Chelsea host Manchester United in the headline game of the weekend in the Premier League, with Sunday's showdown at Stamford Bridge a lip-smacking occasion.

Will United put the misery of their five defeats in seven domestic league games behind them and start afresh after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's sacking, or will it be the same old story for the Red Devils?

The threat comes from all quarters with Chelsea: Reece James and Antonio Rudiger may be as likely, if not more so, to score than Timo Werner, for example.

Leeds are boosted by the return from injury of Raphinha as they head to Brighton, while Raheem Sterling and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang face opponents against whom they have outstanding past records.

The pursuit of fantasy points is on, and here are suggestions for possible picks ahead of the weekend, powered by Opta data.

REECE JAMES (Chelsea v Manchester United)

Will Manchester United's Champions League victory at Villarreal be a spur for them to find a way back to winning ways in the Premier League? Not if Reece James can help it.

Chelsea's exciting right wing-back was sufficiently impressive last term to make England's Euro 2020 squad, but he has gone to another level this time around, and a midweek goal against Juventus just confirmed his progression.

In the Premier League, James has been directly involved in eight goals this season, three more than in his previous 56 appearances in the competition across the last two seasons (5 - one goal, four assists). His total of involvements is higher than any other defender in the league in 2021-22, and United will be wary of that danger. Whether they can stop it remains to be seen.

ANTONIO RUDIGER (Chelsea v Manchester United)

Another Chelsea defender who provides value as an all-rounder, Rudiger provides Premier League fantasy points possibilities at both ends of the pitch.

Among Premier League defenders, only his Blues club-mates James (4) and Ben Chilwell (3) have scored more goals in the competition this season, while only Manchester City's Joao Cancelo (8) has registered more clean sheets than the German (7).

With Harry Maguire suspended and Raphael Varane injured, United seem likely to be susceptible to crosses from set-pieces, which is where Rudiger could come into his own.

RAPHINHA (Brighton and Hove Albion v Leeds United)

Leeds are hovering just above the bottom three, heading into the weekend, so to have Raphinha available will be a major boost to Marcelo Bielsa.

After missing the defeat at Tottenham last time out, the Brazil international is expected to be involved at Brighton this weekend as Leeds target a third win of the campaign.

They missed his creative influence in north London, with Leeds having won 45 per cent of their Premier League games in which Raphinha has featured (18/40) since his debut for the club in October 2020, They have won none of their six matches when he has been absent (D2 L4) and have averaged a measly 0.5 goals per game.

His 20 goal involvements in the league over the same period (11 goals, 9 assists) is second only at Leeds to Patrick Bamford (23 - 15 goals, 8 assists).

RAHEEM STERLING (Manchester City v West Ham)

Has Raheem Sterling played himself into form for City? Three goals in his last three appearances across all competitions suggests that is the case for a player who struggled in the early weeks of the season, in the wake of his exploits at Euro 2020 with England.

Now, assuming he keeps his place in Pep Guardiola's starting line-up, Sterling gets to face one of his very favourite opponents when West Ham visit the Etihad Stadium.

Sterling has been involved in 11 goals in his last eight Premier League games against the Hammers (6 goals, 5 assists), hitting a hat-trick when the teams met in London on the opening day of the 2019-20 season.

EMMANUEL DENNIS (Leicester City v Watford)

It was Emmanuel Dennis who inflicted the final blow to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, completing the rout as Watford whipped Manchester United 4-1 last Saturday.

The Nigerian appears to have been an outstanding acquisition from Club Brugge and Leicester will be wary of his menacing form ahead of a King Power Stadium tussle.

Dennis has scored four goals and assisted five more in just 11 Premier League appearances for Watford. Should he score in Sunday's game, he would become only the sixth player in Premier League history to reach both five goals and assists in 12 or fewer games, after Eric Cantona (11 games), Jurgen Klinsmann (12), Arjen Robben (11), Andrey Arshavin (10) and Bruno Fernandes (9).

JOSE SA (Norwich City v Wolves)

The handover of the Wolves goalkeeper job from Rui Patricio to fellow Portuguese Jose Sa has been seamless, and the new man between the sticks has been highly effective already in the Premier League.

Only Chelsea's Edouard Mendy (3.71) has prevented more goals in the PL this season than Sa (2.18). That is based on Opta's expected goals on target (xGOT) metric, which assesses the quality of shots. On that basis, Sa would have been expected to concede 14.18 goals, but he has picked the ball out of the net just 12 times.

His 38 saves from 50 shots faced gives him a healthy 76 per cent success rate, beaten only by Mendy (88.57 per cent) and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsdale (78.95) so far this season. Norwich will do well to find a way past one of the most in-form glovesmen in the top flight.

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Arsenal v Newcastle United)

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has not scored or had an assist in his last three Premier League games, creating just one chance in 270 minutes.

