Cavani matches Solskjaer's standout super-sub season - the Premier League weekend's quirky facts

By Ben Spratt 28 December 2020 2
Cavani matches Solskjaer's standout super-sub season - the Premier League weekend's quirky facts

The Premier League title picture became little clearer on the first weekend after Christmas.

Liverpool and Tottenham were both held, while Manchester United played out a draw at Leicester City. Chelsea lost to struggling Arsenal.

But there was still plenty of intrigue across the latest round of fixtures as Edinson Cavani proved his worth again and Spurs struck swiftly before their late collapse.

With the help of Opta data, we take a look at some of the most interesting facts.

Cavani continues sublime sub form

United striker Cavani has still started just one Premier League match and played 207 minutes in the competition in total, but he provided another telling contribution as a substitute on Saturday as he assisted Bruno Fernandes' goal at Leicester less than four minutes after his introduction.

It was Cavani's fifth goal involvement off the bench already in the league this season, scoring three and creating a further two. No other player has been involved in more than three.

That tally has already matched manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's best return as a substitute in a single Premier League campaign; the renowned 'super sub' was involved in five goals off the bench in both 1996-97 and 1998-99.

Earlier this term, Cavani achieved a feat that Solskjaer had not, scoring and assisting as a substitute in the same away game at Southampton. Only Ruud van Nistelrooy had previously done so on the road for United.

The Paris Saint-Germain great has some way to go before taking the all-time Premier League record for goal involvements from the bench, however, as Adam Le Fondre tallied nine (eight goals, one assist) in 2012-13.

Speedy Spurs strike early again

If only Tottenham finished matches as strongly as they start them, having again failed to see out victory in the closing stages of Sunday's draw against Wolves.

Spurs have now dropped nine points in the final 10 minutes of matches this season, a Premier League high, yet their 57-second opener from Tanguy Ndombele continued a theme of speedy starts.

Only Chelsea (12) have scored more first-minute goals than Tottenham (11) in Premier League history.

And while Ndombele's drilled effort did not rank up there with the quickest, Spurs have accounted for two of the four fastest goals ever scored in the competition.

Ledley King's 9.8-second blast against Bradford City in 2000 ranks second, with Christian Eriksen's 10.5-second finish in a win over United in January 2018 fourth.

Tottenham have also conceded seven times in the opening 60 seconds of Premier League matches, though, joining Chelsea, United and Arsenal in a tie for third in that regard behind Everton (10) and Newcastle United (nine).

Arsenal ace Xhaka finds his range

Arsenal's London derby defeat of Chelsea might have come as a surprise, but Granit Xhaka's superb goal perhaps should not.

His free-kick on the stroke of half-time put the Gunners 2-0 up and was the first Arsenal goal scored direct from a free-kick against Chelsea since Thierry Henry's effort in the 2004-05 season.

Henry (12) has scored the most Premier League free-kicks for the Gunners, while Alexis Sanchez and Robin van Persie (both five) are the only other two Arsenal stars to top Xhaka's total of three.

And no Arsenal player with five or more Premier League goals has scored a greater portion of their strikes from outside the box, with Xhaka netting seven of nine (78 per cent) from range.

He is still a way short of Henry's Arsenal haul of 29 goals from distance or Chelsea boss Frank Lampard's Premier League record of 41, however.

Ten-man Villa deserving victors

One of the most impressive results of the weekend saw Aston Villa beat Crystal Palace 3-0 despite seeing Tyrone Mings being sent off just before the break with his side just one goal up.

Although Villa had just 38.6 per cent of the possession, they were ruthless, having 20 attempts for an expected goals total of 4.3.

That is the highest xG total for a team over a single match so far this season, with Manchester City - 4.6 against Brighton and Hove Albion - the last team to top that at the end of the 2019-20 campaign.

City had 11 men for the duration of that match, though.

Since Opta's xG records began in 2013-14, no team had previously earned a total of 4.3 after having a man sent off, let alone having been reduced to 10 men before half-time.

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Ben Spratt