Alan Shearer claims England will be happy with their group for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with the Three Lions facing the United States, Iran, and the final European play-off winner.

The draw means Gareth Southgate's men could face a clash against rivals Wales or Scotland, with the Scots due to face Ukraine for a place in June's play-off final in Cardiff.

It also threw up a repeat of England's 2010 clash with the United States, with whom they shared a 1-1 draw in their opening game at the tournament in South Africa.

England have never faced Wales, Scotland, or Ukraine at the World Cup, but did face a home nation in each of their last two European Championship campaigns, beating Wales 2-1 at Euro 2016 and drawing 0-0 with Scotland at Euro 2020. 

Former England captain Shearer felt his nation should be pleased to have avoided many of the bigger nations, and spoke of his excitement at the prospect of facing a rivalry match.

"Gareth will look at that and think it could have been a lot more difficult," Shearer said to BBC Sport. "I am sure he and his players will be happy with that. 

"This is the one thing in not having that 'group of death', it [the tournament] is pretty much open.

"I have to say that I am pleased Scotland, Wales or Ukraine got put in England's group. It adds that little bit more excitement. If it is Wales or Scotland it makes it a bit tougher.

"Gareth Southgate would have taken that - deep down, without a doubt. 

"He just can't come out and say it just in case. He's too professional to say it, but he'll be more than happy with it."

"It's a big enough incentive to get to the World Cup but to be in a group with England is great and that will motivate the players," he said.

"We've got play-offs we have to worry about first. It won't be easy against Ukraine. If we manage to get through that and play Wales in the final then that is a huge game. 

"Scotland don't have a bad record against Wales and Scotland are in a good place at the moment.

"Our performance at Wembley in the Euros showed the potential of this Scotland team. They've responded well to going out in the group stage at the Euros and there's competition for places all over the pitch."

Former Wales skipper Ashley Williams was also pleased with his nation's draw, but insisted that Rob Page's team would be desperate to reach their first World Cup since 1958 for their own reasons.

"No disrespect to anyone, all the teams are good, but it could have been a little bit more daunting in another potential group," he said.

"I'm quite happy but there's a lot of work to do before then. 

"They [Wales] just want to get there anyway for their own reasons [not purely to face England]. One of Wales or Scotland usually draw England!"

England will begin their 16th appearance at the World Cup against Iran on November 21, before facing the United States on November 25 and wrapping up their group campaign on November 29.

Harry Kane has broken the record for most Premier League goals scored away from home after netting in Tottenham's clash at Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday.

The 28-year-old put Spurs 2-0 up at the Amex Stadium, and in the process moved to 95 goals from 139 away appearances, and ahead of Wayne Rooney's 94 in the competition.

Kane surpassed the former Manchester United and Everton striker's benchmark despite having played in 104 fewer such games in the competition.

The next four from the England captain in the ranking - Rooney, Alan Shearer, Frank Lampard and Andrew Cole - all made over 200 appearances in the EPL.

With the goal, Kane also moved to 12 goals in the Premier League and 22 in all competitions for the year.

Cristiano Ronaldo was the only reason Manchester United defeated Tottenham according to Alan Shearer, who stated "God only knows" where the Red Devils would be without the Portugal superstar.

Ronaldo struck the 49th hat-trick of his sensational club career to help see off Antonio Conte's side 3-2 at Old Trafford, moving United into the Premier League's top four ahead of Arsenal's clash with Leicester City on Sunday.

With Harry Kane's penalty and a Harry Maguire own goal twice pegging United back in an absorbing contest, Ronaldo also became the first player to give United the lead three times within a single Premier League clash.

Writing for BBC Sport, Shearer – the Premier League's all-time leading goalscorer – was effusive in his praise for the 37-year-old, labelling his performance "staggering".

"There are some people who think Cristiano Ronaldo is a problem for Manchester United," wrote the Newcastle United great. "But God knows where they would be without him.

"I said a few weeks ago that, if it wasn't for Ronaldo, United would be far worse off than they are, and Saturday's game against Tottenham summed up why in a nutshell.

"He was quite simply the only reason they beat Spurs. His hat-trick was phenomenal and his overall performance was so good, it was staggering.

"This was some response to his critics and all three of his goals were special in their own way. His third goal was my favourite, though. Ronaldo had to get every part of it right, and he did.

"From the way he reads the flight of the cross to the way he attacks it and times his jump, then meets the ball with accuracy and power, it was all absolutely perfect. A textbook header."

Shearer was not, however, impressed with United's overall performance, claiming Ronaldo "got them over the line" after a "terrible" defensive display, and cannot be blamed for their below-par season.

"United have still got a heck of a lot of work to do to get a top-four finish from here, but if they do miss out then there is no way on earth you can pin the blame on Ronaldo," he added.

"They would not be in a position to challenge for the Champions League places if it wasn't for him, so I don't buy that as the reason their results have not always been good enough.

"Their big problem is defensively - they are terrible at times, and we saw that again against Tottenham despite the end result this time.

"Yes, United deserve some credit for the way they responded to what happened to them in the derby last weekend [a 4-1 loss at Manchester City] and this was a huge result for them, but they had no control of the game whatsoever and it was Ronaldo's brilliance that got them over the line."