But if there is any team he is going to score against, Newcastle would be close to the top of the list, and not merely because Eddie Howe's team are bottom of the table.

The former Borussia Dortmund striker has been involved in nine goals in his eight appearances for Arsenal against Newcastle in all competitions (6 goals, 3 assists), scoring in each of his last five games against the Magpies.

Mikel Arteta is unsure whether Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Thomas Partey will be fit for Arsenal's Premier League trip to Liverpool on Saturday.

The in-form Gunners travel to Merseyside without a win at Anfield since September 2012, but with the longest unbeaten run in the top flight of eight matches.

Captain Aubamayang has emerged as a doubt for the clash with the Reds after returning from international duty with Gabon early, while Ghana midfielder Partey's fitness is also a concern for the London club due to a muscle injury.

Asked about Aubamayang's early return, Arteta said on Friday: "No, it wasn't pre-planned, we have to assess him and see how he is and make a decision.

"We have a lot players who have been through some different games, issues, little injuries, so today we have to test everybody and see how we are to play tomorrow.

"Same again [for Partey], he could not play for the national team, he really tried to do that because they had a massive game and he really pushed for that one, but he wasn't close enough to do that. Again, it's something we have to assess today."

Liverpool's 3-2 defeat at West Ham before the international break ended their 20-game unbeaten run in the Premier League.

The Reds are unbeaten in nine at home in the top flight and Arteta is relishing the challenge of trying to secure a long-awaited win at Anfield.

"It is always a test, it is a fascinating stadium to play football in," said the former Everton midfielder. "You have to be at your best, and raise the level to your maximum standards, emotionally, physically, tactically, because if you don't you will be exposed.

"Going to Anfield is always a test, but if you are able to do that, there are not many grounds as good as there to feel that you are a proper footballer.

"You really feel as a footballer you are in a place where you really have to give your best and when you do, it's an incredible feeling, because you have overcome a really difficult and challenging situation.

"When you don't, like it has happened other times, after you feel regrets for things that you haven't done or you should have done differently, or you haven't approached the game in the right way. I think it's one of those places where you have to go there and believe on the day and show why you want to play football.

"I don't know [why we haven't won there more], obviously the quality of the opponent has a big say. It's not a coincidence that last year as well before we went to Old Trafford, it was I don't know how many years before we won at Stamford Bridge the same, but first of all you have to believe that you go there and that you can beat them, that's the first thing.

"If somebody is not with that mindset, they should not put the shirt on and go to Anfield tomorrow and then as I said you have to raise individually your game to your best, emotionally, physically, technically and tactically you have to be able to suffer in the right moments, because there’s going to be moments where you're going to have to do that and then as a team you have to have very clear ideas of what you're going to do on that pitch to beat that side."

Mikel Arteta described his players as "the most honest" after Claudio Ranieri accused them of a lack of respect following Arsenal's 1-0 win over Watford at Emirates Stadium.

The Watford head coach was unhappy that Arsenal did not give the ball back after it had been put out for an injury in the move that led to Emile Smith Rowe's decisive goal.

The result extended the Gunners' unbeaten run to 10 games across all competitions and marked Arteta's 100th game as Arsenal boss with a win.

Arteta issued a staunch defence of his squad's conduct, revealing that, if anything, he feels his side can occasionally be too honest.

"If I have to define my players, my team and my club, I would say that they are the most honest - all of them," Arteta said. "At some stages, we can even become naive.

"But still, if [Ranieri] feels like that towards our club, our team, I have to apologise if that's the case but, for sure that was not the intention to take any advantage."


Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed his second consecutive Premier League penalty, having missed only two of his first 11 in the competition, but Arteta still retains confidence in his skipper's ability from the spot.

"[Aubameyang] will stay on penalties if he is happy to do so," Arteta continued. "You will miss if you take penalties, that is part of your career and the job."

Smith Rowe's second-half strike earned Arsenal the three points, but Ainsley Maitland-Niles - starting in midfield in the absence of the injured Thomas Partey - put in an impressive performance as Arsenal extended their unbeaten run to 10 games in all competitions.

The 24-year-old was strongly linked with an exit in the most recent transfer window, even posting a message on social media indicating his desire to leave in search of regular minutes.

However, the Englishman was retained and Arteta is glad to have kept hold of the versatile Hale End graduate, saying he has seen a great deal of improvement from Maitland-Niles.

"First of all, I see a different player in terms of [Maitland-Niles'] urgency, his commitment, clarity in his play, his purpose," Arteta said. "We made a decision. I was clear, with what I was seeing, that I wanted him to stay because he was going to be useful.

"He has a huge talent which is that he is versatile enough to adapt to almost any position on the pitch. When I see him in training sessions, when I see how he prepares, when I see the questions he's asking, his level of attention - everything you talk through, his response is immediate.

"He's a really clever boy, a really intelligent boy and I think he has come a long way."

