West Ham on loan from Spartak Moscow. He was the Hammers' second signing of the day, with Croatia playmaker Nikola Vlasic having arrived early on.

There were two outgoings at Celtic. Scotland international Ryan Christie signed for Bournemouth, while Crystal Palace bought striker Odsonne Edouard for a reported £15m. The Hoops replaced him with Greece forward Giorgos Giakoumakis.

West Ham have completed the signing of Nikola Vlasic from CSKA Moscow for a reported fee of £25million (€29m).

The 23-year-old has signed a five-year contract with David Moyes' side, the deal having been completed before Tuesday's deadline.

Vlasic scored 33 goals in 108 appearances for CSKA after joining from Hajduk Split, including the winner in a Champions League group game against Real Madrid in October 2018.

The Croatia international, who made four appearances at the Euro 2020 finals, was named Russian Premier League Footballer of the Year in 2020.

"West Ham sent an offer to the club. I said that my wish is to go, because, like I said, I wanted the new challenge," Vlasic told CSKA's website.

"The management understand my position and the clubs negotiated and the transfer happened. I'm grateful for everything that they have done for me in the last three years.

"These three years were beautiful. I've found many friends here: guys, coaches, all the people in the club were like family to me. But I wanted the new step, a chance to prove myself in more competitive league."

The Hammers' deal for Vlasic came amid uncertainty about the future of Jesse Lingard, who was on loan at London Stadium from Manchester United for the second half of last season.

Moyes is said to retain an interest in the attacking midfielder, but Red Devils manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is happy to keep the player despite the signings of Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Early Premier League leaders West Ham have signed defender Kurt Zouma from London rivals Chelsea on a four-year deal.

The Hammers revealed they have paid an undisclosed fee, reported to be around £25million, to land the France centre-back.

Zouma, capped eight times by his country, made 151 appearances for the Blues following his move from Saint-Etienne in 2014.

The 26-year-old won two Premier League titles, the Champions League and the EFL Cup during his time at Stamford Bridge.

Zouma has spent loan spells with Everton and Stoke City and he is on the move again in a permanent switch to join David Moyes' high-flying side.

"I'm very happy and very proud," Zouma told the Hammers' official website.

"My conversation with the manager went very fast. I just felt like he really wanted me to come and join the team, especially a good team that's started the season very, very well.

"With the great season that West Ham had last year, that gave the team a lot of confidence to improve this year – and I want to help the team do that."

 

This weekend is the final round of Premier League action before the international break – who wouldn't want to go into the pause top of their fantasy football league?

Well, hopefully that's where Stats Perform's Opta-powered Fantasy Picks can come in handy and give you the edge over your mates.

You've all presumably already got Bruno Fernandes and Mohamed Salah, so don't expect any more oh-so-obvious tips.

Without any further ado, here are the picks that could hand you the advantage ahead of matchday three of the 2021-22 season…

 

EMILIANO MARTINEZ (Aston Villa v Brentford)

Argentina goalkeeper Martinez was one of the buys of the season in 2020-21 and has established himself as one of the Premier League's best in that time.

Since the start of last term, his tally of 16 clean sheets has been bettered by only Ederson and Edouard Mendy. Those equate to 40 per cent of his Premier League appearances for Villa, a club record among goalkeepers to make at least 10 starts for them.

While Saturday's opponents Brentford enjoyed a strong start against Arsenal, it is fair to say Villa will be more confident of keeping promoted opposition at bay than certain other opponents.

MATT RITCHIE (Newcastle United v Southampton)

Admittedly, picking a Newcastle defender any weekend could be something of a risk given only Leeds United (seven) and Norwich City (eight) have conceded more goals than the Magpies (six)

But Ritchie has enjoyed a bright start to the season as a creative source for Steve Bruce's men, creating nine goalscoring opportunities – only Trent Alexander-Arnold can better that.

While Ritchie may have been a midfielder in past years, he's classed as a defender this time around, and his early-season craftiness could lead to some assist points, which are always something of a bonus among backline options.

JAMES TARKOWSKI (Burnley v Leeds United)

Maximising points from your defenders can be key in fantasy football, particularly considering they're among the least likely to score, but one way to potentially give yourself the edge in that respect is, of course, by picking centre-backs who carry a threat at the other end.

