Football Features

Ollie Watkins moves clear while the Ramseys go head-to-head to end 2023

By Harry Edwards

Published: 17:12, 30 December 2023

Fans might have enjoyed their one-day break from the Premier League on Friday, but there’s no rest for the wicked.

On the final Saturday of 2023, there were six Premier League games for fans to get their teeth into. However, unlike the post-Christmas action this was just a standard Saturday meaning only the early and late kick-offs were on TV for UK fans to watch.

That, combined with the fact that this is still the festive period so attention can be elsewhere, means some stats and stories may have fallen by the wayside for football fans. Once gain, that’s where we come in.

We’ve picked out the best stats and stories you might have missed from the first five Premier League games of the day.

Cold Palmer

When Chelsea went 3-0 up against Luton in the 70th minute of Saturday’s early kick-off, it was the Cole Palmer show. The 21-year-old had been directly involved in all three goals, scoring two and setting up the other.

Both of his strikes were good finishes, but the latter will receive the most love, dancing around defence and goalkeeper after a nice pass from Nicolas Jackson. His seventh and eighth Premier League goals of the season, Palmer is Chelsea’s top scorer in the competition, while no player has provided more assists than his four.

The last Chelsea player to score more goals in a Premier League season than Palmer’s current return was Mason Mount, who netted 11 in 2021/22.

Ex-Blue strikes again

It was a nervy result in the end for Chelsea, as Luton stepped things up — having dominated for a period before the Blues got their second. The hosts got back into the game through a header from Ross Barkley, yet another former Chelsea player to score against the Blues.

This year alone, Chelsea had already conceded to Willian and Emerson for Fulham and West Ham respectively, while Barkley was the 28th player to score against the Blues having played for them — three more than any other side. It was a goal Luton deserved too, and they were unlucky not to finish level after Elijah Adebayo had made it 3-2.

The bizarre world of Kenilworth Road

Luton have lost three of their last four home games in the Premier League, but that doesn’t tell the story of their season. Everything goes out of the window when teams travel to Kenilworth Road, with Luton giving some of the biggest sides serious problems.

On top of beating Newcastle 1-0 last weekend, Luton have also earned a draw against Liverpool, with the Reds needing a late goal to escape with a point. Luton have also led against Man City and Arsenal, the latter scoring a late, late winner to take a dramatic 4-3 win. Although Luton have lost six times at home in the league this season, all were just by one goal, including the 2-1 defeat to West Ham at the start of the campaign that came with a bit of controversy with the hosts seeing late penalty appeals waved away.

Matheus Cunha puts Everton to the sword

Wolves and Everton went into their game in differing form, with the hosts winning their last two and the visitors losing two in a row. And this game went with form.

In the end it was a comfortable 3-0 victory for Wolves, who also had two goals ruled out for offside, with Matheus Cunha running the show. The Brazilian got a goal and assist against Everton, meaning he has scored four and set up four in 10 games since the beginning of November.

With Hwang Hee-chan now leaving for the Asian Cup, Cunha will be key.

Man City end long wait

A couple of bad runs were ended by Man City in their 2-0 win over Sheffield United at the weekend. The first was an eight-game wait for a clean sheet in the Premier League since their 3-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.

They also won at the Etihad in the league for the first time since their 6-1 victory over Bournemouth, ending a run of three-straight draws. It lifts them up to third in the Premier League, but they could drop by the time 2024 starts.

A familiar face on the bench

Man City ended the year on a high with their result, but there was also cause for celebration with their squad. For the first time since the opening weekend of the season, Kevin De Bruyne was named in a matchday squad for Man City.

The Belgian has been out with a hamstring injury suffered in the first half of the win over Burnley, and was greeted with loud cheers as he went out to warm up in the second half. De Bruyne didn’t get on the pitch, but it was a big step in his return from injury.

Finally a winner

You’d have put your house on Crystal Palace vs Brentford finishing level. All of the five previous Premier League meetings between the two sides ended in a draw, including three consecutive 1-1s.

It’s the only fixture in the Premier League’s history to see the first five meetings end level. But there was no sixth draw. It did seem like we’d be on our way to another draw as Michael Olise cancelled out Keane Lewis-Potter’s second-minute opener, but Eberechi Eze and Olise again sealed the 3-1 victory.

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Michael Olise is back

Olise has now scored three goals in his past two Premier League appearances, and four in his past four, having found the net against Chelsea and Manchester City to go with his brace against Brentford. What a return he’s had from his injury problems.

It was the first time the Frenchman has scored more than one goal in a match in his senior club career, and he will have been dreaming of making that a hat-trick, though it didn’t come. Nonetheless it was an important performance from Olise to help lift Palace six points clear of the relegation zone.

More than just goals

It was another game without a goal for Ollie Watkins, now his third consecutive blank and fifth in his last six games. However, against Burnley, Watkins showed the other side of his game.

Among forwards in 2023, only four players have created more chances from open play in the Premier League than Ollie Watkins, who sits on 47. Two of those came against Burnley and both were assists, taking his tally to 11 for the calendar year.

Adding to his 21 goals, Watkins is one of just two players to score 20+ goals and provide 10+ assists in the Premier League in 2023, alongside Mohamed Salah.

This season alone, Watkins is up to eight assists in the Premier League, more than any other player in the division.

Family affair

Christmas is a time for family, and usually you hope that means a nice time. But sometimes you might get family members go head-to-head, and that was exactly the case at Villa Park.

Jacob Ramsey started the game for Aston Villa and his brother Aaron Ramsey came off the bench for Burnley, making them the 12th set of brothers to be on the pitch at the same time on opposition teams in the Premier League. We wonder who the parents were supporting?