Emile Smith Rowe scored for a third Premier League game running to extend Arsenal's unbeaten run as they beat Watford 1-0 in Mikel Arteta's 100th game in charge.

Arsenal's breakthrough came after a frustrating first half that saw a Bukayo Saka goal ruled out for offside before Ben Foster saved Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's penalty.

Foster was in inspired form but could not keep out Smith Rowe's drilled shot with 56 minutes on the clock, with that proving to be the only goal of Sunday's clash at Emirates Stadium, where Juraj Kucka was sent off late on for Watford.

Arsenal are now eight league matches without defeat – winning six of those – making this their best such run in the competition since another eight-game spell ended in March 2020.

Saka thought he had opened the scoring early on when Aubameyang's heavy touch ran to the winger in front of goal, but he was stood beyond Foster and identified as offside by a VAR review.

Arsenal continued to dominate and were awarded a penalty when Danny Rose clattered into Alexandre Lacazette. However, Aubameyang's attempt from the spot lacked precision and Foster saved with a combination of his arm and leg down to his right.

Although Foster was then equal to Gabriel's header, the Gunners had scored at least once in all 14 previous Premier League meetings with Watford and keep that run going here.

Smith Rowe picked up the ball following a positive run from Ben White and swept a first-time finish away from Foster to make it five goals for the season in all competitions.

Substitute Martin Odegaard was then denied when his goalbound effort was tapped in by an offside Aubameyang at the back post.

That set up a slightly nervy finish as Joshua King fired into the side-netting following a lapse in judgement from Aaron Ramsdale, but Kucka's second yellow card for a wild swipe at Nuno Tavares effectively ended Watford's hopes of snatching a point.

Mikel Arteta hailed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for leading from the front as the Arsenal captain adapts to a changing role from previous seasons.

Arsenal endured a tough start to the new Premier League term, losing their opening three games before responding with six wins from eight unbeaten games across all competitions.

Aubameyang has been key to their upturn in form, having been involved in five goals in his last six top-flight appearances (four goals, one assist) with the Gunners climbing into 10th.

The forward has operated in a more central role this campaign, as opposed to cutting in from the left flank, and has led the line effectively so far.

Indeed, Aubameyang (four) ranks second at the club for possession won in the final third, only behind Emile Smith-Rowe (nine), while also sitting fifth among club charts for chances created (eight).

Utilised as Arsenal's spearhead who leads the press, Arteta credited Aubameyang's willingness to adapt to his new role and praised the 32-year-old's leadership qualities.

"We had various conversations and obviously where you have a season where as a team we haven’t fulfilled our expectations, and individually we haven’t, we have to find the right reasons why," Arteta said at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"How we can change that, how we can improve them, how we can help him to improve certain things that are going to have a huge impact on the team.

"And he’s been so willing to do that from the start. I am so pleased because again, his role is different to one that he had two or three years ago, and now he needs to lead in every sense – and he’s doing that and I’m really happy with him."

Aubameyang's finishing seems to have improved as well, given he has outscored his expected goals (3.08) in the Premier League after eight appearances with four strikes to his name.

Arteta also believes his experienced striker is enjoying his new role, which is producing results on and off the pitch.

"I think he is, and I think you can see it on the pitch," the Arsenal manager responded when asked if Aubameyang was enjoying himself.

"He’s playing with a smile on his face, he’s transmitting energy, passion, willingness – and not only that but outside the pitch as well.

"That’s what I want – a happy Auba leads with his character, and that’s what he’s able to transmit to everybody, and that energy is always positive."

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta believes that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has taken his game to the next level and "prefers" this version of the striker.

After a poor campaign by his standards in 2020-21, Gunners captain Aubameyang is the club's top scorer in the Premier League with four goals from eight appearances, but his manager has been equally as impressed with the 32-year-old's improved all-round game.

The Gabon forward ranks second at the club for possession won in the final third in the Premier League (four) behind only Emile Smith Rowe (nine).

Aubameyang has also outperformed his expected goals (xG) value of 3.08, suggesting his finishing has been above the standard that would be expected from the chances he has been presented with.

He ranks fifth in Arsenal's squad for chances created (eight), providing one assist from those opportunities. 

Arteta feels that Aubameyang is giving off an energy that he has never done before and is becoming a more complete player in the process.

"I have never seen Auba transmit what he is doing now," Arteta told Arsenal's official website ahead of Tuesday's EFL Cup tie with fellow Premier League side Leeds United, against whom Aubameyang netted a hat-trick last season.

"Apart from the goals, the celebration when they put the ball in the net, do you see the way he runs, the purpose he has to press the ball, and when he takes it his movement, his link, how is leading the game - that is when he is changing the rest, not when he is static and then he puts the ball in the net. I prefer this Auba.

"It is clicking. It is a combination of realising that his role has to go well beyond [scoring]. What was good, or very good, two or three years ago, with his role in this team, at this club, it is not enough. He had to take a step forward."

