The time for talking is almost done as the coronavirus-delayed 43rd Ryder Cup gets under way at Whistling Straits on Friday.

Europe head into the much-anticipated showdown with the United States as defending champions after winning 17.5 - 10.5 at Le Golf National in 2018.

This year's edition in Wisconsin promises to be as competitive as ever, with USA hoping their team of rookies can prevail against their more experienced European opponents.

Here, Stats Perform picks out the best of the facts and figures ahead of the first tee off.

 

EUROPE'S RECENT DOMINANCE

– This year's Ryder Cup is the 43rd edition, with nearly half of those (21) having pitted Europe against USA. Due to the tournament being delayed by a year by the coronavirus pandemic, this is the first Ryder Cup to be held in an odd year since 1999.

Europe have the upper hand with 11 victories since 1979, compared to eight for USA. There was a tie in 1989, which saw Europe regain the cup having won the previous edition two years earlier.

Europe have won nine of the last 12 Ryder Cups, including half of the last eight played on US soil.

– Six of the last eight Ryder Cups have seen a final score gap of at least five points. The gap was never more than three points in each of the previous eight editions (1987 to 2002).

– This year's Ryder Cup is the first to be played in Wisconsin, making it the 19th US state to host the tournament, with only California, Massachusetts and Ohio having played host on more than one occasion.

– Since 1979, only four of the 20 Ryder Cups have seen a team overturn a deficit going into the singles (1993, 1995, 1999 and 2012).

– USA have won 12 of the 20 singles sessions against Europe since 1979 (60 per cent). However, since 2002, Europe have the upper hand in the Sunday format, winning it six times in nine attempts.

Only two of the 42 Ryder Cups have ended in a tie: 1969 (16-16) and 1989 (14-14).

WESTWOOD LEADS THE WAY FOR EXPERIENCED EUROPE

– With a combined total of 156 matches played at the Ryder Cup, this is the most experienced European team since the 1995 edition (196 matches). Three players are making their debut for Europe: Bernd Wiesberger, Viktor Hovland and Shane Lowry, half as many as the US team (six).

– Fifty per cent of the European team are made up of English players (six out of 12). Since the introduction of Team Europe in 1979, that ties the highest number of English players after 2016.

– In Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm, Spain have a playing representative at the Ryder Cup for the 21st consecutive edition. In fact, other than England, they are the only nation to have had at least one player at every Ryder Cup edition since the introduction of Team Europe in 1979.

– Rahm – world number one and Europe's most recent major winner (US Open 2021) – is playing in his second Ryder Cup. He won only one of his three matches in 2018, but that was the singles match against Tiger Woods, only the American's second ever loss in the singles format after 1997.

Garcia is the highest points scorer in the history of the Ryder Cup (25.5 points out of a possible 41). The Spaniard is taking part in his 10th Ryder Cup – that's every edition since 1999 except 2010. It is also only the third time he has been a captain's pick after 2002 and 2018.

– Rory McIlroy is making his sixth consecutive Ryder Cup appearance (all since 2010), the longest current run among European players. He has played every single session at the tournament since his debut in 2010.

– Viktor Hovland is the youngest player at this year's Ryder Cup – he will be aged 24 years and six days on the opening day of the tournament. He is also the first Norwegian to play in the tournament.

– This is Lee Westwood's 11th Ryder Cup, joining Nick Faldo as the European player with the most appearances in the biennial tournament. If he plays at least four matches, he will overtake Phil Mickelson for the most in the tournament's history. Westwood is also the oldest player at this year's tournament.

HISTORY ON USA'S SIDE

– USA have six Ryder Cup rookies at this year's tournament, the most since 2008. In fact, they have won both previous editions against Europe where at least 50 per cent of their team was made up of newcomers: 1979 (eight rookies) and 2008 (six rookies).

– Eight of the 12 American players at this year's Ryder Cup are aged under 30, which is twice as many as the European team (four out of 12).

– Collin Morikawa is the youngest US player at this year's Ryder Cup – he will be aged 24 years, seven months and 18 days on the opening day of the tournament.

– Tony Finau's first Top 10 at a major came in the 2015 US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. He won two of his three matches in his only previous Ryder Cup appearance in 2018, setting the second-best points ratio (66.7 per cent) in the US team after Justin Thomas (80 per cent, four points out of a possible five).

– This is Brooks Koepka's third – and consecutive – Ryder Cup appearance. He won three of his four matches the last time it was held in the United States (2016).

– This is Jordan Spieth's fourth consecutive Ryder Cup appearance. He has collected eight points from a possible 11 in fourballs/foursomes, a 73 per cent scoring rate. Only Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have a better ratio among US players in the team format.

– At 37, Dustin Johnson is the oldest member of this year's US Ryder Cup team. This is his fifth appearance in the showpiece event, winning only one of his previous four (2016). He is the US player with the most matches played in the history of the tournament without a single half point (W7 L9).

– Bryson DeChambeau lost all three of his matches in his only previous Ryder Cup appearance in 2018. He was the only US player to remain scoreless alongside Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, whom he both partnered in 5 and 4 losses.

Is it Week 3 already? The advent of a 17th game means the regular season will stretch further into January, but the NFL campaign always seems to fly by at breakneck speed.

In the world of fantasy football, plenty of managers may be seeing things spiral out of control in a hurry after an 0-2 start.

Or maybe you're on the other end of things, with at least one win on the board and feeling satisfied that your draft-day decisions were the right ones.

Either way, it's important to remember that fantasy is a weekly game, and success hinges on the selection calls made each weekend.

Stats Perform is here to try to help you make the correct calls. Here's this week's look at four players and a defense in strong spots to produce matchup-winning fantasy scores.

Quarterback: Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs

Herbert was frustrated in Week 2 as the Chargers let opportunities go begging in their defeat to the Dallas Cowboys, with two interceptions undermining an otherwise impressive display that saw him throw for 338 yards and a touchdown.

However, Herbert should be enticed by a matchup with a Chiefs defense that has produced turnovers but has proved extremely hospitable to opposing offenses.

Indeed, the Chiefs are allowing a league-worst 7.56 yards per play through two games. Only the Detroit Lions (9.44) are allowing more yards per pass play than the Chiefs (9.37).

Going against a porous defense and with Patrick Mahomes a near-certainty to deliver points on the other side, Herbert has a clear opportunity to record his third successive 300-yard game to start the season and put up a massive fantasy performance in a potential shootout.

Running Back: Ty'Son Williams, Baltimore Ravens @ Detroit Lions

Despite seeing their running back depth decimated by injuries, the Ravens saw their backfield get going in a huge way in their stunning Week 2 win over the Chiefs.

Baltimore gashed Kansas City for 251 yards on the ground at an average of 6.1 yards per carry. The complexity that quarterback Lamar Jackson's running threat brings to their rushing attack played a significant role, but the Ravens will have been extremely encouraged by Williams' performance.

Williams averaged 5.9 yards per carry as he put up 77 yards on 13 carries, and he now gets the opportunity to go against a Lions defense that has been relatively stout against the run but has given up a league-high nine offensive touchdowns.

For fantasy managers light at running back, Williams could be an intriguing option.

Wide Receiver: D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers @ Houston Texans

On the surface, there is not much intrigue in Thursday's primetime clash between the Panthers and Texans.

