Football Features

Saka’s day cut short and Nuno turns tinker man: Stats and stories you may have missed from non-TV games

By Chris Smith

Published: 20:16, 22 September 2019

It was a big day of football on Sunday with no fewer than four games in the Premier League.

Man Utd fell 2-0 away at West Ham and Liverpool maintained their 100% start with a 2-1 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

However, given that they were both televised, you probably know all about those games and the narratives that came with them already.

But what about the other two games of the day as Arsenal secured a miraculous 3-2 comeback win over Aston Villa and Wolves battled it out for a vital point on the road at Crystal Palace?

Here are six things you might have missed from the two non-televised fixtures.

1. Rash Maitland-Niles

It’s fair to say Ainsley Maitland-Niles blows hot and cold at the best of times, going from cultured and crafted one minute, to mind-numbingly frustrating the next. It’s safe to say that Sunday was a case of the latter.

Already on a yellow card, Maitland-Niles decided it would be a good idea to go charging in on Neil Taylor, earning himself a second booking and leaving Arsenal with a monumental second-half task – which they eventually completed.

This is the second red card Maitland-Niles has received since the start of last season – more than any other player.

Where art thou, Hector Bellerin?

2. Saka’s memorable day cut short

Although Mason Greenwood’s first goal for Man Utd served to steal many of the headlines, Bukayo Saka has deservedly still received a number of plaudits this week for his stunning Europa League performance against Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday.

On Sunday, he was rewarded with his first-ever Premier League start for Arsenal, becoming the club’s third-youngest player to do so with only Cesc Fabregas (17y, 104d) and Theo Walcott (17y, 212d) younger than him.

Unfortunately, his big day was cut short with Unai Emery hooking him at half-time as he was forced into a tactical reshuffle thanks to that Maitland-Niles red card. Still, there’s surely plenty more to come from this kid.

3. Zaha still a foul magnet

Since making his Premier League debut in 2013, Wilfried Zaha has drawn more red cards (6) than any other player in the division. And last season the Ivorian drew a total of 102 fouls, only Eden Hazard was fouled more with 104.

That trend has continued this season and the five fouls he won against Wolves made him the joint-most fouled (23) player in the Premier League this season.

Zaha’s pace and trickery make him a nightmare to defend against – Roy Hodgson will be thanking his lucky stars he managed to fend off interest from Arsenal and Everton in the summer.

4. McGinn at home at the highest level

Jack Grealish may always seem to take the headlines for Aston Villa but John McGinn has arguably been their best player so far this season.

The Scotland international grabbed a goal away at Spurs on the opening day and completed the north London set on Sunday, opening the scoring at the Emirates as Aston Villa went down to a brave 3-2 defeat.

Couple that with an assist in Villa’s win over Everton in August and you can confidently say McGinn looks right at home in the top flight.

5. Aubameyang extends superb goal record

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been absolutely on fire for Arsenal pretty much since pulling on a red and white shirt.

The former Dortmund man shared the Premier League Golden Boot with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane last season and by the looks of it, is staking a pretty hefty claim to take the accolade for himself this time around.

Aubameyang’s 84th-minute winner against Aston Villa on Sunday was his 16th goal in his last 16 games for Arsenal across all competitions and with Nicolas Pepe still finding his feet and Alexandre Lacazette out until October, his contribution cannot be understated.

6. Nuno turns his hand to tinkering

Wolves were stylish, surprising and a breath of fresh air during their Premier League comeback last season as they sealed an impressive seventh-place finish.

However, for all the class of Ruben Neves and attacking instincts of Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota, their success was still largely predicated on stability, with Nuno Espirito Santo making just 11 changes to his starting XI during their first 16 games of the season.

Their Europa League campaign has undoubtedly made that trend difficult to continue for Nuno, who has already made 12 changes to his starting XI after just six games this season.

A point away to Crystal Palace may prove to be a big one with Jota grabbing a 95th-minute equaliser but, still, being winless after six games so far was not in the script. The pack is still stuck in the bottom three as it stands.

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