Arteta explained that both Aubameyang and fellow striker Alexandre Lacazette have a responsibility to lead a young squad on and off the field.

"I would say the same with Laca, look what he is transmitting, not just doing or playing, what he is transmitting," Arteta continued. "For me, that is really, really important.

"They lead by example and not only there but as well at the training ground. Certain things, a role they could have had three years ago in the squad, now it has changed.

"The group's age is a little bit closer [together] so they are experiencing most of the same things and they talk a lot about it. Then we have the senior players that they have to lead and they have to take that role, and they are doing that in a different way.

"There are players now that on that pitch that they are able to transmit something and change certain behaviours and attitudes in other players. That is contagious, and for me that is leadership."

Lacazette has played a bit-part role so far this season but was handed his first league start of the campaign as Arsenal beat Aston Villa 3-1, producing an impressive display despite not getting on the scoresheet himself.

Arsenal returned to winning ways and moved into the top half of the Premier League with a well-earned 3-1 victory over Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium.

Mikel Arteta's side had been held in back-to-back games but Friday's win never seemed in doubt after Thomas Partey deservedly headed them in front with his first goal for the club.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang added a second just before half-time from a rebound after Emiliano Martinez had saved his penalty, which was awarded after VAR intervened.

Villa substitute Jacob Ramsey pulled one back late on after Emile Smith Rowe had further extended Arsenal's lead, as the Gunners stretched their unbeaten league run to six matches and condemned their opponents to a third loss on the bounce.

 

Aubameyang had a goal rightly ruled out for an Alexandre Lacazette foul in the build-up and Partey turned a shot against the crossbar in a dominant start from Arsenal.

The hosts deservedly took the lead with 23 minutes played, when Partey got away from John McGinn and guided Smith Rowe's corner past Martinez.

Former Arsenal keeper Martinez produced a fine save to deny Bukayo Saka from a one-on-one on the half-hour mark, but he was beaten for a second time from the penalty spot right at the end of the first half.

After being asked to check the pitchside monitor, Craig Pawson adjudged Matt Targett went through the back of Lacazette to win the ball and Aubameyang fired past Martinez at the second attempt after his former team-mate kept out the initial spot-kick.

Villa squandered a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 against Wolves last week, but any hopes of a comeback of their own were extinguished by a Smith Rowe strike that deflected in off Tyrone Mings.

Ramsey curled a delightful shot past Aaron Ramsdale eight minutes from time following some nice play from fellow substitute Leon Bailey, though that proved nothing more than a consolation.

The Premier League table continues to take shape as we approach matchday nine, with Liverpool versus Manchester United the headline clash of the weekend.

Mohamed Salah, a fantasy football favourite, will look to further his nine-game scoring run as the Reds travel to Old Trafford, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be hoping the comeback win against Atalanta inspires his side.

Chelsea, whose defence continues to provide valuable clean-sheet points for many a fantasy line-up, face strugglers Norwich City and Manchester City – another clean-sheet machine – travel to Brighton and Hove Albion.

Whether it is the Blues' regimented defence or Jurgen Klopp's shot-hungry attack, Stats Perform uses Opta-powered data to pick out seven potential fantasy stars.

EDOUARD MENDY (Chelsea v Norwich City)

Edouard Mendy was, arguably, the primary reason Chelsea collected all three points at local rivals Brentford last time out.

The goalkeeper produced six second-half saves as he left the Bees in disbelief with his various acrobatics to secure his 20th clean sheet in just 38 top-flight games.

With that many shutouts to his name, he boasts a clean-sheet ratio of 53 per cent – the highest of all keepers with 10-plus starts in Premier League history.

BEN CHILWELL (Chelsea v Norwich City)

Marcos Alonso may have been an early pick but Thomas Tuchel's wing-back roulette now seems to be favouring Ben Chilwell, who is in fine goal-scoring form.

The England left-back not only offers defensive returns, but he has also managed to score in his last three Premier League matches – having registered just two gaols in his first 26 Blues appearances in the competition.

Partnered with Mendy and against a shot-shy Norwich outfit, Chilwell is almost a certainty to provide some much-needed contributions from your backline.

JOAO CANCELO (Brighton and Hove Albion v Manchester City)

Joao Cancelo is the only one of Pep Guardiola's defenders to start all eight top-flight fixtures this term, after fantasy favourite Ruben Dias was surprisingly benched against Burnley.

The versatile full-back is yet to score but boasts the highest expected goals of any defender this term (1.3), while enjoying the most touches in the opposition box among the same category (22).

Only Shane Duffy (14) has attempted more shots than Cancelo (13), and the full-back should also be a shoo-in for clean-sheet bonus points, given no defender has kept more than his six shutouts this season.

MOHAMED SALAH (Manchester United v Liverpool)

By this point, if Salah is not present in your team then questions may need to be asked following his solo 'Goal of the Season' competition he has seemingly created in the last couple of games.