However, with Sam Darnold showing signs of improvement in Carolina following his departure from the New York Jets, potential fantasy matchup winners can be found among their passing game options.

Aside from Christian McCaffrey, Moore is the top threat on the Panthers' offense. He had eight catches for 79 yards and a touchdown last week against a New Orleans Saints defense that is superior to that of the Texans, which allowed Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield to complete 90 per cent of his passes in Week 2.

Targeted 19 times across his first two games, if Moore gets a double-digit share as he did versus New Orleans, he will be set up perfectly to deliver another productive performance.

Tight End: T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions vs. Baltimore Ravens

While the Lions may be in a rebuilding year, Hockenson is constructing an excellent case for him to be considered among the NFL's premier players at the tight end position.

He has 163 yards and two touchdowns in his first two games and now gets to face a Ravens defense giving up the most fantasy points per game in the league to opposing tight ends.

Shredded for 109 yards and a touchdown by Travis Kelce in Week 2 and for 105 yards and a score by Darren Waller in Week 1, the odds of the Ravens preventing Hockenson from producing a similar statline appear slim.

Defense: Arizona Cardinals @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Backing a defense to excel after a game in which that unit gave up 26 points in a 34-33 shootout win may seem foolhardy.

While the Cardinals' defense is certainly vulnerable, as the Minnesota Vikings proved last week, Arizona could hardly ask for a better matchup in which to bounce back on that side of the ball.

Rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence is tied for the league lead in interceptions having tossed five already this season. His air yards per attempt average of 10.49 is second among quarterbacks with at least 10 passes, but he is delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball just 66.3 per cent of the time.

That combination of aggressiveness and inaccuracy is a recipe for a bounce-back performance from the Arizona defense.

After three long years, the wait for another Ryder Cup ends this week as the United States and Europe take to the fairways and greens of Whistling Straits. 

Europe are the holders but the USA start as favourites for many observers, with home advantage and a formidable-looking team. 

There will be shocks along the way and there will be some expected stars of the show who end up taking a back seat as unlikely heroes emerge. 

Captains Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington will have their own ideas of who might be best placed to make a telling impression. 

Here, Stats Perform looks at four players who could make a huge impact across the weekend in Wisconsin. 

UNITED STATES: Super Spieth ready to show his teeth

Jordan Spieth has been a resurgent force this year, finishing second at the Open Championship and in a tie for third at the Masters, while at the other two majors he finished a respectable 19th and 30th. 

The American also ended a four-year wait for a victory on the PGA Tour with a sweet win in his home state at the Texas Open in April and is primed to cap a fine year with a strong Ryder Cup. 

Spieth has mentioned in the build-up that he loves the course set-up at Whistling Straits, which he feels provides scoring opportunities on almost every hole. 

The 28-year-old also referenced his previous Ryder Cup success. He has collected eight points from a possible 11 in fourballs/foursomes, a 73 per cent scoring rate. Only Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have a better ratio among USA players in the team format. 

UNITED STATES: Nice guy Finau just the man for Stricker's superstars

American teams in the past have been accused of…well…not exactly getting along. Having the ultimate good guy in the team is sure to boost morale and Tony Finau certainly fits that mould. 

But make no mistake, Finau is a guy with real pedigree – even if sometimes he hasn't quite been able to convert that into wins (his triumph at the Northern Trust last month was only his second PGA Tour title and first in five years). 

On his Ryder Cup debut, he was one of few bright notes for Team USA, with Finau winning two of his three matches – including a singles win over the otherwise unflappable Tommy Fleetwood, setting the second-best points ratio (66.7 per cent) in the American team after Justin Thomas (80 per cent, four points out of a possible five). 

Moreover, at the 2015 US PGA Championship, Finau finished 10th having shot four sub-par rounds at Whistling Straits. Finau is the sort of character who can really flourish at a Ryder Cup, particularly with home support behind him. 

 

EUROPE: Europe eye trophy Rahm raid

Jon Rahm is the man for the big occasion. He is the only player to have secured a top-10 finish at all four majors this year, while he is also Europe's most recent victor at one of the leading events, having won the U.S. Open. 

The world number one's Ryder Cup debut did not go entirely to plan in 2018, as he won only one of his three matches, but that triumph was in a singles match-up with Tiger Woods – only Tiger's second loss in the format. 

Now established at the forefront of the sport, Rahm will expect to be the man to lead Europe to glory with an improved all-round showing, justifying his status as the bookmakers' favourite to be the leading points scorer at Whistling Straits. 

EUROPE: Viktor sounds like a winner

Belgium's Thomas Pieters was the top points scorer five years ago at Hazeltine, scoring four points but ending on the losing side. With Norway's Viktor Hovland relishing his debut on the team, could there be another surprise leader on the points board? 

Hovland played college golf for Oklahoma State and has been a familiar figure on the PGA Tour, so playing in America is second nature. He was low amateur at the Masters and U.S. Open in 2019, won the U.S. Amateur, and has come of age since, jumping to a career-high world ranking of number 10 in August. 

Eight top-10 finishes and just one missed cut since the turn of the year show what he brings, and that level of consistent play is bound to appeal to captain Harrington. 

"I'd like to think I have some fans out there that maybe won't necessarily boo against us," Hovland said this week. "But if they do end up doing that, that's what they're going to do. We're still going to play golf, and if they do end up doing that, that means we're doing something good." 

Former Borussia Dortmund and Australia goalkeeper Mitch Langerak has taken the J1 League by storm since joining Nagoya Grampus in 2018.

If making history for most clean sheets in Japan's top flight was not enough in 2020, Langerak broke his own record through just 28 matches this season – 18.

No stranger to breaking records, Langerak also eclipsed the mark for most consecutive J1 League clean sheets with nine earlier in 2021.

Third-placed Nagoya have conceded just 22 goals after 29 rounds – a figure only bettered by leaders Kawasaki Frontale, while Langerak has kept four clean sheets for the 2010 J1 League winners en route to the AFC Champions League quarter-finals.

Speaking to Stats Perform ahead of Wednesday's trip to FC Tokyo, Langerak said: "We're a very strong team at the moment. Obviously it helps when we have a strong mentality within the group and a good bunch of guys who are really working together for the team's benefit, whether that is going forward or back.

"I think it's a complete team effort. I don't really count clean sheets or worry too much about them because I tend to look at my performances as a whole. I can be equally as happy if I concede one goal but done so many good things as opposed to not doing a lot but keeping a clean sheet. I try to look at my game as a whole and continually try to improve on the things I don't do so well."

Since leaving LaLiga's Levante for Nagoya three years ago, Langerak has registered the most clean sheets (50) for a goalkeeper.

 

Langerak has conceded 0.76 goals per game in J1 League this season. Since 2015, Cerezo Osaka's Kim Jin-hyeon in 2019 (0.74) is the only goalkeeper to boast a better average of goals conceded per game in a season than the Australian.

Nagoya have not conceded in 18 of their 29 league fixtures this term. If Massimo Ficcadenti's men keep another clean sheet, they will surpass the 1995 Yokohama F.Marinos (18 in 52 league matches at the time) for the most shutouts in J1 history.

"In the last couple of years, I've really started to enjoy my football a lot more. Really been a lot calmer and relaxed about my game," Langerak said. "Looking at my performances as a whole and not only worrying about making saves or clean sheets or goals conceded. Just trying to do all the small things right.