Ronaldo, who has 12 Premier League goals this term, has now scored in each of his last seven appearances against Tottenham in all competitions, and has netted more career goals against Spurs than he has against any other English side (14).

Newcastle United's owners are glad they were snubbed by Unai Emery as they now hope Eddie Howe can be "the next Alex Ferguson" at St James' Park.

Having sacked the unpopular Steve Bruce in October – one match after the club's takeover by a consortium backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund – Newcastle identified Emery and Howe as leading candidates for their head coaching role.

Emery was approached first, only to back out, leaving Howe to take charge of a struggling team threatened with relegation.

Gradually, Howe has turned the tide on Tyneside, with Newcastle entering Saturday's match at Brentford on an unbeaten run that spans six league matches and more than two months. They are the only top-flight team without a single defeat since Christmas Day.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Athletic, Newcastle director Mehrdad Ghodoussi said chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan wanted Howe "from day one".

And Al-Rumayyan's fellow board members are now convinced Howe was the right choice.

In the same interview with The Athletic, Amanda Staveley, Ghodoussi's wife and business partner, said: "It would have been wrong [to appoint Emery].

"We made the right decision with Eddie. He's come in, no airs or graces, no ego, and we're there to support him. I've really grown to care a great deal about him and his coaches.

"We talk to Eddie multiple times a day. I'm fascinated by what he does. He's so detailed, so hard working. You don't know when you're interviewing someone what they're going to be like but he's got huge integrity."

Howe is just 14 games into his Newcastle tenure, but Ghodoussi added: "I would love Eddie to be the next Alex Ferguson."

The Newcastle directors also discussed the January transfer window, claiming Sven Botman and Jesse Lingard each wanted to join the club. Botman could yet sign at the end of the season.

Kieran Trippier was one new arrival and had an instant impact, scoring two goals and being handed the captain's armband within four league appearances before sustaining a foot fracture.

Trippier has certainly impressed the Newcastle board, as Staveley said: "He's so professional, so fit. I've been so impressed.

"To be honest, Kieran isn't someone we'll ever sell. I've said to him, 'You're with us and that's it. You can be our Alan Shearer. You'll be a standard-bearer for Newcastle for many years to come'.

"If he can play, he will stay, and I believe you might find he'll still be playing in five years' time because he's capable of it. He's got something extraordinary."

Santa's been! Santa's been! Santa's been!

Yes, it's the most wonderful time of the year and we're all awfully excited that the big man has been.

But we're even more excited by the familiarity of a hectic Premier League schedule over the next few days!

We appreciate you may be about to tuck into your dinner or snoozing after over-indulging already, but why not digest some tasty Christmas Premier League facts before cracking on with the next beer?

Wondering where you might enjoy such a gem? Well, we have you covered below, with the help of the happy little elves at Opta.

A CRUZ FOR SANTA IN DECEMBER

We ho ho hope you don't mind a little Christmas gag to headline this section to get us cracking…

It seemed only fitting to start with a bit of a coincidence that a man with a festive theme in his name is responsible for the best minutes-per-goal ratio during the month of December (a minimum of six goals).

That man is ex-Blackburn Rovers striker Roque Santa Cruz, who netted nine times in 846 minutes for a ratio of 94 minutes per goal.

Just like Rudolph and the rest of the gang at the end of a busy Christmas Eve shift, Santa Cruz can still be reined in.

Divock Origi has eight December goals in 760 minutes for a goal every 95 minutes (just better than Mick Quinn's eight in 779 for a ratio of one every 97.4 mins). Liverpool team-mate Mohamed Salah has scored a mightily impressive 23 goals in December, with a minutes-to-goals ratio of 102.1.

MAYNOR THE KING OF THE CHRISTMAS CRACKERS?

Paper hats, Christmas jokes and cheaply assembled plastic toys…you all love pulling a cracker at Christmas!

And there have been many crackers scored in the month of December in the Premier League – not least Maynor Figueroa's 60.5-yard effort for Wigan Athletic against Stoke City back in 2009, which remains the longest of long-range goals in the competition during the final month of the calendar year.

The full-back's quick thinking with a free-kick from his own half caught Thomas Sorensen off guard and nestled in the back of the goal.

Former Portsmouth man Matt Taylor had a penchant for a long-range goal and his famous audacious volley against Everton in 2006 measured in at 40.6 yards.

Juan Mata (39.9 yards for Man Utd v Stoke), Sebastian Larsson (39.4 yards for Birmingham City versus Wigan) and Kevin De Bruyne (38.3 yards for Manchester City v Crystal Palace) all rank in the top five.

LLORIS AND THE KEEPERS GIFTING OUT THE GOODS

Christmas, at least under normal circumstances, is a time for spending time with loved ones and eating copious amounts of foods that aren't particularly good for us.

It is also, of course, if we're being honest, a time to exchange tat by the Christmas tree and say a silent prayer the generous buyer has kept the receipts.

Obviously, in football you're not supposed to be generous with your gifts – but Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has been particularly forthcoming with presents for opposition teams at this time of year.

The France World Cup winner has committed seven errors in the month of December, a Premier League high and one more than Red Devils number one David de Gea.

SANTA'S NOT THE ONLY LAPLAND VISITOR

Santa makes his annual jolly around the globe to deliver presents to all the good boys and girls but back in 2001 there was another who heralded from Lapland to visit England.