Since the start of March, the Egypt forward has been directly involved in the most goals, with his 18 (12 goals, six assists) two more than Leicester's Kelechi Iheanacho.

A premium but must-buy option for every fantasy outfit, Salah could wreak havoc on Sunday against a somewhat timid Red Devils defence at Old Trafford.

SON HEUNG-MIN (West Ham v Tottenham)

With an unusually out of form Harry Kane failing to deliver for Tottenham, and the majority of fantasy owners, Son Heung-Min has stepped up for Nuno Espirito Santo's side.

The South Korea international has scored four times and assisted once – those contributions worth eight points to Spurs, more than any player in the competition this campaign.

Son, up against West Ham, could provide further joy on Sunday if he is to carry Spurs seemingly single-handedly to victory once more.

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Arsenal v Aston Villa)

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been integral to Arsenal's early-season revival, finding the net in each of his last three top-flight games at Emirates Stadium.

In total, he has managed 42 Premier League goals at the Gunners' home ground, with only Robin van Persie firing in more (46).

Against a wounded Aston Villa defence, who shipped three late goals against Wolves in their last game, can Aubameyang continue his fine scoring run?

RAHEEM STERLING (Brighton and Hove Albion v Manchester City)

Again, err on the side of caution with this pick, given Guardiola's preference to rotate his wealth of playmaking riches regularly.

However, should Raheem Sterling start against Brighton – he could be an unlikely differential to source vital attacking gains in gameweek nine.

The England international has netted four times in four starts against the Seagulls, scoring a hat-trick on his last visit to the South Coast in July 2020.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was left baffled by referee Mike Dean's decision not to dismiss James McArthur in his side's 2-2 Premier League draw with Crystal Palace, despite the aid of VAR.

Alexandre Lacazette struck a dramatic stoppage-time goal to rescue a point for Arsenal after Palace had recovered from 1-0 down to lead 2-1 in the dying stages of Patrick Vieira's return to his former club on Monday.

However, Arteta believes visitors Palace should have been reduced to 10 men just before half-time when McArthur caught Bukayo Saka with a late foot as they competed for an aerial ball.

Despite the hosts being incensed by McArthur's challenge, the Palace midfielder received a yellow card from Dean, while England international Saka was forced to withdraw from the action at the interval due to injury,

Gunners boss Arteta was adamant that the incident warranted further punishment, especially with the assistance of video technology.

"It's a clear red card. [McArthur had] no intention to play the ball," he told BBC Sport. "I don't know how with VAR, he hasn't been sent off."

While generally disappointed with Arsenal's performance, Arteta praised the resilience they demonstrated to ensure a share of the spoils.

Arsenal made two errors leading to goals in a Premier League game for the first time since April 2019 against Wolves and for the first time at the Emirates since December 2017 versus Manchester United.

"After the [opening] goal, we didn't manage the game well enough," he added. "We didn't have composure or control. It [the dip in performance] was for a long period, which is worrying.

"We started better in the second half. We had more control, and then we gave the ball away two times for the two goals.

"The most positive thing is we kept going. They kept believing until the end; that's how we managed to get a point."

Lacazette, who grabbed that late equaliser, also praised the hosts' character, while paying tribute to the home crowd for providing much-needed energy.

"At the end, we could draw. The main thing was to avoid the loss," said the French forward, whose last four Premier League goals at the Emirates have all come in London derbies.

"We wanted to win; we started well but then stopped playing. I think this is something we have to work on in the future. He [Arteta] told us when we play well, the fans are with us. This is what I tried to bring. 

"When the fans are with us, it gives us players energy. We need to give them what they want. We showed we have character. Even when we are down, we don't give up."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had opened the scoring for Arsenal – the Gunners star netting in three consecutive home Premier League games for the first time since September 2019.

Since making his Arsenal debut in February 2018, Aubameyang has scored 91 goals in 156 club appearances. The only Premier League players to score more in all competitions during this period are Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (109) and Tottenham forward Harry Kane (99).

It made Thierry Henry and Tony Adams happy, and Mikel Arteta on the touchline was so excited by it all that he probably expended more energy than the Tottenham midfield.

So bravo Arsenal, bravo. A 3-1 win – their 600th in the Premier League – over Tottenham looks great on paper and proved rather fetching on grass, too, the Gunners picking off their north London neighbours at will, particularly in an embarrassingly one-sided first half.

But in essence, this was all about keeping up with the Joneses. Any significance from a sunny Sunday afternoon's Emirates Stadium stroll can only be gauged by what Arsenal, and indeed Spurs, do next.

Successive 1-0 wins over Norwich City and Burnley kept the wolves from Arteta's door after Arsenal's slow start to the Premier League season, and this derby success was received like they used to savour championships in these parts.