"One of the biggest things is controlling balls in the air. These days I come out for more or less everything. Getting a good punch as much as I can or taking clean crosses. Getting out and dominating the box so much more than when I was a bit younger. That's the biggest thing I've changed. I've realised I'm stopping a lot of goals purely by getting balls of out of the box that get put in from the sides."

This season, Langerak has a save percentage of 72.15 – he finished with a 72.55 percentage at the end of 2020.

The 33-year-old's save percentage in the penalty box (66.67) is currently a career high in the J1 League.

For punches, Langerak (26) is second only to Avispa Fukuoka goalkeeper Masaaki Murakami (30).

In terms of clearances (including punches), Langerak ranks fourth among goalkeepers this season with 35, behind Kashiwa Reysol's Kim Seung-gyu.

His clearances and punches numbers have both increased since 2018-19 – Langerak's 35 clearances are a personal best in the J1 League, while his 26 punches are equal with his previous best last season.

"I'm always looking at the stats and data. Watching footage of opposition players. Regularly looking at everything after games – my own ball contacts, passing accuracy. Things like this I'm interested in," added Langerak.

"Obviously a huge effect comes from the way your team plays. So for a goalkeeper, with passing stats, it's generally determined by how your team plays. If you're playing out then you're going to have a lot of short passes that are 100 per cent successful or if you're a team that maybe plays longer balls or doesn't tend to take risks at the back, you might play long balls to your striker where your passing accuracy is a little off.

"In terms of opposition, I look at the expected front four, highlights, where they've scored their goals, where they're dangerous, what they like to do – right foot, left foot. I try not to go into too much depth, just a four-minute snapshot video."

There isn't much time for patience in the NFL, and the ownership of the Arizona Cardinals would have been forgiven for running out of it after an opportunity to end their postseason drought in 2020 was passed up. 

Year two of the Kliff Kingsbury-Kyler Murray experience was a rollercoaster, with explosive offensive performances and last-gasp Hail Mary plays giving way to an uneven and uninspiring stretch run that raised questions about Kingsbury's ability to get the best out of the 2019 first overall pick, as well as piling pressure on a general manager in Steve Keim who had been given the rare luxury of selecting a first-round quarterback in successive years. 

Two weeks into the 2021 season, the Cardinals have reason to believe the partnership of Air Raid disciple Kingsbury and their diminutive dual-threat quarterback is one that can yield the dominant offensive season many have expected and, in the process, propel them to the playoffs. 

Playing in the hyper-competitive NFC West, which would still be undefeated as a division if not for the Seattle Seahawks' bizarre home collapse against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, the Cards should not get too far ahead of themselves, particularly with memories of last season's 6-3 start that ultimately proved a false dawn still fresh. 

Sunday's captivating 34-33 triumph over the Minnesota Vikings was far from perfect and owed to Greg Joseph shanking a last-second field goal that would have condemned Arizona to defeat. 

However, it served as a scintillating showcase of what the Cardinals' offense can do when firing on all cylinders and a vindication of the offseason moves made with an eye on elevating Murray, with his diverse skill set perfectly suited to the modern NFL, to another level. 

History-maker Murray

After throwing four touchdown passes and running for another score in the Cardinals' blowout win over the Titans in Week 1, Murray tossed three touchdowns and registered another on the ground against Minnesota. In doing so, he became the first player with at least three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown in each of his team's first two games of the season in NFL history. 

He now has 12 career games with both a passing and rushing touchdown, the fourth-most by a quarterback in his first three seasons, behind only Cam Newton (20), Josh Allen (16) and Dak Prescott (13). 

Those new entries into the record books were a product of what defenses have come to expect from Murray, who frustrated the Vikings by making magic happen with his legs on a 15-yard touchdown throw to DeAndre Hopkins and a 77-yard bomb to a wide-open Rondale Moore, and also demonstrated his still underrated ability to stand in the pocket and deliver with unerring accuracy. 

Through two weeks, Murray has produced an accurate, well-thrown ball on 88.7 per cent of his passes, according to Stats Perform data, putting him fourth among quarterbacks to attempt at least 10 passes. For quarterbacks with an air yards per attempt average of at least eight yards, Murray's well-thrown percentage is second only to Jalen Hurts (89.1%). 

Murray's accuracy shone through on a pinpoint completion to Christian Kirk between two defenders on 3rd and 16 in the second quarter. The same receiver was on the end on a perfectly lofted fourth-down pass to set up what proved the game-winning field goal, Murray putting the ball in the ideal spot despite having to deliver off his back foot with two defenders in his face. 

Yet the Cardinals' approach was not simply one where they relied on Murray to pull rabbit after rabbit out of his hat. There was a clear effort from Kingsbury to make Murray's life easier, much of which centred around rookie receiver Moore. 

Moore help

Arizona selected Moore in the second round this year despite doubts over an extremely spotty injury history, and his explosiveness has weaponised the Cardinals' short passing game. Kingsbury has regularly utilised screens and pop passes to Moore - and they will remain staples of Arizona's passing attack in 2021 so long as the former Purdue star continues to maximise their upside, as he has done in the first two weeks. 

Registering a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on plays where he is targeted, on 69.2% of targets, Moore's average depth of target is just 4.3 yards, the joint-seventh lowest in the NFL. However, he leads the league in burn yards per route with 16.5. 

The Cardinals have managed to get similar efficiency out of receivers with more experience in the offense. Kirk (15) and Hopkins (14.6) are each in the top 15 for wide receivers in burn yards per target and are above the league average of 4.7 for burn yards per route with 7.5 and 5.7 respectively. Ninth in the NFL with an average depth of target of 17.7, Kirk is producing at a level that suggests he could blossom into a premier deep threat in his fourth year. 

The numbers are not as pretty for veteran free-agent addition A.J. Green (8.38 burn yards per target), but a touchdown on a screen pass in the third quarter and a 29-yard completion that saw him get a step on Bashaud Breeland downfield, selling an inside move before drifting back outside, offer hope he could enjoy an unexpected late-career renaissance. 

Imperfect vision

That is not to say there are no concerns, though. Murray's pickable pass percentage of 4.84 is above the league average of 3.44 and each of his interceptions against Minnesota hinted at issues seeing the field. 

His pick-six saw him fail to spot linebacker Nick Vigil lurking underneath as he attempted to find Kirk in the soft spot in the zone, while his second interception was a poor decision on which he tried to force the ball downfield against a two-deep safety look. 

Those valleys are ones Kingsbury can live with, however, when the peaks Murray frequently delivers belie a stature that had plenty questioning whether he could make it at the highest level. Murray will need more than two remarkable showings against defenses each ranked in the bottom 10 in the league in yards per play allowed to make a convincing argument that the Cardinals are ready to contend and he is worthy of MVP consideration. 

Still, the evidence to this point has been pretty compelling. The Cardinals' offense boasts the explosive element that was present in the first half of last season but, with the addition of Moore and to a lesser extent Green, has also grown more diverse.

The menu of options available to Murray has expanded and while tougher tests lie in wait, the early signs are that Arizona's burgeoning offensive arsenal can finally satisfy the appetite for playoff football.