Finland international Hannu Tihinen arrived on loan at West Ham from Norwegian side Viking and fittingly made his Premier League debut on Boxing Day!

In total he made only eight Premier League appearances, winning just once in England's top flight.

Perhaps the difference in quality was just – ahem – poles apart for Tihinen, who was nonetheless part of the side that memorably defeated Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup early in 2002.

RED DEVILS TOP OF THE TREE

The old cliche is that it means nothing to be top at Christmas…but for the sake of the jokes in this piece it's very important to be top of the tree come December 25!

Manchester United have sat in such a position on seven occasions, more than any other team, but Liverpool – six times – are the only side to hold top spot three seasons running having done so in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

In total, 11 sides have managed to be top at Christmas – Chelsea (5), Manchester City (3) and Arsenal (2) unsurprisingly also doing so. Norwich City, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United (2), Aston Villa, Leeds United and Leicester City have also achieved the honour.

There have been 15 instances of a team being in first place on December 25 and jingling all the way to the Premier League title, but nothing can be wrapped up this early in the season.

SNOW-BODY DOES IT BETTER THAN SHEARER OVER CHRISTMAS

For a man with 260 Premier League goals to his name, it should come as no surprise to hear that the player with the most goals scored in the period from December 26 to January 5 is Alan Shearer.

The Newcastle United great netted 23 times between those dates, five more than the 18 celebrated by former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler.

Dimitar Berbatov and Jermain Defoe each have 17, the same amount as Tottenham star Harry Kane, who has Shearer's record in his sights.

JESUS RISES TO THE OCCASION

Christmas for many is mainly a secular celebration nowadays but the traditional meaning of the holiday season is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the Premier League, there have been six occasions of a player with Jesus in their name scoring a December goal – five of which were from Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus.

The other was netted by former City winger Jesus Navas, who fittingly at this time of year often delivered for others – producing six December assists and amassing 74 crosses from open play.

Jurgen Klopp might consider the Christmas and New Year programme an "impossible" task for his stricken Liverpool team, but the Premier League has challenged its clubs to get games on over the coming fortnight.

These games can throw up season-shaping drama, with the packed calendar meaning the stakes are high and stress levels higher, and any manager that chooses to rotate his squad does so at his own risk.

Nobody wants to offer up gifts, despite Santa delivering three goals for Blackburn Rovers in 2007 – Roque Santa Cruz scoring twice in a 2-2 draw with Manchester City on December 27, and adding another in a 2-1 win over Derby County three days later.

Manchester City lead the way in the English top flight this season, ahead of Liverpool and Chelsea.

The 12 days of Christmas are traditionally considered to run from December 25 to January 5, and Stats Perform has looked at that period, assessing prospects for some of this year's games, along with a lesson or two from history.

You're top of the tree, but what makes you think you'll stay there?

In the first 10 seasons of the Premier League, from its launch in 1992-93, the eventual champions were only top at Christmas on three occasions – Manchester United in 1993-94, Blackburn Rovers in 1994-95 and United again in 2000-01.

Norwich City were the leaders on Christmas Day in that inaugural campaign, but Mike Walker's classy Canaries finished in third place in May as champions Manchester United and Aston Villa swept past the Canaries. Norwich had lost to United and derby rivals Ipswich Town in their two games leading up to the Christmas run, and back-to-back goalless draws with Tottenham on December 26 and Leeds United two days later further stifled their progress. The winless run ultimately extended to six matches, with the high-flying Canaries having their wings clipped just as the title began to look possible.

Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United famously led by 10 points on Christmas Day in 1995 and looked for all the world like runaway champions-in-waiting. Yet a 2-0 defeat at Manchester United on December 27 was an omen of what was to come as the Magpies were barged off top spot by the Red Devils come the end of the season.

Aston Villa were top at Christmas in 1998 but fell away to finish sixth, the lowest final position by any team to have sat top of the Premier League tree on December 25. They lost 2-1 at Blackburn on Boxing Day in that year, Tim Sherwood scoring a late winner, and although Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu netted to earn a 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday two days later, Villa's form was far from championship-winning from that point on.

As the Premier League has evolved and an elite crop of teams has developed, it has been a safer bet that the pace-setters by December 25 will go on to capture the trophy. In fact, over the past 10 seasons, the future champions have held top spot on that date on seven occasions, with Liverpool the only team to fall away from the summit in that time, dropping to second place in 2013-14 and 2018-19, and to third in 2020-21.

They climbed the mountain as snowflakes fell

Manchester United were fifth at Christmas in 1996-97, seven points behind leaders Liverpool, but Fergie's fledglings went on to win the league, and their results in late December were a big factor. They had beaten Sunderland 5-0 on December 21 and followed that with a 4-0 win at Nottingham Forest on December 26 (goals from David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Andy Cole), before sinking Leeds United two days later at Old Trafford thanks to an Eric Cantona penalty. A New Year's Day goalless home draw with Aston Villa followed, but United had a verve about them again and swept past Liverpool's 'Spice Boys' in the closing weeks.

Arsenal were sixth at Christmas in 1997-98 and 13 points behind United, but it was the Gunners who pulled off a startling comeback in this season. They launched an 18-game unbeaten run as they beat Leicester City 2-1 on December 26 and followed that by coming from behind for a 1-1 draw at Tottenham two days later. Arsene Wenger's team did not lose again in the league until their final two games of the campaign in May, to Liverpool and Villa, by which time the title had been secured. That remains the biggest Christmas Day deficit to be overhauled by a team that went on to be champions.