Of course, there is a temptation to look at this result without a dispassionate perspective, to rave about Emile Smith Rowe, who was excellent, and Bukayo Saka, whose season perhaps starts now. The young English pair both scored and both had an assist, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang played like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rather than an imposter.

Record scorer Henry, sitting in the stand alongside Spotify billionaire Daniel Ek, was all smiles and giggles, while former skipper Adams, in the Sky Sports studio, gushed about "a wonderful, wonderful first-half display". The Gunners gentry were grinning, dreaming it might be the start of something.

"I'm excited guys, I'm excited," Adams said, almost apologetically. "I was absolutely delighted the kids took the game to Tottenham."

Even Gary Neville said Arsenal had been "fantastic", and in many ways they were.


SPURS TAKE A HIDING

Smith Rowe wandered untracked into the heart of the Spurs penalty area to drive home Saka's low centre for the 12th-minute opener; then Aubameyang put the finishing touch to a glorious Arsenal counter-attack, Tierney to Aubameyang, on to the galloping Smith Rowe with a delicious flick, then back to Aubameyang for an unstoppable finish into the far right corner.

Tottenham were torn apart again in the 34th minute as Saka bundled his way through a desperate Spurs defence before driving a shot across Lloris.

Harry Kane had given the ball away at the other end of the pitch and dashed back to try to make amends, only to nudge Saka's attempted pass handily back into the path of his England colleague, who pounced on the chance.

Smith Rowe, at 21 years and 60 days, firstly became the youngest player to score and assist in a Premier League north London derby since Cesc Fabregas in September 2007.

Then Saka took that record outright from Fabregas, 21 days after his 20th birthday. Saka is also the youngest Englishman to score a league goal for Arsenal against Spurs since a 19-year-old Stewart Robson at Highbury in April 1984.

Son Heung-min got Spurs a goal in the 79th minute, ending their 307-minute goalless run, and Lucas Moura hit the bar in stoppage time, but this was a hiding for the visitors.

"They weren't competitive in any shape or form," said Graeme Souness, incandescent.

"Arsenal would wish they could play against a team like Spurs were in the first 45 minutes every week. Spurs were so poor."


KANE DRAWS A BLANK AGAIN

Kane went for a Hail Mary shot from 28 yards and the Arsenal crowd gleefully jeered as the ball cleared the bar by several yards. The England captain then headed wide from a corner and another roar went up.

Aaron Ramsdale pushed aside a Kane shot that may have been drifting wide as Spurs showed more spark after the break, before the Tottenham talisman scooped a shot wide after running in behind the Arsenal defence for the first time.

He cannot buy a Premier League goal this season. Five games in and he has yet to get off the mark, but at least he had five attempts here, more than doubling his tally for the campaign. It was 2016 when he last went on a five-game goalless streak.

Aubameyang answered his own critics in style and has now scored in all three of his home Premier League games against Spurs, but Kane only fuelled the arguments of those questioning his performance this season. Dele Alli was hauled off after 45 wasted minutes, with Sky pundit Neville saying: "He needs to sort himself out."


SPURS NEED TO CHANGE THEIR TUNE

Spurs have conceded three goals in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time since September 2003, and after the derby dismay against Crystal Palace and Chelsea, here was another savage reminder of their shortcomings.

They are only the second team in Premier League history to win their first three games of a season and then lose the next three, following the Everton team of 1993-94 who finished in 17th place.

So for one day at least, we might say Tottenham are in dire trouble and the future looks bright for Arsenal, despite them sitting alongside one another in mid-table.

And, of course, the CEO of Spotify fancies Arsenal. He loved the 80s mix, the 90s mix and the 2000s mix, and senses the 2020s mix could have a rocking soundtrack too, bouncing to the beat of Saka, Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard.

Tottenham, for now it seems, are lacking punk, lacking soul, stuck on a sad-song, life-sucks loop.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang said Arsenal's youngsters played with freedom after the Gunners cruised to a 3-1 derby victory over Tottenham.

Emile Smith Rowe turned in a star display as he scored Arsenal's opener before teeing up Aubameyang to double their advantage at Emirates Stadium.

In a blistering first-half display from Mikel Arteta's side, Bukayo Saka made it 3-0 after Arsenal capitalised on Harry Kane's error in the 34th minute.

Son Heung-min netted a late consolation for sorry Spurs, who also hit the crossbar late on, though Nuno Espirito Santo's side were deservedly beaten as they suffered a third successive top-flight defeat. Tottenham are only the second team in Premier League history to win their first three games of a season and then lose the next three, after Everton in 1993-94.

"It means everything. It means the world to us. We gave everything for them today. The fans give us everything. They push us. It's an amazing feeling, unbelievable," Arsenal captain Aubameyang told Sky Sports, as he spoke alongside Smith Rowe.

Asked if he offered guidance to Arsenal's younger players, Aubameyang said: "These boys are great guys, they're doing well, and I'm happy that my kids will grow up [in London] and one day be maybe like [Smith Rowe].