Liverpool ran out 3-0 winners over Crystal Palace on Saturday, to take their place at the top of the Premier League.

Title rivals Manchester City could only draw at home to Southampton, but Manchester United and Chelsea subsequently joined Liverpool on 13 points.

Here are some of the more curious facts from across the Premier League weekend.


Premier League first for Reds trio

Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita scored Liverpool's goals in their win over Palace at Anfield.

It is the first time in the Premier League that a game has ended 3-0, with all three goals being scored by African players.

Mane opened the scoring with his 100th goal for Liverpool. The Senegal forward has now scored in each of his last nine league appearances against Palace, making him the first player in Premier League history to score in nine straight matches against a single side.

All three of Liverpool's goals came from corners. Not since City beat West Brom in March 2015 has a top-flight game ended 3-0 with all the goals coming from corners.

Dave saves... finally

There was late drama aplenty at London Stadium on Sunday as United joined Liverpool at the top of the table thanks to a 2-1 win over West Ham.

After Cristiano Ronaldo continued his fantastic start to his second United stint to drag the Red Devils level, Jesse Lingard came on to break West Ham hearts late in the game.

London Stadium is the 66th different stadium that Ronaldo has scored at in matches played in Europe's big five leagues, and he has scored at more unique venues than any other player since his United debut in 2003-04, ahead of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (64).

Lingard, meanwhile, became the 47th player to score for and against West Ham in the Premier League. Excluding own goals, West Ham have had more players score for and against them than any other side in the league's history.

But it was David de Gea who proved to be United's hero, as he saved a last-gasp penalty from Mark Noble, who was brought on specifically by David Moyes to take the spot-kick.

De Gea's save ended a drought stretching back to April 23, 2016 of 40 spot-kicks faced without making a save for both club and country, in the process helping United claim a dramatic win at London Stadium. 

Of those penalties, 11 were scored by Villarreal players in May's Europa League final, with De Gea ultimately missing the decisive kick in the Red Devils' shoot-out defeat. 

The 30-year-old did keep out a Jordan Ayew penalty in last September's league meeting with Palace, but that was retaken and scored by Wilfried Zaha after De Gea was deemed to be off his line. 

Veteran Silva helps give Spurs the blues

Aged 36 years and 362 days, Thiago Silva became the second-oldest Chelsea player to score in the Premier League behind only Didier Drogba, who scored against Leicester City aged 37 years and 49 days in April 2015, when the Brazilian headed Thomas Tuchel's side ahead at Tottenham.

N'Golo Kante's deflected effort made it 2-0. The midfielder scored for the first time in 49 league appearances, having last found the net against Man City in November 2019. Three of his last four top-flight strikes have come from outside of the box.

Antonio Rudiger condemned Spurs to a second successive 3-0 defeat; they have lost consecutive Premier League matches by a 3+ goal margin for the first time since their opening two games of the 2011-12 campaign.

Harry Kane, meanwhile, cut a forlorn figure up top for Nuno Espirito Santo's side. He has failed to score in his first four Premier League appearances of a season for the first time since 2015-16, attempting just four shots so far.

Super-sub Bailey bursts Benitez's bubble

Everton's unbeaten start under Rafael Benitez came crashing to a halt as Leon Bailey starred with a blistering cameo in Aston Villa's 3-0 win.

Bailey came on from the bench and had an instant impact. With Matty Cash's first Premier League goal having put Villa ahead, the Jamaica forward whipped in a corner that Lucas Digne turned into his own net.

Digne has now scored three own goals in the Premier League, level with Younes Kaboul for the French player to have done so on the most occasions.

Villa were not finished there, however, and Bailey burst clear to lash home his first Premier League goal. Moments later, he went off with an apparent thigh injury, becoming only the second Villa player to come as a substitute, score, and then be substituted in a Premier League match, after Julian Joachim against Derby in September 2000.

Farke's losing streak rolls on, Toney at the top

Ivan Toney scored and assisted another as Brentford defeated Wolves 2-0 on Saturday.

Since the start of last season, Toney is the outright leading goalscorer in the top four tiers of English football (excluding play-off matches), with 33 strikes to his name.

Another promoted club, Norwich City, suffered their fifth defeat of the campaign. In total, the Canaries have now lost each of their last 15 Premier League games, meaning Daniel Farke is the manager with the longest losing run in top-flight history.

Mick McCarthy (14) was the last manager to go close to almost as long as Farke without a top-tier win, though that was back in 2005.

It's a funny old game, but it might take gallows humour to raise much of a smile around north London this season. 

Tottenham's season-opening streak of three straight 1-0 wins bought Nuno Espirito Santo substantial early goodwill as the Portuguese began his reign as head coach, yet there was plenty that did not sit right. 

Spurs were riding their luck, out-shot 25-8 by Wolves at Molineux and beaten on the expected goals count there too. Similar applied to the fantasy start to the season when they edged out champions Manchester City. 

But Wilfried Zaha and Crystal Palace were ruthless interlopers to Nuno's honeymoon in early September with their 3-0 Selhurst Park demolition, and now Chelsea have repeated the trick, scoring freely in the second half at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. 

Chelsea also won 3-0 but might easily have had five or six. Sixty years have passed since Tottenham Hotspur were English champions. It might be a matter of months before Chelsea can describe themselves as such again. 

It was glaringly obvious this was not the game in which to put on a show, much as Tottenham wanted to pay homage to Jimmy Greaves, whose "funny old game" catchphrase has become part of the immemorially cliched lexicon of the English game. 

Greaves netted 220 league goals for Spurs and is their all-time record scorer, but he also plundered 124 in the old First Division for Chelsea, and his allegiances for this game would have been split. 

On the day his death at the age of 81 was announced, and a host of Spurs greats turned out to pay tribute, it was Greaves' first club who showed they are light-years ahead in London. 

As Tottenham and Arsenal prepare to confect a battle perhaps for fifth or sixth place this season, Chelsea have the title in their sights and the second-half exhibition in this space-age stadium was one that Greaves would have surely quietly admired. 

Thomas Tuchel watched his team fail to hit the target in the first half, but he struck bullseye with a substitution at the break, hauling off Mason Mount and introducing N'Golo Kante. 

The game changed absolutely from that point on, Chelsea finishing 10-2 ahead in the shots-on-target stakes, at times queueing up to score against a lamentably dire Spurs. 

As Chelsea's game took off, Spurs flatlined. Harry Kane, who said last month he would be "100 per cent focused on helping the team achieve success" this season, must be wondering what form that success might take. He and Son Heung-min were deadly in the early stages of last season; here, they played almost like strangers, the intuitive chemistry that defined their partnership woefully absent. 

Kane had two shots, a free-kick into the wall and a 22-yard grass-cutter that Kepa Arrizabalaga clutched fuss-free. Of course he will score again for Spurs, and add to his 166 Premier League goals, but Greaves' club record should be safe for a good while on this evidence. He has scored just once in his last nine league games against Chelsea now. 

Spurs won 65.4 per cent of the first-half duels and Tuchel, whether he had that exact data or not, realised what was wrong. 

"We lacked energy and we lacked being more relentless in duels, to decide 50-50 balls for us," Tuchel told Sky Sports. "I had the feeling we wanted to impress by pure skills." 

He told his players they would get reward by showing aggression and getting on top of those 50-50s. 