Manchester City were eighth on December 25 last year and still won the league, but Pep Guardiola's team were only eight points behind leaders Liverpool with a game in hand at that stage, with no team having played more than 14 games due to a delayed start to the season. City were 2-0 winners at home to Newcastle on December 26 and followed up with a 3-1 victory at Chelsea on January 3, their charge to glory gathering pace.

Merry Christmas? It's no guarantee of a happy new year

This year, there are three rounds of Premier League games spread across the 12 days of Christmas. In the past there have been as many as four, and there have been 13 occasions when teams have snaffled 10 points or more during this period.

Liverpool were the first to win all four of their games in this hectic spell, as they saw off Leicester, Manchester City, Leeds and Norwich by a combined 10-1 aggregate in 1994, only to trail home fourth in May. Jose Mourinho's Chelsea then achieved 12 days of Christmas clean sweeps in their title-winning 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.

All the other teams to rake in double-figure points hauls from their four festive period games managed 10 points from three wins and a draw.

Only one of those 10 sides went on to capture the title: Manchester United in the 2010-11 season. United also had a 10-point tally from 2004-05, and two other sides have hit that mark twice: Arsenal (1993-94 and 2004-05) and Sheffield Wednesday (1993-94 and 1994-95). Tottenham, Wimbledon, Liverpool and Manchester City are the other teams to have done so.

They delivered the goods

Manchester United have the best per-game record at this time of year, pulling in 2.19 points on average in the Premier League era. Of teams to have spent more than one season in the top flight, Arsenal are next (1.99), followed by Liverpool (1.96) and, surprisingly, Blackburn (1.88). United's legendary former manager Alex Ferguson reeled in a league-leading 135 points from 61 games during the 12-day run, with a hearty plus-74 goal difference, while his great rival at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, earned 132 points from 62 matches.

Ferguson and Jose Mourinho lead the way with an average of 2.21 points per game over the 12 days, among managers with more than 20 such games behind them.

Befitting his status as the Premier League's all-time top scorer, Alan Shearer is ahead of all the rest in the goals stakes, having hit 23 during this period, five clear of next in line Robbie Fowler.

A bad Christmas? It doesn't mean your goose is cooked

A diabolical 12 days of Christmas can be a retrievable mid-season mishap.

There have been 49 instances of teams losing all of their games over this period in a season. Among those, Everton in 1993-94 and West Brom in 2010-11 have played the most games in the 12 days – four games each for a zero-point return. The snowballing run of defeats almost proved hideously costly for Everton, who needed a famous 3-2 win over Wimbledon on the final weekend of the season to survive, but West Brom finished in the relative comfort of 11th place after their bleak midwinter, albeit following a February change of boss as Roy Hodgson replaced Roberto Di Matteo.

The bottom three from Christmas Days past have gone on to be relegated three times, with Derby County, Leicester City and Ipswich Town suffering that fate in 2001-02, Wigan Athletic, QPR and Reading sliding into the Championship after the 2012-13 campaign, and last season’s turkeys – Fulham, West Brom and Sheffield United – also sinking into the second tier.

The good news for Norwich, Newcastle and Burnley – the current top three – is that clearly this rarely happens. Bottom side Norwich have history to wrestle with, given only three of 26 last-placed teams on December 25 in the 20-team era (since 1995-96) have avoided the drop.

There have been 37 instances of teams being in the Premier League relegation zone on Christmas Day but finding a way to survive.

Newcastle face Manchester United, Everton and Southampton in their festive games this year, and it may be a concern that manager Eddie Howe has a career points average of just 0.87 in games played from December 25 to January 5 (W2, D7, L6).

Burnley boss Sean Dyche can better that, taking an average of 1.12 points per game (W5, D4, L8) into assignments against Everton, Manchester United and Leeds.

Norwich will hope Dean Smith can summon his Aston Villa festive form, having achieved 1.67 per game at this time of year while in his former job (W3, D1, L2). Arsenal, Crystal Palace and Leicester await Smith's men this year.

Canaries knocked off their perch

A morsel from Norwich's Premier League past might serve as a salutary tale for mid-table clubs that feel secure about their Premier League status by now.

Norwich were seventh on Christmas Day in 1994, far from trouble, but their season imploded and they finished 20th, suffering relegation from the then 22-team league.

They had a crummy 12 days of Christmas, losing 2-0 at home to Tottenham and 1-0 at Nottingham Forest on successive days – December 26 and 27 – before undoing some of that damage with a 2-1 home win over Newcastle on New Year's Eve, only to be thumped 4-0 at Liverpool on January 2. They would not win another Premier League game until they beat Ipswich 3-0 on March 20.

Nightmares can occur after Christmas, as well as before.

Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah has reached 150 direct goal involvements in the Premier League, becoming the third-fastest player to do so.

Salah, who already had 11 league goals for the season heading into Saturday's game with Southampton at Anfield, squared for Diogo Jota to make it 2-0 to Liverpool in the 32nd minute.

It was Jota's second goal of the encounter, with the Portugal forward having put the Reds in front inside two minutes, and came after Salah himself had curled just wide, with Sadio Mane also having had a goal disallowed.