"It's quite easy when you have boys like this who always listen and are ready to learn. So I try to give them some advice.

"The most important thing is they feel free as they play. This is what they did today. They are doing amazing."

Smith Rowe created two chances and scored with his only shot in a scintillating performance. With his goal having been teed up by Saka, the duo have now assisted one another five times in the Premier League. Among players both aged 21 or younger, only Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney (eight) have teed each other up more often in the competition's history.

"I've always dreamt of this day, to score for Arsenal against Tottenham. To have my family here as well, it's just the best feeling ever," said Smith Rowe, before explaining Arteta's influence.

"He just tells us to keep calm. We're young players in a massive game. He just encourages us so much and gives us so much confidence. Not just the manager, but the players in the team as well, they give us so much confidence."

After heading into the last international break bottom of the table, having lost their opening three games by an aggregate score of 9-0, including a 5-0 thumping by Manchester City, Arsenal have now overtaken a Spurs side who were top at the end of August.

It is the first time Arsenal have ended a day of Premier League action above Spurs since October 25, 2020.

"We are doing a good run for a couple of games now," said Aubameyang.

"After the game against Manchester City it was time to have a chat between us players and this is what we did. We want to go forward and win games.

"This was important for us to make everything clear. We are doing well right now and the feeling is very good."

Arsenal claimed consecutive Premier League victories over Tottenham for the first time since 2014 as they eased past their North London rivals 3-1.

Having initially made a strong start to life under Nuno Espirito Santo, Spurs have now lost three successive league games, with their manager seeing his first derby effectively lost inside the first 45 minutes.

Emile Smith Rowe's 12th-minute strike gave Arsenal a deserved lead, which was doubled when he teed up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 15 minutes later.

Spurs offered limp resistance and the game was essentially put to bed by the excellent Bukayo Saka, with Son Heung-min's effort a mere consolation for Tottenham.

Smith Rowe rewarded Arsenal for a bright start when he drifted towards the near post to slot Saka's clever low delivery beyond a rooted Hugo Lloris.

Thomas Partey tested Lloris from range and Aubameyang fired a long-range effort narrowly over the crossbar before Spurs threatened a riposte through Son, who forced Aaron Ramsdale to turn behind from a tight angle.

Aubameyang found the desired accuracy to double Arsenal's lead as Spurs were caught on the counter, the Gabon forward freeing Smith Rowe down the left with a neat backheel and then firing into the bottom-right corner from the eventual return pass.

Tottenham failed to learn their lesson and were undone by another Arsenal break. It was Saka this time who was given the freedom of one flank, and he surged into the open space to tuck home after seeing Harry Kane block his attempted pass to Aubameyang.

After his defensive efforts fell short, Kane then missed a glaring opportunity to offer a more traditional contribution to proceedings as he headed wide unmarked from a corner, encapsulating an awful first half for Spurs.

Kane did draw a save from Ramsdale on the hour mark and then beat the Arsenal goalkeeper, only to see his dinked effort drift wide of the right-hand post.

Son side-footed beyond Ramsdale, with Granit Xhaka injured in the build-up, but those were the only blots on a superb day for Arsenal, who survived an injury-time scare when their goalkeeper tipped a Lucas Moura strike onto the crossbar.

December 2, 2018. In the 56th minute of Unai Emery's first north London derby in charge of Arsenal, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang curled a sensational first-time finish beyond Hugo Lloris to level the scores at 2-2.

Aubameyang's strike – his second goal of the game after a first-half penalty to open the scoring – sent the home faithful into raptures at Emirates Stadium, and the Gabon forward went on to tee up Lucas Torreira to score Arsenal's final goal in a 4-2 victory.

Having arrived from Borussia Dortmund in January of that year, Aubameyang scored 22 Premier League goals in 2018-19, sharing the league's Golden Boot award with Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

It was a tally he matched the following season, trailing the competition's top scorer Jamie Vardy by one, but after prolonged contract negotiations finally resulted in Aubameyang signing a new three-year contract last September, his form has hit a wall.

His league total dropped to just 10 goals last season, as Aubameyang netted just three times prior to the turn of the year.

Despite featuring in each of Arsenal's league games so far this season, Aubameyang only has one goal, which came in the 1-0 win over Norwich City earlier this month. He had six attempts in that match, getting just two on target.

At 32, it seems Aubameyang's prime is now behind him, though could Sunday's north London derby with Tottenham be the catalyst to spark his form and really get Arsenal's season up and running?

Using Opta data, Stats Perform assesses if there is a way back to the top for Aubameyang, or is the end of the road approaching?

 

Shoot on sight not always the right call

Aubameyang's second goal in that derby in December 2018 was a moment of magic, as he caught Lloris out with a sensational first-time strike from outside the box.

However, the shoot-on-sight policy is not seeming to be an effective fix for Aubameyang's fading form.