"We spoke clearly about it at half-time," Tuchel added. 

Thiago Silva was "outstanding" for Chelsea, Tuchel noted, and the Brazilian's header in the 49th minute gave Chelsea the breakthrough. 

Kante's 25-yard strike bounced off the left shin of Eric Dier and left Hugo Lloris flat-footed as Chelsea moved 2-0 in front, before the team in royal blue got the third they deserved as Antonio Rudiger scored in stoppage time. 

Spurs are a work in progress, of course they are. But this was ultimately a heavy loss against a Chelsea side who won handsomely despite Romelu Lukaku performing in a low gear throughout. 

Steve Perryman, Martin Chivers, Glenn Hoddle. They all watched on as Spurs were humbled. 

'Greavsie' joined Spurs shortly after they won that last league title all those years ago, and it might be decades more before they seriously challenge again. Kane said Spurs would "hopefully put in a great performance in his honour", but perhaps that tribute will have to wait seven days. 

It's the derby against Arsenal next Sunday as the two north London giants, both lurching somewhere between transition and turmoil, duke it out. 

Perhaps parochial bragging rights will be the zenith of their achievements this season, as this excellent Chelsea side go after the prizes that matter. 

Arsenal continued to recover after a dreadful start to the season with a successful trip to Burnley, but Manchester City dropped points at home to Southampton. 

City's failure to find the net was a welcome boost for Liverpool, who cruised past Crystal Palace thanks in part to Sadio Mane making Premier League history with his 100th goal for the Reds. 

Brentford became the 14th promoted side to accrue eight or more points after five games, and the first since Wolves, as they recorded a 2-0 win at Molineux in the early kick-off, while Norwich City remain stuck without a point to their name after going down 3-1 at home to Watford. 

Using Opta data, Stats Perform takes a look at the key statistics from Saturday's most notable fixtures.

Liverpool 3-0 Crystal Palace: Mane registers century as Reds gain early ground in title race

Liverpool headed into the weekend on an eight-match winning run against Palace in the Premier League and they extended that further with yet another success over the Eagles - only against Bolton have they had a longer winning streak (10 between 2007-2011.). 

Unsurprisingly, Mane and Mohamed Salah were both on the scoresheet, with the former becoming the 18th player to score 100 goals in all competitions for the Reds. His first-half finish also means the Senegal forward is the first individual in the Premier League era to score in nine consecutive matches against the same opponent. 

Mane had Salah to thank for his opener and the Egypt forward brought up his 134th goal involvement - which is 24 more than any other player since his debut under Jurgen Klopp - with his second-half strike. 

Naby Keita added the other goal, Liverpool's 16th from a corner in the league – the most by any top-flight side since the start of last season (including all three against Palace). 

Manchester City 0-0 Southampton: Champions held to unlikely draw

It took until the 90th minute for City's one and only attempt on target through Phil Foden, making it their lowest tally in a top-flight game since March 8, 2017 against Stoke City. 

This was City's first Premier League draw in 31 games, dating back to December 2020 as Raheem Sterling became the ninth player – and second Englishman after Joe Hart – to bring up 200 appearances for Pep Guardiola's side in the competition. 

In James Ward-Prowse's 100th consecutive appearance in the division, Southampton will have been delighted to collect just a second point from their past 11 visits to the Etihad Stadium, with this a first clean sheet there since 2003. 

However, the Saints are now winless in seven league games, including drawing four in a row for the first time since March 2002. 

Burnley 0-1 Arsenal: Clarets continue torrid run against resurgent Gunners

'1-0 to the Arsenal' used to ring around Highbury and Mikel Arteta's current crop are following that lead, with this result making it consecutive 1-0 league wins for the first time since December 2014. 

Martin Odegaard's direct free-kick, the 40th scored by 17 different Arsenal players in the Premier League, proved the difference as Sean Dyche's side failed to beat Saturday's opponents for a 10th consecutive league meeting. 

The Clarets attempted shots through 11 different players – only against Wolves in 2010 have they had more (12) - but still failed to avoid reaching 13 league games without a win at Turf Moor. 

Aaron Ramsdale maintained his run of clean sheets with a third in a row in his first three appearances for the Gunners, making him the first Arsenal goalkeeper to do so since Wojciech Szczesny in 2009-10.

Aston Villa 3-0 Everton: Substitute Bailey shines as Begovic struggles

Leon Bailey appeared as a second-half substitute, scored and was then brought off 21 minutes after his introduction as Aston Villa downed Everton, in the process extending their Villa Park unbeaten run in the league to five games – their longest such run since January 2015. 

Matthew Cash was also on target for a first goal in his 33rd Premier League appearance, while Lucas Digne netted his third own goal, the most of any player since his arrival at Everton ahead of the 2018-19 campaign. 

All three goals games came after half-time as Villa recorded their biggest win over the Toffees in all competitions since 2005. 

Asmir Begovic was granted his first Premier League appearance in 896 days but the goalkeeper has now conceded 22 goals in seven appearances since his last clean sheet. 

After 2020, in which injuries and poor defensive play doomed Dallas to another season without playoff football, the Cowboys are already dealing with significant losses on both sides of the ball in 2021. 

Wide receiver Michael Gallup is on injured reserve and out until at least October because of a calf issue, but a more impactful injury came in practice this week as defensive end Demarcus Lawrence suffered a broken foot. 

Lawrence has since had surgery and will be sidelined for six to eight weeks, robbing the Cowboys of one of the more versatile defensive ends in the NFL. 

Last season, Lawrence was the only edge defender in the NFL with a pressure rate of at least 20 per cent to cross that same threshold in terms of run disruptions. Lawrence's pressure rate was 20.1 per cent in 2020, when he disrupted a run 22.7 per cent of the time. 

His absence leaves a massive void for a defense that gave up the 10th-most yards per play (5.87) last year and conceded 6.73 per play to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their thrilling Week 1 loss. 

The NFL is an offensive league and the evidence from Week 1, which saw Dallas rack up 451 net yards on Dak Prescott's return, indicates the Cowboys have the firepower to compete in the NFC. 

But without Lawrence making a huge impact against both the run and the pass, can the defense do enough to make sure that impressive offensive production is not wasted, as was the case when Prescott was healthy? 

Lawrence's potential replacements

With Randy Gregory on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the options immediately behind Lawrence on the depth chart are not particularly intriguing ones. 

Former Indianapolis Colts third-round pick Tarell Basham has just 7.5 sacks in his career and his pressure rate of 14.9 per cent for the New York Jets last season was below the average for edge rushers (16 per cent). 

Should the Cowboys stick to their depth chart, he will likely split time with Bradlee Anae, who played in only three games in his rookie year before featuring on 10 snaps against the Buccaneers. 

Though not the most impressive athlete for the position, Anae did produce during his time in college with Utah, his 2019 pressure rate of 21.4 per cent third among edge rushers with at least 100 snaps in the Pac-12. 

But for a player of such limited experience to step into Lawrence's shoes is a tall ask, and the Cowboys may need to shuffle the personnel to be effective without arguably their premier defensive player. 

The Parsons project

First-round pick Micah Parsons is already drawing significant praise one game into his NFL career, already looking like the player best placed to challenge Lawrence for the title of Dallas' top defensive star. 

