Liam Tharme picks out some impressive performers of the Premier League season so far.
In an unprecedented start, the Premier League has smashed goal-scoring records; 44 goals were scored in gameweek two, an individual gameweek record. It took 47 games before a goal-less fixture was recorded in the league. As of September 20th, the Premier League was averaging 3.86 goals per game, way ahead of the record-holding 2.82 goals per game average from the 2018/19 season.
Such a start is only reflective of the abundance of talent in the league. Let's dive into some of the most interesting storylines of the season so far.
The Sheffield-born striker has been nothing short of scintillating. His 8 goals so far is the joint-best total of any player in the Premier League and the most of any non-big 6 player, with the former Bladesman showing his cutting edge in-front of goal.
Of the four players to have scored 8 goals, Calvert-Lewin has over-achieved his Expected Goals (xG) the most, by 2.18. This metrics shows that Calvert-Lewin is finding good positions, ranking inside the top-five Premier League players for xG.
Calvert-Lewin has made records tumble this season, too. Finding the net in each of Everton’s first five games is a big achievement alone, let alone when you consider the youngster to be the first to do so since Tommy Lawton in the 1938/39 season.
As part of that matchday two goal-fest, Calvert-Lewin provided a finishing clinic against West Brom. The 23-year-old bagged a hat-trick against the Baggies, scoring three times from six shots.
In total, Calvert-Lewin’s goals are perfectly balanced into four headed goals and four right-foot finishes, exemplifying his multidimensional threat. Only five Premier League forwards (300+ minutes played) win more aerial duels per 90 than Calvert-Lewin too.
Metrics aside, the man with the lawnmower celebration has mowed down all types of opposition; Calvert-Lewin has already bagged two hat-tricks this season, scoring three from 5 shots versus West Ham in the League Cup and three from 6 shots versus West Brom in the league.
Everton fans will love him most for heading in the equaliser in the Merseyside Derby, the third of three consecutive headed goals he scored. The talisman has impressed internationally, surely with one eye on next summer’s Euros, adding to his senior debut goal by rifling a penalty past Darren Randolph in the 3-0 friendly win over Ireland, maintaining his 100% record from the spot.
Aston Villa poached Matty Cash from Nottingham Forest this past summer, with the right-back comfortably making the step up from the Championship so far.
Starting all 7 of Villa’s games this season, only three players have won more tackles than Cash (15) in the Premier League this season, with the right-back ranking top in this metris for players aged 23 or younger. A quality winner of the ball, only N’Golo Kanté (24) has bettered Cash’s 21 interceptions so far this season.
The Slough-born defender has speed too, ranking third for Villa in sprints per game (13.7). His pace is undoubtedly a factor in his impressive pressing ability too; Cash’s 55 pressures in the defensive third is the most of any Villa player this season.
Such diligent defending has been central to Villa’s fast start – 5 wins from their opening 7, with four clean sheets too. In their last game at Arsenal, Cash showed his defensive value: 3 of 5 aerial duels won, 6 clearances, 3 interceptions, 3 of 3 tackles made – no Villa player bettered his performance in any of those metrics.
Just to prove Cash’s consistency in output, his statistics from the 7-2 drubbing of Liverpool deserve mentioning: 9 ball recoveries, 2 interceptions, 6 clearances, 2 crosses blocked, 0 fouls committed – excluding interceptions, no player on the pitch bettered Cash in those metrics.
Matty featured in Volume VI of the Scouted Football Handbook, which you can buy here.
The France under-20 international has stood between the sticks for Leeds, who are back in the Premier League for the first time since 2004. Illan Meslier is an outstanding distributor of the ball; his 52% launched pass completion rate currently ranks as the second best of any Premier League goalkeeper.
He can play short, too. Meslier’s 168 defensive third passes ranked him second only to Bernd Leno (227), with the Frenchman’s involved in the build-up for three goal-scoring attacks the joint-best of any Premier League goalkeeper this season – the example below is his role in Helder Costa’s goal against Fulham.
Meslier is a decent shot-stopper. His 13 saves from penalty area shots and 8 saves from shots outside the box rank him in the top 10 Premier goalkeepers for both metrics.