Thiago Alcantara then made it 3-0 to Liverpool before the break to put Jurgen Klopp's team in complete control.

By setting up Jota's goal, Salah moved onto 42 assists across his Premier League career, which combined with 108 goals took him to the 150 goal involvements landmark.

The Egypt forward has achieved that feat in just 171 games, with only Alan Shearer (148) and Thierry Henry (163) reaching the milestone in fewer appearances.

Salah's assist was a 25th direct goal involvement across all competitions this term (17 goals, eight assists), more than double that of any other Premier League player as it stood.

Liverpool then made it 4-0 early in the second half when Virgil van Dijk converted from Trent Alexander-Arnold's corner.

Is Mohamed Salah the best player in the world? Jamie Carragher has no doubt after the Liverpool forward's stupendous goal at Watford drew immediate comparisons with Lionel Messi. 

Former England striker Gary Lineker compared the wonder strike to a Lionel Messi special after the Egyptian put Jurgen Klopp's Reds 4-0 up at Vicarage Road, on the way to a 5-0 win. 

Salah received the ball on the edge of the Watford penalty area and was surrounded by home defenders, but he showed supreme close control to weave a path beyond Craig Cathcart, Juan Hernandez and Juraj Kucka before whipping a clinical finish into the far corner. 

It was a goal that had the hallmarks of a Messi or Diego Maradona masterpiece, with Salah's astonishing footwork leaving the defenders powerless to stop him extending Liverpool's lead. 

"My, my. Mo has morphed into Messi," Lineker wrote on Twitter. 

The goal means Salah has now scored in each of his past eight games for Liverpool; the longest run of scoring in consecutive appearances for the club since Daniel Sturridge in February 2014, also a run of eight matches. 

Carragher's instant verdict was: "Best player in the world right now." 

The former Liverpool defender's excitement was matched by all-time Reds top scorer Ian Rush, who used an Arabic term of approval to describe Salah's goal. 

"Mashallah @MoSalah The best!" Rush tweeted. 

Alan Shearer, the Premier League's record scorer, described the goal as "brilliant", and Liverpool's own Twitter match commentary enthused about the Salah strike. 

It came two weeks after his majestic goal against Manchester City, with Salah said by some on social media to be putting together his own goal of the season competition. 

The effort was his reward for persistence, with Salah's strike his fifth attempt of the game. It was also his ninth goal in seven games in the Premier League against Watford. 

The flow of goals from Liverpool amounted to dismal news for Watford's new boss, Claudio Ranieri. Roberto Firmino grabbed a hat-trick and Sadio Mane also scored, netting in the Premier League for the 100th time. 

Liverpool tweeted: "Words escape us, but we'll try... Salah shows incredible quick feet to escape the attention of three Watford defenders inside the box, before turning Cathcart and sending a curling effort into the far corner." 

The Premier League race is run. A season that has seemingly been a never-ending story finally concluded on Sunday with the focus centred on the top four.

Chelsea lost but still ended up securing Champions League qualification, Liverpool won to astonishingly end an eventful campaign in third and poor Leicester City missed out after a crazy game at home to Tottenham as Harry Kane clinched the Golden Boot.

West Ham finish above Spurs in sixth to make the Europa League, while Manchester United ruined Nuno Espirito Santo's last game in charge of Wolves. There was yet another goal for Joe Willock, while David McGoldrick made sure he will no doubt be the subject of a pub quiz question in years to come.

Manchester City had clinched the title long ago, but a home game with Everton offered a chance for their returning fans to say farewell to a club legend.


Aston Villa 2-1 Chelsea: Tuchel slips up on the road as Blues lose

Thomas Tuchel's side held on to their top-four spot thanks to the result at the King Power Stadium, with the German coach able to celebrate despite suffering his first away defeat in the league since taking charge at Stamford Bridge.

Bertrand Traore scored the opener for Villa, in the process becoming the 25th different player to manage a Premier League goal against Chelsea having previously been at the Blues. Anwar El Ghazi doubled the lead with the 100th penalty scored in the competition this season, the first time a campaign has reached triple figures.

On the subject of penalties, Jorginho finished with the most goals for Chelsea in the league with seven – all from the spot. It is the lowest number for the club’s leading scorer in a top-flight season since 1974-75, when Ian Hutchinson also managed seven.

Liverpool 2-0 Crystal Palace: Mane helps Reds prosper at Anfield

Jurgen Klopp has now finished in the top four at the end of the five full seasons he has had in charge of the Reds, who handed their former boss Roy Hodgson a 2-0 defeat in his Palace swansong.

Sadio Mane got both goals, the second with the aid of a huge deflection. He has scored 10 or more in all seven of his Premier League campaigns, including his two with Southampton before moving to Anfield in June 2016.

Liverpool won their meetings with Palace by a combined 9-0 score; only against Ipswich in 2001-02 (11-0) have they enjoyed a bigger aggregate margin across two Premier League games in the same season. While he had no need to conjure up another last-gasp goal this time, Alisson Becker did manage to keep a clean sheet on his 100th league outing for Klopp's side.

Leicester City 2-4 Tottenham: Foxes run into trouble against Bale and Kane

Leicester spent 242 days in the Premier League's top four this term, only to end the final one sitting in fifth place. For a second successive year, a late loss of form has cost them a Champions League place.