Yet the Cowboys have depth at linebacker with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith also in the mix at the spot, leaving some to question whether Parsons could be deployed more frequently on the edge in Lawrence's absence. 

Dallas experimented with Parsons in a designated pass rusher role in the offseason and he had the chance to soak up some knowledge from Lawrence during his preparations for his rookie year. 

"Last week we were watching film of pass rush and D-Law came up to me and was like, 'You pass rush like that, rook?'" Parsons said back in June. 

"I was like, 'Yeah, I used to be a defensive end.' He was like, 'All right, tap in with me.' Me and him have been getting closer." 

And the Cowboys may be very tempted to use Parsons off the edge, the ex-Nittany Lion having prospered in that role across a small sample size in 2019. 

In 33 edge snaps for Penn State two seasons ago, he registered a pressure rate of 24 per cent and a run disruption rate of 23.5 per cent, comfortably above the averages of 14.6 per cent and 8 per cent for those respective metrics for Power 5 players with at least 50 edge snaps. 

To make the decision to ask Parsons to deliver similar production in the pros on a more consistent basis is a risky move, one that could backfire in two different areas if the rookie cannot rise to the challenge and Vander Esch and Smith prove ineffective at linebacker. 

However, given the depth of talent the Cowboys have on offense, it is a gamble they may have the wiggle room to take. 

Maintaining offensive pace

The Cowboys' offensive performance in Week 1 was a spectacular continuation of what Dallas had going for the opening four weeks on that side of the ball in 2020 before Prescott was lost for the season. 

Dallas put up 509.5 net yards per game between Weeks 1 and 4 last year and their efforts against Tampa hinted they can again operate at a similar pace. 

Their hopes of doing so will be aided by their upcoming schedule. Having hung over 400 net yards on a defense that was sixth best in the NFL in yards per play allowed (5.12) in the opener, the Cowboys should be confident of doing similar to the opponents on the horizon. 

Using the most optimistic timescale, Lawrence could be back to face the Denver Broncos on November 7. 

Of the six defenses the Cowboys will face before that game, only the New York Giants (9th) finished in the top 10 in yards per play allowed. The Giants gave up 30 points to Taylor Heinicke and the Washington Football Team on Thursday. 

History suggests the Cowboys should succeed moving the ball and scoring points consistently in the coming weeks, meaning the defense is unlikely to be in a position where it has to put the team on its back. 

Prescott and the offense producing at early 2020 levels can help the Cowboys as they look to remain in a position to emerge from the NFC East without Lawrence at their disposal on defense. 

And, when Gregory returns, if defensive coordinator Dan Quinn can harness the best out of him as well as Basham and Anae while intelligently using Parsons' pass-rushing prowess to an extent that does not have a detrimental impact on the play at linebacker, then the Cowboys may be able to welcome Lawrence back while sitting in an excellent position to push for a first postseason berth since 2018. 

Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season threw up more questions than answers, but there remains no doubting Patrick Mahomes' outstanding talent.

In one of the highlights of the opening round of games, Mahomes threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Kansas City Chiefs to a comeback win over the Cleveland Browns.

All eyes will be on Mahomes again in Week 2, and the Chiefs have an intriguing matchup against fellow quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens.

This battle between two of the past three MVPs has been one-sided in the past, though, as Stats Perform discovers in the most interesting facts from Sunday's biggest games.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Baltimore Ravens

The Chiefs will have few concerns about going on the road, boasting a 5-1 record against the Ravens in Baltimore all-time. They have also won each of the teams' past four meetings.

This dominance is reflected in Mahomes' record against Jackson, winning all three head-to-heads and averaging 378.7 passing yards per game to his opponent's 170.3.

Of course, Jackson is a greater threat across the ground than through the air, leading the Ravens in rushing yards against the Las Vegas Raiders last week for the 21st game of his career (including the postseason). In that time, no other QB has led his team in rushing in more than 12 games.

But even if Jackson can guide the Ravens into a lead, that brings no guarantee of victory. They gave up a 14-point lead for the first time in 99 games against the Raiders, while the Chiefs recovered from 12 points down at home to the Browns and actually have a 10-8 record after trailing by double digits since the start of 2018.

Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angeles Chargers

Another clash between two top QBs on Sunday sees Dak Prescott take the Cowboys to the Chargers having last week continued his impressive run even in defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Due to injury, Prescott has only actually played six games since the start of last year, but he has passed for at least 400 yards in four of them – no other player has more than two such games in that span.

However, Dallas have lost a league-high three games while posting 450-plus total net yards since the beginning of 2020.

The Chargers have their own prolific passer, too, in Justin Herbert, who threw for 337 yards in a win against the Washington Football Team in Week 1, meaning he now has 4,673 passing yards through 16 career games – a tally only topped by Mahomes' 5,100 in his first 16 games.

Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins

Josh Allen is another elite passer who would hope to be in MVP contention at the end of the year, but he was less impressive in the Bills' opening defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers, completing only 30 of 51 passes.

While that was a career high for pass attempts, NFL teams are 4-20 when having a QB throw 50 or more since the start of last season.

Allen at least has fond memories of facing Miami. In the first of the sides' two meetings last year, he threw for career bests in yards (415) and TD passes (four), while the second clash saw the Bills score 56 points – a tally they have only ever topped once, also against the Dolphins in 1966.

Buffalo have five straight wins against Miami, although the Dolphins are in form with 10 wins in 13 games after 10 victories in their prior 33.

Elsewhere...

New Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford will fancy his chances against the Indianapolis Colts. His passer rating of 156.1 in Week 1 led the league, but Russell Wilson, against the Colts, was second with 152.3. Stafford threw three TD passes, including two of more than 50 yards – a feat only previously achieved once by a player in their first game with the team in the Super Bowl era (John Stofa for the Cincinnati Bengals in 1968).

Jameis Winston took a slightly less spectacular route to his five TD passes last time out, with 148 passing yards the fewest from a QB to throw five for five scores.

Meanwhile, first overall pick Trevor Lawrence threw for 332 yards, the most by a player on his debut since Cam Newton's 422 yards in 2011, but he also had three interceptions – something he never did in his 40 games at Clemson.

Each of the first-round rookie QBs will be aiming to build on feats of some manner, with 21-year-old Trey Lance the youngest player in the Super Bowl era to throw a touchdown on his first NFL pass.

Mac Jones, who this week faces Zach Wilson, threw for 281 yards – the most by a New England Patriots rookie on debut.

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. 

Slow starts are nothing new to Harry Kane. Not until 2018 did the England captain score a Premier League goal in the month of August, by which point he had twice won the Golden Boot.

But there is added focus on Kane this year in the aftermath of his failed move from Tottenham to Manchester City.

And through three appearances – including two starts – in the opening four games of the 2021-22 campaign, the striker has attempted just two shots without scoring.

The last time Kane had two or fewer attempts across a three-match span in the Premier League was back in October 2014, but he did not start any of those outings against Sunderland, Southampton and Newcastle United, which produced a sole effort combined.

Since establishing himself as one of Europe's elite forwards, Kane has not endured such a lean league spell.

Chelsea, against whom Kane has scored just once in his past eight Premier League encounters, are up next, with a more effective display clearly required from Tottenham's talisman.

Nuno not helping

Nuno Espirito Santo oversaw three straight wins to start the league season, but Kane is not alone in suffering from the new coach's safety-first approach.