Tarkowski has had more touches in the opposition's box (73) than any other centre-back since the start of last season, while his 4.2 expected goals is the highest xG over the same period among all defenders.

Granted, the fact he's only scored twice from those chances suggests a degree of wastefulness, but who's to say he won't improve in that regard this season? He got one against Brighton and Hove Albion, after all.

SON HEUNG-MIN (Tottenham v Watford)

Spurs have enjoyed an encouraging start to the season under Nuno Espirito Santo in spite of Harry Kane's situation. Now he is seemingly staying put, a return to the starting XI may be on the cards, and that could play into Son's hands.

The two are known for their strong relationship on the pitch, and Son boasts a fine record against Sunday's visitors Watford, having scored five times against them – that makes the Hornets his second favourite Premier League opposition after Southampton (nine goals).

Son has looked sharp without being spectacular so far this term. Perhaps this weekend is when he really finds his groove...

RAPHINHA (Burnley v Leeds United )

Raphinha has been a revelation at Leeds since joining from Rennes last year, with his form over the past 12 months recently seeing him called up to the Brazil squad for the first time.

He poses something of a double threat in terms of goals and assists, though it is the latter where his strengths lie. Only Bruno Fernandes (7.7) and Alexander-Arnold (7.6) have a better expected assists record than Raphinha (6.9) since he made his first start in November 2020.

However, no one can better his nine assists, which is level with Fernandes and Kevin De Bruyne, and he'll fancy his chances of doing some damage at Burnley this weekend.

MICHAIL ANTONIO (West Ham v Crystal Palace)

After being used as something of a utility man for years, Antonio has seemingly nailed down a spot in West Ham's attack and it's paying dividends.

In his past nine Premier League outings, he's been involved in 10 goals (six scored, four assisted) and the forward has started 2021-22 in irresistible form.

He has already got three goals and two assists this term, with his brace against Leicester City last time out seeing him surpass Paolo Di Canio (47) as West Ham's record goalscorer in the Premier League and leaving him one away from 50.

Given his form, Antonio could be a good bet for the captain selection this weekend.

RICHARLISON (Brighton and Hove Albion v Everton )

He may frustrate on occasion, but few would try to downplay the impact Richarlison has had on Everton since joining from Watford in 2018 and he looks set for a big 2021-22.

No one has as many goal involvements as him (42 – 34 goals, eight assists) during his time at the club and he was a real livewire last time out against Leeds, with his five shots and three key passes the most among Everton players.

Brighton have impressed early on this season, but Richarlison has the ability and confidence to be a real problem.

Could the Kylian Mbappe transfer saga be nearing a conclusion?

Long linked with Real Madrid, Mbappe is out of contract at the end of the season.

Paris Saint-Germain's attempts to re-sign Mbappe have been fruitless up until this point and the Ligue 1 giants are reportedly willing to cash in.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE NEARING MADRID?

Paris Saint-Germain are prepared to accept an offer for Kylian Mbappe should one arrive from Real Madrid before the end of the transfer window, according to RMC.

PSG have been fighting to re-sign Mbappe, who is in the final year of his current deal in the French capital.

However, PSG have reportedly accepted defeat in their efforts to retain Mbappe beyond the 2021-22 season as Madrid look to lure the Frenchman to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Premier League pair Manchester United and Liverpool have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror writes United are prepared to offer cash plus a player-swap – believed to be Jesse Lingard – to sign West Ham's Declan Rice.

- Atletico Madrid are closing in on a deal to sign Hertha Berlin's Matheus Cunha, says Fabrizio Romano. LaLiga champions Atletico had been linked with Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic – also wanted by the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham, Inter and Arsenal – but have so far failed to reach an agreement.

- The Daily Telegraph reports Tottenham are preparing a £40million bid to reunite Nuno Espirito Santo with Wolves star Adama Traore.

Napoli are eyeing unwanted Barcelona midfielder Miralem Pjanic, per Correire dello Sport. Pjanic had looked set to return to Juventus.

- Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira will move to Fiorentina after turning down Eintracht Frankfurt, according to Romano.

Chelsea are continuing to eye Sevilla defender Jules Kounde, claims Romano. The Frenchman is ready to swap Seville for London after agreeing personal terms on a deal until June 2026.

- Inter are monitoring Torino star Andrea Belotti as they seek to replace Romelu Lukaku, says Calciomercato. The Serie A champions have also been linked to Lazio forward Joaquin Correa.