A sixth defeat in 13 matches did not appear on the cards when they twice led against Spurs thanks to Jamie Vardy, who scored two penalties in a match for a third time this season. However, a Kasper Schmeichel own goal – his second in the top tier – levelled matters, with the visitors then moving clear in a frantic finish.

Gareth Bale scored twice late on in potentially his final game for Tottenham, but will Kane still be there when the transfer window shuts? The striker's 41st-minute effort lifted him to 23 for this term as he became only the third player to win the Golden Boot award as many as three times, following in the footsteps of Thierry Henry (four) and Alan Shearer (also three).

Aguero at the double, Willock matches Shearer (yes, really)

In scoring twice after coming on as a substitute, Aguero ended his City career as he had started it – with a brace off the bench (he had done just the same on debut against Swansea City, way back in August 2011). His double takes his final tally to 184 Premier League goals, in the process surpassing Wayne Rooney (183) for the most by a player for a single club.

As for Manchester United, a 2-1 triumph at Wolves sees them become just the fourth side to remain unbeaten away across an entire top-tier season, a feat most recently achieved by Arsenal in 2003-04. The current-day Gunners beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0, though still finished eighth for a second year in a row.

At Fulham, Willock was on target once more in a 2-0 win for Newcastle United. It means the on-loan Arsenal midfielder becomes only the second Newcastle player to score in seven consecutive Premier League appearances, after hall-of-famer Shearer in 1996.

West Ham secured a top-six finish for only the second time in the Premier League era thanks to a 3-0 win over a Southampton team who do not prosper on their travels – they ended up losing 10 of their 11 away fixtures in 2021, during which they leaked 33 goals and scored just seven times.

There was a win for Leeds United at home to West Brom, taking them up to 59 points – the most by a promoted club since Ipswich Town (66) in 2000-01. Sheffield United finished bottom, but at least signed off on a winning note. Striker McGoldrick grabbed the only goal against Burnley to earn his own place in history: it was the 1,000th scored in the Premier League during the 2020-21 season.

Joe Willock's hugely successful loan spell with Newcastle United concluded in typically impressive fashion on Sunday as he matched an Alan Shearer record.

The midfielder signed from Arsenal in January until the end of the season and has enjoyed an outstanding run of form.

Willock had scored only once in 40 Premier League appearances for the Gunners, but struck 16 minutes into his Newcastle debut against Southampton.

The loan man saved his best performances for the run-in, though, netting in consecutive appearances against Tottenham, West Ham, Liverpool, Leicester City, Manchester City and Sheffield United.

The goal against the Blades, securing a 1-0 win on Wednesday, made Willock the youngest player ever to score in six in a row in the competition.

And that run continued on Sunday against Fulham, as Willock's powerful run from deep on the right was only briefly disrupted on the edge of the area before he steered a low shot into the net.

Shearer, the Premier League's record goalscorer, is the only player to previously net in seven straight appearances in the competition for Newcastle. He did so between September and November 1996, shortly after his £15million world-record move from Blackburn Rovers.

Shearer responded to the latest goal in Willock's streak by posting on Twitter: "Yesssssss @Joewillock again. 7 on the spin."

Willock, who now has eight goals in 14 games for Newcastle, is expected to be a target for the Magpies in the transfer window, but Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said this week: "He will be back with us, we will have those conversations with him and plan the next step then."

Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry have been announced as the first players to be named in the Premier League Hall of Fame.

Former Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers striker Shearer remains the leading goalscorer in the competition's history, having scored 260 times across 14 seasons for both clubs.

A champion with Blackburn in 1994-95, Shearer scored 112 goals in 138 Premier League games for Rovers before a move to boyhood side Newcastle for £15million in 1996, breaking the world transfer record.

The former England captain, who won the Golden Boot three times, went on to net 148 goals in 303 league games for the Magpies and remains the only player to have scored 100 Premier League goals for two different clubs.

"When you look at some of the unbelievable players to have graced the Premier League – week in, week out, year in, year out – I feel very honoured to join the Hall of Fame. I have to thank all of my team-mates, as well as the managers and coaches that I've worked with," said Shearer.

"All I ever wanted to be was a professional footballer. It was my dream to do that, my dream to win trophies and my dream to score at St James' Park, to wear the number nine black-and-white shirt and it was fantastic. I enjoyed every minute of it."

Henry is sixth on the all-time goalscoring list in the competition, having hit a club-record 175 in just 258 games for Arsenal.

The ex-France star, a record four-time Golden Boot winner, scored more than 20 goals in five consecutive seasons from 2001 until he left for Barcelona in 2006.

Twice a title-winner with the Gunners, including in the unbeaten 'Invincibles' side of 2003-04, Henry also registered 74 assists in the competition. His tally of 20 in 2002-03 remains a joint record for a single season, with Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne matching that tally in 2019-20.

"To be inducted alongside Alan Shearer as the two first inductees into the Premier League Hall of Fame is more than special," Henry said.

"When I was young, I was just trying to make sure I could get a pair of boots and now we're talking about the Hall of Fame. During my career I wanted to play hard and make sure I was fighting for the cause, because that's all the fans want to see.

"If you asked me at the start of my career about entering the Hall of Fame, I wouldn't have believed you. It's an amazing honour."