Spurs are averaging 9.5 shots per game this term, their lowest rate in a season since at least 2003-04, while only Watford (2.3) and Leicester City (3.4) have a lower expected goals total (3.7).

Tottenham also now have the sixth-lowest average possession in the division at 43.1 per cent.

Although this more conservative set-up has been in place for a little while now – Spurs last season started their sequences 39.7 metres from their own goal and have this term jumped slightly forward to 41.4m – it has only become more entrenched under Nuno.

A far cry from Mauricio Pochettino's pressing team, in which Kane thrived, Tottenham have had just 41 pressed sequences (fourth fewest) and 24 high turnovers (joint-fifth fewest) in 2021-22 so far and prefer instead to play on the counter, moving the ball 1.72 metres upfield per second (joint-third fastest).

This suits speedy fellow forwards Steven Bergwijn, Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura far better than it does Kane, who is neither notably quick nor regularly carrying the ball – 7.3 carries per 90 minutes this season rank him ninth among the 11 Spurs outfielders to feature in 100 or more minutes.

With Tottenham relying on these rapid attacks, rather than patiently playing through the thirds and allowing Kane to get into dangerous positions, the 28-year-old has made only eight touches in the opposition box.

Deeper and deeper

Of course, as shown previously for Spurs and England, Kane can be effective in dropping deeper and picking out the runs of those faster team-mates.

And it's not as if Kane has not still been involved in Tottenham's play, having a role in 31.4 open play sequences per 90 – just shy of last year's rate of 31.8, which had leapt up from 25.7.

But just 3.2 of these sequences per 90 are ending in a shot, while Kane has not been involved in any open play sequences leading to a goal this term – a metric he unsurprisingly led (36) in 2020-21 when he topped the charts for Premier League goals and assists.

Kane is still creating chances – his four so far this season arriving every 49.5 minutes or every 22.8 touches – but Spurs would surely sooner have their main man on the end of such opportunities.

Having peaked with a shot every 16.8 minutes or every 6.9 touches in 2017-18, Kane's early-season form has seen an attempt every 99 minutes or every 45.5 touches.

Given he attempted 61.3 per cent of his shots last season from inside the box, despite renowned ability from long range, this primitive decline should come as no surprise.

Just 8.8 per cent of Kane's touches have been taken in the opposition box. That career-low mark continues a downward trend into a fifth straight season, but it may now have reached a point where it is harmful to his chances of scoring.

Since Yaya Toure's sublime 2013-14 season from midfield, every Premier League player to notch 20 goals in a season has taken at least 10 per cent of their touches in the opposition box.

Few would write off Kane's chances of a sixth career 20-goal campaign at this stage, but he should expect competition for his Golden Boot from Sunday's opponent Romelu Lukaku.

A picture of efficiency, Lukaku has scored three times from 12 shots for Chelsea this term, registering an attempt every 8.5 touches and a goal every 34 touches.

If Tottenham are to be successful this season, they need Kane to be hitting similar marks.

Whether that means a tweak to his role or a change in the entire system, something has to shift, for Lukaku could very easily show Nuno just what he is missing.

The Premier League table already looks to be taking shape, with a thrilling title race potentially in store.

And fantasy leagues are no different, with the best players quickly racking up early-season points to pull clear.

Want to avoid being left behind? Why not take a look at our Opta-powered picks for matchday five...

 

ALISSON (Liverpool v Crystal Palace)

Liverpool have started the season in fine form and Alisson has been central to their defensive solidarity, which has seen them keep three clean sheets in four games.

Since the start of last season, only Hugo Lloris (7.7) has prevented more goals than the Brazil goalkeeper (6.2) according to expected goals on target data, while only two can boast a better save percentage than his 74.2.

Crystal Palace may have cruised past Tottenham last time out but beating Alisson will provide a different challenge and the Liverpool man could be a guarantee for much-needed clean sheet points.

JAMES TARKOWSKI (Burnley v Arsenal)

Burnley are winless this term, but James Tarkowski remains a wonderful bargain option for your shaky backline.

While the Clarets may concede against Arsenal, Tarkowski offers returns at the other end of the pitch and boasts the highest xG (4.3) among Premier League defenders since the start of last term.

Only the more expensive Andrew Robertson, Joao Cancelo and Trent-Alexander Arnold have had more touches in the opposition box in that time period, too, meaning the centre-back could prove an alternate option on matchday five.

VIRGIL VAN DIJK (Liverpool v Crystal Palace)

From one end of the budget to the other, Virgil van Dijk may set you back but he has been the Premier League's most dangerous defender so far.

The centre-back has produced nine shots, with only Cancelo (13) and Alexander-Arnold (11) managing more opposition-box touches among defenders than Van Dijk's 11.

Given Liverpool look likely a good bet for a clean sheet as well – conceding only five goals in eight straight wins against Palace – Van Dijk could provide a perfect double threat despite the off-putting outlay for the Netherlands captain.

ABDOULAYE DOUCOURE (Aston Villa v  Everton)

Abdoulaye Doucoure may not be your typical fantasy midfielder in the ilk of Mohamed Salah, Bruno Fernandes or Paul Pogba.

However, the Everton midfielder is in fine form and provides a wonderful budget option, having been involved in four goals in his past four games in the competition for the Toffees.

Aston Villa have managed just two shutouts in their past 16, too, so Doucoure's box-to-box prowess could cause carnage once more at Villa Park.

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Burnley v  Arsenal)

Some fantasy players may have given up hope with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but he repaid the faith of those loyal to him with a goal against Norwich City last Saturday.

The Gabon forward, who many discounted after a poor last campaign, will be central to Mikel Arteta's revival and he has netted eight times in seven top-flight matches against Burnley.

Given Burnley have not kept a clean sheet in their past seven and Arsenal attempted 30 shots last time out, Aubameyang could provide more returns at Turf Moor.

SADIO MANE (Liverpool  v Crystal Palace)

Salah appears the obvious option as always for the visit of Crystal Palace; however, Sadio Mane offers an alternate differential at Anfield.

Liverpool have fired in 100 shots already this term – just the second side to register a century in their opening four Premier League games since 2003-04 – and Mane has accounted for 22 of those.

The Senegal star has also scored in each of his past eight against Palace, making him one of the best picks for matchday five.

DANNY INGS (Aston Villa v Everton)

Danny Ings has been a fantasy favourite from the start of the season but has not delivered as of yet with Aston Villa.

That could change against Everton, however, as the Toffees are his favourite opponent having scored five top-flight goals against them.

The omens are in Ings' favour, too, given he has managed to score against Everton with all three of his previous Premier League clubs – could he make it a fourth with Villa?

Week 1 can be strange. Not everything goes to plan and, for NFL coaches and fantasy owners alike, it's best not to overreact to the weekend just gone.

However, avoiding falling 0-2 is just as important as keeping your cool. In the high-pressure world of the NFL and amid the considerably lower stakes of fantasy football, nobody wants to fall into a hole early in the season.

And, in both cases, identifying the players who can be relied on to produce a big performance is the key to victory.

In this week's edition of Fantasy Picks, Stats Perform looks at the players who should be considered sure things to deliver the goods.