Prior to the 4-1 defeat at Palace – where Palace scored from a direct free-kick and a deflected cross – Meslier ranked inside the top three Premier League shot-stoppers for goals saved above average, conceding 13 times from 13.7xG worth of shots on target. Whilst this may not seem particularly impressive, consider this against the flurry of goals so far in the Premier League this season, particularly through penalties, with 41 spot-kicks given in the first 78 games; Meslier has faced 4, though is still searching for his first save from the spot.
Meslier’s age deserves mention; if the Frenchman continues the trend from the first 8 games and starts every game this season, he will become the youngest goalkeeper to do so in Premier League history, breaking Wojciech Szczęsny’s record from 2011/12.
Slowly bled into Palace’s side, Ebere Eze has only clocked 321 Premier League minutes this season but has started to find his feet.
Twelve Palace players have more minutes than Eze this season, which makes the following statistics even more impressive: the 22-year old ranks third among Palace players for shot-creating actions, goal-creating actions, and final third touches.
Eze ranks 6th among Premier League players to play 300+ minutes for dribbles attempted per 90, with his 12 successful dribbles the joint-most of any Palace player, highlighting his ability to be high-output as well as high volume. He’s already nutmegged two opponents, too.
His breakthrough performance came in the latest game-week against Leeds. Eze’s performance numbers reads as: 2 shots – 1 goal, 14/17 final third passes completed, 2 shot assists – 1 assist, 9 ball recoveries, 5/5 tackles completed, 4 interceptions and 3 fouls won. Eze ranked in the top two Palace players for all those metrics, demonstrating his rounded ability as an advanced midfielder.
On loan at Leeds last season, Ben White has continued to showcase his impressive ball winning and playing ability in the blue and white of Brighton. His 16 interceptions have only been bettered by four other Premier League players, with Declan Rice and the aforementioned Matty Cash the only of those to be under-23.
White’s versatility has been utilised by Potter, with the youngster appearing three times at defensive midfield and five times at centre-back this season.
A quality presser, Ben White leads the Brighton pack in pressures (119) and successful pressures (43) this season. Diving deeper into the numbers, White is impressive all over the pitch. 11 tackles in the defensive third, 8 in the midfield third and 4 in the final third, no Brighton player has more in any zone of the pitch.
So effective is White in winning the ball, that he has recorded 2 defensive actions leading to shots – versus Palace and Tottenham. Against Palace, White made 4 of the 6 tackles he attempted, recorded 8 ball recoveries, intercepted the ball twice and won 4 defensive aerial duels – no Brighton player bettered his performance in any of those metrics.
Moreover, White possesses genuine quality on the ball. Against Newcastle, he broke the Newcastle midfield line to find Tariq Lamptey, who won a penalty. In the second half, the White worked the ball into Neal Maupay, who set up Aaron Connolly for the third of the game.
Of Brighton outfielders, only Adam Webster (3,439) has passed the ball more progressive yards than Ben White (2,330), with the former Peterborough and Newport loanee completing 32 passes into the final third so far this season.
Wolves’ Portuguese winger is a strong ball-carrier. 1,631 progressive carry yards puts Pedro Neto top of the Wolves squad by almost 500 yards. Many wingers get rightly criticised for a lack of end product, though no such claims fit Neto.
With a goal and two assists, Neto’s 26 shot-creating actions eclipses second-placed Daniel Podence, with the former Lazio winger creating 3 shooting opportunities from dead ball situations as well as dribbles this season, figures which no Wolves players have bettered.
It will be little surprise to see that Neto has started all 8 of Wolves’ matches so far. If his creation abilities don’t provide a big enough problem for defenders, his flair makes sure of it; Neto has nutmegged 3 opponents this season – again the most of a Wolves player – and won 11 fouls.
Perhaps most impressive is Neto’s ability to combine the technical and physical sides of the game. Covering 10.5km per game on average, the Portuguese is positioned fourth in Wolves’ distance per game charts.
He stands out in the sprints though, recording 18.1 per game and leading the Wolfpack in this metric by four. Such speed is fundamental to Neto’s successful pressing; he has 24 successful pressures this season, ranking him third at Wolves, winning three tackles in the final third.