Michail Antonio became West Ham's all-time top goalscorer in the Premier League as David Moyes' side crushed Leicester City on Monday.

The 31-year-old scored twice in four minutes in the closing stages of the Hammers' 4-1 victory at London Stadium.

Antonio had earlier teed up Said Benrahma to make it 2-0 after Pablo Fornals broke the deadlock prior to Ayoze Perez's red card. Youri Tielemans netted what proved to be a consolation for Leicester.

Antonio now has 49 Premier League goals for West Ham, two more than previous leading scorer Paolo Di Canio.

The former Sheffield Wednesday player has scored four times in nine appearances against Leicester and already has three in England's top flight this season. No player has scored more.

Antonio celebrated his historic double by holding up a cardboard cut-out to a rapturous home crowd.

The Hammers are now on a four-game winning streak, their best Premier League run since winning five consecutive matches from January 14 to February 13, 2006.

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has lost five times against Moyes in England's top flight, more than he has against any other manager in the competition.

 

Is it time to ring the changes after a poor start or stick with the players who got you off to a flying start?

If you picked Bruno Fernandes for the opening round of Premier League fixtures, the Manchester United midfielder delivered with interest as he scored a stunning hat-trick against Leeds United.

Whether your team is sitting pretty or languishing in the lower reaches of the league, you have no doubt spent this week pondering potential selections.

Using Opta data, here are Stats Perform's Fantasy Picks that can rack up the points.

 

EDOUARD MENDY (Arsenal v Chelsea)

Edouard Mendy started the campaign with a clean sheet as Chelsea cruised to a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace.

The European champions face another London derby at Arsenal on Sunday and Mendy can ensure the Gunners fire a blank.

Since Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard in January, Mendy has kept more clean sheets than any other top-flight goalkeeper with 10. His clean sheet record of 53 per cent from 32 matches is the best in Premier League history for those who have played at least 10 games.

 

KIERAN TIERNEY (Arsenal v Chelsea)

Arsenal were beaten 2-0 by newly promoted Brentford in the first game of the campaign.

Mikel Arteta could have no complaints over Kieran Tierney's performance, with the marauding full-back creating six chances.

That was more than any other player in the opening round of fixtures and he can pose questions of the Chelsea defence in the London derby.

 

AARON CRESSWELL (West Ham v Leicester City)

West Ham defender Aaron Cresswell made a great start to the campaign and scored in a 4-2 victory at Newcastle United.

Cresswell has played a big part in the Hammers' success under David Moyes and is definitely one to consider picking for their home clash with Leicester City.

Since the start of last season, Cresswell has provided more assists (eight) than any other defender in the competition. No player has been involved in more goals than his tally of nine.

 

JOE WILLOCK (Aston Villa v Newcastle United)

Newcastle fans were delighted when Joe Willock returned to the club from Arsenal on a permanent deal following a successful loan spell last season.

Willock was not involved in a home loss to the Hammers, but can hit the ground running at Aston Villa.

The midfielder could become only the fourth player to score in eight consecutive Premier League games after ending last season in sensational form.

 

KEVIN DE BRUYNE (Manchester City v Norwich City)

Midfield maestro Kevin De Bruyne was restricted to a late substitute appearance as champions Manchester City were beaten at Tottenham last weekend.

Norwich City will be hoping the Belgium playmaker plays a limited role again, as he can cause all sorts of trouble if Pep Guardiola unleashes him from the start.

De Bruyne has been involved in five goals in four games against the Canaries, scoring three and setting up two. He has scored four and assisted seven in his past eight appearances versus newly promoted teams.

KELECHI IHEANACHO (West Ham v Leicester City)

Striker Kelechi Iheanacho was another player who started the Premier League as a substitute but he can make a big impact at West Ham.

He has been involved in four goals in his past four appearances against the Hammers, netting three times and providing an assist.

Iheanacho has enjoyed capital gains, scoring in his last three appearances in London.

 

ROBERTO FIRMINO (Liverpool v Burnley)

Brazil striker Roberto Firmino was on target in Liverpool's comfortable opening-day win at Norwich.

He has fond memories of coming up against Burnley, scoring five times and setting up a goal in his past six appearances versus the Clarets.

Firmino opened the scoring in a 3-0 victory at Turf Moor when the two sides last met in May and can strike again at Anfield.

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