Harry Kane has two iconic Premier League strikers in his sights after he plundered his 20th top-flight goal of the season in Tottenham's clash with Everton on Friday.

The England international's clinical half-volley in the 27th minute at Goodison Park took him to 20 Premier League goals in a campaign for the fifth time in his career.

Only Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer (seven) and Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero (six) have achieved the feat more often in the history of the competition.

The clinical strike also saw him overtake Jermain Defoe to move joint-seventh with Robbie Fowler on the all-time list of Premier League scorers, the pair sitting on 163.

Everton have suffered more than most when up against Kane, with the 27-year-old one of only three players to score 10 Premier League goals against the Toffees, after Les Ferdinand and Shearer (16 each).

Meanwhile, only Jimmy Greaves (seven) has scored 20 or more goals in a top-flight season for Spurs more times than Kane, who had failed to reach that number in both 2018-19 and 2019-20.

Harry Kane's future at Tottenham is shrouded in doubt and former England striker Alan Shearer believes it is now or never if he does want to leave.

Kane has never been shy about expressing his desire to win trophies at Tottenham, calling that the "next step" when the club moved to their new stadium from White Hart Lane.

Spurs flirted with that possibility under Mauricio Pochettino, finishing second in the 2016-17 Premier League season and reaching the final of the Champions League two years later.

But under Jose Mourinho they are going backwards, with Spurs seventh in the league and six points adrift of fourth-placed West Ham, meaning Champions League qualification may elude them.

Kane has proven himself as one of Premier League's all-time greatest strikers, with his haul of 162 goals bettered by only seven players, while his 121.8 minutes per goal is the third best among those to have netted at least 100 times.

But recent media speculation has suggested Kane is losing patience, and Shearer – who famously joined Newcastle United over Manchester United in search of trophies and failed to win any – thinks he may not get another opportunity to take his career to the next level.

Writing in his column for The Athletic, Shearer said: "I've got way too much respect for Harry as a player and a man to offer him advice on a decision that I know for myself is rarely linear and that may not, in the end, be his to make. What I would say, though, is this: if he's going to leave, it looks like this summer or not at all.

"Harry is 28 in three months and this is why I think we're approaching a pivotal moment. He's at his peak, the ready-made article, an absolute guarantee of goals wherever he plays and the opposite of a gamble, but a buying club is going to want three or four of his best years in return for what would certainly be an exorbitant transfer fee. This is that time. Twelve months down the line and it becomes that bit more difficult to justify.

"The one indisputable fact is that Harry is under contract at Tottenham for three more years. That six-year deal he signed in June 2018 was a fantastic piece of business by Daniel Levy and his club.

"It tied down their most saleable asset and it gives them a thick layer of protection now. I'm not convinced it was quite so great for Harry, even though the landscape at Spurs was much more positive back then.

"The point is that Harry could no longer say the same things about winning the Premier League [as he did in 2018]. Would the picture change at Spurs if Mourinho went? Maybe.

"As Leicester City and West Ham show, a place in the top four is open to clubs that get things right, but in terms of more than that? Spurs look a long way off. And so that leads back to the same question: is it enough?"

Shearer routinely insists he has no regrets over choosing to join Newcastle instead of going to Old Trafford 1996, despite the Red Devils going on to win the Premier League title in four of the following five years, including their historic 1999 treble that included Champions League success.

For his part, Shearer went on to become Newcastle and the Premier League's record goalscorer, feats he treasures, and Kane appears on course to accomplish similar achievements with Spurs.

But if it is trophies rather than personal accolades that Kane thirsts for, Shearer can see only one option – not that there is ever a guarantee of success, regardless of whether he ends up at United, Manchester City, Real Madrid or Barcelona.

"When I moved to Newcastle for a world-record fee in 1996, I did so with the aim of winning trophies. That was the driver for me, as well as the pull of coming home," he continued.

"It didn't work out like that, of course, but for most of my decade at St James' Park and with lots of ups and downs on the way, we were trying.

"Harry is a big player; he won't accept staying at Spurs for the sake of it. He has to have something to buy into. Right now, winning means leaving.

"None of that means Harry should leave; to repeat, that's not something I would ever say, but if we judge him on his words from two or three years ago, then it's certainly a subject he will be considering now.

"If it ends with no trophies, does that mean hell have had a s*** career? No, of course not. All that said, the great players do not settle. They always want more and they push for it. And Harry is a great player, which is why it feels like he and Spurs are approaching a moment of definition."

Harry Kane and Son Heung-min have set a new single-season Premier League record after combining for a 14th goal in 2020-21 against Crystal Palace.

Tottenham's star duo have enjoyed an outstanding campaign, with Kane scoring 16 and assisting 13, while Son has netted 13 and laid on nine.

Four of Kane's goal involvements came in a 4-1 win at home to Palace on Sunday, creating the first two for Gareth Bale before netting twice himself.

The final goal of the match saw Son cross for his strike partner, whose simple header ensured the duo surpassed the 13 goals Blackburn Rovers forwards Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton combined for in a 1994-95 title-winning campaign.

Further down the list, Bournemouth's Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser – both now at Newcastle United – linked up 12 times in 2018-19, while Les Ferdinand and Kevin Gallen at QPR and Shearer and Mike Newell at Blackburn each had 11 combinations in a campaign.