QB: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks vs. Tennessee Titans

Wilson could hardly have been more impressive as the Seahawks swept aside the Indianapolis Colts on the road in Week 1.

Continuing his remarkable rapport with Tyler Lockett, who had two receiving scores, Wilson threw for 254 yards and four touchdowns as his marriage with new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron got off to a spectacular start.

Second in air yards per attempt (10.43) among quarterbacks with at least 10 attempts, Wilson carries substantial upside as one of the best deep-ball throwers in the NFL and should receive ample opportunity to demonstrate that prowess against an extremely vulnerable Titans defense shredded by the Arizona Cardinals for 280 net yards passing and four touchdowns through the air in their opener.

RB: Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions

Nothing went right for the Packers in their 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints, with Jones held to nine yards on five carries on a miserable day for the entire offense.

Yet a Week 2 clash with the Detroit Lions should prove the perfect tonic. Detroit gave up 131 yards on the ground to the San Francisco 49ers in the opener, with sixth-round rookie Elijah Mitchell gashing the Lions for 104 yards and a touchdown at a rate of 5.5 yards per carry.

The Packers operate a zone running game akin to that of the Niners, so Jones should be confident of finding room to rack up similar numbers. Jones has topped 100 yards in two of his past three games against the Lions, including a 168-yard, two-touchdown effort at Lambeau Field last year.

WR: Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers vs. Dallas Cowboys

Justin Herbert's rapport with a receiver who has a case for being the premier route runner in the NFL continues to blossom, with the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year going to Allen time and again as the Chargers edged out the Washington Football Team in their opener.

Allen was targeted 13 times and caught nine passes for 100 yards in a 20-16 victory. He registered a burn, which is when a player wins his matchup with a defender on plays where he is targeted, on 12 of those 13 targets.

He did that against a Washington defense that allowed the second-fewest yards per pass play (5.33) in the NFL last season. Now he gets to face a Cowboys defense that ranked 21st in that same metric with 6.69 yards and gave up 7.58 per play in their opening loss to the Buccaneers. Book in Allen for another big day.

TE: George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles

Deebo Samuel overshadowed Kittle in the Niners' win in Detroit, but the top all-round tight end in football still produced with four catches for 78 yards and should be salivating at the prospect of facing the Eagles.

Last season, in a home loss to the Eagles, Kittle hauled in all 15 of his targets from Nick Mullens for 183 yards and a touchdown.

He might not see the same level of targets at Lincoln Financial Field this year but, with a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo under center, he should see enough of the ball to excel in a matchup with an Eagles defense that has consistently struggled to defend tight ends.

Defense: New England Patriots @ New York Jets

The Patriots may have come up short against the Miami Dolphins, but there was much to admire about their performance on defense.

With the likes of Matthew Judon and Josh Uche excelling at getting pressure on Tua Tagovailoa, New England's front is likely to have great success against the Jets' offensive line, which will be without left tackle Mekhi Becton.

Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson was sacked six times in their loss to the Carolina Panthers, which saw him throw an interceptable pass on 5.56 per cent of his attempts, according to Stats Perform data.

Expect New England's defense to create more interception opportunities and make it another long afternoon for Wilson and the Jets.

Lionel Messi is in line to make his 150th Champions League appearance and his first with Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.

Mauricio Pochettino's men travel to Club Brugge and Messi is about to partake in his first European campaign without Barcelona, while Manchester City host RB Leipzig.

Liverpool and Milan renew rivalries in the competition for just the second time since the 2004-05 final between the pair but the Serie A side have a woeful record against English teams.

Inter have a similarly poor record against Spanish teams and they face Real Madrid, with Karim Benzema edging towards another goalscoring landmark.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data ahead of Wednesday's fixtures.

Inter v Real Madrid: Benzema looks to edge past former Galactico Raul 

Inter have lost four of their last five against Real Madrid but Los Blancos have only won one of their previous eight away games against Wednesday's opponents as they prepare for a replay of last year's group stage outing.

However, Inter have not won against a Spanish team in Europe's premier competition since 2010 and Madrid have been victorious in 12 of their last 13 against Serie A outfits.

Carlo Ancelotti has Karim Benzema among his ranks and the forward will appear in his 17th consecutive campaign as he looks for his 72nd goal to move ahead of Raul (71) into fourth in the all-time scoring list.

 

Manchester City v RB Leipzig: Guardiola's group stage dominance

Manchester City are unbeaten in their last 17 group-stage ties and, since Pep Guardiola was appointed, they have lost just three of 30 at this stage of the competition.

The hosts are eyeing their 50th win in their 91st game as they look to become the second fastest to the half-century, while RB Leipzig have lost three of their last four against English opposition.

City's attacking riches could thrive at Etihad Stadium, too, Ferran Torres has scored four in his last six appearances in Europe - a goal every 90 minutes - and Riyad Mahrez has been involved in 22 goals in 28 starts for Leicester City and his current side in the Champions League.

 

Liverpool v Milan: Istanbul replay ends Rossoneri's seven-year wait

Milan will appear in their first Champions League since 2014, their first fixture a replay of the memorable 2004-05 final that saw Liverpool triumph.

Stefano Pioli's men have won just one of their last 13 against English opponents in European competition, while the Reds have lost just one of their last 12 group-stage games at Anfield in Europe under Jurgen Klopp.

Mohamed Salah (25) is one of two Liverpool players – along with Steven Gerrard (21) – to score 20+ times in the competition but Sadio Mane (19) could join them with a goal on Wednesday to become the fourth African to the 20-goal mark.

 

Club Brugge v Paris Saint-Germain: Pochettino's attacking riches

Paris Saint-Germain have netted 21 goals across six games against Belgian opposition – winning five and drawing once – while Club Brugge have only won one of their six opening games.

Lionel Messi – the second all-time leading scorer in the competition – could make his first PSG continental appearance, having scored 120 goals and provided 35 assists in 149 games for Barcelona against teams from 17 nations.

The visitors also boast half of the six players to be involved in 30+ goals in the competition in the last four seasons, with Kylian Mbappe (37), Messi (36) and Neymar (31) all doing so.

Other fixtures:

Atletico Madrid v Porto:

41 – Diego Simeone has won 41 of the 79 Champions League fixtures he has managed since 2013-14, with only Pep Guardiola (56) picking up more wins in this period.

4 – Porto have won four of their last five away games in the competition, their only loss coming against eventual runners-up Manchester City last term.

Besiktas v Borussia Dortmund:

1 – Besiktas have only collected one win in their last 10 home games in the Champions League and two of four defeats in that run have come against Bundesliga sides.

100 – Borussia Dortmund have a 100 per cent record against Turkish opposition in the Champions League, though all four wins have come against Galatasaray.

Sheriff Tiraspol v Shakhtar Donetsk:

1 – Sheriff Tiraspol are the first ever Moldovan team to feature in the Champions League proper. They are unbeaten in their last nine in European competition.

3 – Shakhtar Donetsk have only been beaten three times in their last 11 games as they went unbeaten against Real Madrid and Inter in the group stages last season.

Sporting CP v Ajax:

36 – Aged just 36, Ruben Amorim becomes the second youngest Portuguese manager in the competition's history, after former Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas (33) in 2011.

2 – Ajax have only lost two of 10 games against Portuguese opponents since the inaugural European Cup. However, just two of these games have taken place this century.

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