Aubameyang has at least scored this season and has mustered nine attempts in the league, but those efforts have had an average worth of 0.14 xG (expected goals) – the lowest mark of his Arsenal career.

Given the one successful strike – against Norwich – was a goal-line finish worth 0.96 xG on its own, the second-best chance of the entire Premier League season by that metric, it is easy to paint a picture of otherwise ambitious shooting habits from Aubameyang. His remaining eight shots have had a combined xG of 0.39 – or 0.05 per shot – signifying they came from chances where a player is highly unlikely to score.

At odds with struggling Spurs talisman Harry Kane, who has had just four attempts so far this season and has recorded just 7.5 per cent of his touches in the opposition box, Aubameyang is taking a career-high 17.1 per cent of his touches in the opposing area, yet the Tottenham number 10 has matched his three shots on target so far.

The Laca factor

Arsenal have been blessed in recent seasons, with two – on their day – top-quality goalscorers to call on in the form of Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Though at times, that may well have resulted in both players having to compromise.

The latter has made only one league appearance so far this term, replacing Aubameyang in the second half of Arsenal's 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City last month, and there has at times been an issue with fitting both strikers into the team.

Aubameyang has often been deployed wide to accommodate Lacazette, who in turn has at times played deeper or had to settle for a place on the bench in order to fit his fellow striker into a central berth.

Since Aubameyang arrived at the club, he and Lacazette have played in 92 of the same games, with the Gunners recording 40 wins, 20 draws and 32 defeats.

That win rate of 43.5 per cent is significantly less than the 55 per cent success record from matches where one of the strikers did not play (22 wins from 40 such games).

It would suggest the way forward for Arsenal now is to stick with one or the other. Lacazette outscored Aubameyang in the league last season, though as the Gunners skipper the latter is seemingly ahead in the pecking order.

Arteta not helping?

Both Emery and successor Mikel Arteta wanted to develop a style that focused on playing out from the back, though given pace is Aubameyang's main asset, it would seem a direct approach may well be the optimal way to get the best out of the attacker.

Arguably Arteta's best games as Arsenal boss came in the 2019-20 FA Cup semi-final and final, with Aubameyang scoring a double in both matches to help the Gunners claim the trophy.

Aubameyang's pace was crucial, with his second goal in the 2-0 semi-final win over City coming at the culmination of a run from the left, the forward latching onto Kieran Tierney's ball before finishing under Ederson.

A similar trend followed in the final – Aubameyang winning a penalty by isolating Cesar Azpilicueta in that left channel, and he converted from 12 yards to restore parity before finishing deftly for a second-half winner.

It seemed Arteta was utilising this tactic more in his first half-season in charge. In a campaign shared between Emery and Arteta, Aubameyang had seven shots from fast breaks in the Premier League, though he only scored one. He had five such attempts the previous season, though only managed three across 2020-21.

Aubameyang also saw his touches in the opposition box drop off significantly last term, from 152 in 2019-20 to 125, while he had 149 in Emery's only full season in charge.

The amount of shots Aubameyang is taking has also dropped from season to season, from 94 under Emery, to 93 the following campaign, to just 57 last term.

While he outperformed his expected goals value (14.75) by some way in 2019-20, suggesting he finished some difficult chances, an xG of 10.22 last season seemingly reflects where Aubameyang is at.

However, a 7.81 xG on target (xGOT) score, which rates the level of his shooting rather than the quality of the chances, hints the former Saint-Etienne man's finishes were not the best, and may suggest some poor goalkeeping contributed to his league total. Compare this to 2019-20, when Aubameyang's xGOT outperformed his xG value, and it points to a striker on the wane, who is perhaps not being helped by slower build-up play.

Sunday's match could be crucial for Arteta, whose team have finally picked up victories after heading into the international break at the bottom of the table. For Aubameyang, it is a chance to prove he still belongs among the league's elite strikers.

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?

Mikel Arteta believes the last two weeks have been an important learning curve after Arsenal edged past Norwich City 1-0 to collect their first Premier League points of the season.

The Gunners finally scored at the fourth time of asking, avoiding the unwanted club record of going goalless in their opening four league games for the first time in their history.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's tap-in proved the difference – his fifth goal in three top-flight appearances against the Canaries – as the hosts climbed off the foot of the table and up to 16th.

Arteta was pleased with his team's efforts as they extended their top-flight unbeaten run to eight against Norwich, reflecting on what he sees as a successful two-week period.

"We had to suffer but I knew to win the game it would be like this," Arteta told BBC Sport post-match.

"After three defeats things get complicated. I must say it has been the best 10 or 14 days in my professional career. Not the easiest, but the best.

"You learn a lot in difficult moments, who you are with. In difficult moments when you see the people and the level of organisation and the fans we have.

"They were ready to suffer today but they just give, give, give to the team. Today and the last week everything glided together.

"We have to improve in a lot of things but today we made seven changes and already it looked different."

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