Kane and Son have created for one another 34 times across all Premier League seasons, closing on the all-time record of 36 held by former Chelsea team-mates Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba.

Meanwhile, Kane became the first Tottenham player to score twice or more and assist twice or more in the same game since Jurgen Klinsmann against Wimbledon in May 1998.

His second strike also brought up 100 Spurs goals in all competitions this term, a mark only previously reached by Bayern Munich (now 106 goals) across Europe's 'top five' leagues.

Frank Lampard's appointment as Chelsea head coach was widely heralded by the club's fanbase, who were desperate for a returning hero to succeed in the dugout.

Just 18 months later and Lampard – the club's record all-time leading goalscorer who won 11 major honours at Stamford Bridge – has been sacked.

The Blues have proven in the past there is little time for sentimentality or to dwell on past successes and not even a player with the stature Lampard holds at the club has been granted extra time.

Lampard's first season in charge brought a top-four finish and an FA Cup final but a run of just two wins in eight league matches saw Chelsea wield the axe with the team ninth and 11 points off top.

A huge close-season recruitment drive that saw the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell arrive perhaps gave the Blues hierarchy itchy feet and brought about the end for Lampard.

With that in mind, we have looked at some hits and misses when players have returned to a club as boss.

HITS

Pep Guardiola

After leaving Barcelona as a player in 2001, Guardiola returned as the Barca B boss in 2007 before being promoted to head coach of the first team a year later. Over four years in charge at Camp Nou he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns. Success has continued to come Guardiola's way with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Zinedine Zidane

World Cup winner Zidane was part of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' in the early 2000s and he finished his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. Like Guardiola, he returned to oversee the second team before stepping up to the top job after the departure of Rafael Benitez in January 2016. Zidane went on to win an unprecedented three successive Champions League titles with Madrid before stepping down in May 2018, only to return 10 months later. He has already won LaLiga and the Supercopa de Espana in his second stint, though a slump this term has left his long-term future shrouded in doubt.

Antonio Conte

In 13 seasons as a player for Juventus, Conte won almost everything there is to win – five league titles, the Coppa Italia, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He moved into management two years after retiring and worked his way back to Juve after spells with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Juve won three straight Scudetti under Conte – the start of their ongoing dominance – before he accepted the Italy job in 2014. Conte is now battling to end the Bianconeri's domestic dominance as head coach of Inter.

Roberto Di Matteo

Di Matteo accepted the top job at Chelsea in 2012, having previously been assistant to Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo – who won the FA Cup twice with the Blues as a player – went on to lift two trophies as Chelsea boss, including their first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out win over Bayern, but he was discarded early in the following season.

MISSES

Alan Shearer

Record Premier League goalscorer, Newcastle United legend and lethal England striker – Shearer's playing career was full of success. When he retired in 2006, Shearer moved into television as a pundit, but when the Magpies came calling in 2009 he stepped in to try to save them from relegation. Sadly for Shearer he was unsuccessful, his eight-game reign ending in Newcastle slipping out of the top flight after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day.

Filippo Inzaghi

Employing former players as head coaches had previously worked well for Milan – Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti proving particularly successful. When the Rossoneri turned to Inzaghi in 2014 after Clarence Seedorf's brief tenure, the move was therefore no surprise. However, the former striker – who won eight major trophies at the club in his playing days – flopped, winning just 14 of his 40 matches in charge as Milan finished 10th, their worst league position in 17 years.

Thierry Henry

Henry made his name at Monaco after breaking into the first team in 1994, the forward going on to become a world champion and a Premier League icon with Arsenal. After a period as youth coach with the Gunners, Henry was named as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez's assistant. Permanent roles with Bordeaux and Aston Villa were mooted, but in October 2018 Henry chose Monaco. He lasted just three months, losing 11 of his 20 matches in charge across all competitions before being replaced by Leonardo Jardim, the man he had succeeded.

Juan Jose Lopez

One of the most decorated players in River Plate history, having won seven league titles in an 11-year spell, Lopez was a popular appointment after making a strong impact in his second period as caretaker manager in 2010. However, he subsequently presided over a poor 2011 Clausura campaign, forcing River into a relegation play-off against Belgrano, who won 3-1 on aggregate. It was the first time River dropped out of the top tier, sparking riots which left many people injured.

JURY'S OUT

Mikel Arteta

Arteta served Arsenal with distinction as a player between 2011 and 2016, captaining the club and winning the FA Cup twice. Success in football's oldest cup competition followed last term, with Arteta having replaced Unai Emery in December 2019. After finishing eighth, Arsenal defeated Liverpool on penalties to win the Community Shield but eight defeats from 19 league games in this campaign have left Arsenal 11th and 13 points off top spot.

Andrea Pirlo

Lampard's opportunity at Chelsea arrived when Maurizio Sarri departed for Juventus, but his stint in charge at the Bianconeri lasted just one season despite winning the Serie A title. Pirlo won four Scudetti, the Supercoppa Italiana twice and the Coppa Italia during a four-year stint as a player in Turin and was appointed head coach just a week after being installed as Under-23 boss. So far it has been a mixed bag in Juve's hunt for a 10th straight title, with six draws and two defeats in 18 matches leaving them seven points back of league leaders Milan – albeit they do have a game in hand. Pirlo also collected a first trophy courtesy of victory over Napoli in the Supercoppa Italiana last week.

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